As naturals, sometimes we tend to focus more on our scalp or hair roots, and then give little to no attention to our ends. The resultant effect is that although new hair grows out, it doesn't reflect in our hair length. Your hair will either remain at the same length or break off. When it comes to caring for our ends, some of the mistakes we make are not moisturizing them well, not trimming them often, or not taking the time to detangle them properly. So, while the roots and shaft of our hair might look healthy, your ends might actually be unhealthy and result in split ends. In this article, I will be giving you a breakdown of what split ends are, the causes, and how to protect the ends of your natural hair to ensure maximum hair growth.
What Are Split Ends?
Split ends are the damaged tips or oldest parts of a person's hair. These ends are usually the part that gets the most exposure to extreme weather conditions, hair straightening, curling, styling, or even frequent touches with our fingers! Over time, this exposure causes our hair cuticles to weaken, thus leaving the inner cortex to wear out. And as a result, this causes our ends to split.
Split ends can occur in different forms:
- Your hair ends may be split in two
- Your hair ends may be split into multiple parts like a tree branch
- Your hair may be thin at the ends while the shaft maintains a normal weight
Types of Split Ends
1. Classic Split Ends
This type of split ends are the most common of all. Classic split ends happens when the hair separates in two parts at the ends; this usually resembles the tail of a fish.
2. Incomplete Split Ends
As the name suggests, this is when the ends of the hair are partly split. The ends of your hair are split at some point but not all the way to the down, giving it a needle's eye look.
3. Tree and Feathered Split Ends
This happens when the ends have multiple splits giving it the appearance of a feather or a tree branch. If you have this type of split ends, you need to get a trim ASAP because this means that your hair cuticles are struggling to stay together and grow out.
4. Single Strand Knots
Another name for this split ends is fairy knots and it is more common in curly hair. The hair strands curl into each other, causing small knots and tangles.
As its name implies, this type of split ends gives the ends the appearance of the letter Y. This is because the ends is split into two equal parts.
6. Taper Split End
For this type of split ends, there is no complete hair split, rather the hair thins out at the end.
While it's normal to have split ends, if you don't do anything about them, they can continue to split all the way to your hair shaft resulting in hair damage. Also, split ends most times, have knots in them and make styling your hair difficult. Furthermore, split ends prevent your natural hair from growing out healthier or longer because the hair breaks off easily.
What Are The Common Causes of Split Ends?
Many factors contribute to split ends which include:
1. Not moisturizing your natural hair
A common trait of split ends is a lack of moisture in your hair. And one way you can notice your hair needs moisture is if it is dry. Lots of things can cause your natural hair to become dry and brittle, like not incorporating a daily moisturizing technique - a leave-in and water mix - into your natural hair care routine. Forgetting to include a deep conditioning or protein treatment at least once monthly during wash days, sleeping without protecting your hair with a silk scarf or satin bonnet, and the hands in hair syndrome. When you don't make an effort to moisturize your ends, your hair is stripped of its natural moisture, which invariably leads to dry, brittle hair, and causes your ends to split.
2. Combing dry or wet hair
While many naturals know that it is not proper to comb your hair while dry as it can lead to split ends, but not many know that combing your hair while wet can do the same. Your hair when wet is at its weakest so when you comb it, your ends could split.
3. Using towels to dry your hair
It is not uncommon to see many naturals drying their wet hair with a towel. However, many towels are made of cotton, and rubbing it against your natural hair will strip it of its moisture and cause split ends. Instead, you should use a clean t-shirt or microfiber towel as they are softer and contain smoother fibers than your regular bath towels.
4. Using heat tools on your natural hair
This is the fastest way to get split ends. When you use heat tools like hair straighteners, curling irons, blow dryers, etc on your natural hair often, or you apply heat to your hair without using a heat protectant, it strips your hair of its moisture and causes a lot of strain on the hair. Over time, this weakens your hair, makes it drier, and eventually leads to split ends.
5. Using products with harsh ingredients
Many "natural" hair products contain harsh ingredients like sulfates, petroleum jelly, mineral oil, lanolin, etc. Using these on your hair can cause your hair to weaken, become dry, frizzy, and brittle, which then ultimately leads to split ends. It is recommended to check the ingredients contained in these products before buying them or using them on your hair. If you're unsure of what ingredients to look out for, talk to a natural hair expert for more guidance.
