How To Prevent Split Ends: 7 Easy Hair Care Tips From Stylists
Have you ever looked down at the tips of your strands and seen little frays and damage? If so, you know the annoyance of split ends. The pesky hair issue comes as the result of physical wear and tear from hot tools and the like.
And as hairstylist and brand founder Josh Rosebrook reminds us, once you damage your strands, you can never fully mend what you've done. "There are a lot of products out there—conditioners, serums, shampoos—that promise to heal and restore dry, damaged hair. Sadly, there's really no way to heal damaged hair. Hair is not a living tissue with regenerative abilities, so it can't heal," he says.
Here's what you can do: You can prevent damage with the right tips and tricks:
Avoid too many chemical treatments.
"Although split ends naturally occur over time, excessive hair color and other chemical processes can speed up how quickly they appear," says hairstylist Jenni Nguyen, owner of Prep & Foxx in Philadelphia. Chemical processes, like bleaching or relaxing, blast open the cuticle, which serves as the protective layer of the hair shaft. In doing so, you ultimately weaken the structural integrity of the hair strand—making breakage more common.
And if you do get chemical treatments, just be mindful that you go to a stylist you trust to take good care of your tresses. Then after, you should tailor your hair care routine to your specific process so you are not furthering the damage.
Get regular trims.
"I always recommend to my guests a minimum of at least four haircuts a year or quarterly in the year to simplify. Trims are important because it will keep split ends from creeping up the hair shaft and splitting the hair even more," says Nguyen. Essentially, once hair starts splitting, it can continue to fray further up the shaft resulting in the hairstylist needing to cut off more length upon your next visit.
Find a regular hair care routine that works for you and stick with it.
As for the work you can do yourself (read: doesn't require a trip to the salon or stylist), it's just about having a solid hair care routine. "With a strong hair care routine, split ends can be prevented and their appearance can be prolonged," says Nguyen. Many of us have a daily skin care routine we stick to without fail—why should hair be any different? Find a gentle shampoo that's not too stripping of your natural oils, get a conditioner or mask that works for your hair type, use thermal protectants whenever heat styling, and limit the use of any styling product that's too drying, like hairsprays.
Invest in a good mask and conditioner.
"Lack of moisture and proper hydration are typically the main culprits," says Nguyen. So, the solution here is pretty simple: Find a good mask and conditioner! Of course, some are going to need an option that won't weigh strands at the root, while others are going to need options that help seal down the cuticle. Simply find an option that works for you.
"To properly apply conditioner or deep conditioning mask, be sure to wring out as much water from the hair as you can beforehand—towel blotting if possible. Doing this prior to applying a conditioner or mask, will help the products penetrate deeper into the hair strand to be able to deliver maximum moisture and hydration," she says.
Avoid hot tools.
Hot tools—like curling irons, flat irons, and blow dryers—work by breaking down the hair's structure with high temperatures so you can reshape it to your desire. It should come as no surprise that this is very, very harsh on hair when done regularly. Of course, we're not going to tell you to skip it—especially if a blowout is your thing or if you have a patch of curls that need a little bit more attention—but if you do notice that your hair is prone to breakage more than most, look to see how you can change your behaviors here. As always, any time you are working with a hot tool, use a thermal protectant, which coats the strands and shields it from the worst of high heat. Finally, if you can, look into air drying!
Use a detangler and smarter brushes.
Physical wear and tear that comes from brushing can also cause splitting. This is a bigger problem for curly girls as hair tends to tangle and knot more easily. If you have curls, be sure to use a detangling spray before taking the brush to it—a spray will add a layer of conditioning agents, making untangling curls a bit easier. You can also switch to detangling in the shower when you condition: After applying your generous dollop of conditioner, go through strands with a brush designed for wet hair. As for straight or slightly wavy hair, stick to brushing hair dry.
If you have curly, textured hair be extra careful.
"Particular hair textures are more prone to split ends, like curly hair textures. In my experience, the curlier the hair, the more moisture it needs. If the hair is not properly moisturized and hydrated, split ends and breakage can happen much more frequently," says Nguyen. This means really stocking up on the moisturizing butters, creams, and oils.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.