You can’t “fix” split ends—they can only be cut off. But you can put an end to them with a little TLC. Split ends come from one of three types of damage: mechanical, chemical or environmental. Happily, all can be minimized—and even eliminated.
What Causes Split Ends?
Heat is the biggest culprit behind mechanical damage with rubbing, tugging and tearing at hair when shampooing and drying placing second for mechanical menaces. Chemical damage comes from haircolor, relaxers and straighteners. Don’t do the last two at home!
Says Blake Reed Evans, a stylist at Shear Art Salon and Spa in Tampa, FL, “Every time you color or lighten your hair, you lose 10-20% of its protein. (That’s why he uses Redken Chromatics haircolor, which doubly fortifies hair as its colored.) Environmental damage, says Evans, comes from exposure to the summer sun, sand and salt water, which demands special preventive measures.
How To Prevent Split Ends
Follow these 5 steps to TLC, and make split ends a thing of the past:
1. Turn Down the Heat
Jessee Skittrall, an American Board Certified Haircolorist (ABCH) and owner of Absolut Hair Salon in Everett, WA, says heat styling is all about the math: “Water boils at 212-degrees Fahrenheit, chicken cooks at 350, and flat irons can reach 450 degrees.”
Turn down the heat by starting at 210 and never going above 330 degrees Fahrenheit, which Evans says will “blow out the cuticle and cause color to fade.” Never blow dry, flat iron or heat-curl hair without a thermal protector. Skittrall recommends Brocato Cloud 9 Hotshapes, while Evans uses Redken Anti-Snap (with protein) for blow drying and Iron Shape 11 for use with hot irons.
2. Put Back the Protein
Kristin Green (ABCH), who owns Tangles in Lancaster, PA, agrees that heat, plus chemicals like haircolor and Keratin treatments, create a “make or break situation”—especially when done at home. Air dry your hair when you can, and if you home-color, use gentle products that are 1 or 2 shades from your natural haircolor. “After chemical treatments, putting back what is missing from the hair—moisture and protein—is very important,” says Green. “Your hair’s pH should range from 4.5 to 5.5.”
Chemical treatments are best left to pros: Always ask how they are protecting your hair, especially if they are lightening with bleach or using anything that straightens hair. To keep hair healthy, use protein- and moisture-balanced products with the proper pH. (You can test them with pH test strips.) Best bet: Get a customized in-salon treatment like Redken Chemistry, which packs 10 times the punch of at-home deep conditioners. For home care, Green recommends SOMA Organic Haircare’s leave-in conditioner, which has an ideal moisture/protein balance.
3. Shampoo and Detangle the Right Way
According to Brenda Amaral (ABCH), who owns Gwen Mireille Salon and Spa in Raynham, MA, one of the main reasons for splits ends is improper shampooing. (Using cool or tepid water is always best.) “The hair’s cuticle layers are about as strong as the scales of a fish,” says Amaral. “If you rub two fish together, what happens? Scales everywhere! After exfoliating your scalp, gently move the shampoo through mid-shaft and ends; don’t rub. Rough towel drying will also produce breakage and split ends.”
Adds Green, “After shampooing, use your fingers in the shower along with conditioner to “rake” through your hair gently. This will to remove the majority of the knots. Then wrap your hair up in a soft towel. You can give yourself a treatment at home by using either extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil. Apply it to clean, dry hair; leave it in over night, and shampoo and condition in the morning.”
Long or curly hair is particularly prone to split ends, says Skittrall, because natural scalp oils cannot travel farther than 5-7 inches down the hair shaft—especially along curl’s twists and turns. As a result, the longer, curlier or coarser the hair, the drier the ends and the more likely they are to split. (Since shampoos remove what little oil there may be near ends, this hair gets exceptionally dry.)
Skittrall has a home-app for that! “When you wet your hair in the shower, grab it as though you are going to create ponytail,” he explains. Apply conditioner along the lengths and ends; I personally love Brocato Splassh Conditioner. Then apply your favorite shampoo right over the conditioner, focusing on the scalp all the way to the ends. Rinse thoroughly, then condition the ends again. Comb the conditioner through with a wide-toothed comb, and don’t rinse until you’re done showering. Over time, your hair will be less frizzy, look shiner and dry faster—and, you’ll stave off split ends.”
4. Always Use TLC When Detangling
Always use TLC when detangling. Blot your hair; don’t rough-rub it. Use a leave-in conditioner to protect your hair and equalize porosity to prevent styling products from penetrating to the cortex, where they don’t belong. While last year’s advice was to use a wide-toothed comb and avoid brushing wet hair, today there are a number of new brushes for safe detangling. Jessee Skittrall recommends Tangle Teezer, which is also highly rated on Amazon. Always work from the ends up, in increments.
5. Minimize the Sun, Salt and Sea Effect
When it comes to environmental damage, the sun, salt water and chlorinated swimming pools work against your hair. In hard-on-hair Florida, Evans teaches his clients to serve and protect their hair!
“Any time you are going to be at the beach or pool side, wet your hair with water from the faucet, and work through a daily, leave-in conditioner,” he advises. “This creates a barrier between your hair and the salt, chlorine and even the sun’s UV rays. It you have hard water or well water in your area, try Redken’s Hair Cleansing Cream Shampoo, and use it once a week. It chelates the hair and removes mineral build-up while protecting haircolor.”
Finally, avoid styling products that have salt in them. Why is there salt in your hair gel? It’s used to thicken products that are mostly water. Says Green, “Look for products that do not contain Sodium Chloride….table salt. It will leave your hair dry. Check the ingredients labels and become an expert!”
In short, get regular trims and treat the fabric of your hair like fine silk, not polyester, and split ends will be a thing of the past. Now that you know how to prevent split ends, click here to see the ultimate guide to taming frizzy hair.