I recently came to terms with the fact that one quarter of my long mane was overpopulated with split ends. Instead of a continuous, cascading flow of hair below my shoulder blades, my mane was a brittle, hay-like danger zone. Every fourth hair was either split up the shaft or would break off at a fracture point when I touched it. I found myself wasting time with nail scissors in direct sunlight, attempting to trim each individual split end above the damaged part of the shaft and wondering are split ends normal? It was both wildly entertaining and super obsessive and weird. How had I come to this low point? I needed help.
I had heard that a surefire solution to treating split ends was getting a haircut, but that seemed pretty uncalled for to me. I had finally reached mid-back length on my hair. And although the bottom quarter of my hair looked like poorly mowed hay, I sure as shoot wasn't interested in cutting it off. No. I wanted solutions. So, I started researching everything I could find about split end treatments, what causes split ends, home remedies for split ends, and last of all how to prevent split ends. Here are the six key split end facts I found on my journey.
1. What Are Split Ends?
The good news is there's a fancy medical name for our legit split end pain: Trichoptilosis— a condition of splitting of the shaft of the hair, giving it a feathery appearance. So, next time your roommate calls you out for not washing the dishes, you can gently inform her you have been suffering from trichoptilosis and have a doctor's note. The main culprits behind this cruel condition? Hot tools and chemical hair treatments. That's right, all the good stuff.
2. Shampoo & Conditioner Are Key
I had accepted my diagnosis of trichoptilosis, so now I had to figure out how to make my split ends less terrible. An easy place to start was employing better strategies when washing my hair. I concentrated using shampoo mainly on the roots (to avoid drying out my ends), and focused on letting the conditioner soak deeply into the ends. I also used a microfiber towel that would be gentle on my ravaged ends. I have always waited several days between washes of my thick mop, but if your fine hair won't permit anything but daily shampoo, here are some survival tips.
3. Self-Snipping Is A No-No
Turns out all that OCD fun I was having with the not-sharp-enough nail scissors was actually making my split ends worse. How about that for awesome? It's not terrible to trim an errant split end here and there, but using blunt scissors will only further damage the hair shaft leaving it ripe to feather open the next time you brush, blow dry, or finger comb your hair. Invest in a pair of hair trimming scissors and save yourself a half inch of hair!
4. Deep Conditioner For The Win
I realized the ragged ends of my hair needed moisture! I bought a deep conditioning hair mask and implemented twice weekly treatments. For the DIY gals, there are awesome home remedies for dry hair that will work similar magic. By the end of week one, the argan oil hair mask gave my dry locks an immediate moisture boost. The treatments made my hair feel smoother and not so hay-like.
5. Stay Away From The Hot Tools
I needed a hot tool timeout and a dose of protection. Having never used a heat protectant prior to the Split End Crisis of 2015, the crispy state of my hair was no surprise. Without a thermal heat layer between delicate strands and my scorching ceramic hair wand, the damage was inevitable. When I got wise, I went on a hot tool timeout (rocking ballet buns for weeks), and let my hair recuperate. When I reunited with my curling wand, I kept the heat at medium (despite how much faster high heat curling is with my thick, coarse hair) and used my new heat protection spray. Prevention tactics in play!
For two months I strove to reverse the damage I had done to my hair with my curling wand. I used badass shampoo and conditioning techniques, I minimized friction when drying my hair, I avoided hair bands that would snap or pull my hair, I was the gentlest of gentle with my comb, I religiously applied deep moisture treatments, I ditched my nail scissor sessions and used salon trimming shears, I gave my hair a six week hiatus from heat, and when I started with my hot tools again, I used proper heat protection. The sad truth is though, nothing was going to take away my split ends except what I had been told time and again...
6. Cutting Your Hair Is The Only Real Solution
There was no way my ends were going to un-split. I could coax them into a semblance of smoothness with deep conditioning, but to have truly healthy hair, I had to let two inches go. No amount of argan oil hair mask was going to turn my hay into gold. It wasn't nearly as painful as I had imagined. Those last two inches were looking raggedy anyway. They may have given me length, but their appeal was questionable at best. I also learned that dramatic layering can increase split ends, so watch out for razors. A blunter cut at the end means more protection for individual strands.
I come away from this experience a better woman—with shorter hair. I now have the knowledge of what causes split ends, how to prevent split ends, and various treatments for split ends. Learn from my mistake, go easy on the heat and chemicals, heavy on the protection and prevention, and don't be afraid of a trim here and there. You're looking radiant, sunshine!
Images: Giphy (6)