Split ends—

What You Don't Want to Know

I know--you've come here looking for a cure. What can I do, you ask, to get these damn split ends under control?

Unfortunately, the answer is: you're out of luck. Give it up and cut those split ends off.

You want to know why? Keep reading.

So what's the deal with hair and what are split ends anyway? Well, each hair grows from a hair follicle, a tiny, sack-like hole in your skin. At the bottom of each follicle is cluster of special cells that reproduce to make new hair cells. The new cells that are produced are added on at the bottom of the hair, causing the hair to grow longer. (That's why bleached blondes get dark roots.)

The hair shaft, the part of a hair that you see, is made of cells that aren't living anymore. If you cut yourself, your skin can heal, since it's living tissue. If you mess up your hair, it ain't going to heal. You just have to do what you can to repair the damage or whack off the damaged hair off and wait for more hair to grow back.

The outside of the hair shaft is covered with a layer called the cuticle. Made of flattened cells that overlap, like the tiles on a terra cotta roof, the cuticle protects the inside of the hair shaft from damage.

Underneath the cuticle is the cortex, which is made up of long proteins that twist and curl like the curly cord on a telephone. Hair is elastic--it stretches before it breaks. When you stretch a hair, you are straightening the coiled proteins in the cortex. When you release the hair, the proteins coil up again.

When you get split ends, you're seeing the cortex at its worst. You've worn away the protective cortex on the tips of your hairs with harsh treatment like hard brushing or too much sun and water. Without the cortex, the fibers of the cuticle fray like the strands of a rope. Since the cortex can't heal itself, the only way to get rid of split ends is to cut them off. Too bad!

Bad Grrlz Contents | Bad Grrlz and Bad Hair | Books by Pat Murphy