what causes split ends

What Causes Split Ends | 8 Main Reasons For Split Ends And To Treat Them

If you’re wondering what causes split ends, I have listed out a few top reasons in this article. I’ve also included a few tips on how to prevent and treat split ends on hair.

I’m sure that most of us have gone through the hassle of experiencing those nasty split ends at the bottom of our hair and well, they simply look ugly and spoil the look of our hair completely. 

But if you think of it this way, split ends can most often be an indication that our hair is unhealthy and immediate action and prevention should be taken, which is something we’d otherwise may not have realized!

Split ends can be hard to deal with, but there are many ways to prevent these pesky split ends from appearing.

So, in this article, I’ve explained all you need to know about split ends, its types (yes, there are types!), its causes and how to deal with them effectively.

Related: What Happens if You Don’t Cut Your Split Ends Regularly

Related: Best Split Ends Treatments

What exactly are split ends?

what are split ends

Split ends occur when the ends of the hair shaft wear out due to various reasons and split into two or more parts. Split ends are often a sign of unhealthy hair that has been damaged over time.

The cuticle or the outer covering of the hair strand peels off, thereby causing the hair tips to “split”. 

When the cuticle peels off, the protective outer layer of the hair strand is lost and the hair becomes even more prone to damage and breakage.

What causes split ends on hair

what causes split ends in curly hair

1. Chemically treating hair on a regular basis

There are many chemical treatments that can be done on hair, from perming to bleaching, dyeing, smoothing and straightening of hair. 

These chemical treatments are done to permanently alter one’s hair color or texture.

 In order to do this, harsh chemicals like ammonia and peroxide for bleaching, acid solutions for perming, chemical relaxers and other such similar harsh chemicals are used in the various chemical treatments for the hair. 

These chemicals can cause permanent damage to the hair, make the hair extremely dry and it can lead to split ends over time.

2. Excessive use of heat on hair

Those who opt out of using chemicals on their hair and choose to use temporary heat treatments like curling irons, hair straighteners or flat irons might still be damaging their hair.

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Yes, heat or at least excessive use of it also leads to split ends. And before you ask, yes this also includes drying of hair using blow dryers.

Even though they may be less damaging to the hair, they can still make the hair dry and prone to split ends. 

When there is excess heat on the hair at high temperatures, the moisture is zapped out of the hair leaving the hair dry and susceptible to breakage and split ends.

3. Over-exposure to sunlight

I often see that a lot of people underestimate the damage sun can cause to your hair. 

The sun emits very harsh ultra-violet (UV) rays that can be very damaging to the hair if the hair is exposed for long periods at one time. 

Overexposure to the UV rays of the sun can wear out the outermost layer of the hair strand, the cuticle, exposing the inner layers of the hair strand.

This in turn causes the hair to become brittle, dry and damaged, over time leading to split ends.

how to remove split ends yourself

4. Infrequent haircuts or hair trims

A lot of people love their long locs and do not wish to cut them. Well, cutting your hair or at least trimming it once every two to three months is very important in order to maintain good hair health. 

If you do not cut or trim your hair and your hair succumbs to split ends forming, then when left on the hair, these split ends can continue to split and travel up the rest of the hair strand and damage it further. 

So, cutting the split ends off before it spreads is ideal, in order to restore hair health.

5. Improper hair styling and rough hair handling

Very often we do not realize it, but we may find that our healthy hair has developed split ends. 

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Well, this could be because of the type of hairstyle we are wearing. Hairstyles that involve tugging on the hair, twisting or involve the usage of rubber bands can become a cause for split end formation. 

Say for example you wear a rubber band in your ponytail and pull it off when you want to let down your hair.

Now each time you pull it off, the hair gets pulled and becomes damaged, leading to crinkled type of split ends.

what causes split ends natural hair

6. Friction between the hair strands

This happens most often with those who have dry hair and curlier hair types. 

