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How Do Mid Shaft Splits Form?

Avatar • Nov 19, 2011

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?

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Scientist on a hairy mission!

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Andrea
Andrea
9 years ago

YES! They all occur at the almost the exact same length over roughly 50% of my head (the back). In certain light, you can see the pale weak spots where the split is beginning or has already happened. I can also slide my fingers down a small section (from root to tip) and feel the lumps and bumps that lead to the split.

Lola
Lola
9 years ago
Reply to  Andrea

Same here. It seems they are all over my hair. I’m in trouble!

Kandyce
Kandyce
9 years ago
Reply to  Andrea

me too. same spots throughout hair. Sometimes there are multiple per strand. The crazy thing is I don’t apply heat, I’m gentle with my hair, protective style, moisturize do protein treatments etc but I still get them 🙁

Li
Li
9 years ago
Reply to  Kandyce

+1

michelle
michelle
9 years ago
Reply to  Andrea

Glad to know its not just me! I have been noticing them over the last few months and its always around the the “bend of the curl” so annoying! I thought I only had to deal with single stranded knots, now these!

mangomadness
mangomadness
9 years ago

Nope. I don’t go looking for them.

cocobakerchica
cocobakerchica
9 years ago

I’ve come across some of these, but thankfully,not a lot. I’m being very conscious of how I handle my hair,and no more lazy dry finger detangling…I mist my hair with my aloe/Infusium 23/jojoba oil mix whenever I’m manipulating my hair!

Charlotte
7 years ago
Reply to  cocobakerchica

What do you mean, I assumed finger detangling would help me a lot. When I use a comb I hear a snap sound and that causes mid shaft splits. But when I use my hands and coconut oil on dry hair I don’t hear that sound.

Niki
Niki
9 years ago

I noticed them whenever I do bantu knots for some reason. I stopped doing them a couple of years ago and no issues, but recently did them a few times cause I was too lazy to pincurl my hair, and once again they popped back up.

ladybird
ladybird
9 years ago

i get these too. i think they’re caused from me combing and fussing in my hair when its wet and weak. Also i went through a stage of deep conditioning for extended periods of time because *that* would make my hair strong (?!). smdh. in my case it was caused from doing too much. keeping it simple. i find the more i worry about my hair the, more likely it is to break :S seems obvious but , you live and learn

ElleBelle
ElleBelle
9 years ago
Reply to  ladybird

YES! I noticed these when I would deep condition for too long. Mainly overnight. So now I leave it on for the recommended time. So far I havent seen them since *fingers crossed*

Li
Li
9 years ago
Reply to  ElleBelle

I actually have noticed that when I was regular with my henna treatments I never got these, now that I have gobe nack to my Denman brush I get these midshat splits 🙁

Sieta
9 years ago

I found one in one of my hair strands a few months ago.

It’s quite scary, especially when you think you have your hair practices and regimen down. Seems like there is always room for improvement!

Eboni
Eboni
9 years ago

Wow, I’ve noticed these alot recently! So glad this article was posted 😀

So I think my issue is finger detangling without cutting/trimming my nails first. Will do next time! I agree with Sieta about doing too much/over-manipulation being part of the reason for mid-shaft splits.

Li
Li
9 years ago

I have a lot of these, so what is the resolution to cut them? If I don’t cut them, will they get worse? Or should I cut slowly overtime?

Charlotte
7 years ago
Reply to  Li

I cut mine off and then trim the tip of your ends monthly so that eventually it evens out. You don’t want it to get really uneven.

texasdyme
texasdyme
9 years ago

You are ablsolutely beautiful!

LBell
LBell
9 years ago

I had to give up the Tangle Teezer for this exact reason. I started noticing an unusually (for me) high number of mid-shaft splits and frays in my shed hair strands. I didn’t have this problem when my hair was shorter but now that it’s longer I have to be more careful.

Leo the Yardie Chick
Leo the Yardie Chick
9 years ago

I just cut off a whole bunch of them (and SSKs) a while ago. I noticed them forming between and around the knots, though, so I need to be careful with my ends.

nappy headed black girl

I had a crapload of these when I was loose. Definitely aresult of having fine hair and being rough w/ finger combing.

aina
aina
9 years ago

I’ve been getting a lot of these recently, mainly in the bottom few inches of my hair. I was quite shocked as thought I was being careful- have not used heat in years, etc etc. But now thinking back I realise the overnight DC-ing and not enough protein treatments could be the main issue, as well as maybe being a bit rough with my combs.

Any advice on the best method to deal when you already have them would be most appreciated. Chop them off and start again?

Shari
9 years ago

Word cannot describe how grateful I am for this post! I saw a couple of mid shaft splits and could not think what was causing it. I do believe now it is I because I am not gentle as I ought to be with my hair 🙁

Mx
Mx
9 years ago

A year ago, about 70% of my strands had these mid shaft splits, now, Im probably down to about 35–40% of my strands having them. It took me the ENTIRE 2011 to figure out what were causing them and to (slowly but surely) trim/search & destroy them away. 1. Identified causes included: SSK (whenever I have a SSK it is sure to be followed by a mid strand split); Heat (any heat at all, with or w/o heat protectant); Dry hair 2: Dealing with them: I began to trim (appr 1/4″) my hair whenever it looks like it needs it (usually every… Read more »

Ekandrea
Ekandrea
9 years ago

I’ve noticed them in my hair too. But I have decided from now on to just let my hair be…I’ve simplified my regimen, given away products that don’t work, and am using up some stuff that worked ok until their all gone. I will just moisturize twice daily, do S&Ds, and trim when I need too..like someone said in an earlier comment, the more you worry, the more things happen.

Sunflower
Sunflower
7 years ago

I have a lot of these. I don’t understand. I’m gentle with my hair. I almost never have to comb it it is so soft. So I finger detangle. I keep it in protective styles for like between two weeks to a month depending on the style. I only use organic natural oils, castor oil, coconut oil, almond oil, she butter every once in a while when I run out of other stuff ( my hair does not ‘love’ Shea butter). I only ever have my hair out for one or two days between protective styling. That’s usually when I… Read more »

Charlotte
7 years ago
Reply to  Sunflower

Is there any chance your splits could be old? I am personally seeing that Shea butter could be a culprit for me, along with overnight dc and heavy oils. I notice that with heavy oils my hair hangs flat and looks over conditioned. I will continue doing coconut oil finger detangling but I am not going to leave coconut oil on overnight. I ditched Shea butter completely and am still debating castor oil.

Charlotte
7 years ago
Reply to  Sunflower

The one thing that jumps out at me after seeing your comment again is the protective styling. I did a video about my experience with protective styling my hair. It can cause tension overload and mechanical midshaft splitting. It depends on the person, the hair, the porosity, the texture, etc. my hair is still so weak right now that even the loosest braid at night causes more of it.

Midwestnija
Midwestnija
7 years ago

My hair is about 4 inches when coiled and I wear it loose, so I tend to wear a lot of headbands. Lately, I’ve found that the hair around the perimeter of my face (where the headbands were) has a lot of the mid-shaft splits–especially the hair at the front, where the headbands are the widest. Needless to say, I had to cut a couple of inches of hair from the area around my forehead. I won’t wearing headbands without some protection again. I’ll probably ditch them altogether and opt for styling w/ smooth plastic or metal clips, etc.

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[…] diligent at watching my ends for splits… it wasn’t until too late that I discovered mid shaft splits. I had a head of seemingly healthy hair that was in reality filled with mid shaft splits. I […]

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