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Sunday, 10 July 2011

July 10, 2011: TIPS FOR PERFECT LONG HAIR



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 a multitude of salon hair products, handfuls of expensive vitamins, nor 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 actually 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 indepth 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; however, if you are looking for something more concise, you might want to check out our Top 10 Tips for Healthy Hair.

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 to promote healthy hair at any length.

It is also important to keep in mind 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. That being said, you'd be surprised how incredibly often what was thought to be terminal length turns out to be nothing more than hair too damaged to continue to grow... an easily resolved issue!

Hair loss, extreme dryness or any sudden change in your hair's condition may be due to a medical condition, often thyroid issues. 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. That being said, you might want to check out our disclaimer below.

I make a few hair product suggestions in these guidelines and you will find products available from Amazon at the left below the menu, which we have tried and loved or that come very highly recommended from other long hair lovers. This is by no means an all-inclusive selection but it's important that you pay attention to how your hair reacts to the products you use, and to find those that will work best for you and your hair type. You'll also find that the fewer things you do to your hair that may cause damage, the fewer products you'll need to use to protect it or help improve it after the fact.

For the sake of comparison with your own hair, at the time of the writing of the first edition of this guide my hair was 33" long, very straight, fine (pertaining to the thickness of each hair), reasonably thick (pertaining to the thickness of my hair as a whole) and had no gray (that's changed... I'm hoping for a streak!). Please feel free to experiment and tweak the below steps to best suit your own hair type and growth goals.

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.

Because there is absolutely no way to repair damaged hair, you must start out with healthy hair to have healthy hair when it's long, there's no way around it. Bite the bullet and remove every inch of hair that is considerably damaged, reminding yourself that it's the most important step to take towards your goal and that this is the last time you will ever have to do it. If you are going for extreme length, from this point on you will have to treat your hair at all times like delicate, antique lace. Once your hair is at your waist the ends can be as many as six years old, and your hair will go through a lot of trauma in those six years no matter how careful you are with it. Because damaged hair will only get worse as time passes, it is especially important your hair be in excellent condition from the very beginning.

Remember, long damaged hair is never as pretty as shorter healthy hair, and because healthy hair needs to be trimmed less often and doesn't break as easily, the result is much faster growth overall. I learned this step the hard way and wasted ten years trying to grow damaged hair I refused to cut... hair that started literally growing like a weed when I finally gave in, did the dirty deed and stopped doing all the horrible nasties that initially resulted in the damage. Duh. Learn from my pain.

If your hair is not very damaged too far up the length of the hair shaft, you may start with a very healthy trim and then continue to trim monthly to maintain your length until all the damage is gone; however, keep in mind that if the amount of damage does not continue to decrease using this method, you didn't remove enough of the damaged hair to begin with and another healthy trim is in order. You'll save precious time by removing as much damage as possible from the very beginning and immediately implementing the steps that follow to your now beautifully healthy hair!

2. Always trim your hair often. Damage to your hair will move up from the ends and the only way to stop it in its tracks is to remove it as soon as it happens. Use good tools to trim your hair, using anything else can actually encourage more splitting down the road! It's important the scissors you use be very sharp, made specifically for cutting hair, and used for nothing else. The small investment you make in a good pair of hair styling scissors will pay off many times in the long run. 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 your good scissors. Don't forget to explain to the men in your house that these are your tools and 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 if you let it go, the damage will only get worse.

3. If you don't have someone you trust implicitly to trim your hair for you, find a salon that caters to long hair, has a long hair specialist, or at least be sure to glare at your stylist as menacingly as you can while you clearly explain your hair-growth goals before letting her come at you with scissors. It also helps to ask the stylist to show you exactly their perception of the amount of hair you want trimmed by showing you what they think is the same distance from the end of their comb. I am convinced stylists are taught a completely different measuring system from the rest of the world, and not once have I ever had a stylist show me an accurate half inch on her first try. Not once. It also helps to remember, it is not in the best interest of most salons or stylists if you rarely make visits to their salon, which is definitely a conflict of interest! 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!

