As someone who is admittedly overly attached to the lengths of her own strands, I can attest to having been in the salon chair after far too long with a head full of dead ends. It’s not like my hair has dead ends without good reason: I’ve spent the better part of the last decade bleaching my hair with blonde highlights, sometimes breaking my base, sometimes not. Compound that with an on- and off love affair with a slew of keratin and hair straightening treatments, it’s no surprise that my collarbone-length strands are fraught with dead ends.
How to Treat Dead Ends (Or Hide Them, at Least)
But the good news is there are ways to deal with dead ends—you know the look. Dried, brittle, and frayed fringe that can result from a variety of things: extreme weather (winter winds, I see you), aforementioned chemical processing and/or dyeing, or from heat styling. That not includes hot tools like flat irons and curling rods, but also traditional blow dryers, too.
How to Spot Dead Ends
Maybe you’re wearing a black tee shirt like I am right now, maybe not. But regardless of the particular dichotomy between my bleached ends’ color and the shade of my shirt, it’s clear my ends are dead because there are small bits of hair that shed all over my shirt.
Another way to check for dead ends is to play around with detangling your hair while it’s wet. If the strands begin to stretch like play-doh or gum, your ends are dead—but also, abort the mission.
Dead Ends vs. Split Ends
Dead ends break when you run a comb through them, while split ends don’t break like that. Dead ends have a rough, dry texture when you touch them, while split ends still feel soft. Most importantly, split ends are OK to detangle when wet. That’s not the case with dead ends hair—as mentioned above, dead ends will stretch and ultimately break more, damaging the entire hair’s cuticle in the process.
Although there’s no quick way to remedy your strands of dead ends without a proper cut at the salon, there are a number of bottled solutions. Ranging from shampoo-and-conditioner duos to hair masks and styling products, there is a bevy of options that’ll conceal your dead ends. Our favorites, below.
First Up? A Fortifying Shampoo-and-Conditioner Combo for Dead Ends
Choose one of these formulas, all of which are designed to smooth the hair cuticle down and minimize the visibility of any potential breakage while you’re still in the shower. A shampoo for split ends along with its complementary conditioner is always a recipe for success.
1. Dove Hair Therapy Breakage Remedy Strengthening Shampoo and Conditioner
2. Love Beauty and Planet Hope and Repair Coconut Oil & Ylang Ylang Sulfate-Free Shampoo and Conditioner
3. Suave Professionals Coconut + Vanilla Repairing Shampoo and Conditioner
4. TRESemmé Biotin + Repair 7 Shampoo and Conditioner
5. Nexxus Keraphix Damage Healing Shampoo and Conditioner
Then, Add in a Reparative Hair Mask Once a Week
Hair masks are the perfect solution to quite literally masking damage and dead ends. Find a formula that suits your hair type and leave it in for at least ten minutes once a week—if not an hour if you can find the time.
Editor’s tip: Try keeping a shower cap on for the duration of your masking. The plastic will literally trap the heat your head releases, which will in turn help the mask absorb even more deeply into strands.
1. Emerge Back to Life Hair Mask
2. Suave Professionals for Natural Hair Anti-Breakage Mask
3. Dove Amplified Textures Moisture Spa Recovery Mask
4. Love Beauty and Planet Blooming Color Murumuru Butter & Rose 2-Minute Magic Masque
5. Nexxus Keraphix Hair Conditioning Mask
Brush Hair Right Way—and at the Right Time, Too
When it comes to the actual combing technique, don’t go from root to tip on your first pass—I’m guilty of doing that sometimes too. Your ends tend to take the brunt of the damage as you try to work through the knots. So, I start at the bottom of the hair shaft first and concentrate on the tangles there, then tackle the midsection, and finally pull the comb through from roots to tips in a single stroke.
Most importantly, though, wait at least until hair is damp at most before brushing, if not all the way dry. That’s because of the gumminess we talked about above—and the resulting breakage brushing would cause.
Finally, Use of a Heat Protectant to Help Conceal Dead Ends
The best offense, as they say, is always a good defense. So is the case when heat styling: By using a dead end-smoothing heat protectant, you’ll seal the ends together while using your hot tool of choice.
1. Nexxus Weightless Style Preserve & Protect Leave-In Spray
2. TRESemmé Repair & Protect 7 Pre-Styling Spray
3. Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion Heat Defense Leave-In Conditioner
4. Dove Style+Care Smooth and Shine Heat Protection Spray
5. Bed Head by TIGI Beach Bound Protection Spray
The Bottom Line on Dead Ends
Although you can’t repair dead ends permanently, these products provide you with a bevy of quick and short-term solutions.