Reading time: 12 min.
How to Get Rid of Split Ends: Easy Prevention and Treatment
Dr Peter Thomas (GMC)
Medically reviewed by
Dr Peter Thomas (GMC)
Updated on July 3, 2024

Many people turn to the internet to learn how to get rid of split ends and achieve smooth, healthy hair growth. That is not surprising, since studies say that around 70% of the population believe their hair is damaged [1]. Pollution, inadequate hair styling techniques or simply choosing the wrong hair products can all contribute to getting unsightly split ends instead of healthy hair.

Fortunately, there are ways to treat and repair damaged hair and prevent split ends from recurring. While the most simple and effective solution involves a pair of scissors, there are products that can help reduce your hair’s frizziness and make your splitting less conspicuous.

Keeping your hair well-conditioned, nourished and moisturised can keep your ends healthy and in one piece. This article will tell you all you need to know about:

  • How to tell if you have a split-end problem
  • The most effective ways to get rid of your split ends
  • Ways to prevent split ends from developing
  • The lesser-known connection between split ends and hair loss
Table of Contents

How can you tell you’ve got split ends?

Since split ends are mainly caused by friction, even people with the healthiest hair can have a few every now and then. However, if you have many such broken hairs, it can give your locks a frizzy appearance and make them difficult to style. 

There are a few surefire ways to tell whether you have split ends or healthy hair. Normally, a healthy hair strand is straight and smooth and has a similar length as those surrounding it [2]. The first thing you need to try is to braid strands of your hair and then check their appearance. If they look like an ear of wheat, with shorter hair ends sticking out of the braid, you have a split end problem. 

Healthy hair vs split ends

However, even if your hair looks good while braided, it is still a good idea to take a magnifying glass to its ends, especially after harsh hair treatments. You could be having baby splits (an incipient form of split ends), which means you are on your way to developing split ends. Catching them early can make them easier to get rid of.

The best way to get rid of split ends

What is the best way to get rid of split ends?

You may not be happy to read this, especially if you are passionate about your long locks, but trimming your split ends is by far the best way to end them. It is also the only true method of solving this problem.

While many products, such as some keratin hair treatments, claim to “glue back” your split ends, from a scientific standpoint, these are empty promises. A hair shaft that has already split cannot be repaired, it can only be made less visible and easier to manage.  

How much hair to trim for fixing split ends

How much hair do I need to trim to fix my split ends?

The length of hair that needs to be trimmed depends on how high up your split ends go. On average, if your hair is well maintained and you trim your ends regularly, you only need to cut between 0.5 – 3 cm. However, if your hair is long and severely damaged, it might sometimes take over 10 cm to get rid of all split ends.

If you feel that you would need to sacrifice more of your length than you are willing to, it is a good idea to look into alternate techniques, such as hair dusting (to be discussed).  

Trimming split ends at home

How should I trim my split ends at home?

Trimming your hair is not as difficult as it can seem before the first time you’ve tried it. Here is how you should go about it if you want to cut off your own split ends:

  1. Gently untangle your hair and comb it well.
  2. If your hair is straight, you can dampen it a little.
  3. Separate a small section of hair and comb it apart from the rest.
  4. Put the strand between your left index and middle finger and gently slide your fingers along its length, checking for split ends.
  5. Stop where the split ends are starting and turn the strand upwards, with the ends facing you.
  6. Use a sharp barber’s scissors to make a perpendicular cut on the ends. Start by trimming a smaller portion than needed and then adjust until you can see no more splitting. 
  7. Once the ends of that strand are trimmed, repeat the process on the next ones until all your hair is repaired (you may need help getting the hair at the back of your head if it’s not long enough to be pulled in front).  

How can you treat split ends without cutting your hair?

Reluctance to shorten your hair is quite understandable, especially if you have spent a long time growing it. Here are some of the best ways to deal with those pesky split ends without sacrificing any hair length:

Using the hair dusting technique

The good news is that trimming your split ends doesn’t always have to mean shortening your hair. Here are some great tips for getting healthier hair without losing length using the dusting technique:

  1. Untangle your hair gently and comb it as straight as it can get.
  2. Dampen the hair lightly using a spray bottle.
  3. Separate a strand from the rest and comb its entire length well.
  4. Put the strand under your left index finger, over your middle finger and under your ring finger like so:
Woman preparing to dust her split ends
  1. Slide your left hand down the strand until split ends pop up on the portion folded over your middle finger.
  2. Use a sharp barber’s scissors (regular household ones are usually too dull) to gently and carefully cut the stray hairs. Keep the scissors horizontal, parallel to the piece of strand you are dusting.
  3. Slowly slide your hand down and trim the rest of the frizzy split ends until you reach the end of the strand. Then, repeat this process all over your head.

