Split ends can happen to the most diligent, serum-using, heat styling-avoiding, nourishing mask-wearing of us.
Why? Well, if your locks are longer than a pixie cut, then know that hair naturally begins to fray and split every three to four months due to everyday wear and tear. Good news is, you can scale back the extent of the damage by following some basic rules.
Scroll on for your split ends 101.
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So... What are split ends?
Also known technically as Trichoptilosis, split ends are a sign of damaged hair. The fraying of a single strand typically begins near the end of your hair shaft, but can also start from the middle or closer to the root.
‘A split end is a sign that your hair strand is damaged and can be caused by chemical, thermal or mechanical stresses,’ says Moroccan oil artistic director Kevin Hughes. ‘Mechanical stress is the most common, as this includes hard-to-avoid habits, such as brushing your hair or using a hairband,’ he adds.
Damaged hair can become tricky to manage and style, and in extreme cases it can break off and even fall out.
What causes split ends?
Being rough with your hair, for example, brushing it incorrectly while it’s wet or pulling out a hair tie when it’s tangled, will damage the hair shaft and lead to breakage. As will excessive blow-drying, curling or straightening.
The constant swapping between cold temperatures outside and central heating inside can also cause damage by expanding and shrinking your hair shaft over and over again, which can lead to a loss of moisture. When your hair is dehydrated, the protective outer layer (known as the cuticle) is open to damage.
And how can I prevent split ends?
To temporarily fix frays, apply a repairing product to your ends before styling such as this Rahua treatment. It infuses strands with omega-9 oils to lock in moisture and protect against heat and mechanical damage.
Longer term follow the below formula. ‘Book a trim at your hairdresser’s every six to eight weeks and opt for a stylist who has thermal scissors in their toolkit.
The heated blades help seal the cuticle so the ends are stronger,’ reveals Elena Lavagni, director of hair and beauty salon Neville. This will prevent split ends from growing upwards and thinning your hair even more.
How can your diet effect your split ends?
Split ends can also be directly related to your diet, hormones, and vitamins or minerals which is all critical for hair growth.
‘Treatment should be holistic and involve using the right products and making relevant changes to diet – such as consuming more omegas 3, 6 and 9 (found in the likes of oily fish, poultry and olive oil, respectively) – and lifestyle, which commonly involves targeting stress,’ adds trichologist Anabel Kingsley.
To determine whether hormones are causing hair loss, you may need a blood test, so book an appointment with your GP.
And what about strengthening my hair?
Think of each hair as a flower and the scalp as the soil supporting it – it makes sense to feed and support it. In order to strengthen your hair, look for scalp treatments that contain vitamin E, which is a potent antioxidant that helps to create a protective barrier and reduce the damaging effect of free radicals.
What to do with thinning hair
If you're seeing more of your scalp than you'd usually like, around 40% of women will experience hair thinning or loss by the age of 40.
Hormones are also a factor, with hair loss more common after childbirth and for sufferers of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), where androgens such as testosterone are converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), known to shrink hair follicles.
For some others, it’s a case of not treating your scalp with proper care. ‘The scalp is a living tissue that contains thousands of sweat glands and sheds dead skin cells,’ explains trichologist Anabel Kingsley.
‘If you don’t cleanse and nourish it like you do your face, the connective tissue is weakened, which means the hairs it produces are weaker, too.’
Which ingredients help to build healthier hair?
When looking for products to strengthen your hair, look out for caffeine which helps blood circulation to the scalp, promoting healthy hair follicles.
Another way to strengthen your hair is through the use of supplements, as this will boost hair health from the inside out.
Weekly scalp drops will likely be prescribed to nurture the scalp environment and support the growth of new hair. Due to the nature of the hair growth cycle, the effects of stress will not be noticeable on your hair until six to 12 weeks later, so you may not always make the connection.
And how can I make my hair shiny?
Around 60% of the UK has a hard water supply – meaning, having run through limestone and chalk, it’s high in natural minerals – which, unfortunately, is your hair’s kryptonite. ‘The minerals attach themselves to your hair when you wash it, creating a film that causes build-up and dulls shine and movement,’ says Joseph Maine, artistic director at Colour Wow.
What’s more, pollution particles and silicones from conditioning products also lead to a lack of shine over time.
Now you're dosed up on split ends, find out what you need to know about clarifying shampoos.