When the ends of your hair start to resemble a frayed rope, it's a red flag that something is amiss in your routine. Split ends are often the result of wear and tear, dryness, hair colour and heat styling. The ends of your hair are also the oldest part of the hair shaft, so understandably they can get weaker over time and splinter.
While nothing beats a good haircut for dusting off split ends, as ever, prevention is better than cure. For the scissor-averse, the real battle is to keep hair strong and prevent frayed strands from occurring in the first place.
What is the main cause of split ends?
Before diving into how to get rid of split ends, it's worth understanding what causes them in the first place. Split ends - or trichoptilosis as they're technically called - is the result of both physical and chemical damage to your hair.
Physical damage: “The main cause of split ends is heat,” Michele Antiga, signature colourist and stylist at London's Gielly Green Hair Salon. “Overdoing it with hot tools and over blow-drying hair can seriously damage it. Especially – but not only – if your hair has been sensitised by colouring and/or bleach.” Physical damage can also occur after brushing or combing, using hair elastics and tight hairstyles like braids.
Chemical damage: This is the result of colouring your hair, relaxing or perming treatments.
Can you fix split ends without cutting?
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but “you can’t repair ends that are already split, you can only trim them in order to prevent the split from travelling further up the hair shaft,” says Michele. Given a split ends can travel up to four inches up the hair shaft, this is no bad thing.
How do you get rid of split ends?
While it's impossible to reverse split ends, there are simple ways of minimising the damage our styling habits wreak on hair:
1.Partially air-dry your hair
The first steps in our haircare routine can affect the health of our ends. Rough drying involves using heat, which can dry out strands and lead to splitting. So if you really want to protect the hair, Steve Robinson, Art Director at the Electric Hair Group, recommends air drying until strands are 50-80% dry and then using a hairdryer to create shape and smooth the cuticles.
"Make sure you apply a good moisturising cream," he says. "It’s also really important to understand how to blow-dry properly. You should never touch the nozzle to the hair directly – instead position it just above the hair and brush."
2. Use a detangling brush or wide-tooth comb
Steve says it’s always good to start with a wide-tooth comb, adding that it's also important to start at the bottom of the hair and work your way up, otherwise you’re just dragging the knots into one place.
“There is no harm in splitting your hair into sections and taking your time,” he says. “The hair is most flexible and vulnerable when wet, so you don’t need to add pressure to it and brush vigorously.”
3. Dial down the temperature of styling tools
"Any hair tool over 180 degrees will de-keratinise the hair," says Steve. "Healthy hair contains keratin, which dissipates when it's heated over 200 degrees. Once this process happens, it’s impossible to replace the keratin."
Steve also says it’s a huge myth that the hotter your straighteners or curling wand, the better and longer lasting your blow-dry or curl.
"Hair reaches optimum mould-ability at 180 degrees so anything more means you’re just over heating and damaging the hair," he adds. All Ghd stylers, including the Platinum +, for example, will only heat to 180 degrees to spare your strands.
4. Don't pick at split ends
Picking at your spots only makes them worse and the same is true of picking at split ends. Peeling back and snapping off a split end only disturbs the hair cuticle even more, leading to another split end and so on.
“The point where the hair stops splitting is where the weak hair ends and strong hair begins," says Steve, "so this will give you an indication of how much to have cut off."
5. ‘Glue’ split ends together
Haircare products with the word ‘sealing’ in the description are designed to temporarily ‘glue’ together splayed ends so they look silky smooth from root to tip – until you next wash your hair, anyway.
“Some serums wrap around your split ends and keep them at bay so they're not visible,” says Michele. “This is only a cosmetic fix as the split end remains under the product, but they can be a great option to make your hair appear healthier.”
6. Invest in bond-building products
Bond-building treatments are huge in hair right now as they pose a triple threat against damaged strands: they chemically repair hair strands damaged by bleach and heat; they prevent future breakage and they boost resilience.
The OG of bond-building treatments is, of course, Olaplex, which is powered by a patented active molecule, which helps to repair disulphide bonds inside the hair. But other brands are also harnessing high-tech formulas that go beyond the simple nourishment of a hair mask.
L'Oreal Paris Elvive Bond Repair Rescue Pre-Shampoo deploys a citric acid complex and has been dubbed the high street's answer to Olaplex. The K18 Leave-In Molecular Repair Hair Mask uses a patented peptide to encourage amino acids in stressed strands to reconnect. While Living Proof's Triple Bond Complex builds three types of bonds — hydrogen, ionic and covalent — to make even bleached ends look freshly cut.
7. Do have ‘micro’ trims
There is a sweet spot when it comes to getting a trim. If you’re scared to lose your length, you can visit your hairdresser more regularly for smaller trims. Hair stylists can cut cleverly by working in minimal layering, a technique that makes the hair appear long but cuts out the bulk of split ends.
If you're feeling brave you could also try ‘hair dusting’, a DIY technique that involves twisting dry strands of hair and pushing up the tips to reveal split ends. Using hairdressing scissors, simply snip away any the part of the hair that has split in two.
8. Use a microfibre towel
Hair ‘plopping’ was never just a flash-in-the-pan trend. While it has gained steam in the curl community, it's actually a really good way to avoid aggressively roughing up your hair cuticles whatever your hair type.
As far as how it works, dab your hair with a Microfibre towel then wrap it on your head to dry. Not only does the material absorb moisture fast but it is also more gentle than your standard Terry towel, which will help to stave off split ends in the long run.
9. Invest in a keratin treatment
Keratin is a type of protein in the hair that smooths down the cuticles (layers of cells) that overlap to form your hair strands, making making them soft to the touch and easy to style. For this reason, Steve says that in-salon keratin treatments are an excellent option (he recommends Kerasilk by Kerastase).
Put simply, it replaces keratin molecules where the keratin is missing to pack out the hair shaft. Once locked in with heat, it will last for a good few months. "This, however, is just a temporary solution and regular trims at the salon are essential," he notes.
10. Sleep on a silk pillowcase
Unlike cotton, a silk pillowcase won't rough up the hair's cuticles. This lack of friction is credited with preventing split ends. Slip Silk Pillowcases are made from 100% pure Mulberry silk and come in a variety of cool colours and patterns.
11. Collagen supplements
Collagen isn't just a boost for skin – it can help with split ends, too. “With age, your hair loses its elasticity, leading to hair breakage,” says Michele. “Collagen will improve the strength and hydration of your hair. You’ll notice a difference after 4-6 weeks of taking it and optimal results in 12 weeks.”
12. Opt for an acidic semi-permanent hair colour
“Naturally heathy hair has an acidic pH," says Michele. "So it follows that an acidic semi-permanent hair colour without ammonia will help to bring it to its optimal pH. What's more, hair with split ends usually looks dull and lifeless so adding colour to white looking split ends will make them much less visible.”
This article was originally published on Glamour UK.