View Full Version : What does split ends traveling mean?

January 10th, 2014, 04:09 PM
I was doing some S&D and thinking about splits. It occurred to me that I don't really know what a split end 'traveling' means, or how it actually happens.

So I don't really know if it is happening to me or not. Most of my split ends are white dots these days, I rarely see one that is split in two, feather like or forked. The worst ones at are right the very ends where the hair actually looks worn out and sometimes I will have multiple white dots on the same stand all within a couple of milometers of each other. But I do have some white dots higher up on shorter hairs, rather than right at longest ends.

I've heard people talking about split ends 'traveling up the hair shaft. but does traveling mean that individual splits become longer? Or does it mean having a split will catch on other hairs and damage them? Or something completely different altogether?

January 10th, 2014, 04:21 PM
I am pretty sure it means that the split continues to go further up the hair shaft, causing a longer split.

When a hair is split in half, it is already broken and the damage can continue. Much like when you do a cut in a fabric to be able to rip it apart. Without the cut, the fabric is much harder to rip, but when you've made the cut, it's easy.
Bit of a fuzzy explanation maybe but it was the best I could come up with. Someone else could probably give you a more scientific one, using the right hair-terms and such.

January 10th, 2014, 05:58 PM
I've heard people talking about split ends 'traveling up the hair shaft. but does traveling mean that individual splits become longer? Or does it mean having a split will catch on other hairs and damage them? Or something completely different altogether?

Both happen. Usually what is meant by the phrase is the former. Verdandi used a great analogy to explain this.

I'd also love to read/see a specific scientific explanation of exactly what happens on a microscopic level, but here's what I've observed in my hair. When I S&D every day, usually what I find are white dots and relatively small/short splits, in the last 1/4"--or much less---of any given hair strand. If I mostly skip S&D for a few days, a week, or more I start finding much scarier things. Feather-splits with many splits in a row all along the last 1-3 inches of a hair. Longer splits, where both sides of the split are 1/2"-2" long. Splits with long tails, where one side of the split is short (probably broke off) but the other side is a few inches long. White dots farther up the hair strands creating angles where the hair is bent. Mid-shaft splits which look like broken-ish thicker areas on the hair shaft (hard to explain). Basically my hair is in shambles.

PLUS, I haven't measured this, but going by feel and the amount of time it takes to S&D, it would seem that my increase in splits is something like exponential when I don't S&D every day. For example, on the 3rd day of no S&D, I will have more total splits than I would have had in 3 combined days if I S&D every day. This implies that yes, when the splits are causing tangles they are also causing other hairs to split. Fewer splits now, fewer splits created.

January 11th, 2014, 03:48 AM
Split ends are splits on the ends, white dots are mid shaft breakage. There are microscopy images and explanations on the net: IIRC Proctor & Gamble have some useful information. Splits and breaks are related to wearing away of the protective cuticle (shampooing, combing, tangling) and/ or damage to the protein structure of the cortex (overly hot flat iron, persulphate bleach). Wet combing and dry combing cause mid shaft breaks at different points on the hair strand. Different types of damage are cumulative: Permanent dying makes hair more vulnerable to sun damage for example.

The damage may be unavoidable 'weathering' that you are reducing with LHC practices, but there may be more you can do to protect or patch repair with proven ingredients like hydrolysed protein, ceramides, 18-MEA, panthenol and of course the basic conditioning agents (fatty alcohols and cationic surfactants). LHC seems to overly focus on oils (silicones or natural).

January 16th, 2014, 10:31 AM
Thanks for you replies :)

That is a great analogy Verdandi, really easy to understand.

Naiadryade, I admire you patience doing S&D every day. I did manage to do that for a couple of months last year, but it has become more like once a week now. I am sure you are right about splits breading more splits by causing tangles. I am starting to feeling guilty about not doing more S&D :)

Firefox7275, I have looked up a P&G article on damage (http://www.pgbeautygroomingscience.com/hair-damage.php), is this the one you meant?

So white dots are mid shaft breakage, which is "Trichorrhexis nodosa", which is the cortex exploding out of the cuticle?! That sounds quite pretty awful, worse than a split end where hair as worn out. I hadn't thought about it that way, must try to remember that. They say in the article about the appearance of white dots "So its appearance should always prompt the thought, 'What is this person doing to the hair more than the rest of us are doing?'" and indeed I am wondering. Although my hair looks nothing like this picture (http://www.pgbeautygroomingscience.com/assets/images/twoh/Chapter%202/Damage%2025.jpg), thankfully.

