About Long Hair Care
It’s pretty common to hear that in order to grow long hair, you just stop cutting it. That’s a pretty basic, obvious answer, but come on guys, we all know there’s more to it than that. Long hair care is vastly different than caring for short hair. People with short styles don’t need to worry about what the tips of their hair will look like in a year. Or two. Or five. It all gets trimmed off! And, we’ve all seen ratty looking long hair that screams neglect. If that’s what you want, great, it’s your hair, but it’s not what I want (or you, most likely, or you wouldn’t be here). What if you already have long hair but it does look a bit rough and damaged? Chop it off and start fresh? Nope, there’s no need. We have some hair care basics to get your started on your way to healthier looking, long hair and that includes smoothing out some of the damage you may already have. If you’re here looking for long hair care advice because you’re teetering on the edge of just shaving it all off and starting fresh (no joke, we have members who have done that), I encourage you to keep reading, give these basics a try for a month, and then reevaluate. Even the most damaged, knotty long hair can make a huge comeback in such a short time. It’s all about proper handling and care.
The first question on everybody’s mind when they arrive here is “what can I do to make my hair grow faster.” Hair grows an average of half an inch per month, so six inches in a year is what you can safely expect. Some people get more, some people get less. The only way you can make your hair grow faster (or thicker) is to make sure you’re eating well, staying hydrated, and getting enough circulation (yep, exercise). When we’re not healthy, our hair, skin, and nails tend to show it first. Sorry guys, there isn’t just one pill that will fix it all. I do have some supplement suggestions, but there really isn’t any point in taking supplements until you’ve gotten the rest of these suggestions taken care of (there will be an article devoted to this shortly, however). There are also topical solutions that work well to grow, regrow, or increase the growth rate you’re accustomed to, but these usually function by solving an underlying problem with the scalp. A healthy scalp in addition to a healthy body is exceedingly important for healthy hair of any length. If you have sores, “scalp acne,” dandruff, rapidly thinning hair, or anything similar, get it checked out by a doctor, do your due diligence and research it, and start by fixing your scalp.
Shampoo less. You really don’t need to shampoo everyday. Nope, not even if you work out. A good rinse and scalp massage in warm water goes a long way (use your finger tips, not your nails, please). Try to stretch the time between your shampoos as long as you possibly can. Your hair is not generally dirty unless you’re failing to wash your hands regularly and then touching your hair (um, yuck). If you just can’t deal with it, try a cleansing conditioner. The more you shampoo, the more friction your hair gets, and the more damage you will see. With that said, teach yourself to be gentle. That means no scrubbing hair back and forth between your hands unless you want velcro hair. Use gentle products with a gentle touch and rinse well. The only thing you should need to shampoo is your scalp (and use way less shampoo than you have been–a dime size amount or less), but go ahead and squish the suds down the rest of your hair if you feel it needs it. Stretch the time in between your hair washings with dry shampoo at the scalp or various gentle cleansing techniques. If you have hard water, consider getting a water softener or use a clarifying and chelating shampoo once every couple of weeks. Avoid clarifying any more than that and if you’re using waxy or coating products that you feel warrant a clarifying shampoo, stop using them and find gentler products.
How well a conditioner works in your hair will have a lot to do with the water coming out of your tap. Those with hard water will have completely different results than those with soft water. The longer your hair, the more you will notice this. Again, I suggest a water softener. The best conditioners are those that give you a hydration and plenty of slip to prevent friction. Slip is especially important if you have damaged hair that tends to stick to itself. I personally love silicones and don’t believe that they’re damaging if used properly, but many people prefer to avoid them and there are plenty of products available without silicone that provide a good amount of slip, as well. There are so many conditioners available, that really, user reviews are your friend. Look for people with similar hair type and history when reading product reviews and remember, “your mileage may vary.”
