Split Ends: The Causes of Damage and How to Deal with This Common Issue

All Things Hair | 19 June 2018
split ends unicorn braid

How do you get split ends? We go to the root of this distressing issue (and no, it doesn’t always have to end with you rocking a new bob).

Have you ever wondered what causes split ends? You’d be surprised to know how easy it is for your hair to splay out into two (or, gulp, more) parts at the tips, resembling a small twig or a broken fishbone.

What are split ends? Split ends are the frayed tips of hair that have, yes, split into two or more parts due to dryness or damage. They seem to come out of nowhere; but really, the truth is to get to this level of damage, things have probably been building up for months due to any number of factors, ranging from the regular missed-trim appointment to over-manipulation to intense chemical processes.

This kind of damage can happen on any hair type. It’s easy to get rid of split ends by cutting them off, but it’s also important to know what caused them in the first place so you can prevent them from happening again. Read on to discover how to prevent split ends, how they form in the first place and what you can do about them in the interim:

What Causes Split Ends? Getting to the Bottom of Damaged Tips

French twist teasing can cause split ends
Aggressive teasing can cause split ends.

1. Using rubber bands for your ponytails

How do you get split ends from a hair elastic? Well, have you ever noticed just how many strands can get yanked out with a rubber band when you undo a ponytail? If you’re not using proper hair ties, headbands or hair accessories, you’re most likely doing more harm than good to your strands. Rubber bands, in particular, can damage your hair due to the friction the material places onto a hair strand, and can be one of the causes for gnarly split ends. Consider using a padded or fabric-covered hair tie, or better yet, a chic, loose clip, those gentle, spiral telephone cord ties or a scrunchie (they’re back!) to prevent breakage and ensure a stress-free unfurling process.

2. Heat-styling

We love our precious blow-dryers and flat irons, but those heat stylers can certainly be culprits for damage and breakage, especially over time. How to prevent split ends with the use of heat styling tools and mechanical stylers? With a proper hair care routine and the use of a thermal protectant, that’s how. Use a heat protectant, like Dove Style+Care Smooth & Shine Heat Protection Spray, to shield your strands from the damaging effects of heat. What we love about this heat protectant is that it not only prevents your hair from the damaging effects of heat and mechanical styling, it also infuses hair with lightweight conditioning nourishment (bye-bye, tangles!) and prevents frizz, static and flyaways—factors that may contribute to dryness and damage.


3. Chemical and color treatments

While you may have gotten that perfect color, that straight hairdo and/or curly style you’ve been craving, it can come with a cost. These treatments generally use a lot of chemicals that can deplete and strip your hair of its natural moisture, leaving it dry and prone to splitting—particularly when left untreated. Chemical processes damage hair from the inside out, causing a higher porosity and make the cuticle weaker, thus making it severely split-end prone.

Consider using a wash and care system that nourishes hair with every use, while also prolonging and extending the vibrancy of your new color for as long as possible. Dove Nutritive Solutions Color Care Shampoo and Dove Nutritive Solutions Color Care Conditioner is a duo that comes with a formulation that helps keep your new hue vibrant for up to 40 washes! It also helps keep hair feeling silky and manageable on the daily—two crucial things that improve your hair’s look and feel.


4. Overwashing

While it’s important to keep our locks clean and scalps healthy, excessively washing hair can cause it to lose its natural oils, which can then result in dryer, rougher ends.

As a general rule, shampoo and conditioners should be used as a system, which makes hair less prone to breakage and split ends. Good news for all you zealous rinsing fiends: A duo specifically formulated to care for and restore visible signs of damaged hair—and that does so particularly gently—is a good pick for daily use. Dove Nutritive Solutions Intensive Repair Shampoo and Dove Nutritive Solutions Intensive Repair Conditioner offer a two-pronged approach to damage repair: Formulated with Nutri-Keratin Repair Actives, it first repairs signs of surface damage, resulting in a smoother, more breakage-resistant look and feel; then it penetrates the strand to provide deeper nourishment, thus making your hair look healthier over time. Genius!


