“These dots indicate that the hair is fractured or broken,’ says celebrity hairstylist Nick Stenson, artistic director of Matrix. But they’re not exactly your run-of-the-mill split ends that we typically think of: The hair may not split into a familiar “feather” or “tree,” but the ends are certainly frayed, typically from excessive heat styling or chemical treatments. As Stenson notes, “Noticing those white dots at or near the ends of your hair means you have irreversible damage to the hair structure due to chemical or mechanical damage.” However, even if you steer clear of chemical treatments and hot tools, you can still experience white dots; your hair just may be severely facing other types of damage (physical wear and tear, dehydrated strands, and the like).
The reason they’re so easy to snap off is because they signal the weakest point in the hair shaft, thanks to the damage we referenced above. And while it may be tempting to pluck off each and every one, you’ll want to go for a full trim and let a professional do the job. Snapping off all those broken ends (albeit satisfying) may leave your hair looking brittle and uneven.
Plus, a trim is the only way to truly treat the damage; like split ends, there’s not really a way to salvage the frays. “Unfortunately, once hair reaches this fractured state, there is no way to mend it,” Stenson adds. Once you have ’em, the best thing to do is trim off the damaged ends to keep them from fraying the hair shaft further. Then, you can focus on healthy hair habits to keep them from sprouting in the first place; according to Stenson, that includes “treating regularly with a reparative mask and always using low heat settings and a heat protectant when using hot tools.” It’s certainly not the only thing you can do to prevent damage (more on that here), but it’s a sure way to start.