Split ends are a common problem faced by many women all around the world. They happen when your hair is dry and brittle due to many physical and chemical conditions.
Split ends appear at the end of the hair, and when in severe cases, they travel upward to the roots. It is called “trichoptilosis” (1) or “schizotrichia” in the medical world.
Split ends can be described as the longitudinal splitting or fraying of the ends of your hair and can be easily caused by everyday habits such as sleeping on harsh fabrics, friction from hair accessories, rough washing and towel drying, and hair treatments such as hair drying at a high temperature, (2) straightening, bleaching, and hair coloring and dyeing. (3)(1)
Moreover, most shampoos have an alkaline pH, which causes hair shaft swelling. This swelling loosens the protective hair cuticle. (4)
What Causes Split Ends While Sleeping?
Twisting and turning around in your sleep can cause knots in your hair, leading to weakened, splintered hair ends. Hair can weaken and sometimes even break during sleep due to unintentional friction and pulling when your hair rubs on the pillows, causing split ends.
Additionally, sleeping with wet hair damages the hair as it is swollen, and the water puts pressure on the cuticles, causing them to break and create split ends.
How to Prevent Split Ends While Sleeping?
Here are some ways to prevent split ends when you sleep.
1. Don’t sleep with your hair tied
While sleeping with your hair up in a sloppy bun or high ponytail for several hours may appear harmless, the tension it causes to your scalp can eventually lead to hair damage, which further damages the cuticle and cortex, resulting in split ends.
Hair loss brought on by tight braids is linked to traction force. (5) Hair is frequently twisted while grooming, resulting in tangles, breakage of the hair strands, and split ends. Split ends may result from the tension created by single twisted hair fibers. (6)
2. Sleep on a silk pillowcase
For hair care during sleep, silk pillowcases stand out the most. Silk pillowcases have a smooth surface, which experts claim lessens friction and hence breakage. Moreover, silk pillowcases don’t take moisture from the hair.
Split ends, knotting, frizz, tangles, and other hair damage are all brought on by friction. The friction and abrasion are removed by using a silk or satin pillowcase when sleeping.
Also, silk pillowcases are smooth and do not tangle your hair, which helps to prevent breaking and preserve the integrity of your hair.
3. Cover your hair with a silk bonnet
Silk is a natural material with a smooth texture that has been shown to enhance hair quality.
Unlike other fabrics, silk generates less friction and tension on the hair. Hence, silk bonnets are renowned for preserving hair from breaking and keeping your locks in top condition.
Because wearing silk bonnets does not lead to broken hair ends, it decreases hair thinning and prevents frizz.
Additionally, they prevent tangling and make your hair feel incredibly silky. As a result, it is the ideal material for all hair types, especially for dry and easily broken hair.
4. Dry your hair before going to bed
To avoid split ends, professionals recommend drying your hair before bed because sleeping with damp hair exposes it to damage, tangling, and split ends. According to scientific theory, wet hair is more vulnerable to injury and cuticle damage. (2)
In addition, sleeping with wet hair increases the friction between the hair and the pillow, which can lead to tangles, split ends, and hair breakage.
To prevent split ends, dry your hair properly. Follow these tips:
- If you are using a hair towel to dry your hair: Pat your hair dry with a towel to remove dripping water from wet hair. (2) One study mentioned that rubbing wet hair vigorously when towel drying damages the hair’s protective layers (cuticle) and may lead to split ends and hair breakage. (7) Drying the hair should be done gently by patting it with a towel, rather than rubbing and wrapping the hair. (8)
- If you’re using a blow-dryer: Hair dryers are used to dry damp hair; however, the higher temperature causes more hair damage. The hair cuticle is most damaged when a hair dryer is used at its peak temperature of 95°C. Thus, dry your hair at an ambient temperature of 47°C or 61°C, and use a hair dryer at a distance of 15 cm in a continuous motion. The constant movement of the hair dryer does less harm to hair. (2)
5. Apply coconut oil to hair before sleeping
Applying coconut oil to hair is widely accepted around the world. (9) Here are some reasons why you should use it before sleeping:
- Coconut oil conditions the hair, stop split ends, lessens frizz, and treats dandruff and itchy, dry scalp. (10)
- Coconut oil can penetrate the hair shaft, releasing a burst of nutrients that will strengthen the hair and coat the split ends with a protective layer, preventing further damage. These effects are due to its rich supply of vitamins, minerals, and vital fatty acids.
