Many women must deal with some kind of problem with their hair, be it dandruff, flyaways, frizziness or dryness. However, no problem is more common and more loathed to women than split ends. Once split ends start, they don't stop, so it's important to know how to prevent them from forming in the first place.
What Are Split Ends?
Split ends form when the outer hair layer, known as the cuticle, is damaged or worn away. The cuticle protects the two inner layers of hair, the medulla and the cortex, from being damaged. When the cuticle is gone, the cortex is exposed and the protein fibers that make up the cortex unravel, which causes split ends.
Split ends are also a symptom of hair shaft disorders, which can be hereditary or caused by disease. Hair shaft disorders are also commonly caused by damaging hair grooming practices including:
- Using heating tools: Blow dryers, curling irons and flat irons dry out hair, particularly the ends, causing it to be brittle and easily breakable.
- Over processing: Dyes, perms and relaxers all contain harsh chemicals that damage the hair shaft.
- Harsh brushing: If you brush your hair aggressively or when it's wet, your hair can weaken or break. Brushing your hair too much can also have the same result.
Split ends can be tricky to detect if you aren't sure what to look for. Many people may think they have split ends when they actually don't. Here's how to check for split ends:
- Make sure you're in a well-lit room or outdoors so you have plenty of light to see your ends clearly.
- Start with pieces of hair that are closest to your face and work your way around your head so that all areas are checked.
- Look closely at the strands, from the ends to as far up as you can see as the hair may be split up to the middle of the strand.
The other tricky aspect of split ends is that they come in different forms. Even if your hair doesn't have the typical-looking split, it may have one of these types instead:
- Multiple splits: there may be as many as five splits at the end of the hair strand.
- Feather or tree splits: these occur up and down the strand and feather out much like the branches of a tree.
- Double Y-split: This is when a split forms off of another split.
- Long splits: These go all the way up the strand of hair.
- Incomplete splits: These are strands of hair that have split but then grew back together.
- Baby splits: These are splits that are just beginning to grow.
The only way to truly get rid of split ends is to cut them off. It is also recommended to cut split ends since the hair strands will continue to split if not taken care of. There are products on the market that will temporarily seal split ends, though they are only temporary and your split ends will reappear after some time. If you are interested in using a quick-fixing product, here are some that you can try:
- TRESemme Vitamin B12 & Gelatin Anti-Breakage Conditioner
- Herbal Essences Long Term Relationship Leave-in Split-End Protector for Long Hair
- Suave Professionals Damage Care Conditioner
- Aveda Damage Remedy Restructuring Conditioner
- H2 Ion Thermal Activated Hair Repair
There are also natural remedies that can temporarily fix split ends. Washing your hair with beer instead of shampoo, for example, is one common home remedy. Some people have also used a deep-conditioning treatment of olive oil, once a week, to get rid of split ends. Just warm some olive oil in the microwave, massage it into your hair, and wrap your hair in a towel for 10 minutes before rinsing. Another age-old remedy for split ends is mayonnaise. Rubbing a spoonful of mayonnaise into the ends of the hair is said to moisturize hair and reduce the effect of split ends. Some say that using mushed avocado in the same way can have the same affect.
The best way to prevent split ends from forming is to keep your hair healthy and damage-free.
Here are some tips for maintaining healthy hair:
- Trimming your hair every six to eight weeks will not only make your hair look healthier, it will also prevent split ends from appearing.
- Try to use less heat. Let your hair air dry instead of blow drying it and use hair curlers instead of a curling iron. If you absolutely have to use a heating tool, use a heat protectant spray on your hair before applying the heat. This will protect the hair from burning and drying out.
- Protecting your hair from heat sources includes the sun as well. Some people suggest putting sun block on your hair to keep it from drying out. If you'd rather not get your hair greasy, wear a hat.
- Don't brush your hair when it's wet since that's when it's at its weakest.
- Make sure your diet is filled with the nutrients that your hair needs. That includes omega-3 fatty acids, protein, biotin, vitamin A, vitamin C and selenium.
- Don't towel-dry your hair. The friction from the towel can cause hair to break. Try exchanging your pillowcase for a satin one to reduce friction as you sleep.
Split ends may be a woman's worst hair nightmare, but they can easily be removed with one snip from a pair of scissors. They're also easily prevented by keeping your hair healthy and moisturized.