Hair Under The Microscope: Knots And Splits, Can You Fix Them?

Single strand knots and split endsThey are the bane of our hair growth journeys; single strand knots and split ends. We know that if it werent for these pesky little things we would most likely keep the lions share of our length. So let’s take a closer look at the phenomena.

Single Strand Knots

Knots form during the manipulation of very curly hair. Also known as fairy knots, single strand knots (SSK’s) as the name suggest are formed when a single strand of hair wraps around itself during washing, combing or styling and creates a knot.

Many of us who have been relaxed for years are not very familiar with SSK’s as it mostly happens in natural hair. I know I was fascinated myself very soon after I did the big chop and a few of them started appearing. They will usually form somewhere at the bottom couple of inches of the hair shaft but they are just as able to form mid shaft or higher.

Contrary to what a lot of people say, short of wearing your natural hair straight or in protective styles all the time, there is little you can do to completely eliminate these beauties. Moisturizing helps somewhat because it lubricates the hair and allows the strands to slide off each other, but it doesn’t eradicate them completely by any stretch of the imagination.

These images are magnified between 600x-800x so needless to say, they are not knots that you can undo with your fingers and even if you were able to, the 270 degree turn that the strand of hair has made means that the hair fibre is usually permanently damaged and weakened in that area.

Simple knot with hair fibre damage

Simple knot with hair fibre damage

Complex Knots

In both natural and relaxed hair, you can have the occurrence of complex knots. These can form on a single strands of hair too but they mostly appear when two or more strands of hair wrap around each other to create the knot. A lot of the time you will find that if you do not release shed hair properly, during detangling, complex knots are created.

This lovely knot below was formed from 3 strands of hair!

Complex knot with 3 strands of hair

Complex knot with 3 strands of hair

As you can see there is plenty of damage to the hair when these type of knots form. It is also very difficult if not impossible to undo this kind of knot (I had to cut this out with scissors) and the hair strands also undergo a great deal of stress being in this shape hence all the damage and lifted cuticles you can see.

Single strand knots cannot be completely avoided in highly textured hair, but you can reduce their occurrence with the tips in this article. Complex knots on the other hand are usually avoidable by gentle detangling in small sections and making sure to remove all shed hairs.

Really it’s a personal choice if you want to cut off SSK’s off or not. On the one hand too many of them make your ends feel rough and the friction they cause lead to even more tangling which is a vote for their removal. On the other hand the fact that they will often reappear would suggest that complete removing them is pointless.

You can do the occasional search and destroy mission to remove them but as long as their numbers are kept under control, they will not significantly affect your hair length in the long term.

About Alma

Hi! I'm Alma Ruddock, a full time blogger. I stumbled on a hair care forum in 2008 frustrated with my breaking relaxed hair and the information that I found there changed the fate of my hair forever!. I started as a way to help both myself and other women of color achieve their dreams of long healthy hair. I have now achieved my goal length and I continue to bring new information about hair on both this website and my personal blog.

  • Now that there’s education on this. It won’t hurt to trim/cut/shear for the overall health of your hair not destruction. Surely there are pics and stories of those that have healthy hair with ends in tact. There are so many benefits for for styling when hair is healthy. Please trim/cut for healthy strong and let’s not forget healthy hair and for that real beauty to shine 😉

  • ^^ yuuuup

  • i hate em

  • I just cut 2inches but my ends falling out bad. Is that when .protein come in. How offend? If so.

  • Yea, you fix knots and split ends by cutting them off….. Problem solved.. :)

  • I have the knots

  • Yes do a protein treatment and not too often. I do it every month Tammilee Brown

  • Deep condition and protein treatments are me best friend since going natural. Olive oil and hair mayo and trim

  • lol I used to pluck myn out


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