- According to one study, coconut oil seals the cuticle and keeps moisture inside the hair shaft by forming a covering over it.
- Because of its low molecular weight and straight linear chain, coconut oil can enter the hair shaft and stop protein loss from the hair. (9)
- Coconut oil helps prevent split ends while you sleep by preventing protein loss and by moisturizing and lubricating the hair.
How to apply:
- Apply coconut oil to your scalp and massage with your fingertips using circular motions.
- Apply the oil left on your palms to your hair.
- Cover your hair with a towel or shower cap and leave it on overnight.
Additional Tips to Deal With Split Ends
- Ask your hairdresser to attempt hair dusting, especially if you’ve been trying to grow your hair and don’t want a haircut. This method gets rid of split ends without reducing the length.
- If you find frayed ends when styling your hair, use a dab of shine serum to smooth them out.
- Using the proper shampoos, conditioners, and styling products and washing your hair less frequently are other ways to prevent split ends.
- Apply a heat protectant to your hair before blow-drying, curling, or straightening it. Although this won’t altogether avoid heat damage, it can substantially lessen the effects of hot instruments and reduce the risk of injury to your hair.
- Avoid brushing your hair while it is still damp because it is at its weakest state and is prone to breakage, split ends, and damage. (8) Brushing and combing your hair, especially when damp, can be hard on the fiber and cause split ends. (8)
- Using brushes with rounded tips and wide-toothed combs is a helpful preventative step. (8)
- Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet supports hair health and also helps to avoid split ends. Boost your intake of foods rich in iron, protein, vitamins, and fiber by consuming nuts, legumes, citrus fruits, veggies, and dairy products. (11)(12)
General Queries Related to Split Ends
How do I naturally treat split ends?
Applying aloe vera gel to your hair can make it smooth, lustrous, and bouncy. Hair damage is also repaired by aloe vera.
A nice oil massage is one of the most effective ways to deal with split ends. Massage the affected area with coconut oil, olive oil, or almond oil.
Does sunlight cause split ends?
Sunlight exposure does lead to split ends. Hair can become brittle and weak due to too much sun exposure and a dry environment, causing divided ends.
UVB radiation causes hair damage, while UVA radiation and protein depletion cause color changes that result in split ends. (13)
Split ends result from hair damage when the hair splits into two pieces. By giving your hair proper care and nourishment, you can prevent hair damage and split ends.
Hair is most commonly impacted during the night because it is prone to friction and physical harm from the rubbing, tossing, and twisting during sleep, which damage the hair and cause split ends. Fortunately, split ends can be repaired by restoring moisture and maintaining nourishment as shown above.
- Three cases of trichoptilosis – researchgate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/291319835/.
- Lee Y, Kim Y-D, Hyun H-J, Pi L-Q, Jin X, Lee W-S. Hair shaft damage from heat and drying time of hair dryer. Annals of dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3229938/. Published November 2011.
- Comparison of hair shaft damage after chemical treatment in Asian … https://www.researchgate.net/publication/258827265/.
- Draelos ZD. Essentials of hair care often neglected: Hair cleansing. International journal of trichology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3002407/. Published January 2010.
- [PDF] chemical and physical treatments damage Caucasian … – researchgate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/334012906/.
- Tensile properties of twisted hair fibers | request pdf – Researchgate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/8086545/.
- (PDF) a study of damaged hair – researchgate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/265285712/.
- (PDF) what ages hair? – researchgate.net. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/283958733/.
- Mysore V, Arghya A. Hair oils: Indigenous knowledge revisited. International journal of trichology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9231528/. Published 2022.
- Majeed M, Majeed S, Nagabhushanam K, Mundkur L, Neupane P, Shah K. Clinical study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of a hair serum product in healthy adult male and female volunteers with hair fall. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7522433/. Published September 24, 2020.
- Guo EL, Katta R. Diet and hair loss: Effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. Dermatology practical & conceptual. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315033/. Published January 31, 2017.
- Almohanna HM, Ahmed AA, Tsatalis JP, Tosti A. The role of vitamins and minerals in hair loss: A Review. Dermatology and therapy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6380979/. Published March 2019.
- Sebetić K; Sjerobabski Masnec I; Cavka V; Biljan D; Krolo I; UV damage of the hair. Collegium antropologicum. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19138021/.