Whether you’re striving to have long hair or just a healthy head of it, if you’re anything like me, the stumbling block that probably gets on your nerves the most are split ends; especially if your hair is curly because that can make it look really frizzy over time.
Ugh. If anything is a blaring reminder of just how fragile hair is, it’s that. And (sorry) no matter how many products promise to heal any split ends that you might have, the reality is once they sprout up, they are irreparable. Sure, there are some hair products that are able to temporarily seal them, but it doesn’t last for more than a couple of days. If you want split ends to be gone for good, you have to trim them.
That sucks when you’re trying to gain length retention. That’s why, the best thing that you can do is avoid getting them in the first place. This means you have to keep heat to a minimum (and make sure to use some sort of thermal heat protectant before blow drying or flat ironing your hair). It also means that you should not brush your hair when it’s wet; you should get your hair professionally permed, relaxed or color treated (all of those processes change the structure of your hair and can make it a lot more fragile); you should apply hair sunscreen, especially during the summer months (it protects your hair from UV damage) and you shouldn’t over-brush, you should use a wide tooth comb and you should dry your hair with a T-shirt instead of a towel. (Whew! All of that was a lot but trust me, it’s worth it!)
And even with those tips in tow, there are a few other proactive things that you should put into the mix.
Use a Detangler
When it comes to damaging the structure of our hair strands, probably nothing does this quicker than improper detangling. This includes everything from using the wrong hair tools when our hair is wet to not making sure our hair has enough moisture while we’re styling it.
The best way to combat both of these issues is to wash your hair with a detangling (sulfate-free) shampoo and/or you can follow up your wash routine with a homemade detangler. All you need is 1-2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar, ½ cup of distilled water, one teaspoon of sweet almond oil and a 3-5 drops of lavender oil. Put it all into a spray bottle and then spray it on your damp hair.
As far as the wrong tools go, follow this step up with our second tip.
Always Use a Wide Tooth Comb
Hair is a lot like silk in the sense that it is strong and fragile at the same time. That’s why it’s important to be extremely gentle when you style it. One way to do that is to avoid constantly brushing your hair (it could start to break down your hair’s cuticles over time) and to definitely not use small tooth combs (like rattail ones; use them for parting instead of combing). Small combs have a tendency to tear your hair and even rip it out at the roots.
Instead, go with a plastic wide tooth comb. It will get out the knots and kinks without damaging your hair in the process.
Deep Condition Your Hair
Aside from the fact that having curly hair make it harder for our body’s natural oils to run down the length of our tresses, there are other things that can dry our locks out. Using a shampoo that has acidic level or sulfates, using excessive heat too much (more than a couple of a month) and mistaking styling products like gels and custards as an actual hair moisturizer tops the list.
Something that you can do to keep your hair full of moisture so that it avoids being dry and brittle is to deep condition your hair 1-2 times a month. There are plenty of deep conditioning hair masks on the market. Just make sure that you use one that has little to no protein in it (protein treatments shouldn’t be done more than every 6-8 weeks or so).
Something else that you can make your own deep conditioner. A great recipe consists of mixing one avocado with two tablespoons of honey and one tablespoon of olive oil. Apply the conditioner to clean damp hair. Put a plastic cap on your head and let the conditioner sit for an hour. Then rinse thoroughly and follow up with a light conditioner for extra protection.
Seal Your Ends
If your hair is like mine and, no matter what you do, it seems to drink moisture up, something else that can help to keep your ends from becoming dry and brittle is to seal them. It might sound like a complex process, but it’s really not. It’s all about locking your hair’s moisture in while it’s wet.
All you need to do is wash and condition your hair. Then, while your hair is still damp, apply some oil to the ends of all of your hair. If the porosity of your hair only requires a little oil, organic coconut oil should be fine. But again, if you’re like me and you know your hair needs a thicker coating in order to penetrate your hair’s shaft and ultimately reach its cortex (which is the thickest part of your hair), go with some Jamaican castor oil or even some shea butter instead.
