If you want to grow strong, healthy, thick hair, learning to deal with splits ends is a necessity. For me, splitting ends and severe breakage in the back of my hair have been my biggest obstacles and challenges in handling my hair.
The internet has been a blessing in helping women of color with learning about healthy hair practices and products that can help us grow a beautiful head of hair. Online hair forums are great as they are full of information and ladies willing to share their trials and successes to help one another in the quest for growing healthy hair. Long Hair Care Forum (LHCF), Black Hair Media and Nappturality are the three most trustworthy sites that I frequently visit; all three provide a wealth of information and best of all they are free or have a very low membership fee ($5 annually) which I think is well worth the cost.
African American hair is naturally dryer than any other type so it takes a little more work and careful maintenance to keep it from breaking off. However, dealing with split ends is a universal challenge for all women alike.
SO WHAT EXACTLY ARE SPLIT ENDS
Split Ends are damaged areas on the hair shaft in which the protective scales that make up the cuticle layer of the hair is damaged and begins to break and split away which exposes the inner layer of your hair - it's cortex. In severe cases the cortex can burst in the shaft or be exposed depending on how the split occurs. When this happens the hair looks scraggly, dull, thin and 'see through' especially towards the ends. Styling also becomes an issue because the hairs become rigid and dry and have difficulty holding a curl and won't even straighten correctly when you try to curling or flat iron on it. They just make your hair look a hot mess.
WHAT CAUSES THEM
Improper manipulation of the hair is the main culprit and cause of Trichoptlosis - aka split ends. Abusive use of blow dryers, flat irons, curling irons, chemicals, combing and not properly tying up your hair when sleeping are the main causes.
HOW TO FIX IT
The only solution to fixing split ends is to trim your hair with a sharp pair of hair scissors. Notice I said hair scissors, not just any random pair of scissors laying around the house. That is because using dull scissors to trim your hair just causes more damage and can give you fresh split ends starting right at the point where you cut your hair. It's also very important that you refrain from using hair shears for any other purpose except for cutting your hair. Do not use them to cut paper, string or anything else for that matter as you have to keep them as sharp as possible. Better yet, find a stylist you trust and let them trim your hair as they usually keep their hair shears very sharp and typically buy the more expensive and better brand of scissors. If you don't trust anyone cutting your hair, invest in a good, high quality brand of shears.
Many products that claim to 'repair' split ends actually only coat the hair and reduce the frayed appearance; Once you wash your hair again that protective film is removed but the hair itself is never mended or repaired. If you really think about it, hair cannot repair itself because the visible strands of hair a that you see on your head are dead so there is no way it would be able to repair itself. What these products do is assist the situation from getting worse as they temporarily protect the hair from continuing to split longitudinally up the hair shaft causing more damage. The best thing you can do is prevent them from starting in the first place. Although you will never completely rid yourself of them, you can minimize the amount and damage caused in your hair.
There are several preventative steps you will need to take to minimize split end damage.
- Avoid the use of a blow dryer, instead use a hooded dryer or air dry your hair naturally. If you do blow dry, make sure you use a heat protectant first and don't blow on the highest heat setting.
- Reduce frequent use of flat irons or hot curling irons. Using them daily will pretty much guarantee breakage. As with the blow dryer, use a heat protectant prior to styling.
- Sleep with a silk or satin scarf or pillow case to prevent hair from rubbing on he cotton sheet losing precious moisture and cause dryness and friction.
- Use a wide tooth comb for styling.
- Minimize manipulating wet hair as this is when hair is at it's weakest point.
- Use a soft natural boar bristle brush when brushing hair. Do not brush hair often (actually not at all if you can help it).
- Drink plenty of water! Proper hydration is necessary in growing healthy hair has dry hair becomes brittle and easy to break.
- Trim hair with sharp hair shears only. Cut hair straight across and never at an angle.
- Use a good moisturizing shampoo. If you need help in finding out how to select a good shampoo we have a great post about it here.
- Deep condition hair with every wash.
- Moisturize and seal hair with a light natural oil (coconut, jojoba, olive oil etc.)
- Spread out your relaxers to ensure that relaxer is applied on virgin hair (new growth) only and not accidentally overlapped over previously processed hair. Try to relax after at least 10 weeks if you are able to do so without a lot of breakage.
And there will be times when you do this and your hair will still break off no matter how careful you are. As frustrating as those times can be with proper research and care you can overcome those challenges. The best thing about hair is that in most cases, it always grows back. I suggest you definitely browse through one of those hair forums as you really do learn a lot. I'm actually a member of LHCF and am partial to them for that reason. But I have found a wonderful collection of information from all over the net.
Please note: I am not a licensed cosmetologist and all the information provided was found through research, as well as, personal trial and error. If you ever have any doubts about your hair and are hesitant to take care of it yourself, I strongly encourage you to find a licensed, knowledgeable and caring stylist who is willing to work with you and your hair.