Different Types of Split Ends & How to Tell if you Have Split Ends

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Split ends, woman inspecting split ends

Truth be told, between heat styling, harsh products, chemical treatments and lack of moisture, split ends are almost inevitable.

If left alone, split ends will only get worse over time and go further along the hair strand.

As scary as this sounds, do not fret , split ends can be fixed with a simple trim and observing healthy hair practices.

To tackle this subject exhaustively, we’ve started a series on split ends and in this article we are starting with the the basics.

What are Split Ends?

Split ends are hair tips that begin to split and fray as a result of abrasion, dryness or damage. They are basically damaged strands of hair.

What are split ends

Split ends can be caused by several factors such as heat damage and friction. The splitting can happen in different ways resulting in several types of split ends as discussed below:

Types of Split Ends

These are the different types of split ends:

1. Baby Split

This type of split is also known as the mini split and is smaller in comparison to other regular split ends. This split is in the early development stage and thus easier to treat before it worsens.

types of split ends

2. Y Split

Also known as the double split, this is the most common type of split end and looks like the alphabet letter ‘Y’.

It is easier to identify and is caused when the hair cuticle is damaged and as a result, exposes the cortical cells underneath. Because cortical cells are generally weaker than the cuticle, the hair tends to split under stress.

This stress is caused by friction from vigorous styling. Sometimes,  this kind of stress can also result from tossing and turning when sleeping which eventually causes the hair to get tangled and form double splits.

3. Double Y

The double Y split occurs when the hair strand splits into two semi-branches forming a ‘Y’ and then splitting further off of one of the semi-branches.

4. The Fork Split

This is a more advanced version of the double split. It is however not as damaged as the tree split. This split resembles a three-pronged fork hence its name.

If your hair is extremely dry , you are prone to get this kind of split as its main cause is dehydration. This split makes hair look untidy and frizzy.

5. The Tree Split

A tree split is a result of excessive hair damage. This type of split mainly occurs from many neglected double and partial splits which progress into tree-like looking splits emanating from one strand of hair.

This type of split can be controlled if you take good care of your hair. However, if you neglect your hair for a long period, tree splits are likely to occur.

6. Triple Split

The triple Split happen when the hair split into 3 and is generally caused by the use of many hair accessories that break and weaken hair at a specific point.

7. Deep Split

The deep split forms where a strand of hair splits into two forming a ‘y’ high on the shaft.

8. Taper

The taper split occurs when the cuticle peels away and exposes the cortex. Thereafter, the hair ends thin to an extent that you can see spaces between the hair strands.

This type of split is mainly a result of chemical damage to the hair and is common in relaxed hair.

9. Incomplete Split

An incomplete split occurs where hair strands begin to weaken but do not completely split.

10. Knot

This split is similar to a knot and is common in curly hair types. The curly nature of hair causes tangling which results in a knot. This split causes hair to break at the point of the knot upon brushing.

11. Offshoot

The offshoot split appears as a cross that occurs between a tangle and a bend. The hair strand thickens along the shaft and then attaches further with itself.

Pollutants and chemical heat cause this split.

12. The Crinkle Split

This split occurs mainly because of environmental pollutants or when the hair is frequently stretched to its breaking point. This split causes the hair to look wrinkled, shabby and rough.

How to Tell If You Have Split Ends

The best way to tell if you have split ends is to inspect the ends of your hair. Different types of split ends will have distinct physical characteristics, for instance:

  • In a double split, you will notice that the hair strand is split into two, forming a ‘Y’ shape.
  • For a double Y split, the hair has split into two branches, and then one of the branches splits into two creating a double Y situation.
  • Tree split – This split resembles a tree with many pieces coming off the main shaft like the branches of a tree.
  • Triple split – This is when the hair splits into three

PS: use the image we shared earlier to identify different types of split ends and what they mean.

In addition to the inspection method, you can tell if you have split ends by looking out for the following signs;

Signs of Split Ends

  • The ends are fragile and break off easily because they are weak
  • Hair appears bone straight or crooked at the end and lacks elasticity. Elasticity refers to the ability of your hair to stretch and return to its original shape
  • Ends are dry signaling hair damage which may cause your ends not to hold moisture well
  • The ends do not curl easily
  • Stagnated growth
  • Excessive tangling, knots, and snags that may result in your hair falling out
  • Your ends feel excessively rough to the touch

Does Cutting Split Ends Help Hair Grow?

Not really, cutting split ends does not help your hair to grow. So that we understand why this is the case, let’s look at how hair grows:

Hair is composed of fibers that are made of keratin and grow from follicles.[1] Hair growth occurs when:

  • Blood circulates around the hair follicles delivering oxygen and nutrients that will facilitate the multiplication of cells.
  • Multiplication of cells happens, which builds up hair, and pushes the hair through the skin.
  • The hair passes through an oil gland to get oiled for it to stay shiny and soft.
  • The hair then undergoes a resting phase, where no new growth happens. And the cycle continues.

Therefore, there is no direct co-relation between split ends and hair growth however, cutting off split ends ensure that the damage does not spread further along the hair strand thus preventing excessive breakage.

Less breakage = length retention.

It’s therefore crucial that you trim off split ends to promote healthy hair and length retention

Are Split Ends Bad?

Split ends are normally a sign of hair damage and as such is considered bad for your hair, especially where they have progressed into complex splits.

To continue on this series, learn more about 11 common causes of split ends in this article.

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