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You Can't Repair Split Ends — ​But​ Here's What You Can Do

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Nothing is better than a good hair day, you know? Those days when you glance in the mirror and everything is falling just right. A fantastic hairstyle is awesome, but the real secret to a good hair day is the health of your hair.

Split ends stand in the way of great hair, and we're all susceptible to them. No matter the color, length, or texture of your hair, split ends can happen. When left untreated, they make hair dull, dry, tangled, and generally uncute.

There are many things to think about when treating your split ends and working to prevent new ones. Allow me to take you through the best methods to keep your hair sleek, shiny, and healthy.

For starters, we all know what a split end actually is, right? It’s when the protective outer layer of your hair, the cuticle, is damaged and worn away by heat styling, chemical processing, and everyday wear and tear. This leaves the inner core of proteins that make up your hair exposed, making them vulnerable to splitting and breakage.

The real secret to a good hair day is the health of your hair.

When a piece of hair "splits," it’s rarely a clean, even break. If you put a split end under a microscope, it looks like a piece of fractured wood, with many jagged ridges and edges.

When it comes to fixing split ends, you can’t ever fully repair the damage that’s been done and get back to untouched, virgin hair, but you can temporarily mend the strand. The only real cure for split ends is trimming them off. But, with continued care and maintenance, you can keep your damaged hair looking and feeling as healthy as possible.

Wash and Condition to Avoid Breakage

A lot of different people are going to tell you a lot of contradictory things about what to do before, during, and after you shower. I asked one of the best hairstylists in the Midwest, Mitchel Levey, Lead Stylist and Certified Redken Colorist from Elevation Salon & Spa in Madison, Wisconsin, to iron out the details and explain the best ways to handle your hair. I asked Levey when (and how) to comb to avoid further breaking damaged hair.

"Always comb in the shower, with conditioner on, and always with wide tooth comb," he told me, "Hair is more elastic when wet, and conditioner will help the comb glide through while distributing the conditioner, without breaking the strand. Rinse with colder water to seal down the cuticle after. Hair will be less frizzy and shinier when dry, and easier to style. Keep in mind that towel drying can cause more split ends, so it’s better to gently pat it dry."

When you cleanse, concentrate on applying shampoo to the roots, gently working it down the strand. Don’t focus too much on cleansing the ends, because even the most strengthening shampoo isn’t going to have a strong effect on your worst splits.

Even the most strengthening shampoo isn’t going to have a strong effect on your worst splits.

A shampoo like Fekkai PrX Reparatives Shampoo, $20, is great for strengthening hair. It instantly fortifies, making hair noticeably smoother and softer to the touch after just one use. Formulated with argan oil, it helps strengthen against further damage. Plus, the vanilla scent will make this a product that you want to use over and over again (just make sure you’re shampooing every day. But you knew that.)

There are a ton of great conditioners that help with repairing damaged hair, but my absolute favorite is MELU by Davines, $32.

When it comes to hair care, or any beauty product, really, natural ingredients mean very little to me. Give me all the chemicals! What I like about the Davines collection isn't that the products are natural (although they are), it’s that they work.

MELU contains Villalba lentil seeds, which are rich in serine and glutamic acids, which just happen to be the most abundant amino acids in keratin. This makes it ideal for bonding ends back together, nourishing, and strengthening hair in the long run.

How to Protect Your Hair While You Dry

Whether or not you have damaged hair, a good leave-in conditioner should be a must for everyone. Some leave-ins seem to evaporate right after styling, leaving your flyaways untamed. Some weigh your hair down all day, making you want to rewash your hair the minute you get back to your apartment. Living Proof Restore Instant Repair Lotion, $29 is, in my opinion, the perfect leave-in — and I rarely call any product perfect.

Work it into your hair, especially your damaged ends before, during, or after styling (I use it before blow drying) and go about your business as usual. It’s magic for strengthening, softening, detangling, adding a little extra body, taming flyaways, and enhancing shine.

WATCH: Why Does Everyone on TV Have the Same Hair?

Never Heat Style, But Since You're Going To...

Even when you’re being more conscious of preventing splits, you’re probably not going to stop doing the one thing that we all know causes them: heat styling. I get it! Since you can’t put down your styling tools, pick up a serum that not only protects your hair, but actually harnesses the heat and uses it to heal your hair.

Bumble and Bumble’s Repair Blow Dry, $30, is described as a serum-in-crème that uses heat to help seal split ends, protect against breakage, and also includes UV protection. Work into damp hair and then blow dry or flat iron as usual. The crème works as a barrier so that the heat hits the product before it touches your hair, sealing in the nourishing benefits of the serum. It won’t weigh hair down, and the benefits last up to three days without having to restyle.

Pick up a serum that not only protects your hair, but actually harnesses the heat and uses it to heal your hair.

I know you’re not going to cut heat styling altogether, just promise me you’ll use tools that are safer on your hair than, like, your hotel blow dryer. When it comes to picking a blow dryer, a few key things to look for are a few heat settings, various speeds, a cool shot setting to dry your hair quickly without overheating it, and a few good attachments and diffusers to distribute heat more evenly. Go wild.

Something to keep in mind: you don’t need to hit your hair with heat the minute you step out of the shower and it’s still soaking wet. Try to hold of on the blow dryer for as long as possible. Letting your hair air dry until it’s 90% dry and then blow drying and styling is a great way to give yourself a great blowout without frying your hair when you don’t have to.

One of the safest flat irons you can get your hands on that actually nourishes hair as you use is the Agave Healing Vapor Iron. It’s crazy. It vaporizes an agave infusion into your hair as it straightens, which allow agave plant sugars to penetrate deep within the strand, strengthening, smoothing, adding shine, and bonding the hair to help eliminate split ends. It has three settings so it is suitable for different hair types and textures.

There are a ton of different products out there that transform your dull, fried ends into sleek, healthy hair. As you can see, it’s not just what you use, it’s how you use them. Even the most badly damaged hair can be salvaged with the right conditioner and care.

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