Let’s get a few things straight: split ends happen to everybody, regardless of their hair condition. It doesn’t matter how often you color, or brush, or even touch your hair, split ends will happen to you sooner or later (but probably sooner, if you do mess with your hair a lot). Your hair extensions aren’t immune, either. Donna Bella’s 100% Human Remy hair is—you guessed it—real human hair, which means that, over time, it’ll also develop split ends. So why does this happen, and what can you do to slow down/correct the problem? Keep reading.

Splits ends are a real hair condition. Trichoptilosis, the technical name for split ends, happens because hair naturally thins and weakens as it ages. Inevitable environmental stressors like friction and sun exposure (paired with brushing, hair treatments, and so on) gradually strip away the outer protective layer of the hair cuticle, leaving the hair raw and exposed. This makes the hair more susceptible than ever to dryness and breakage, and since the ends of your hair are the oldest, that’s where the breakage happens (a.k.a., split ends).

The main culprit is dryness. Of course, there’s more to the story than just aging hair. After all, not everyone with long hair is sporting inches and inches of split ends. The other thing to keep in mind is that the longer your hair gets, the farther away the ends will be from your scalp’s natural oils, which offer another layer of protection against environmental damage. If your hair is naturally dry or curly, it can be especially difficult for the oils from your scalp to reach the ends of your hair. And if you have hair extensions installed, you’ll need to look for another moisturizing solution altogether, seeing as they’re not even connected to your scalp (and the bonds are in the way).

The problem can be hard to spot. Again, this is particularly true for naturally coarse, curly, or dry hair, which is already more likely to fray at the ends due to frizz or curl pattern. So in addition to a visual examination of the individual strands, look out for general thinness and crunchiness at the ends. A natural taper and slight dryness is natural, but drastic thinning and/or brittle texture at the end is a sign of split ends. Another tell-tale sign is more-than-usual knotting towards the ends.

Your extensions might not be on the same page. In general, wearing extensions protects your natural hair from external damage, much like a shield, so your hair will split at a much slower pace than usual. That being said, it’s possible that your natural hair and your extension hair are splitting at a different pace, with your natural hair splitting a little bit faster than your extension hair. This is because Donna Bella extensions are made from the highest quality hair in the world, and are treated with ultra-moisturizing products during manufacturing. It can be hard to spot the splitting of your natural hair through the layers of extension hair, and even harder to trim your natural hair without needlessly losing extension length. That’s why it’s so important to keep up with your maintenance schedule.

The only real fix is a trim. While there are things you can do to minimize the appearance of split ends, the only way to cure them is to snip them off. We recommend a visit to a professional stylist for this job, especially if you are wearing extensions, as they’ll be able to spare as much length as possible. But, if that’s just not an option (or you are a professional stylist), do it yourself with real hair-trimming scissors, and cut off ¼-½ of an inch at the ends (or a full inch, if the splits are starting to travel up the hair shaft). Cut in a straight line if you have straight hair, or twist sections of hair and cut from there if your hair has some curl to it.

You should focus on prevention. The best way to deal with split ends is to adapt better hair care habits. Try some of the following updates:

  • Shower properly. Only use shampoo at the roots, and don’t do it too often, as shampoo strips the hair of its natural oils. 1-3 times per week (depending on your hair type) should be enough. Also, don’t skimp on conditioning treatments. You should apply conditioner or Argan Oil heartily to the ends of your hair (no higher than mid-shaft), and leave it in for several minutes before rinsing with cold water (to seal the cuticle).
  • Treat wet hair with extra care. You should always baby your hair, wet or dry. But wet hair is more likely to break, so it needs some extra love after washing. Don’t towel dry your hair, because it jostles the cuticle; do use a wide-tooth comb to brush through wet hair; and don’t ever apply heat to wet hair (that includes a blow dryer). Instead, wait until it’s at least 50% dry, treat it with heat-protectant, then wait about 3 minutes before blow drying. When possible, allow it to air dry.
  • Don’t yank your brush. Firstly, don’t brush your hair too often. Secondly, use best practices when brushing: use a boar hair bristle brush on dry hair (to minimize damage and distribute natural oils throughout the hair), always brush downwards, starting at the ends of your hair and working up. When you find a knot, use your fingers to tease it apart. You don’t ever want to tear it out with a brush. That snapping sound means your hair is breaking.
  • Scale back on the heating tools and chemical dyes. These products and procedures will dry out your hair like no other, and even sometimes damage the outer layer of cuticle. If you can’t live without your straightener or curler, use the lowest heat setting possible and always use a heat protectant. If you need to dye your hair, consider a henna dye (or different-colored hair extensions).
  • Use soft hair accessories. Putting rough metal in your hair can damage your strands. Soft scrunchies, ribbons, and soft metals (like copper) are much preferred.
  • Sleep smart. Pull your hair into a loose braid before going to bed, or even utilize a silk bonnet. For extra protection, switch out your cotton pillowcases for silk ones.
  • Get fancy. Indulge in hair masks, hair oils, deep conditioning treatments, serums, and even hair supplements like biotin for a total defense against split ends. This is recommended especially for those of your with naturally thin hair (as thin hair breaks more easily), and for those of you with extensions in place (to compensate for the lack of natural oil distribution to your extension ends).

What’s your split end story? Did you find this list helpful? Let us know in the comments below!