I haven't used any dye in years, I have kind of lost count of how many. More than 3 I think. Even when I did it was non-permanent blue dye without bleach. Haven't used any heat for years either, although my hair grows very slowly, so it is possible these things could still be hanging around in the oldest ends.

I guess combing must be the most likely suspect? I haven't used a normal brush again, for years. I haven't used a BBB for about a year I would guess. I stopped using even wooden combs about 6 months ago, apart from to smooth my scalp hair into buns, without taking it down the length. So just finger comb only now. My hair does get quite tangley for the last few inches, which I guess would cause the white dots? I am getting a bit fed of of guessing about my hair, as soon as I have collected enough hair I am going to bite the bullet and buy an hair analysis.

I have noticed for some reason if I stretch washes too far, say for more than 4 days, the ends get incredibly tangley, so I am trying to wash every 4 days now. I guess being more vigilant with S&D would help too.

I have started using "Schwarzkopf Gliss Ultimate Volume" conditioner every other wash, after I found it in your basic products album. Every other wash because I am a bit frightened of protein over load. I didn't think my hair would like protein, since my hair doesn't seem to be stretchy. But it does feel much softer and less tangley after using it than when I use EverRiche. I like it, it's nice and cheap too!

Do you think this would be enough in the way of ingredients you mentioned? I noticed it does have lots of protein and panthernol, but couldn't see any 18-MEA. Is there anything else that would be worth me using with it?

I was also curious, do you use sulphates? What is your opinion on them?

January 16th, 2014, 10:54 AM
My damage definitely multiplies. I have found hairs with split ends on the ends of the split ends.

March 5th, 2014, 10:31 AM
I've been reading again (dangerous I know sorry :P), the Beauty Brains book, 'It's OK to have lead in your lipstick'. They have what I think it a really nice explanation for how split ends travel and how this relates to hygral fatigue, so I thought I should share it:

The science of hair structure
The technical literature shows that when hair absorbs water, it swells, which causes the upper layer of the cuticle to buckle and crack. Any type of damage that increases the amount of water that the hair absorbs can only make this worse. So, if chemical processing has left the ends of your hair more porous they will absorb more water and therefore the damage is more likely to increase. If you have actual split ends, then it is even worse. As the hair undergoes multiple cycles of wetting and drying, the split can propagate up the shaft. It's the same principle as a crack in a sidewalk that spreads over time as water and ice split it further.

So basically:

split ends make hair more porous --> hair absorbs more water --> hair swells more --> cuticle cracks more causing more/longer split ends

I think that is the link that was missing in my mind. I couldn't see why having a split by itself would cause it to travel, I didn't understand what was happening to it. But if the spit is being put under pressure by hair swelling up with water, then I can see how it could make the split bigger.

I am sorry if this is really obvious to everyone else, I just didn't make the connection before! :)

They go on to talk about how you can prevent this, but there is nothing too mind blowing in this section:

What's the solution for over processed hair?
You could stay ahead of the damage by just trimming a little bit each time. You might also be able to offset some of the increased damage by treating hair with penetrating oil like coconut oil, that will essentially waterproof your hair from the inside out.

The bottom line
If left untreated, hair damage can become progressively worse. Make sure you always condition hair to protect it from excessive brshing and combing and use a coconut oil treatment on occasion.

I guess when I finally get my hair analysis samples sorted, they might be able to tell me how cracked the cuticle actually is. Then I can re-asses and think about if S&D is enough or if I need a trim.

March 5th, 2014, 11:17 AM
Just seen your January response sorry. No I don't use sulphates or any anionic surfactants. My hair is colour treated so damage and increased porosity is inevitable. As I understand it this damage can change the electrical charge on hair, as can anionic surfactants. I conditioner only wash almost exclusively now.

Glad you like the Gliss ultimate volume, its a great basic IMO. My hair seems to like fatty alcohols as well as hydrolysed protein. You may well find this is enough for you if you aren't abusing your hair.

I started a thread on the 'Conventional Products' board on 18-MEA and ceramides if you want to check it out. The list is annotated with which contain prorein, silicones and panthenol for those who want to include or avoid. I'm in the process of experimenting with new products: will keep posting my experiences as are others. I want to purchase either the Redken Extreme Strength Builder Plus or Ouidad omega-3 mask next (or both ha ha).

March 5th, 2014, 02:46 PM
No worries, thanks for you reply :) That's interesting about anionic surfactants, I wasn't aware of that.

I was really enjoying the Gliss conditioner, so much so I need to get some more! I didn't feel guilty about using a lot of it at that price.

I will check out your 18-MEA and ceramides thread, it sounds like a good read *heading over that way now* 'or both' :D love it :)