What Are Split Ends, Anyway?

And do short-haired dudes have to worry about them?


If you have a prominent woman in your life or have ever stopped into a hair salon, you might at some point have heard a bit of grumbling about split ends. They seem to be a frustrating thing, and they happen on heads; you can tell that much. But what they actually are and whether you need to be worried about them, too, remains something of a mystery. Honestly, we had no clue, either, so we asked hairdresser Linda Mariano to give us a brief lesson on split ends.

Split ends, as Mariano explains, “are like the frayed ends of a rope.” They happen when the ends of your hair become brittle and frayed, causing them to quite literally split. So, rather than your hair lying down flat, split ends cause it to go all frizzy and mad scientist-looking. They can lead to painful and unsightly knots, too.

As for what causes split ends, Mariano says, “Normal wear.” That includes things like exposure to pollution and the weather — say, you spend too much time running around under the sun — as well as blow drying, straightening (basically, anything involving heat) and using chemical hair products. Mariano adds, “Different hair textures split at different rates: Fine hair is more prone than coarse hair to snap and split.”

Needless to say, split ends should be dealt with if you have them, but the only real way to do that is to get a haircut. “There are products that claim to seal split ends, [but] those are just cosmetic,” Mariano says. “Cutting or ‘dusting’ ends is the only option, and your hair should be trimmed every six to eight weeks to prevent further damage.” That said, if you have short hair and already get frequent haircuts, the chances of you having split ends are slim to none — this is really more of a long-hair problem.

If you have long hair, though, once you get your split ends clipped, you can prevent them from happening in the future by keeping your hair moisturized with conditioner and not towel drying as if you were trying to rub tar off of your head. Also, avoid brushing while your hair is wet and opt for a wide-toothed comb (which is generally gentler on your strands) if possible.

So, if you have split ends, now you know how to deal with them. And if none of this applied to you, at least you now know what the hell your girlfriend is talking about.