Split ends can be said to be a symptom of ‘wear and tear’ of hair and while there are different levels of split ends problems, everyone gets them regardless of how healthy hair is. Why? Let’s take a look.
Why we get hair split at the tip
The tip of the hair suffers most damage because this is the hair that been growing from the scalp for months or even years (remember: hair grows ~ 12 cm/ year), and has thus been subjected to abuse longer than the rest of the hair. The gradual erosion of cuticle scales during our day to day routine, causes the removal of the protective lipid layer and even proteinaceous matter leaving the hair feeling dry and more susceptible to further damaging actions. These conditions make it easy for the fiber to crack and eventually suffer breakage. The constant damage on the tips is what results in the bothersome split ends that we all suffer.
3 Types of damage that cause split ends in hair
Weathering could almost be referred to as the natural wear and tear of the hair. In this process, the cuticles of the hair get damaged by environmental factors such as sunlight, air pollutants, wind, sea water, or even chlorine in pool water. The ultraviolet radiation in sunlight has been known to denature the cystine protein of the cuticles making them more susceptible to breakage.
Mechanical damage refers to the process of cuticle chipping/removal. This results from the friction during normal combing and brushing, not only between the brush and hair but also between hair fibers. Additionally research studies demonstrate that the stretching and bending actions on the hair can cause severe damage to the hair. This is one of the reasons why it is recommended not to comb hair while showering. This action causes hair to stretch causing cracks in the hair not only at the tips but along the hair fiber as well. A popular example is when tying hair in a knot. Notice how the cuticles get lifted. Additionally heat styling causes further damage.
Chemical damage consists of all the treatments that we subject the hair to: coloring, bleaching, straightening, perming etc. During these processes, the cuticles are caused to lift and the chemicals enter the cortex, thereby modifying not only the protein structure of the hair but also damaging the hair’s lipid barrier in the process. These processes combined with the aforementioned damage triggers (weathering and mechanical) are the perfect combo to weaken the hair. They result in more split ends, more cracks, more breakage, and physical issues such as dryness, dullness, flyaways etc.
Why split ends need to be removed
At this point in time, there are no real remedy to ‘glue’ the broken fibers back together. While certain products can effectively mask the ends, smooth the hair and prevent further damage, they do not get rid of the problem of breakage. Split ends are a threat to the rest of your hair if left unattended for too long. The fact is that the crack can start moving further upwards towards the healthier areas of the hair. When that happens you start noticing breakage further up.
The best way to keep the split ends from damaging the rest of the hair, is to maintain the ends through regular hair trims.