There is nothing as beautiful as a crown of healthy natural hair. Achieving this, is however not a walk in the park. Top of the list of the challenges of growing healthy natural hair, and particularly 4C hair is split ends. Truth be told, our hair may never be completely free from split ends but by taking the right measures, we can keep them in check. In this article, I will cover the causes of split ends and how to prevent and treat them effectively.
What are split ends?
Split ends result from the splitting and fraying of the hair shaft. When split ends occur, the hair tends to get tangled up on itself, does not move with ease, does not get straight when straightened and does not curl very well. 4C hair may experience split ends when the hair has been subjected to a great deal of trauma or the hair has reached a certain age without proper care.
The ends are the oldest and weakest part of your strands. They are the ‘elders’ of your crown. Without proper care, they are highly susceptible to splitting.
Causes of split ends
Now that you understand what split ends are, let us delve into the various causes of splits ends. Below is a list of the most popular causes of split ends in 4C hair.
1- Colour Treatments
Stripping the hair of its natural colour means that you are also weakening it. Chemicals used to lighten up hair are one of the causes of split ends.
2- Exposure to heat
Flat ironing and blow-drying hair can cause damage to the hair shaft hence leading to the split ends. To avoid this, use a silicone based heat protector to coat your hair and protect it from damage. The use of heat should however be limited or avoided.
3- Physical damage and manipulation
The way you handle your hair is a key aspect in ensuring that you wade off those split ends. The way you brush, detangle and style your hair matters. Mishandling the hair leads to breaking of the cuticle resulting in split ends.
While this is not a major factor, friction of the hair with some fabrics such as hats and scarfs, clothes, and pillow cases can lead to split ends.
Extreme weather conditions can also take a toll on your 4C hair. Be careful not to leave your hair too exposed to the wind, cold, and the dry and humid climates.
6- Internal factors
The overall health of your body impacts on the health of your hair. If you are malnourished or dehydrated or protein deficient, your hair too will be weak, leading it to be more prone to split ends.
How to prevent split ends in 4C hair
1- Be gentle with your hair
Try to minimize daily manipulation of the hair as it may lead to split ends. Excessive brushing, combing and manipulation into new hair styles daily should not be an option that you want to take.
While manipulation is inevitable, be gentle with your hair especially when drying. Wet hair is fragile and vulnerable to breakage. Rubbing the hair vigorously with a towel will create more tangles and especially on 4C hair leading to split ends.
While drying, dab the dripping hair with a t-shirt to get rid of excess water. Wrap the hair in a cotton t-shirt and leave it for 10 minutes to allow natural drying. This way, the hair will remain healthier.
2- Avoid the use of excessive heat
Heat appliances such as brow driers and flat irons take up your hair moisture leaving it dry, brittle and prone to split ends. To keep the hair healthier and stronger, it is important to avoid the use of heat appliances. It is possible to dry and maintain the hair as naturally as it came.
3- Protect your hair from natural elements
Natural environmental elements such as the sun, wind, and humid air, can all have an effect on your natural hair. Too much exposure to the harsh environmental elements can lead to hair damage. Excessive heat may leave your hair brittle and damaged while cold winds are also harsh on the hair. To avoid these effects it is important to protect the hair through covering it to lock in the moisture, or styling it in a way that will naturally protect it from damage.
4- Detangle gently
This is extremely important and especially for the 4C hair type. With the tight curl patterns on 4C hair, leaving hair tangled can lead to breakage. The most effective and safest way to detangle is to use your fingers. Always ensure that your hair is well conditioned before you start the detangling process. I found the best natural conditioner to use for detangling is rice water. To learn more about rice water and how to use it on your hair, visit this link.
If you must use a comb, then ensure it is a wide toothed comb. Always remember to dampen and condition your hair properly before you run a comb in it.
5- Avoid over styling
Over styling can damage your hair because of over-manipulation which weakens the hair and exposes it to damage. Excessive use of styling products is also not good for your hair as they may cause a buildup on your scalp. Alternate between high and low manipulation styles which may require less use of styling products. Heat free styles such as twist outs, bantu knots and braid outs will work best particularly for 4C hair.
6- Deep condition your hair
Regularly apply a leave in conditioner to protect it from the normal damage that may occur during combing, styling or exposure to natural elements. While deep conditioning treatments are generally recommended once every two weeks, I found that my 4C hair thrives on weekly deep conditioning treatments. This has helped to prevent snags and tangles which predispose hair to split ends.
7- Lock in the moisture
The kinks and curls of 4C hair type prevent even distribution of sebum in the scalp. Take extra precautions to keep 4C hair moisturized by ensuring that you find a good moisturizer and sealant to prevent the hair from drying. Coconut oil, olive oils and creams such as Shea butter work best in locking in that moisture.
8- Regular trimming
Split ends are inevitable, as the everyday handling of the hair such as the combing or washing, causes some level of damage to the hair. However, there are ways in which one can minimize these effects. One such way is trimming the split ends whenever necessary. With proper care, this can be after a stretch of eight to twelve weeks.
Leaving the split ends entirely unattended, causes more damage as with time they travel to the root. The scissors used in trimming the hair should be sharp. Blunt scissors can cause more fraying of the hair leading to more split ends.
While you may go all the way in protecting your hair from developing split ends, it is important not to forget that healthy hair will only ooze out from a healthy being. Eat a balanced diet to ensure that you get all the nutrients that you need to keep that hair exuding its natural beauty. Read this article to understand the essential nutrients required for hair growth.
If you have any questions on split ends or any other hair topic, feel free to leave the question in the comment box below or send me an email through the contact us page.