Learn How to Grow Long Hair and Keep it Healthy
Growing long, beautiful and healthy hair is not an extremely difficult process. It does not require the upscale hair products hawked by salons, handfuls of expensive vitamins, or any sort of sacrifice to the long hair gods. What it does take is common sense, dedication, and a lot of patience. Indeed, growing long hair is more a question of what you shouldn’t do rather than what you should.
If you make the commitment to closely follow the twenty steps below, not only will you grow long hair but your hair will be in beautiful condition throughout the process. This guide was written specifically for the person who wants to grow extremely long hair – waist, hip, knee-length or even longer, but it will benefit anyone who is seeking longer locks. Keeping hair in excellent condition at extreme lengths takes more caution and conscious effort than may be necessary if you intend to keep your hair shorter… at mid-back length, for example. If your goal is to encourage healthy hair growth but not to the extreme, then certain modifications may be made to a few of the steps below and still maintain successful results. If you use common sense and don’t allow damage to occur, you know you’re doing the right thing. It is also important to know that just about everyone has a “terminal length” which is the longest your hair will grow based on the active growth period of your hair follicles (the growth cycle of individual hair follicles turns on and off as determined by your genetics). Nothing here can help you alter your genetically predetermined terminal length.
Hair loss, extreme dryness or any sudden change in your hair’s condition may be due to a medical condition. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is imperative that you seek advice from a qualified medical practitioner rather than from this guide.
I make only a few product suggestions in these guidelines, it is likely that there are many good products out there that may be right for you. All recommendations are based on my own experience and neither I nor the LongLocks HairSticks Boutique are affiliated in any way with any of the products mentioned here (well, except for hair sticks of course). For the sake of comparison with your own hair, at the time of this writing and the accompanying photograph, my hair is 33″ long, is very straight, fine (pertaining to the thickness of each hair), and reasonably thick (pertaining to the thickness of my hair as a whole).
1. The first step to growing long, beautiful hair is by far the most important. It is absolutely non negotiable for anyone who wants healthy hair at any length, but it is also by far the hardest step you will have to follow. In order to have long healthy hair you absolutely have to start with healthy hair. You must cut off every inch that is damaged. If you are going for extreme length, from that point on you will have to treat your hair like delicate, antique lace at all times. Remember, once your hair is at your waist the ends can be as many as six years old. Your hair will go through a lot of trauma in six years no matter how careful you are with it. You *must* start out with healthy hair to have healthy hair when it’s long, there’s no way around it.
2. Trim your hair often. Damage to your hair will move up from the ends and the only way to stop the damage in its tracks is to remove it as soon as it happens. Trim hair a half inch every month or so (the average rate of hair growth) if you are maintaining your length. If you are actively growing your hair, trim it a half inch every three or four months. In between trims it is beneficial to sit in bright light and snip any splits off the ends of individual hairs with a good pair of hair cutting scissors that you explain to the men in your house are absolutely not to be used for anything else, especially prying off bottle caps when they can’t find the bottle opener, which is of course in the drawer where it belongs if they’d just look. I digress. If you are persistent with this method, regular trims may be able to be postponed even longer. If your hair begins to show damage, it is important to trim it more often! Damaged hair doesn’t grow, it breaks, and damage will only increase with time.
3. If you don’t have someone you trust implicitly to trim your hair for you, find a salon that caters to long hair or at least has a long hair specialist. Remember, it is not in the best interest of most salons or stylists if you rarely make visits to their salon! If your hair is short and styled, you are always there spending money for maintenance. If your stylist tries to convince you that your long, healthy hair should be cut, run screaming from the salon immediately! Make sure that anyone whose advice you consider, be it a stylist, friend or family member, has only the best interest of YOUR acknowledged hair growth goals in mind. Otherwise smile politely and ignore every word they say. You absolutely are not too old, too thin, too short, too gray, too anything to have long hair.
4. Avoid using any heated appliances whenever possible. No blow drying, no curling irons, no hot rollers, and especially no flat irons or crimpers! If you absolutely must blow dry, do so minimally. If you must use hot rollers, use flocked or soft rollers, not spiked plastic rollers. If you insist on using curling irons, flat irons or crimpers on a daily basis, really long healthy hair isn’t in your future.