When we sleep or dry our wet hair with a towel or brush our hair, the dry hair strands or curly hair rub against each other. 

This rubbing on a continual basis can create friction between the hair strands. Also, this static can damage our hair strands into developing split ends over time.

7. Lack of hydration in the hair

When the hair is under-moisturized or lacks water content, it is called dry hair. 

In this condition, hair is more prone to damage, friction, breakage, becomes brittle and becomes prone to developing split ends. 

When the hair is dry, the ends of the hair strands get frayed because they are the most exposed. 

Dry hair can also make the hair strands weak over time and no sooner will the cuticle of the hair strand begin to peel off, causing the hair to split.

why do i have split ends when i dont use heat

8. Excess humidity in the air

When there is too much humidity in the hair, it leads to the hair becoming excessively frizzy. 

This happens because the moisture content in the air overpowers the moisture content in the hair, thus destroying the bonds in the hair strands. 

When the hair is frizzy, it becomes dry and dry hair can be more susceptible to split ends in the hair.

Types of Split Ends

types of split ends
Types of Split Ends What do they Look Like
The regular split endsThese types of split ends are found most often and can commonly be observed when the hair tips split into two parts.
The feather-shaped split endsWhen the hair is color-treated often, or has not been cut or trimmed in a long time, these types of split ends can be seen. The hair cuticle begins to wear off only on one side of the hair strand.
The knotted split endsFor those with curly hair types, this type of split ends are common. When the hair is brushed incorrectly, it can form tangles at the tips.
The incomplete type split endsThis type of split end is caused when only a certain portion of the hair strand has weakened and worn out over time, causing the cuticle to split.
The crinkled split endsThese split ends often occur when the hair is pulled to such an extent that it breaks off and crinkles up at the ends. These kinds of split ends occur most often due to incorrect hair brushing or tight hairstyling.
The tree-shaped split endsWhen the hair is often combed into a ponytail or over-exposed to sunlight, then the ends of the hair wear off unevenly, looking like a tree.
The long and deep split endsThese split ends are often caused due to wearing of certain hair accessories, that sometimes tug on the hair strand causing it to split.
The three-way split endsWhen the hair strand becomes weak or worn out over time, the outer layer or the cuticle of the hair strand also weakens and splits at the bottom, often resulting in a three-way split.

Ways to prevent split ends

Moisturize the hair

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This means that keeping your hair well-hydrated by using moisturizing creams, gels or serums and massaging it on a regular basis with oil, will help coat the hair strands and prevent the outermost layer, the cuticle of the hair from getting easily damaged.

Stay away from heat styling tools

If your hair is dry and unhealthy, you can avoid using any sort of heat styling tools, including blow dryers on your hair until your hair health has been restored. If you do require to use any heat styling tool, then make sure to protect your hair with a heat protectant spray before styling your hair.

Avoid the use of chemicals on the hair

You can either use temporary styling techniques to style your hair (if you really have to) or completely ditch using any sort of chemical treatments on your hair for a while until you’ve regained your healthy hair. This will give your hair sufficient time for recovery.


Make sure to trim your hair often

Make sure to make haircuts or hair trims part of your hair care routine. 

Remember to do this every two to three months so that you do not let the split ends that have formed ruin the rest of your healthy hair.

Use SPF when out in the sun

Since UV exposure for long hours isn’t good for the hair, make sure to either keep your head covered with a scarf or a cap whenever you set out or else use the simple way out and spray some sunscreen spray meant for hair, all over your hair so it can be well-protected. 

Make sure to use an SPF of minimum 30 for your hair for the best effects.

The final takeaway

Dealing with split ends is never an easy task and most often, split ends go unnoticed or often confused with dry hair. 

So, it is important that you carefully observe the ends of your hair strands from time to time, or whenever you are brushing your hair and look out for split ends or as I’d like to call them – warning signs of unhealthy hair!

Also Read:

How To Tell If Your Hair Is Dry Or Damaged