13 Types of Split Ends and How They Occur
Split ends, also known as Schizotrichia, occur due to excessive chemical and mechanical stress of the hair fiber. Stressors like heat, excessive or rough combing and styling, relaxers, and hair dye weakens the protective cuticle structure and causes it to crack and fray. These cracks eventually result in splits along the hair shaft, most commonly on the ends. Read “How To: Hot Oil Treatment” to learn about the structure of a hair strand.
Split ends can be a nuisance, especially when they take on a different form than common split ends. For me, the types of split ends differ from my hair’s relaxed and natural state. The notion that they can be repaired is a myth. Products that promise to seal split ends contain emollients that temporarily glue the split together. The best way to treat split ends is to cut them off individually with shears or get a trim. This will prevent the splits from splitting more.
The type of split ends that your hair has will help in determining what caused them and how to alter your hair regimen to prevent/decrease the chances of it happening again. As hair grows, normal factors like the sun, washing, and everyday styling can cause split ends as well. Getting a trim on a consistent basis, using minimal heat, low manipulation styling, properly executing chemical treatments, and conditioning your hair will prevent normal splits from causing breakage and aid in optimal length retention.
The most common type of split end, these are the result of dry ends and friction. Solution: Protective styling more often and ensuring that the ends are moisturized will help to minimize these.
The result of rough styling and inconsistent trimming. The cuticle is peeling away from the cortex. Solution: This is the time to get a trim. Wear your hair up for a while to reduce friction on the ends.
Rough styling and heat break down the cuticle layer over time causing weak spots. This type of split can occur along the middle and end of the hair strand. Solution: Try low manipulation and protective styling to cut down on friction. A good protein and moisturizing conditioner will help to reinforce the hair strand decreasing the chances for weak spots to reoccur.
Tight buns and ponytails, combs with seams, and applying heat tools too often or too long in a particular area can cause mid-shaft splits. Solution: Opt for a seamless comb (check the Hair Regimen Builder for options) for styling. Seamless combs do not have seams along the teeth of the comb which tears away at the hair’s cuticle. When using heat, make sure to evenly distribute your tool along the hair shaft and switch up the placement of your ponytails and buns.
Single Strand Knots (SSK’s)
Also known as fairy knots and are a curly girl’s worst enemy. Textured hair bends at many angles causing hair strands to loop around themselves forming knots. The knots causes tension along the hair shaft, especially during styling. If the knot is not cut, the tension from the knot will be ripped away during styling or it can loop around adjacent strands and cause more knots. Unfortunately, SSK’s are an inevitable aspect of having textured hair. However, excessive knots are not common. Wash and go’s, dry ends, and tangled hair are usually the culprits of SSK’S. Solution: Wearing your hair in stretched or protective styles and keeping your hair moisturized will help in minimizing SSK’s.
Usually occurs on one side of the hair shaft that is exposed to the elements. Frequent or harsh brushing scrapes at the cuticle layer and causes it to peel. I experienced this when using a paddle brush often on my natural hair. The small balls at the ends would snag on my hair and produce unsightly tree splits. Solution: Opt for low manipulation styling and gentle hair tools.
90° Angle Bend
Constant tension in the same area from tight ponytails and bobby pins can bend the hair shaft. The bends are stress points and will eventually break off. Solution: Switching the placement of your bobby pins and ponytails will prevent this. Also, make sure to not have your ponytail tight as this causes indentation as well.
A sign that the cuticle layer is wearing off and will eventually split. Overlapping chemical treatments onto previously treated hair will eat away at the cuticle. Solution: Minimize use of color and protect previously relaxed hair during relaxer application.
Too strong or frequently applied chemical treatments can eat away at the cuticle structure. White spots which are damaged keratin may be visible. Solution: Make sure that you are doing your chemical processes correctly or visit a professional to ensure correct application and formula.
I saw a lot of these when I was relaxed and mainly heat styling. They occur when hair is stretched beyond resiliency. Improper chemical application and/or excessive heat can scorch the hair and make it crinkle up. Solution: Give your hair a break! Utilize strengthening and moisturizing treatments to rebuild your hair’s strength. Lay off the heat. If you use chemical treatments, identify the errors within the application process and correct them. The treatments may be too strong for your hair or left on too long during the process.
Can result in a single strand knot. The result of chemical and physical stress. Harsh winds can also cause hair to form in this shape. Solution: Be more gentle with your hair and utilize protective style to give your hair a rest.
Our hair and nails are indicators of hormonal imbalance. Changes in diet and/or medication have an effect on hair’s thickness. Solution: Assess your diet, any new vitamins, and medications. Advise your doctor to evaluate your overall health.
Ammina Rose is a hair and beauty enthusiast from Chicago, Illinois. She created Lovin’ Our Textures on the belief that all hair is beautiful no matter the texture or style preference. Follow her hair journey from Relaxed to Natural on Youtube and Instagram.