Hair Breakage: When Your Hair Has Had Enough

Spring has arrived.

The air is warm with passion and promise for that which is to come.

We eagerly await full bloom and sweet smells of fruit and flower.

A light, delightful rain sprinkles us with renewed hope for joyous times.

I love spring, as this is a time for total renewal. We can renew our relationships with self and others, and hope to restore our faith in that which is important to us. Taking care of our being in better fashion is great to hope for at any time, but spring season offers a special time for starting fresh. With this is mind, I decided to express my thoughts about hair breakage/split ends and what to do about it if you are a wits end. Don’t fret, just make a vow to start anew and do better by you and your hair.

The most common cause of hear breakage is traumatic hair care practices. The mechanism and result of hair breakage is not complicated and is pretty much as it sounds- hair shaft gets weak and snaps. Breakage results in a shorter hair shaft still attached to the scalp and a piece of hair on the floor or in your hand.

Trichoptilosis (split ends) occur when the protective cuticle (outermost layer of hair shaft) is destroyed at some point along the length of the hair. Although this usually occurs at the distal end of the hair, a split can technically occur anywhere along the strand. A normal healthy hair cuticle looks like shingles lying smoothly on a roof. Top causes of split ends include; traumatic hair care practices, overexposure to sun’s heat and dry, cold weather, and excessive hair washing with follicle stripping shampoos (i.e. sulfates).

To prevent breakage and split ends:

1. Gentle daily management and minimal manipulation is critical. Never brush your hair when it is wet, as this causes hair to stretch and weaken. Always use a wide-tooth comb to detangle and comb hair when it is wet or very well moisturized. Start at the bottom (ends) of the hair and gently use the comb to detangle working upwards towards the scalp.

2. Shampoo hair with mild sulfate-free shampoos or conditioners. Some of my favorites shampoo products include Curls Cleansing Cream Shampoo, Mehandi shampoo Bars, Olivella Olive Oil Soap (this is a bar soap made of olive oil and can be used for the entire body).

3. Keep hair well conditioned with the appropriate products. Mineral oil and petrolatum are not healthy for hair as moisturizing agents, as they simply coat the hair and prevent effective emollients from being able to do their job. My favorite conditioners include Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose, Herbal Essence Hello Hydration, and Ojon Moisturizing Conditioner.

4. Deep condition at least once a week for at least 30 min with a warm towel, bonnet hair dryer or portable heating head wrap. Some of my favorite, inexpensive products include extra virgin coconut and olive oils, and argan oil. If you want to splurge, Morrocanoil Hydrating Masque and Kerastase Oleo-Resin are great deep conditioners. A little goes a long way for both of these products.

5. Remove split ends regularly. The timeframe for when to trim the hair varies from person to person. On average, a trim every 6-8 weeks of an eighth of an inch is a good rule of thumb to follow. If split ends aren’t removed regularly, the split travels further up the hair shaft leading to thinner and more fragile hair.

6. Avoid direct heat styling (blow drying, curling/flat ironing, hot rollers, and crimpers). This fact cannot be stressed enough. In my personal experience, I have found that an increased use of heat styling leads to the faster and easier development of split ends. Direct heat styling also results in the development of air bubbles within the hair shaft which causes it to weaken. Blow drying, in particular, reduces the moisture content in hair far below its normal level. If an appliance is too hot, it may cause the natural water within the hair to boil which causes bubbles of steam to form. These bubbles cause a weakening of the hair shaft which can then lead to easier breakage at the level of the bubble or somewhere near it.

7. Chemicals (man-made products used to alter the color and/or texture of the hair) assist in weakening the hair which often results in breakage. Always have artificial coloring agents applied by a Color specialist (a professional) and deep condition at least twice weekly for a few weeks after the treatment. ANY color treatment should be followed by a deep conditioning treatment. Natural, chemical free hair care and coloring products are least likely to result in split ends and breakage.

8. Protect hair from the drying effects of the environment by lightly wrapping hair at night with a satin scarf or sleeping on a satin pillowcase. Keep ends protected with light oils/creams (i.e. coconut oil, jojoba oil, shea butter). If you want to splurge on great multi-purpose oil, check out Goe oil ( It is a combination of several different nutritious oils for skin and hair. Wear protective hairstyles. In cold weather, keep hair protected with silk/satin lined hats.

Take care of yourself, so you can care for others. Do your best to be your best. The better you are, the brighter the world gets.

Disclaimer: This information does not serve as a substitute for individual medical care by a physician. This article is an informative guide to point you in the right direction. All product recommendations and advice are suggestions which may or may not work for your individual needs. Specific medical issues and concerns should be addressed by your health care provider. Patricia Perry, M.D. is a dermatologist in private practice in Southern California who can be reached for consultation at 2625 W. Alameda Ave., Suite 504, Burbank, CA 91505. Phone: (818)559- SKIN (7546).