How to treat and prevent split ends

Split ends are a common hair problem. They’re caused when the protective outer cuticle shaft covering each hair strand is either damaged (perming solutions, bleach etc.) or worn away (hot styling gadgets, over-brushing, braiding). Once the cuticle is damaged, hair strands become vulnerable and more likely to split and break.

While the only real way to get rid of split ends is to snip them off, there’s plenty we can do to help disguise their appearance and prevent them from happening in the first place. Here, Liz shares her advice on how to treat and prevent split ends, and how to have healthy hair that looks shiny and feels beautifully smooth.

Liz’s top tips on how to treat and prevent split ends

Go gentle

Firstly, treat hair gently, especially when it is still wet and more elastic. Use a wide-tooth comb or tangle-teaser hairbrush to gently brush out knots. Always start at the bottom of the hair and work methodically upwards after washing – never drag a comb or brush through knotty hair from the crown down.

Go low

When styling, switch your hairdryer to a lower setting so as not to ‘fry’ fragile hair. Keep heated appliances, such as tongs and straighteners, for occasional (not daily) use. Don’t blow-dry hair everyday. If you can, leave hair to dry naturally once a week or more. Your hair will thank you for it. Letting hair part-dry naturally before finishing off with a hot hairdryer is better than using heat from start to finish.

Nozzle know-how

When you do blow-dry, always use the nozzle to direct the air-flow in a downward direction to help flatten the cuticles of the hair shaft. This makes for a smoother surface that then becomes more light-reflective and therefore shinier. Use a round brush or vent-brush to help the downward styling drying process. Never dry hair using the hairdryer facing up the hair!

How to have healthy hair from Liz Earle WellbeingBand aid

Avoid elastic bands or sharp pins that can break hair. Use covered ponytail elastics or fabric scrunchies with no metal crimps to catch the hair, or rounded-end hair pins and grips. In the summer months when I wear my hair back in a neck-cooling ponytail, I use silk pocket handkerchiefs as hair ties – an excellent material to help protect the hair and just the perfect size.

Keep in trim

Having hair cut regularly helps keep hair healthy and in good shape (literally) as our hair strands grow at different rates, which is why a beautifully blunt-cut bob will begin to look raggedy around the edges after a few weeks or so. Aim to have a trim every six to eight weeks, even when growing out a style.

Peak condition

Conditioners are useful for all hair types (even fine hair) as they help protect the hair cuticle and encourage a high-gloss shine. The key is to choose the right thickness of conditioner for your hair type. Intensive conditioners can weigh down fine hair, making it look dull and limp. Choose the lightest option for this hair type and restrict application to just the driest hair ends.

For those with very dry, damaged hair, more is more! Choose the richest hair conditioner and apply from root to tip. Leave on for five to 10 minutes while in the bath or shower and allow the steamy heat to encourage deeper penetration into the dry hair cuticle. Conditioners made with a high level of nourishing plant oils (not silicones) can dramatically improve the look and feel of dry hair with regular use.

Love it and leave it

Leave-in hair conditioners and hair oils can help temporarily seal hair cuticles and give the appearance of mended split ends. Although they don’t solve the problem, they can be very effective at improving hair texture and shine. Hair oils can also speed blow-dry time too, helping to protect the hair as you dry. The occasional drop of finishing oil or high-gloss spray applied just to the ends can also seal hair with a shine.

Food fixes

Hair consists of keratin, technically a ‘dead’ protein, but several food supplements are promoted for maintaining healthy hair growth. These typically contain the key nutrients needed for healthy hair follicles, as well as amino acids and protein (useful for creating keratin).

To help maintain a healthy head of hair, ensure your diet includes the antioxidants vitamin E and selenium (which work well together in the body) as well as vitamins B12, B6 and biotin (also known as B7). The minerals silica and zinc can help strengthen hair and nails, and iron is also useful to help carry oxygen supplies to hair follicles to promote growth.

Green leafy vegetables (especially Swiss chard and kale), together with eggs, nuts and seeds are especially good healthy hair foods. Essential fatty acids, from supplements such as cod liver oil, as well as olive oil and fish oils, can also help hair health and shine.

Sleep well

Wrapping hair in a soft, silk turban overnight keeps curls in place while also helping to restore sheen and shine. Liz loves this high quality, mulberry silk turban from Holistic Silk, a premium British brand specialising in beauty accessories to enhance our wellbeing. Unlike others, this stylish turban has been designed so that the silk sits against your hair to help hair hydration, resulting in less frizz and fewer split ends. Use the checkout code LIZLOVES for 10% off all purchases from the Holistic Silk website.

More in the Hair SOS series:

Wellbeing Wisdom

  • Never drag your hair brush through knotty hair – use a wide-tooth comb or tangle-teaser hair brush to gently brush out knots
  • If you do blow-dry your hair, use a nozzle to direct the air-flow down the hair as this helps flatten the cuticles of the hair shaft