Saturday, August 23, 2008

Growing It Out, Wearing It Long

So, having talked about how I love my long hair, I thought I'd take the time to post about some of the things one can do to grow out, maintain, and style long hair.

1--In order to have long healthy hair, you must begin with healthy hair, even if that means cutting it short. Damage begins at the ends but will travel up the hair shaft, so leaving even a little damage will affect more and more hair no matter how good your subsequent care routines are. For years I trimmed a little here and a little there. I went on 'search and destroy' missions, going through my hair little bit by little bit and carefully trimming individual split ends. It still looked frizzy and damaged--because it was. I had been treating my hair well for nearly a year with little effect, so finally, in early 2006, I had my sister cut of 2/3 off my length. That was when my hair really took a turn for the better.
By the way, after a major cut like that, it grows much faster.

2--Hair is delicate. If you want it to be healthy, and be able to grow long (or just to look good whatever length), you must handle it with care. Remember that it grows from the top, so the at ends of your hair are 1, 2, 10 or even more years old, and once broken they cannot repair themselves, they can only be cut off. Some longhairs speak of treating their hair like 'fine antique lace.' I found it helpful to understand the physical structure of hair. Here is an article about the biology of hair, and here is a closeup photo ------------>
As you can see, each hair has small overlapping scales, and when brushed/smoothed one direction (away from the scalp) they are fine, but if you brush/tease/rub your hair the other way, the layers peel apart, literally splitting the hair and causing irreparable damage.
Here are a few specific tips on handling hair with care:
  • Never ever brush it when wet. Use a wide-toothed comb. Some choose to never brush at all, and use combs exclusively. (Combs-only has made a huge difference for me)
  • If you ever take an accessory out of your hair, and find it has pulled out hair with it, then don't ever put it back in your hair. Throw it away! I recommend investing in a few hair-friendly accessories, such as hair sticks, ficcare clips, or classic hair pins. I will talk more about those in a future post!
  • If your hair is long, wear it back or up to protect it from being caught and broken in doors, seatbelts, jewelry, and other things.
  • Protect it from chemicals such as chlorine--fully saturate it with clean water before swimming, and consider putting it in a braid, bun, or under a cap for further protection.
  • Braid it (or wear a cap) for sleeping, and avoid static-causing pillowcases. Don't laugh! We can do a lot of damage to our hair while rolling around at night, especially if you share a bed with someone!
  • Avoid products such as sprays, gels, or dyes, and DO NOT USE HEAT (blow driers, curling irons, etc). Many longhairs refer to blow driers as 'blow fryers'!
3--Hair is at its most fragile when wet, so take extra care with it. Never twist it when wet--only squeeze. Never rub it with a towel--just place it between two layers of towel and gently pat or squeeze. Avoid piling it on top of your head or rubbing it around while washing--put the products in, gently massage your scalp, and comb or finger comb it through the length, then rinse out.
4--To stimulate growth, stimulate your scalp. Gently massage it with the finger pads (not nails) while shampooing and any other time you feel like it. After washing your hair, rinse it with cold water--as cold as you can stand. This stimulates growth by rejuvenating the scalp, and also protects existing hairs by helping tighten up the scales on the shaft.
5--Don't wash it so often. Washing strips the natural oils (sebum) from your hair, causing it to dry out. Ironically that dryness also causes the head to produce extra sebum, so your hair will be dry but look oily. Sebum protects hair better than any conditioner can--it's what it was made for! If you are not using products in your hair, you will not need to wash them out, so all that's left is a little dust/dirt/dead scalp skin and you can get that once a week or so (don't be grossed out, we get dead skin everywhere silly, and that doesn't mean it's dandruff!) Start by going one day longer than normal between washings. After a few cycles your scalp and hair will adjust, and then you can go a day longer than that. Not everyone's hair will prefer the same timing as mine, but for healthy long hair you should definitely not be washing more than twice a week. I do recommend an occasional deep conditioning--that will also be covered in another post.

For your additional education, here are a few links:
Long Locks--this site primarily sells hair sticks (really fancy expensive ones), but she does have some nice pages on braiding and "the ultimate guide to growing long hair."
Long Hair Community--if you are serious about hair health or length, these forums are a wealth of information, support, and inspiration. If you care to join, I am 'brightonwoman' there. Come look me up!
Long Hair Loom--information and discussion forums with styling tips, growing helps, and more--includes a section specifically for teens and pre-teens!


Lina said...

Thank you for your comments.
I started removing people from facebook, i spend way too much time trying to keep up. Its not healthy. :)
We actually didnt get that much sun here this summer. About 7 days in july when i look back at my photo files. I take pictures every day so i can tell when it was nice out. Nice VS decent hehe. Ill take the cloudy days.
I almost packed my childrens rain gear yesterday. And today it is dumping, so im very glad i didnt. Now they can stay dry. It has been so very wet this summer.

Im not exactly sure where you are located, but what is it like living in such a small place?

Lina said...

Silk pillow cases are wonderful for sleeping on, Great for the hair.
I just cut mine off sadly because of damage... 6 inches. :( made me so upset...

Jessica said...

Thank you so much for this info! Three times now I've grown my hair out past my shoulders and then become tired of the damage and the lengthy washing time. My solution the last three times has been to cut it very short (like exposed ears short) and start over. I don't know how I got this far without knowing how to properly care for my hair! Thanks, and I'm looking forward to the future hair-care posts!

Brightonwoman said...

I too was surprised at how much I didn't know. I had a perception of long hair as beautiful...and yet was frustrated at the frizz and split ends of mine. I saw shampoo commercials and though "that has to be fake, no real hair is shiny and smooth like that" but you know what? Real hair CAN be shiny and smooth like that--and it can be that way healthily, no just with the use of a million products.
That shine is sebum (natural hair oils) for starters...don't wash your hair daily, don't even get it wet daily. I always put it up in the shower unless I'm washing that day, so it rarely even gets wet more than once a week. Remember--fine antique lace!

lynnette said...

hey jenni interesting reading-- i just chopped all my hair off and am so happy i was really long and i was sick and tired of it! the hair dude didnt cut it as short as i wanted it, i think he thought i'd regret it later, but im going to go uber short for summer now that ive eased into short.

anyway i have a couple questions for you-- i am guessing your hair is straight?? as a curly haired girl, i cant get away without product, and absolutely cannot sleep on it wake up and not get it wet without looking like an absolute freak (and a scary freak at that).

if you dont use product, AND dont wet your hair, theres no way it can be curly, am i right??

Brightonwoman said...

Actually, my hair IS curly. Not super tight ringlet curls (usually!) but there is plenty of curl there. I don't use any products--that's correct. For about 5 years I went through a variety of de-frizzers and things and they always left my hair pretty much gross. I finally ditched them all when I gave up my brush and switched to just combing--that alone reduced my frizz by a shocking amount!
I do often use a water spritzer when styling my hair, I just don't get it wet through in the shower. Sorry to be ambiguous on that point!
Basically, I have found that less is more...I've finally learned to embrace my natural hair patterns (ie, curly) and to work with them rather than try to control them. It's a much happier place for both me and my hair!

Becky said...

Hey Mommy Bee, I really like your blog so I nominated you for a blog award (kinda cheesy, I know!); check it out on my blog if you're so inclined. :)

Also, I'm totally using some of these hair tips! I'll let you know how it goes.

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