Ever wish your hair had an amazingly protective armor against harsh elements, heat and styling? It does.

While combing your hair or going through your morning styling routine, a few unruly strands stray from the rest of the shiny pack and catch your attention for being out of place. Then you notice some split ends or perhaps a couple of strands starting to break toward the center.

So, how do you get rid of split ends? Well, before you go grabbing the tiny scissors to snip them off, consider the reason why your hair is splitting in the first place: The cuticle, or hair’s protective armor, has worn away and those strands are having a really difficult time remaining intact.

Look closer at split ends

“The cuticle structure was designed naturally to be a powerful barrier between the fragile core of a hair fiber and the world around our hair,” says Dr. Jeni Thomas, a Pantene scientist who studies various types of hair damage, including split ends. Without that protective armor, the hair’s core is not equipped to stay together once it’s exposed. Then it’s just a matter of time before the fiber breaks or unravels completely, leaving you with unsightly split ends.

Thomas recommends prevention as the best cure. “Be sure to use conditioner with every wash along the length of your hair to help hair hold onto its structure.” Pantene’s 3 Minute Miracle Conditioner is a good solution to temporarily fix existing split ends between washes.

Split ends: Causes and solutions

What if your split ends are too far gone for conditioner? Well, maybe it’s finally time to give those ends a good snip. A haircut is really the only definitive way to get rid of split ends, since some breakage happens higher up in the hair. If a blunt bob or pixie crop is shorter than you’re willing to go, don’t let split ends decide when you go for your next haircut. Focus on prevention and hair protection to keep strands smooth and strong!