Beauty Rx: Split Ends

More than 70 percent of women believe their hair is damaged, according to a survey conducted by the hair-care company Pantene. Help is on the way! We asked Atlanta-based hairstylist DJ Freed for tips on how to keep your strands in top shape.

The basic facts

Similar to skin, hair is made up of layers. The outer layer, or cuticle, consists of dead cells lying on top of one another like tiles on a roof. This protects the middle layer, or cortex, which is composed of long, coiled proteins that make up the bulk of the hair. A split end occurs when the protective cuticle is worn away on the tip of a strand, allowing the fibers of the cortex to unravel and the hair to split lengthwise.

What to look for

Split ends are easy to spot, but there are other tip-offs that hair is in need of additional care:

- Your hair just doesn't look its best. Healthy hair lies flat, but when hair is damaged the individual scales of the cuticles stand up and separate, making strands coarse.

- You regularly heat-style your hair. While heat-styling is a modern necessity, regular use of a blow-dryer (on the hottest setting), a curling iron and/or a flat iron can make strands dry and brittle, particularly if you have fine hair (which is more prone to breakage).

Simple solutions

To improve the condition of your hair, Beauty Rx:

1. Avoid vent brushes with plastic bristles. These can cause further damage by ripping through the hair. On dry hair, use a wide brush with a foam pad that allows more give; try the Warren-Tricomi Nylon/Boar Bristle Cushion Brush ($35; Since wet hair is more susceptible to tearing, comb it gently with a wide-tooth comb.

2. Try not to shampoo every day if you have dry hair. On off-days, simply scrub your scalp with your fingers in the shower and condition the ends; try Neutrogena Clean Balancing Conditioner ($4; at drugstores).

3. Protect hair when heat-styling. Apply a leave-in conditioner; the botanical-based Aveda Elixir Daily Leave-On Conditioner ($9; is a good bet. Also, keep the blow-dryer at least 4 inches from your hair.

4. Book a trim every six to eight weeks to remove damaged ends. And never let a stylist shape your mane with a razor; it could damage the ends of the hair, Freed says.

What Works

"Be gentle with your hair and use a deep conditioner twice a week to help prevent damage," says DJ Freed, Aveda Global Master and owner of the Key Lime Pie Salon and Wellness Spa in Atlanta. But if you do have split ends, know that they "cannot be fixed or mended; they can only be cut off," Freed adds. And "between cuts, try to minimize the stress on your strands." For example, instead of pulling hair back with a plastic or metal clip, which can break strands, use a fabric or stretchable elastic - it's gentler, explains Freed, who continues: "You'll begin to notice a change in your hair very quickly when you start to take better care of it."

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