In general split ends that appear at the end of hair are accepted as part of normal hair weathering. They occur as the cuticle thins down over time due to combing, sun exposure, washing and towel drying. This exposes the inner cortex which is then more susceptible to splitting without the cuticle to protect it.
However, mid shaft splits are treated with a little more mystery and curiosity. They can occur anywhere along the hair shaft and are a source of agony when they appear far away from the hair end as they herald the fact that the entire length below will eventually be lost.
How do they arise?
The answer is a combination of two main factors. First, hair has to form a curved loop or bend – hair that is curly and kinky has this in abundance. Second, abrasion or rubbing of the hair shaft has to happen – this is normally through any form of combing or brushing including the stretch when finger combing . The combination of these two factors cause the hair to split longitudinally (J. Soc. Cosmet Chem pp 289–297, 1975). This is the reason why mid shaft splits can appear anywhere along the length.
It is largely not possible to reduce loops in hair formed by natural kinks and curls. It is however possible to reduce the abrasion on hair. This can be done by:
1. Being gentle when handling hair — Simply put be conscious about the amount of force you apply to your hair.
2. Paying attention to moisture when combing — Applying a little water to hair prior to combing or brushing can help make hair a little more flexible but as it is not fully wet, will have more strength.
3. Reducing the number of passes with detangling tools (whether fingers, combs or brushes) – There are several things that you can do to reduce combing passes and these are related to controlling shrinkage which is in part responsible for tangling. Once hair is detangled and you do not intend to style it free (i.e not an afro or curls), then keep it detangled by twisting or braiding the detangled section.
4. Be careful when stretching hair – Many naturals choose to stretch their hair when styling. This has its advantages in terms of reducing tangling but too much pulling and smoothing during this process is counter- productive. If you notice mid shaft splits, consider applying less force in the stretching process.
5. Examine your tools – Keep fingernails smooth and preferably do not use them when finger combing. Teeth of brushes and combs should be smooth too and the spacing between the comb should be large enough to detangle without constantly ‘catching’.
Ladies, do you ever encounter mid shaft splits?