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Real Talk – What Causes Split Ends?

This article was written by Louise Quasie-Woode.

Split ends or the little gremlins that multiply overnight, wreaking havoc on your hair – what causes them, how do we get rid of them for good and how do you prevent them? We explore this and more in our expert guide, so read on to learn!

What Are Split Ends? 

First thing's first: what are split ends? Split ends occur from hair fibres breaking, typically materialising at the oldest part of the hair, the ends, because they tend to be the most fragile and dry (AKA prone to damage).

Rough handling of your hair, such as brushing with poor tools or use of heated tools and chemical treatments can also encourage split ends. In fact, often people talk about their hair 'not growing' but the truth is their hair is probably breaking or splitting faster than its growing (we'll go into this more later!).  

Fun fact: Split ends can be known as schizotrichia or trichoptilosis in medical/trichology terms.

Split End Types

So now we know what split ends are, it's time to learn about the different split end types. And trust us, there are several variations! Some of the most common...

Standard Split Or 'Y' Split

The standard split or 'Y' shape split end is a straightforward split down the centre of the hair fibre, typically found in the earlier stages of damage.

Triple Split

The triple split is like the 'Y' but with a third central split, showing more warning signs due to the trio of breakage.

Fairy Knot/Single Strand Knot

A fairy knot is a single strand looped around itself, forming a tight knot that breaks when brushed, known in the science field as trichonodosis and a common issue for afro hair due to the coily, curly nature of the hair.

The Tree

The tree split end is a real multitasker, it will divide the hair at several points, causing branch-like separations throughout the hair fibre.

To help, we’ve created a simple chart to help you decipher what kind of split end you have (you can right hand click to save and reference later!). 

Afrocenchix article infographic of 4 common split ends

What Causes Split Ends?

But what causes split ends? As we mentioned before, when hair is fragile and dry, there's an increased chance of breakage and split ends emerging. So, let's go through the major culprits...

Mechanical Damage

Excessive brushing and incorrect styling tools can be leading factors, especially on wet hair.

Friction 

Rubbing against cotton sheets and brushing up against clothing can lead your locks to dry out.

Heat & Chemical Damage

Heat and chemical damage includes: straighteners, relaxers and bleach as heat or chemically altering processes over time can increase damage. 

Irregular Hair Trimming & DIY

A lack of regular trimming or using blunt or scissors not made for cutting hair can be a bad idea for those ends.

Lack of Moisture

Hair lacking in moisture generates dry, brittle fibres more prone to splitting.

Weather Changes

Quick changes of cold weather vs dry indoor heat can draw out moisture and stress your tresses. 

How To Get Rid Of Split Ends? 

So how do you get rid of split ends? Cut them off. Unfortunately, there's no easy way to say it: once they are split, that's it. We suggest getting some professional hair scissors (and remember to use them only for your hair!) or visit a skilled stylist to get your hair snipped. 

How To Prevent Split Ends?

Looking for tips on how to prevent split ends in the first place? Then here are our seven top tips to help you avoid split ends. 

Slip Into Satin

A good quality bonnet with a satin lining will reduce friction and retain moisture. 

Get Your Toolkit In Order

microfibre towel for your hair is excellent to ensure the least amount of friction from start to finish.

Keep Hair Moisturised

Using a moisturiser to hydrate those locks with oil to seal the deal and fight breakage is a must (AKA the LOC method/LCO method). 

Editor's Tip: Our Moisture Surge Set contains products for all three layers: Sheen natural moisturising spray (liquid), Seal (hair oil) and Smooth (moisturising cream).

Be Gentle With Wet Hair

Ensure that your crown isn't in its most fragile state to avoid breakage when you hit snooze.

Regular Trims 

Trim approximately every 8-12 weeks. If you're a DIYer, invest in professional (not kitchen) scissors to ensure you get a clean cut.

Sectioned Washing

Sectioning and twisting or braiding your hair into large sections can help reduce single strand knotting. Combine this method with a gentle sulphate free shampoo and conditioner to create easy detangling and retain hydration. 

Protective Styles

Protective styles tuck in ends for protection from the elements and depending on the style can reduce the amount of daily handling and styling.

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