If you’re left with a floor of broken hairs when you style your hair, don’t see a difference in hair length, have handfuls of clumps of hair when combing, or have thinning ends, then your hair may be suffering from breakage. Breakage is usually caused by excess use of heat tools, chemical processes, drying or coating products, heavy manipulation, moisture and protein imbalance, etc. Broken hairs, unlike shed hairs, do not have a white or clear bulb at the end. They usually are a lot shorter than the length of one’s hair. Split ends and mid-shaft splits can also cause breakage if not trimmed as they can travel up the hair shaft.
Breakage happens when the cuticle structure is damaged and exposes the cortex, the part of the hair that gives the hair strength and elasticity. Once the cortex is exposed, the hair is no longer protected and is vulnerable to breakage. It is important to keep the cuticle smooth by applying product in a downward motion from root to trip, conditioning, and using products within the pH of 4-7.
Though breakage is a sign of unhealthy hair, it does naturally break off. According to the book The Science of Black Hair by Audrey Davis-Sivasothy, in a healthy hair regimen, breakage is fewer than five broken hairs on non wash days and less than ten on wash days.
Split ends come in different forms and can be found on the end and the middle of the hair shaft. Excessive split ends occur when hair isn’t being treated properly. Consistent trimming is necessary to get rid of split and prevent them from traveling up the shaft.
Split ends cannot be repaired. Once hair is split, it is irreversible. Products that are target to repair split ends use emollients that temporarily glue splits together. However, these products are temporary fixes. The best way to get rid of split ends is to trim them off. How often a trim should be done depends on the person, but the recommended time between trims is every 8-12 weeks.