With the amount of stress hair goes through on a daily basis, it’s no surprise that split ends are so common. And while many products claim to treat them, the sad truth is that the only way to really eliminate them is with a trim.
Unfortunately, there are many, many reasons for split ends: “When you style hair, when you color it, when you are out in the sun, the hair gets weathered,” says Living Proof scientist Eric Spengler. “The outer coating starts to wear down. You can actually wear the cuticle completely off.” And when that happens, the rope-like composition of your strands can start to unwind and result in split ends. “Once that happens, it’s almost completely impossible to bring hair back to its virgin state,” says Spengler
There is one solution, albeit a temporary one: Living Proof Restore Instant Repair ($29, livingproof.com). “One of the ingredients that’s in it is a ceramide-like material that does help glue the edges of split ends together,” says Spengler. “So it will temporarily hold it down, but eventually it will fail because the outer coating [of your hair] doesn’t exist.”
Rather than struggling to deal with split ends after you already have them, the better solution is to try to prevent them in the first place. How? By avoiding these hair-wrecking habits.
1. Styling Unprotected Strands
Before you apply any heat to the hair, you should create a shield with heat-protecting spray. “It gives an instant protection that can help during the wet or dry styling process,” says stylist Tim Rogers. Look for a light formula that doesn’t contain silicone or oils so strands aren’t weighed down.
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2. Tying Back Your Hair While It’s Wet
Since your hair shrinks while it dries, pulling it back when it’s sopping is a surefire way to lead to breakage. If you must pull back your strands while they’re damp, use a non-pull hair elastic like Sephora Collection’s Single Ribbon Hair Ties ($1 each, sephora.com).
3. Skipping Hair SPF
“Hair and skin are made of the same proteins,” says Spengler. “Whatever you can do to protect that keratin protein from becoming damaged is going to make it a healthier fiber through the course of its life cycle.” The solution? Look for a heat protectant, serum, or conditioning spray that also contains UV protection. An example is Shiseido Refreshing Sun Protection Spray SPF 16 ($30, macys.com), which can be applied to the hair and the body.
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4. Following Fad Diets
Trendy weight-loss plans that cut out food groups not only weaken hair, but also prevent growth. An all-around healthy diet is your best bet—and sadly, famed biotin supplements aren’t. “The good news and bad news about biotin is that it can help makes hair and nails stronger if you’re deficient in that material,” says Spengler. “If you’re not deficient, it’s not going to really change the outcome of the quality of your hair.”
5. Skimping on Conditioner
Lubricating the hair prevents split ends and eventual breakage. “When you eventually wear down the outer cuticle, that’s when split ends start to appear,” says Spengler. “A leave-in conditioner—if it’s properly designed it won’t be heavy—will work as a beautiful lubricating character for your fibers. You’ll get what I like to call nice fiber alignment. So when fibers lay smooth—one next to the other—you have this nice glistening look and a style that looks healthy.”
6. Coloring Already-Dyed Hair
The most important thing while coloring is to work with a professional who puts your hair’s health over its shade. Rogers recommends opting for vegetable-based formulas or semi-permanent dyes—and never overlapping color. “Make sure to work with someone who doesn’t recolor the parts that have already been lightened,” says Rogers. “That’s where I see a lot of breakage with blondes. The bleach has just been overlapped time and time again, and it just corrodes the hair.”
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