6. Colored or chemical treated hair
Infusing colors into your hair can help give it that beautiful look but it can affect the health of your hair. The chemicals in these color treatments can be harsh on your hair strands, strip it of its natural moisture and leave it vulnerable to split ends. Furthermore, the chemicals in these treatments can weaken your hair cuticles, leaving them prone to split ends.
If you have colored or chemically treated hair, I advise that you use a moisturizing conditioner to co-wash your hair at least once every two weeks. You should also ensure to moisturize and seal your hair daily.
7. Overmanipulating your natural hair
I get it, you can't resist styling those soft bouncy tresses. Unfortunately, combing here, twisting there every time will only lead to weak ends and cause split ends. Instead of manipulating the hair often, opt for protective styles that allow your hair to breathe and protect them as well.
Why Should You Protect The Ends of Your Natural Hair?
If you are aiming for overall healthy natural hair, then you need to protect the ends of your hair. Other reasons why you should protect the ends of your natural hair include to:
- Retain moisture
- Keep your hair growing steadily
- Make it easier to comb, detangle, or style
- Eliminate knots
- Prevent hair breakage
How Can You Protect The Ends of Your Natural Hair?
1. Tuck in those ends
We all like to touch the ends of our hair either out of habit or because we made a new hairstyle. Unfortunately, the constant touching of your ends can make your natural hair lose moisture and result in split ends. Also, when you leave the ends of your braided hair to hang loose, you expose it to harsh weather like the sun. This too can cause the ends of your hair to lose moisture. So how do you protect them? Simply tuck in those ends!
2. Trim them regularly
Some naturals don't like to trim the ends of their natural hair because they think it stops it from growing. However, trimming your ends helps you to cut off dry limp strands so new, healthy hair can grow out. It also protects your hair by helping you to get rid of split ends. You can either visit a professional hairstylist to trim them for you or you can DIY with a pair of professional shears. I advise that you trim your hair once every 4 - 6 weeks.
3. Moisturize and seal your ends
When moisturizing and sealing your natural hair, some naturals tend to focus more on the roots of the hair and neglect the ends. This will only cause your ends to become weak over time and break off. To keep your ends protected, you should give special care to moisturizing and sealing the ends. This will keep your ends as hydrated as every other part of your hair.
4. Comb from roots to ends
Some naturals often make the mistake of combing their hair from the ends first. This can cause the hair ends to get weak over time as it is softer than the hair roots. So, to protect your natural hair ends, always comb from roots to end.
5. Use a protein conditioner once every month
Our natural hair contains keratin protein which is what gives it structure and strength. We need protein in our hair to keep it healthy. When we use too many moisturizing products and protein-free products, this can lead to our hair (ends) getting weak. To protect and strengthen the ends of your natural hair, I suggest you use a protein conditioner once a month. You can get a protein conditioner at the hair product section of your local supermarket.
6. Use a wide-tooth comb
When combing your hair, use a wide-tooth comb. This is because smaller combs have tinier teeth that can pull and snag at your ends when you use them. Wide-tooth combs have wider spaces between them and make it easier to detangle your hair with.
7. Use a detangler or your fingers
When you want to take out the knots in your hair, use a detangler. Combing your hair aggressively to take out the knots only leads to having split ends. If you don't have a detangler, first moisturize and seal. Then, use your fingers to gently take out the knots from roots to ends.
8. Avoid using too many products
Do you know that saying that a little goes all the way? This applies to using products on your hair as well. I understand that you may be trying to get your hair to a certain length, but using too many products on your hair can actually damage your ends. Your ends may become weighed down when you put too many products in it at once. This can also cause the ends of your hair to lose their shine, giving it a dull look.
9. Deep condition your hair
Deep conditioning is the process of applying deep conditioner to your hair and covering it with a shower cap, a towel, and/or a hairdryer to provide heat. Deep conditioning has many benefits, such as hydrating your hair and repairing splits ends. It also provides your ends with enough moisture that will help strengthen them. If you have bad split ends, it is recommended to deep condition once a week. However, if your split ends aren't all that bad, you can deep condition once in two weeks.
10. Avoid using too much heat
Exposing your hair to heat from the hairdryer or other heat tools such as curlers can lead to your ends getting damaged. As a natural, you should always protect your ends from heat tools as much as you can or use a heat protectant if you want to apply heat to your hair. You can also use other heat-free methods to style your natural hair, so your hair stays protected from heat damage.
Finally, your ends are usually the weakest part of natural hair because they don't get enough attention. However, with these tips, you are well on your way to better care for and protect the ends of your natural hair.