Oils & Treatments
Pinterest would have you believe that coconut oil is a cure all hair treatment. I will tell you that after years of experience, coconut oil (virgin or otherwise) is my least favorite oil. Some people swear by it and that’s great, but it’s always made my hair feel crunchy, regardless of if I was bleached blonde or all natural. I’ve always been perplexed by this, as coconut oil is proven to actually penetrate the hair shaft, but hey…I’ve learned to be flexible. Avocado oil is another oil that is said to penetrate the hair shaft and I’ve found that I like that one much better. In general, though, I prefer to make or buy blends of oils, as I can get a more personalized treatment for my hair. Lately, the hair at the nape of my neck has become coarser and I’ve found that a small amount of shea butter as a leave-in works wonders! I also really like argan and camellia oil as a leave-in. Yep, on my fine, thin, easily greasy-looking hair. You just never know what’s going to work for you until you try it. There are also plenty of products out there, ready made, and ready for you to use to deep condition, smooth, strengthen, etc. We’ve discussed some of our favorite deep conditioners and if that isn’t enough for you, check out our forums for more ideas and reviews than you can shake a stick at.
Invest in an Aquis Turban for drying. No more wringing and rubbing your hair dry. The Aquis is the most absorbant turban I’ve found and cuts drying time down significantly and without damage. And they last for ages. I’ve had one of mine for at least 10 years.
Stop blow frying your hair. Use cooler settings on your tools, or better yet, give them up completely. Learn how to work with your hair, not against it. Learn how to style it. Braids are always in and help keep it out of your way when it’s at one of those awkward stages (“pixie to short” and getting past shoulder length is notoriously difficult). Learn to do a quick crown braid or French braid your bangs off to one side. Braids, messy buns, ballerina buns, French twists, peacock twists…these are all easy ways to look pulled together. I live in the South where voluminous hair is de rigueur. I happen to have straight, fine hair, but have learned to clip it as it dries to achieve a pretty, soft volume that requires no heat or hairspray. I save the heat styling for special occasions.
Leave the harsh chemicals behind. Your hair has a better chance at looking thick, healthy, and shiny if you completely forgo the chemicals. If you can’t give up your bleached blonde or bright blue locks, do yourself a favor and find a professional who specializes in long hair or at least a really good color technician. They will know the gentlest way to accomplish the look you’re going for. Most long hair friendly hair technicians have portfolios online now to distinguish themselves from the rest. Look them up on Yelp!, Facebook, or Google hair stylists in your area and look for a gallery of their work. If you can’t find one, at least try to find a technician with healthy looking hair. And make sure to regularly use that deep conditioner you just bought along with a good leave-in.
Get your hair up and out of the way. If you have issues with breakage, the best place for your hair is up and out of the way of your office chair, couch cushions, car seat, and pillows. If you wore the same shirt every day, you’d notice wear and tear pretty quickly, right? Your hair doesn’t have the luxury of being changed out to extend it’s good quality. Find a few hairstyles that you like that gets your hair up. If you’re dealing with long, damaged hair, put some leave-in conditioner in it (or oil), and put it in a bun. The more you protect your hair, the better its condition will be. When I was rehabbing my own long hair after losing a battle with a Frost and Design cap, I found that damp bunning my hair as often as I could (almost daily) for a few weeks really did amazing things for the texture of my hair. This simply involved applying leave-in or oil from my ears down after my shower and tossing it up in a bun or braid.
Stop the three month “required” trims at the salon. Just like trimming your nails doesn’t make your nails grow any faster, trimming your hair doesn’t make your hair grow any faster. Hair is dead and grows from follicles in your scalp. What you do to the very end has no bearing on the rate at which your hair grows. Trim it when you notice it needs trimming and consider doing it yourself. The longer it gets, the easier it is to trim yourself.
Hopefully, these hair care tips will give you something to get started with. Watch for upcoming articles as we expand on some of these topics and delve deeper into the art of long hair care. In the meantime, check out our community of people just like you who have seen it and done it all with their hair and come out on the other side…looking fabulous.