If you’re sick and tired of damaged hair and wondering how to treat split ends, you’re not alone—and in the right place. I've been trying to master the art of mending and preventing split ends for what feels like ever, and I've finally started to figure it out, thanks to trial-and-error and a handful of trustworthy hairstylists.
If you can't relate, know that your hair doesn't have to look or feel damaged right now to benefit from a restorative hair care routine. Much like with skincare, prevention is key, and is especially important if you heat-style or chemically treat your hair: Both are leading causes of hair damage.
What are split ends and what causes them?
First, let's rewind and address the basics. What exactly are split ends and why are they such a bother, you ask? “Split ends are when the ends of your hair become brittle and dry and look like they are beginning to fray or ‘split,’” Clint Dunlap, celebrity colourist and owner of Florida’s Material Tampa Salon, tells GLAMOUR. And once you notice them, it’s unfortunately a challenge to unsee them. “Split ends can be frustrating, and it’s important to know what causes them, to overcome the struggle,” adds Nick Stenson, professional hairstylist and founder of Nick Stenson Beauty.
Speaking of what causes them… the most common culprits include chemical exposure — think blow-drying, heat-styling, and hair-dyeing — using poor quality hair products, and infrequent hair trims. This doesn’t mean that your split ends are your, or anyone’s, fault, though, so don’t feel like you’re doing your hair a disservice. Dunlap notes that environmental elements such as the weather, sunlight, and water can and often do result in split ends as well. “Split ends are caused by normal wear and tear over time,” he says.
Translation? Split ends are a normal and common fact of life, but that doesn't mean pros can't teach you how to prevent and treat them.
How to prevent split ends
There are plenty of expert-approved techniques for preventing and repairing split ends, the first of which is going for more frequent haircuts. “Trimming your hair removes the damaged ends and prevents them from traveling up the hair shaft,” Jennifer Korab, celebrity stylist and owner of Renaissance Salon & Spa in Hillsborough, New Jersey, explains, and Stenson advises, “Make sure that you are scheduling trims every six to eight weeks. That’s a great start to preventing split ends.”
As for what you can do at home in the interim — aside from implementing a new regimen (more on this below)? Try tweaking your routine in more slight and subtle ways, like showering with cooler water than usual. “Much like our skin’s exposure to hot water can cause drying,” Stenson says, “hot water can rough up your hair cuticle, which can lead you to feeling like you have more split ends.” To prevent this, Stenson suggests shampooing and conditioning with lukewarm water as opposed to superhot, then ending with a cool rinse to seal your cuticle at the end.
Another trick? Being more mindful of how you’re treating hair when it’s wet. “When your hair is wet, it’s at its most vulnerable,” Stenson says. “Hair can stretch up to 50% when it’s wet. Apply your leave-in products before combing hair, limit pulling hair up when it’s wet, and avoid sleeping with wet hair.”
Also pay attention to which products, tools, and accessories you use on your hair while it’s wet, and especially brushes and towels. “Use a wet brush or Tangle Teezer brush to prevent any further damage or snagging on the hair, since these brushes focus on detangling and protecting the hair and are less abrasive,” suggests celebrity hairstylist Kieron Justin, who also advises using a microfibre towel, as opposed to a standard cotton one, straight out of the shower. “Microfiber causes less friction on the hair and minimise the tension on fragile hair,” he says, adding that standard cotton towels can lead to further breakage.
You'll also want to minimise your hair’s exposure to heat and air-dry your hair whenever possible. “Limit the use of hot styling tools and use them on the lowest heat setting,” suggests Korab, who reiterates the importance of using a heat protectant before styling.
“The Matrix Total Results Miracle Creator is great to apply before you blow-dry and pair it with the Matrix Total Results Mega Sleek to create the dynamic duo for heat protection,” says Stenson.
How to repair split ends
When it comes to repairing split ends, treat your hair like you would your skin. “The hair is an extension of your skin—it’s important to look after it and keep it at its best health,” says Justin, who recommends implementing a strong hair care routine with professional hair care products that cleanse, condition, and deep-treat your strands. “All of these components will help to protect, prevent and promote good hair health.”
Don’t worry, you can start small—as in, just one or two products small. “To repair split ends, I recommend using a leave-in conditioner or serum,” says Korab, who suggests applying a leave-in conditioner or serum to the ends of your hair regularly. “These products can help seal the hair cuticle, reduce flyaways, and provide additional moisture to the damaged ends.”
There are also intensive hair masks and treatments that can help accelerate your hair repair journey. Celebrity stylist Laurabeth Cabott swears by K18’s Molecule Repair Hair Mask for treating split ends. “You can manage split ends with this mask—it helps reverse hair damage in just four minutes,” Cabott says, and Justin suggests Redken Extreme Anti-Snap Anti-Breakage Leave-In Treatment.
There are shampoos and conditioners that can help to repair your hair as well. “Products that seal, gloss, and hydrate hair will be the best in disguising and managing split ends,” says Stenson.
If you’re in need of a complete hair care overhaul, pros suggest swapping out your current products with an expert-approved hair care system. You can get everything in one go with Pureology's Korab-approved Damaged Hair Repair Hair Care Set.
Finally, you might want to upgrade your brushes and hair tools while you're at it. “Always opt for professional protective heated tools with reputable brands that put lots of research into innovative ways of producing tools that are effective but protect your hair,” says Justin, pointing to GHD, Dyson and Babyliss as a few brands he personally recommends.
“My favourite tools are from GHD, as they are all set to 365 degrees to prevent any mechanical damage,” Cabott concurs.
As for brushes to use on dry and damp hair? “I love boar-bristle brushes,” Dunlap tells GLAMOUR. “They smooth the hair nicely and don’t get too hot like a ceramic brush would.” Cabott concludes that the combination of revamping your hair care routine products and tools is a great way to help keep your hair healthy — and split ends at bay.
This feature originally appeared on GLAMOUR US.