If you choose to dust your split ends instead of trimming them, please be aware that you may not get the entire split portion. This is especially likely if you are inexperienced at cutting hair, so if you haven’t done this before,  it may be a good idea to have a hair stylist help you. Hairs often split in a Y or forked shape, so if you cut above the place where the breakage happened, it may continue to advance in spite of you dusting it. That is why this technique is better for your hair length but less efficient in getting rid of split ends than trimming them.

Untreated hair (a) vs placebo (b) and keratin treatment
The difference between untreated hair, hair treated with a placebo and with a keratin treatment [5]

Getting a keratin treatment 

It is true that keratin cannot deliver on the promise of miraculously repairing your split ends. However, that doesn’t mean it cannot help make them less noticeable. Keratin is the main substance your hair, skin and nails are made of and it plays an important role in shaping your strands. It also uses protein to make your hair cuticles flatter, making your locks look smoother and reducing the frizzy aspect caused by split ends [6]. 

This treatment can also have a relaxing effect on your hair, which means if you have textured locks that you want straightened, it might reduce the need for heat styling. 

However, be sure to check the ingredients of your keratin treatment, as some can contain formaldehyde. This substance can be very harmful to human health, causing conditions that can range from nausea and nose bleeds to increasing your chances of developing cancer [7].   

Using a deep conditioning mask

If you have dry and damaged hair, a deep conditioning mask can be heaven-sent. Bleached hair in particular requires deep conditioning at least once a week [8]. It can nourish and soften your locks, making them healthier, shinier, softer and easier to manage.

While it will not repair your split ends, it will make them less frizzy and conspicuous. It will also make your hair easier to style. Here is how you can make and use a natural deep-conditioning hair mask at home:

  1. Prepare and measure the following ingredients: 
    • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
    • Half a cup of beeswax pellets
    • 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil 
  2. Use a double boiler or a heat-proof glass bowl set over a pan to melt the ingredients together over low heat.
  3. Pour the hot mixture into a heat-proof jar with an air-tight lid.
  4. Let the mixture cool completely before using it on your hair.
  5. Apply the thick mask to your hair, spreading it well with a comb.
  6. Let the mask sit in your hair for at least 30 minutes. 
  7. Wash the mask out of your hair, rinsing well.

How to prevent split ends from happening?

Once you get rid of your split ends, keeping them from developing again is important. Making a few lifestyle and hair styling changes can make all the difference and help keep your hair healthy and beautiful:

Woman conditioning her hair

Keep your hair moisturised and conditioned

Friction and dryness are the main causes of split ends. That is why in order to stay healthy, strong and resistant to friction, your hair needs to get plenty of moisture and conditioning.

It is generally a good idea to use the best shampoo for dry hair, as well as a conditioner every time you wash your hair, because it strengthens your strands and reduces static electricity that makes strands rub against each other and your clothes, increasing hair breakage

Using the best essential oils for hair – such as coconut oil, almond oil, or argan oil, can moisturise your hair, make it stronger and more elastic, and prevent protein loss  [9][10]. That is because they contain fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants.

Irregular bubbles in hair shafts observed on dermoscopy
Irregular bubbles in hair shafts observed on dermoscopy [11]

Avoid heat styling

It can be fun to change your look ever so often, but frequently heat-curling your hair or using a hair straightener on it can lead to significant damage. It can be tricky to fix heat-damaged hair, and split ends come hand in hand with it.  That is because the high temperatures can cause small air bubbles to form in your hair shafts, making them break or split much easier than they normally would. Even blow drying on a high heat setting can have this effect, so it is preferable to use air-drying and cool-styling whenever possible. 

Woman protecting her hair from the sun

Protect your hair from the sun

The warm summer sun can look and feel amazing on your hair. However, just like it’s bad for your skin, sunlight isn’t good for your hair either. It can dry it out and make it fragile [12].