5. Don’t use any harsh chemicals on your hair. Definitely no perms and no peroxide! If you must color, use non peroxide color or henna (but not if you have very dry hair… henna tends to be drying but does help to “plump up” fine hair). Hair color with low peroxide is more tolerable, but using these products again and again will eventually affect the health of your hair, it is unavoidable. No perming or straightening ever for any reason. These chemicals actually break down the structure of your hair and rebuild it. Don’t do it.
6. Avoid chlorine and saltwater. If you go swimming in either, shampoo your hair as soon as possible after exposure. If you are blonde, you may want to consider using a shampoo specially formulated to remove the green tinge that can come from exposing your hair to chlorine. If you swim very often, invest in a good bathing cap (and to be really kind to your hair, apply deep conditioner and take advantage of the body heat that will be generated while you’re wearing it). If you spend a lot of time in the sun, use a conditioner that provides SPF protection against the sun’s rays, or cover your hair with a hat or scarf.
7. Be *extremely* careful of what kind of hair jewelry you use. Never use metal barrettes (the “French” style) and absolutely NEVER use rubberbands, they will tear your hair when you try to remove them. Avoid anything that has sharp or rough edges, such as plastic combs with rough seams or hair claws with metal hinges. Never put anything in your hair that attaches with Velcro or springs. If you take anything out of your hair and hair comes out with it, don’t ever put it back in your hair. Scrunchies are great, and several can be used if your hair is very long. Need I mention the most fabulous hair accessory of all? Hair sticks of course!
8. Never put your hair in any kind of style that will put undue stress on the individual hairs… no tiny braids, no extremely tight coils. If you pull all or some of your hair into a braid or a ponytail to create your hairstyle, make sure it isn’t pulled tight enough to put stress on the roots of your hair. Pulling hair tight repeatedly commonly results in bald patches!
9. Avoid extreme diets. If your body isn’t getting enough nutrition, neither is your hair. Even if you try to avoid fat, it’s essential that you don’t completely eliminate all fat from your diet. Your hair (and body) will surely suffer for it. If you tend to restrict calories then be sure to take a multivitamin (any comprehensive one will do) to make sure both your body and your hair get the daily nourishment they need.
10. Be *extremely* gentle with your hair when it is wet. Don’t rub your hair vigorously with a towel, gently squeeze the towel down the length of your hair. Turbie Twists are a great alternative to twisting your hair in a standard towel (I can get all my hip-length hair into one, but just barely). NEVER brush your hair when it’s wet, this is when your hair is at its most delicate. Use a very wide-tooth comb to smooth wet hair. In fact, it is best to avoid brushing your hair at all, a wide-tooth comb is always better with the exception of the next step.
11. Be very careful with what you choose to style your hair. When you use a brush, use only natural boar bristle brushes, which are useful in distributing sebum (your hair’s natural protective oils) to the ends of your hair and to remove loose hairs. If your hair is so thick that a boar bristle brush won’t penetrate, there are several smooth wood brushes on the market that will be kind to your hair. Using a wide-tooth comb is far less damaging but it is important to choose a comb that is molded or has smooth seams (use a bit of sand paper to smooth rough seams if necessary). Comb your hair to detangle it often throughout the day. Work in small sections, always starting close to the ends and working your way up. Knots are hard on your hair and it’s best to avoid them at all costs. Tiny knots that absolutely cannot be removed by any other means should be cut from your hair, not torn. Also, nevernevernever back comb or tease your hair with a fine-tooth comb. This will destroy the healthiest of hair in a very short period of time.
12. Comb your hair to ensure all knots have been removed before shampooing. After the knots have been removed, use a boar bristle brush to remove loose hairs, which will also cut down on knotting during shampooing (not to mention keep your plumber at bay).
