If you’ve ever brushed, blow-dried, colored, curled, or straightened your hair, then these little buggers probably drive you insane.
And since American women spend an average of six days a year on their hair, it’s impossible to avoid the accumulated damage.
Here, we’re breaking down what split ends are and what the various types say about your hair.
What are Split Ends?
First, let’s cover the basics.
As the name implies, split ends are when the ends of your hair split due to damage and weathering, usually caused by using hot tools, chemicals to dye hair, not using enough conditioner, even by combing.
And yes, they are that bad for your hair.
If you want hair that’s healthy, whether you rock a pixie or hippie long hair, you need to trim those ends on a regular basis. Trimming off the dead and damaged ends of your hair helps your hair grow in healthier and stronger.
The younger hair (closer to your scalp and recently trimmed) tends to be healthier because it hasn’t been subjected to so many damaging treatments. Frequent trims will help keep the damage to a minimum.
Types of Split Ends
That said, the type of split end on your head can tell you a thing or two about the exact damage you’re putting your hair through.
There are, in fact, multiple types of split ends out there, and the type you see in your hair is like a roadmap to your damaged hair. Here, we’re breaking down the basics of what each type of split end means and what you can do about it.
The Basic Split
The basic split is the most common type of split end you can encounter.
It looks like a Y. This is one of the early stages of damage. In this type of split end, the cortical cells are still mostly held together, but large sections are beginning to separate.
This is most often caused by dryness, friction, or not enough hair care.
Your hair is damaged, but there’s still time to fix it. If you see this type of split, use a treatment that helps seal and heal your ends–and make sure you’re using enough conditioner.
A conditioner is basically lotion for your hair, and not using enough will dry out your hair and scalp.
Like the basic split, the mini is a sign that your hair is scolding you for neglect but isn’t beyond all hope of repair yet.
The mini looks like your basic split end, but, as the name implies, it’s smaller. It’s also still at the very end of your hair–a split farther up the strand says something else.
As with the basic split, the mini is a sign that your hair is thirsty for nourishment. Make sure you’re using enough conditioner, and use a sealing treatment.
If you have curly hair that tends to dry out, it may also be a good idea to use oil for your hair–this will help prevent these little splits from popping up due to dryness.
If you have average dryness, though, don’t invest in castor or coconut oil for your hair. It can leave your hair feeling unclean earlier than necessary.
Fork in the Road
The fork in the road is slightly less common than a basic split or a mini-split, and it’s a sign that your hair is a bit worse for the wear.
A fork in the road split looks like the hair has split into three strands at the end, and it tends to be bigger than the previous two. This makes sense, as this type of split indicates more significant damage.
If you see this type of split, it can tell you two things:
- You need to cut your hair more often
- You need more deep conditioning treatments
Even if you have a love affair with your long hair, you should get it cut at least every eight to twelve weeks. The shorter your hair, the lower the number drops–if you have short hair, it should be cut every four to eight weeks to keep your cut fresh and your ends tidy.
Following the trend of ascending damage, a tree split is a sign that your hair needs some serious TLC.
This split will look, well, like a tree. The end will look like a fork split, but there may also be splits further up the strand, especially on one side.
If this kind of split tends to show up on your hair, it’s time to book a hair appointment. This is a sign that one side of your hair is more damaged than the other, and it means that several branches of cortical cells have begun to separate.
Once you go into your hair appointment, ask your stylist about products that can protect your hair from excessive weathering and what you can do every day to keep your hair happy and healthy.
The candle is another example of significant hair damage, even though (technically speaking) it’s not a split end.
If your hair looks like the end of a candle (the end of the strand is thinner than the rest, like a candle wick), this is an example of significant loss of the outer cuticle. There isn’t a split end, but your hair is highly susceptible.
First of all: book a haircut appointment ASAP. Between trims, you should try out essential oils like coconut oil or castor oil to do some pre-damage control. Once you get to your stylist, ask them for a list of recommendations based on your hair type and texture.
Managing Your Split Ends
If you’ve been paying attention, then you should have noticed a significant trend in our recommendations for dealing with split ends: getting your hair cut more often.
Regular haircuts help your hair stay healthy by taking away damaged ends so that younger hair can flourish.