You can seal your ends in any hairstyle. But I must put on record that it does tend to be the most effective if you do it before you twist or braid your hair (even if you just keep it in that hairstyle until your hair totally dries and the oil from the sealing process totally sets in).
Apply Cedarwood Oil
Every strand of your hair has a protective sheathing that keeps it from experiencing a lot of environmental, chemical or even heat damage. The sheathing is oil-based. One type of oil that you can use to reinforce your hair’s protection is cedarwood oil.
Cedarwood is awesome because not only does it stimulate your hair follicles so that your hair grows stronger and faster, it’s also great at treating thinning hair too. As a bonus, if you add it to the castor oil that you seal your hair with, it can make your locks thicker too—from root to tip. The thicker your ends are, the less likely they will be to split.
Use Temporary Color Instead of Permanent
I’ve kind of already touched on this one, but since so many of us love to color treat our hair, it’s worth mentioning again. Although there are some permanent hair dyes that are ammonia-free that aren’t half-bad (like Garnier’s Olia and Shea Moisture’s Color Crème), there’s still a chance that permanent dye could lead to damaged tresses, including split ends (especially if you choose to lighten your hair). That’s why the better route to go is temporary options like semi-permanent color, henna or even DIY options such as coffee beans or herbal tea (for safe and natural hair highlights).
Trim with Sharp Shears
Some stylists will say that you should get your hair trimmed every 6-8 weeks. Through my own trial and error (and doing some Q&A with other women), I think it depends on how well you take care of your hair. If your hair is dry or frizzy, it could be due to damage or split ends and yes, you probably need a professional trim. But if your hair still looks healthy after a couple of months, all you may need to do is dust your ends until your hairstyle loses some of its shape or your hair is not holding any curl as well as it once did.
Just make sure that you use a pair of sharp shears. If they are dull, they could tear away at your ends, ultimately leading to a variety of different looking split ends (click here to see what I mean by that).
Give Your Hair Protein
Since hair is made up of 65-95 percent protein (keratin), it needs protein in order to thrive. How can you know if your hair is lacking the protein that it needs? If it lacks elasticity, has a gummy feel to it or breaks off a lot (for the record, healthy shedding is when hair comes out from the roots; breakage is when pieces of hair strands are coming off, excessively so), those are your cues. If any of this happens, split ends are almost inevitable.
Something that can help to correct the issue before it gets too out of hand is to give your hair a protein treatment. There are protein packets available at your local beauty supply store. Or, you can make your own by beating a couple of raw eggs or mixing some plain yogurt and a ripe avocado together and applying it directly to your hair for 20 minutes and then rinsing out the homemade protein with cool water.
It’s also a good idea to consume protein as well. Foods that are loaded with it include poultry, almonds, broccoli, whey protein, fish, pumpkin seeds and quinoa.
Eat Foods High in Zinc
What you eat plays an unbelievably relevant role in how your h air looks and feels. Although it’s a good idea to get a good amount of protein into your diet on a daily basis (because our hair is made up of protein, after all), something else that you should consume is zinc. Why? Zinc is what keeps the oil glands that are around each of your hair follicles working well. Zinc is also essential as it relates to your hair’s growth and repair.
What types of foods are high in zinc? Some that top the list include eggs, whole grains, chicken, yogurt and oatmeal.
Wear Silk or Satin Scarves (protect from pollutants and friction)
Remember how I said that I was going to provide tips on how to protect your ends that don’t include protective styling? This final tip is probably the only one that is an exception. Hopefully, you’re already wrapping your hair up at night with a silk or satin scarf so that it won’t dry out in the middle of the night and your pillows won’t cause too much friction. But as someone who absolutely adores how a well-placed scarf looks on my head in the daytime, don’t knock it as a fashion accessory too!
Silk and satin scarves are able to make quite the style statement while giving your hair a styling break and protecting it from the outdoor elements. For tips on how to tie one of your headscarves a myriad of ways, check out this video. You’ll be amazed by all of the things you can do with one of the scarves in your collection and you’ll love how it can also keep you from having split ends.