Everything you need to know to treat, trim and prevent them...
Split ends happen to good people, even beauty editors. But it’s now within the realms of possibility to minimise the damage and get back on good terms with your hair.
What causes split ends?
‘First you have to understand that the ends of your hair are around four years old so have experienced a lot of wear and tear,’ says Zoë Irwin, creative director at John Frieda Salons. ‘A split end is when hair frays due to damage to the oldest part of your hair strand.’
Using the wrong brush can exacerbate the problem. According to trichologist Anabel Kingsley, a boar bristle brush is one of the worst culprits and commonly results in cuticle damage.
‘Boar bristle brushes are too harsh and can tear away sections of the hair cuticle, increasing porosity and moisture loss,’ she warns.
For gentle detangling try the Manta hairbrush, £25, which moulds to the shape of your hand and scalp for less tension on each strand. Or Kingsley’s favourite Philip Kingsley Vented Paddle Brush with rounded, plastic prongs.
Overdoing the heat styling, chemical treatments and skipping a protective spray are just a few more causes of split ends.
How to prevent split ends
Take a break from heated straighteners and curling tongs. When going cold turkey, use a straightening shampoo like Hair Rituel by Sisley Revitalizing Straightening Shampoo, £49 as it contains a high level of oils like moringa to weigh down fuzzy hair without the need for heat.
Which brings us to… tong-free beachy waves.
‘Apply the Ouai Wave Spray to damp strands, push the hair up and place a duckbill clip in it,’ says Jen Atkin, founder of Ouai and Kim Kardashian’s hair stylist. ‘Then push the hair underneath it up and put another clip in until you’ve done it down the length of the hair around the entire head. Air dry, then remove the clips and you’ve got incredible-looking natural beach waves.’
Also invest in products with Olympic-calibre conditioning properties.
Those with ‘bond strengthening technology’ fit the bill, especially if you colour your hair, as they rebuild broken hair from within. Philip Kingsley Bond Builder Split End Treatment is designed to reconnect these keratin bonds so hair won’t snap at the ends. As such, it’s worth the splurge.
Don’t overlook the humble hair mask, either. ‘Most contain around 25 per cent more moisturising ingredients than daily conditioners,’ says award-winning hairstylist Larry King, making them a good SOS product. ‘Only coat the weakened ends to avoid weighing strands down.’
And definitely DON’T PICK at your split ends.
Be extra gentle if you have afro hair
The tighter the curl, the longer it takes for natural oils to circle their way from the scalp to the ends, causing the lower half to appear frazzled.
‘Where ‘twists’ occur, strands become weaker, too,’ says Vernon François, hairstylist to Serena Williams and Lupita Nyong’o. ‘This is one reason why Afro hair breaks so easily.’
Add leave-in curl creams, rich in shea butter, to your regime and spray-on conditioners like Vernon Francois Re-Vamp Conditioner. This type of applicator ensures you get even distribution from root to tip and is packed with grapeseed oil to seal the scales on the outside of the hair shaft, preventing split ends.
Rethink how you blow-dry
When you reintroduce hot tools, recognise that you need to use both a heat protective spray and a product that helps to cut down drying time.
Aveda’s Speed of Light Blow Dry Accelerator uses naturally-derived lactic acid from sugar beets to lower the hair’s pH and separate strands for better airflow.
Never touch the nozzle of your hairdryer directly onto strands, either – angle it over your hair and brush.
The simple split ends haircut to try
The only real way to get rid of split ends is to cut them off. Zoë Irwin recommends her ‘model cut’ for a quick refresh in between styling appoinments.
‘When hair is dry, take large sections and twist them with one hand. With the other, run your finger up the section of hair to reveal any split ends. Using a sharp pair of scissors, snip off any hairs the have fluffed up and are split in two. You only need to take a millimetre off.’
The best split ends treatment
It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but you can’t actually fix split ends once they’ve frayed.
But you can disguise them and, better still, prevent new ones forming by blow-drying a dedicated split end treatment into your hair. Irwin recommends ghd Advanced Split End Therapy, which is heat activated and designed to seal frayed ends together like an invisible plaster until your next wash.
Scroll down for more of our favourites…
This lightweight serum is rich in the protein Alpha Keratin 60ku that's identical to the keratin in your own hair. It bonds directly to areas of damage to help repair them as well as sealing split ends to protect against future fraying.
A leave-in treatment is a great way to help support dry and brittle lengths and ends. This bamboo-infused number from Pantene is designed to help minimise hair fall by strengthening your hair, for fuller and thicker-looking locks.
The clue is in the name. This conditioner manages to melt away any knots and tangles with (almost) no combing afterwards thanks to a hefty dose of strengthening pea protein, ultra-moisturising avocado oil and smoothing tsubaki oil.
Delivering a hefty dose of TLC to dry, damaged ends, this oil also contains a patented active ingredient to repair broken keratin bonds caused by chemical and heat damage. All without leaving behind a greasy residue.
Rubbing your hair dry with a towel causes existing split ends to travel upwards. Made from a super absorbant material, this hair turban is basically the equivalent of gently dabbing your hair dry with a T-shirt.
Enriched with strengthening ceramics and proteins, this leave-in treatment strengthens strands and smooths the cuticle. It's a great buffer against breakage when brushing and styling.
When it comes to masks, don't just settle for garden-variety nourishing ingredients. Look for ones that are specifically designed to bolster weakened hair. You'll find some of the most high-tech in this one: edelweiss cells, ginger root and a patented ingredient to increase hydration through the whole hair strand.
Thanks to thermal protectants and a smoothing formula, which encourages even thick, curly hair to lie flat, this serum cuts your blow-dry time in half.