In fact, the infamous summer hair loss is mostly caused by this negative effect the hot sun can have on your tresses. Since your hair is more difficult to protect from UV rays than your skin, it is wise to wear a wide-brimmed hat when out and about in hot weather. 

woman checking shampoo for harsh chemicals

Avoid hair products with harsh chemicals

As you might know, overuse of bleach can significantly damage your strands. However, it is not as common knowledge that frequently using hair dye can cause hair loss and structural damage if it contains chemicals such as ammonia or hydrogen peroxide.

In fact, even shampoos can dry out your hair if they contain too powerful detergents, such as sodium lauryl/laureth sulphate. So whenever possible, check the ingredient list of the hair products you choose and make sure they are gentle on your hair. 

Woman brushing her hair gently

Dry and brush your hair gently

If you have longer hair and wash it in the morning, in a hurry, it can be tempting to rough it up a little to make it dry and untangle faster. However, wringing the water out of your hair, roughly rubbing it with your towel and brushing it fast and vigorously can make your strands split, snap from the middle or fall off entirely.

Ideally, after washing it, you should pat your hair gently with the towel and allow it to dry fully before patiently working out the tangles. That is because wet or damp hair breaks and splits more easily than dry one [2].  

A well-balanced diet

Eat a well-balanced diet

The best way to have strong, healthy hair is to make sure it gets the proper nourishment. That means you need to eat a variety of foods which allow you to get all the vitamins and minerals your strands need to grow and thrive.

It is a known fact that certain vitamin deficiencies can cause hair loss, but the lack of necessary nutrients can also make your hair more fragile and thus prone to getting split ends. Eating a balanced diet for healthy hair can reduce this problem and help keep your strands in one piece.

Woman with split ends and hair loss

Is there a link between split ends and hair loss?

Both hair breakage and split ends occur much more frequently in damaged, dry, brittle hair. But there is more to it than that. Split ends can accentuate your hair loss because the strand is severely weakened at the point where it has split. This makes it much easier for it to snap off.

If a too great proportion of your hair has split ends until high up, which ends up breaking off, you may notice hair thinning, even though your hair follicles are working well and your hair is not falling out from its roots.  

Woman getting personalised treatment for split ends

Get personalised treatment for split ends and damaged hair

If you are worried about your hair health and fear your split ends may cause thinning, book a consultation with a trichologist today at the most convenient of our London clinic locations.

Our hair specialists will carefully analyse your strands and give you expert insight into their state and the best course of action for improving it. Then, they can make personalised recommendations for the most effective hair care routines and the best ways to treat and repair your damaged hair.

Furthermore, our hair doctors will be able to diagnose any hair loss and let you know if your thinning is caused by your split ends or a type of alopecia. Should they detect the first signs of hair thinning and balding caused by conditions such as androgenetic alopecia, they will immediately start you on the treatment you need. Addressing hair loss in a timely fashion can be key in curbing it, restoring your hair growth and increasing your hair health.

How to Get Rid of Split Ends: Easy Prevention and Treatment, Wimpole Clinic

Frequently Asked Questions

In most cases, split ends are caused by hair strands rubbing against each other or against your back and shoulders. Dry and damaged hair is more prone to splitting, as it is more brittle, so hair that has been overexposed to heat, sunlight, or harsh styling chemicals can develop more split ends.

Finally, some people have a genetic condition called trichorrhexis nodosa [13], which affects their hair strand structure, making it split more quickly. 

No, if you have split ends, it is not a good idea to pick at them or try to pull them apart. This can cause further damage to an already fragile strand, making it snap or split even further up. It is best to cut off split ends with sharp scissors.

Yes, people with curly and kinky hair get more split ends than those with straight hair. That is because they are more prone to having their hair shafts split while they are washing or combing them since their curls have a smaller angle [9].

This means that if your hair is curly, you may need to pay special attention to your hair care routine and make sure to keep your strands well-moisturised.

While this can differ from one person to another, it is generally recommended to trim your ends once every 6-8 weeks. This will help them remain healthy and keep their hair looking smooth and beautiful.

However, if you notice that you need to trim more frequently, you may want to consider the possibility that you may have dry or damaged hair and get some treatment for it.   

Dr Peter Thomas (GMC)
Medically reviewed by Dr Peter Thomas (GMC)Updated on July 3, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.

Book a consultation

Simply fill in your details in the form below and we'll get in touch with you shortly.