TikTok says Hair Dusting is the at-home solution to banishing split ends; the professionals say otherwise

The hairstylists have spoken: do not try this at home

by Cassie Steer |
Published on

Trust TikTok to repackage something we’ve all been doing for aeons by anointing it with a buzzy new name that immediately renders it ‘viral’. Case in point, hair dusting , a technique to remove split ends that’s been blowing up our screens – see the 24 million views and counting. Turns out I’d been an early adopter of the ‘new’ fad all along; 15-year-old me and an hour of Home Economics every week armed with some kitchen scissors resulted in surprisingly sleek locks. So, what exactly does it entail and why do those in-the-know advise against attempting it at home?

What Is Hair Dusting?

‘Hair dusting involves trimming (or ‘dusting’) just the very ends of the hair to maintain its health during a haircut without significantly shortening its length,’ says hairstylist and trend forecaster Tom Smith (@tomsmithhd). ‘The idea is to remove the minimal possible length by going around all the hair and nipping off just the tips, often by only a few millimetres, to keep the hair healthy.’

According to the pros, the chances are your hairstylist already incorporates the technique into your regular trim, you’re just not necessarily aware of it. Split ends (technical term trichoptilosis) typically happen where the ends of the hair fibre start to fray but can occur further up the shaft too thanks to mechanical damage (from elastic bands or over-zealous brushing), chemical damage (dye and bleach) and heat damage.

‘You can either skim the very ends using a point cut or work up the shaft of the hair wherever you see breakage which is usually associated with coloured or bleached hair,’ says Luke Hersheson - hair supremo and CEO of the lauded Hershesons empire (the salons and products beloved by the fashion and beauty elite).

What are the benefits of hair dusting?

For people who wince every time their hairdresser picks up a pair of scissors the most obvious benefit of hair dusting is that you’re not having to relinquish precious inches (Creative Director of John Frieda Salons Zoe Irwin calls it the ‘model cut’ as it originated as a way of keeping model’s hair looking healthy without having to lose any length).

It can also help strands to look sleeker which TikTok videos of silken swishes are testament to;  ‘When hair’s been heavily bleached you often see a lot of raised cuticles and a fair amount of breakage so by working up the hair shaft with the scissors horizontal to the hair and cutting off the broken bits, it gives the illusion of healthier, shinier hair that’s less fluffy,” says Hersheson.

What are the downsides to hair dusting?

‘As well as the risk of accidentally taking too much off, by working up and down the hair shaft you can end up inadvertently cutting off new hair that’s growing as opposed to the broken ends,’ warns Hersheson. ‘Dusting off the very ends are fine, it’s when they start going higher up the hair that it starts to get a bit more dangerous.’ What’s more, according to Hersheson keeping a few split ends in can actually lend a beachier, cool-girl vibe for those who don’t necessarily want a super sleek look.

‘Another downside is that because you aren't removing a significant amount of length, it can be challenging to maintain blunter, sharper shapes,’ adds Smith. ‘Hair dusting works best on long, fluid hair. Over time, very structured hair can lose its defined quality because dusting doesn't remove enough hair to sharpen a once-blunt line.”

Does hair dusting actually work?

According to the hair pros we spoke to, hair dusting can be very effective at promoting overall hair quality and Irwin reports that many of her clients now specifically request the technique. However, most agree that in terms of hair health, you’re better off getting a regular trim. ‘I don’t insist on the prescriptive 8 week timeframe but a regular haircut is a necessity if you want long, healthy, one-length hair,’ says Hersheson who adds that investing in good quality hair care and limiting heated appliances will help prevent split ends from forming in the first place.

How can I dust my hair myself?

Advice from the experts is a resounding ‘don’t even try!’ as despite what TikTok would have us believe, there is huge room for error even when only dealing in mm. ‘There are very few people in my career that I’ve thought ‘you’re amazing at cutting your own hair’; you just have to look back to the home haircuts of the pandemic,’ says Hersheson who particularly warns against attempting the preferred TikTok technique of twisting sections of hair before attacking the tips that stick out with scissors. ‘I’m sure you’ve all seen the fallout videos of people twisting their fringes and cutting them and that’s the thing; by twisting your hair you can end up going shorter than you want.’

But, like that irresistible Mount Vesuvius on our chin we all know we shouldn’t squeeze, if you’re going to attempt the hair equivalent at home,  at least make sure you employ some damage limitation which means investing in a pair of quality hairdressing scissors (nail scissors will – quite literally – not cut it). Irwin, who has created her own explainer video about the controversial cutting technique advises always doing it on dry hair and cutting against a contrasting background (blondes should cut on a dark towel for example) to make sure you can really see every individual split end in order to avoid lopping off more than necessary.

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