5. Overmanipulation

Just like shampooing, combing and brushing our hair is essential, but overdoing it can certainly lead to some breakage. Ease up on the overbrushing! If you feel that your hair needs something to help with the detangling process, use a leave-in conditioner like Dove Absolute Curls Leave-In Detangler after towel-drying to minimize knots and friction on the strand when combing.

split ends detangling with vent brush
Overmanipulation or incorrect brushing can also lead to damage and split ends.

6. Towel-drying

Even your beloved towel-dry technique can be causing damage to your locks. Post-shower, use a micro-fiber towel on your hair to dry, or better yet, an old, clean t-shirt! Terry-cloth towels can snag on hair and increase the chance of breakage.

Types of Split Ends

types of split ends
Do you know the kind of split ends you have?

There isn’t just one set way your hair can split, so it’s important to understand what type of damage you should be looking out for. We list the most common kinds:

1. Classic split ends

The most common type, classic split ends are when hair separates in half at the tip. Looks like a fishtail!

2. Incomplete split ends

This type of split end happens when the hair strand weakens at a certain point, yet doesn’t completely split, creating an ‘eye of a needle’ appearance.

3. Tree and feathered split ends

This is where your hair ends have split multiple times, resembling that of a tree branch or a feather. This also means it’s high time for a trim: The presence of this means that your cuticle literally can’t keep it together.

4. Single strand knots

These split ends are more common with ladies that have naturally curly hair and are also known as ‘fairy knots,’ or by their technical name trichonodosis. Single strands curl back on themselves and create small knots, which cause hair to become easily tangled. You can identify one by gliding your fingers down a strand of your hair until you come across a solid bump on your strand.

How Can You Prevent Split Ends?

They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and nowhere else is this truer than in the case of the dreaded split end. Since the most effective “cure” for split ends is to cut them off (a remedy that can be quite drastic for those who want to keep their length), the work then lies in a diligent everyday hair care routine.

Read on to see how you can prevent damage and split ends from even forming in the first place:

1. Use a hair mask.

Treat your strands right by infusing them with much-needed moisture and hydration. This is especially important if you have color-treated hair or you do a ton of heat styling. Try the super moisturizing (and handy!) Dove Nutritive Solutions Anti-Frizz Oil Therapy Hair Mask, which, as the name suggests, helps prevent frizz and makes hair feel smoother and softer after just one use. Formulated with nutrients, protein and Buriti oil, it helps nourish rough, coarse hair and leave it manageable, without weighing it down. Bonus: We love how the sachet packaging makes it especially travel-friendly.


2. Get regular trims.

It might seem counterintuitive, but sometimes the best way to keep your length intact is to get regular haircuts. Doing so ensures your tips are neatly trimmed straight across the cuticle, and that any budding splits at the very tips are, yes, nipped in the bud. Ed’s note: The sooner you book that appointment, the better (six to eight weeks is ideal), as a split end only worsens with time since the “break” can rise up your strand, potentially eating up more length. A good visual: Think of split ends as a virus you must quarantine, and a trim as the cure!

3. Take a break.

As any style-savvy gal can attest, heat, color and chemical treatments are all parts of a regular hair routine. Over time, any combination of these processes accrues and piles on the damage, paving the way for frayed, fried locks. We suggest taking a break (even a short one!) to allow your hair to recover. Why not air-dry or do some heatless looks for a week each month?

All in all, there are steps to take to ensure that cutting your hair off isn’t the only recourse one has against split ends. So what causes split ends, and how are they kept at bay? A lot of it has to deal with proper maintenance and daily care, and realizing that a lot of the damage our hair incurs usually happens over a period of time. Using the correct wash and care system for your hair type helps clean your hair without compromising strand health—meaning you reap benefits from day 1, and minimize the chance of split ends from ever forming.

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