13. Let your hair get dirty once in awhile. That’s right… permission to be lazy, what more could you ask for? Don’t shampoo, spend the entire weekend in bed drinking Moet, eating chocolate covered strawberries and watching Out of Africa for the umpteenth time (live vicariously through Meryl Streep by rewinding and watching Robert Redford wash her hair a few times), all while those wonderful natural conditioning oils work their magic. Don’t forget the boar bristle brush before shampooing to distribute those oils and for heaven’s sake don’t forget not to answer the door before shampooing for any reason! Well, unless of course you are expecting Bob to drop by.
14. Don’t pile your hair on your head when you wash it, that’s just asking for knots. Apply shampoo only to the roots and wash your scalp, then work the shampoo to the ends. You may find adding a bit of water to your shampoo or very quickly ducking under the shower spray after initially applying it to your hair will increase lathering significantly, making it easier to work the soap to the ends of your tresses. When you apply conditioner, work it through to the ends of your hair, smoothing and detangling gently with your fingers as you go. Continue smoothing your hair as you rinse. This will make combing your wet hair much easier.
15. If you wash your hair often or have very dry hair, you may want to consider using only conditioner to wash it on occasion. If your hair isn’t very dirty the conditioner will easily rinse away surface contaminants while allowing you to avoid daily use of the harsher solvents found in shampoo.
16. Rinse your hair in as cold water as you can stand. Not only will this make the cuticle lay flat and less likely to snag and break, but by the same token you’ll get the added benefit of very shiny hair that’s easier to comb wet. Yes, you will get used to doing this, even in the shower, and it is wonderfully invigorating for your whole bod, not just your hair. I know, I know… I couldn’t convince Hubby either, but it’s true, I swear! Trust me.
17. If your hair is especially coarse, extremely curly, or if you didn’t heed my stern advice in Step 1 (don’t make me come over there) and your hair is damaged, you may want to consider using a leave-in conditioner in addition to a regular rinse-out conditioner (I recommend Infusium-23, but there are many good ones out there). In some cases, leave-in conditioners may replace rinse-out conditioners altogether.
18. Become familiar with the ingredients in your styling products. Once you know what affects your hair positively or detrimentally, you will be able to effectively choose products that contain ingredients that are best for your hair type. For instance, some people find that their hair does not respond well to silicone products (found in most “smoothing” or “anti frizz” products and many conditioning shampoos), if used over a long period of time. Any ingredient that ends with the suffix “cone” in the ingredient list is usually a silicone derivative and should be avoided by those sensitive to it (I am not decrying products containing silicone, only stating an example… I regularly use some products that contain small amounts of silicone with no ill effects on my own hair). Products that nourish your hair with natural ingredients that are available at most health food stores are excellent alternatives to the chemical laden, overpriced high-end lines sold in department stores and salons (I can personally recommend Nature’s Gate products, of which there is a wide variety from which to choose). Either way, what matters most is to use whatever works best for your hair, not what is necessarily the hottest trendy product or for that matter, the most cost efficient product. This is one of those steps to growing long, healthy hair in which common sense plays a huge role.
19. Deep condition your hair at least monthly, even if it’s in good shape this will help keep it that way. If your hair is dry or damaged, deep condition weekly. Hot oil treatments are a good alternative for very dry hair or for extra conditioning (but be forewarned, to some extent hot oil treatments will lift any non permanent color you’ve added). You might want to try washing and applying conditioner at night, wearing a shower cap to bed, and rinsing in the morning for a really intense conditioning treatment as well. A word to the wise… conditioning nights have been conclusively proven to be detrimental to romantic evenings with the significant other. Use this information to your own best advantage.
20. Lessen the friction on your hair whenever possible. Don’t sleep with your hair loose or if you must, use a satin pillowcase. If your hair is very long and prone to getting caught in car windows, seat belts, doors, or even under your butt when you sit down, it’s important to remember that all these things can cause damage to your precious locks. Wear your hair braided or in an updo hairstyle (did I already mention hairsticks?) whenever possible to avoid daily wear and tear. And we all know, no matter what promises hair product manufacturers claim, the ONLY way to fix damaged hair is to CUT IT OFF… perish the thought!