What Are the Best Tips for Trimming Split Ends?

Donna Tinus

Split ends are usually caused by heat, chemicals, and over styling. The protective cuticle is removed from the end of the hair, causing it to split and look scraggly. Trimming split ends at home can be a challenge, depending on how the hair is styled. It is important to master an split-end-cutting technique, use sharp scissors, and cut away only the very bottom portion of the hair with split ends.

A hairstylist trimming off split ends.
A hairstylist trimming off split ends.

Three techniques are often used to trim split ends. Two are performed while the hair is dry and one while it is wet. In a nutshell, only a small amount of hair is removed in order to remove the split ends while still retaining the shape of the hairstyle.

Damaged hair cuticles lead to split ends.
Damaged hair cuticles lead to split ends.

One method of trimming split ends is done while the hair is clean and dry. After small sections of hair are twisted, the split ends should fray out. A pair of good-quality, sharp hair sheers should be used to cut the split ends off. Only about 0.25 to 0.5 inch (6.35 millimeters to 12.7 millimeters) should be cut from the end. The ends should not be cut straight across, but cut into the middle of the twist, leaving a slightly layered look.

Another dry method of trimming split ends entails just taking a section a section of hair at a time, then searching for split ends. When the ends are found, only the hairs that appear to be split are cut off, close to the end. This method is a little time consuming, but it maintains the integrity of the hairstyle, while removing the unwanted split ends. The result is a healthier-looking head of hair.

Trimming split ends while the hair is wet is the third method. This is more of a small trim. The hair is shampooed, and a leave-in conditioner is applied. It should then be gently towel-dried by scrunching the hair with a towel. Brisk rubbing can cause ends to split and break.

After towel drying, the hair is then combed with a wide-tooth comb, which will part the hair into small sections. Each section is grasped, then cut straight across, approximately 0.5 inch (12.7 millimeters) from the end. This is continued around the head until all the hair is cut. This method is best performed on hair that is blunt cut without layers integrated into the style.

Some hair-care products claim to cure split ends. These products are mostly conditioners that make the ends adhere to each other and are only a short-term solution. Eventually, the ends come apart, and the split is apparent again. Trimming split ends is the only sure way to reduce their appearance.

Using a wide toothed comb to work out tangles can help minimize breakage.
Using a wide toothed comb to work out tangles can help minimize breakage.

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Discussion Comments


@Mor - Or you could just cut your hair short in the first place. The problem with treating my hair gently is that it becomes more and more difficult to work with the longer it gets.

I used to grow it out because I thought that was what I was supposed to do, but spending an hour or more on my hair so it would just look average was not the best use of my time.

I can't remember the last time I had to fix split ends now, because they all get chopped off before they even have a chance.


@Fa5t3r - They might ultimately be inevitable, but you can still delay them as much as possible by taking good care of your hair. It's not just extraordinary products and styling that causes split ends. The wrong kinds of shampoos can do it as well, since they dry out hair. Rough handling of hair, like pulling a brush through too roughly can also do it over time.

Hair is tough, but it's also subjected to a lot of stress every day, so minimizing that as much as possible can really help.


Split ends are inevitable, even if you take the best possible care of your hair. It will only last so long before developing split ends, unless you trim it regularly.

At high school there were a few girls who simply refused to cut their hair at all for any reason, and they all had pretty bad split ends. When I say bad, I don't mean it necessarily looked bad, but it was definitely noticeable. And none of them was the type to heat-style their hair or use bleaches or anything like that.

Basically, you have to choose between having hair that is the absolute longest possible length and hair that is almost that long and looks thick and healthy right to the tips. You can't have both.

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