In the end, it is up to you to 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, and contrary to popular belief, it is best to let your hair dry naturally for as long as possible and use the blow dryer just to finish it off at the end. If you must use hot rollers, use flocked or ceramic rollers that are safer for your hair, not spiked plastic rollers (and be sure to read about all the great alternative methods in our Ultimate Guide to Curling Long Hair first!) If you insist on using curling irons, flat irons or crimpers on a daily basis, really long healthy hair isn't in your future. If you do use any kind of heat on your hair, be sure to use a product that will help protect your hair from it, but keep in mind that every time you apply heat you are likely to cause some damage.

5. Don't use any harsh chemicals on your hair. Definitely no perms and no peroxide! If you must color, use non peroxide coloror 100% natural henna (henna comes in a full range of colors, not just red). In addition to being an all-natural way to add color to your hair, henna will "plump up" and add body to fine hair (but it's best not to use it on very dry hair). Check out our Hair Care Recipes Cookbook too, and learn to make your own organic hair color and products.

Low-peroxide hair color is much less damaging to hair than permanent color, but using these products again and again will eventually detrimentally affect the health of your hair, it is unavoidable. If you do choose to go this route, you will have to be even more diligent about taking care of your hair. Be sure to use a good daily shampoo and conditioner forumlated specifically for color treated hair, which will make your color last longer, which equates to less exposure to damaging chemicals in the end. Using a line of shampoo and conditioner that adds a bit of color to your hair will make it last even longer. And be sure to deep condition often, again using a product forumated especially for color treated hair. With making the color in your hair last as long as possible as the primary goal so as to limit how often you have to use hair color, you may also want to consider using a leave-in color protectant. In the end, it's much safer, and less work and expense, to learn to love the color you have, or at least to use a hair coloring product that doesn't contain any peroxide at all. Now, having spoken to hundreds of customers addicted to color over the years, I know how difficult it is to convince you kidz not to use it. That being the case, the least I can do is tell you how to use it while keeping damage at a minimum and long, gorgeous hair in your future. In this instance, 16oz. of prevention is definitely worth a ton of cure.

Lastly and by far most importantly, never perm or straighten your hair for any reason. These products actually break down the chemical structure of your hair and rebuild it... no other chemicals meant to be applied to hair are more damaging. If you want long healthy hair, you just can't use these type of chemicals on it. Ever.

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 long hair swim 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, summer orwinter, use a product that provides UV protection for your hair against the sun's rays, or cover your hair with a tightly-woven hat or to-die-for hand dyed silk scarf, (which you can then use to tie your beautiful, healthy hair up in a ponytail or wrap around your shoulders when the sun goes down... multi-tasking with elegance, love that!).

7. Be *extremely* careful of what kind of hair jewelry you use and be sure to use only hair-safe accessories. 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 a significant amount of hair comes out with it, don't ever put it back in your hair. Soft, pretty ponytail holders (remember, no metal connectors!) orscrunchies are very hair-safe, and several scrunchies can be used if your hair is very long. Need I mention the most fabulous, elegant, stunningly beautiful hair accessories of ALL TIME? [begin: shameless self promotion] Why, one-of-a-kind LongLocks HairSticks of course! [end: shameless self promotion]

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! If you go after the long hair "quick fix" and put extensions in your hair, be forewarned that your own hair will likely be significantly more damaged when they are removed than it was to begin with. Also, if you choose to style your hair in locs or dreads, please consider it to be a permanent change. While the dreads themselves will remain healthy (in fact, many find this a great way to grow otherwise "ungrowable" hair), they unfortunately almost always have to be cut off to be removed and the hair involved usually cannot be "undreaded." If you do choose to wear your hair in locs, twists or braids, it's definitely a smart idea to use a braid conditioning spray to keep your hair in top condition.

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, look for a multivitamin that contains biotin) 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. In fact, it is best to avoid brushing your hair under most circumstances, a wide-tooth comb is almost always a better choice and is a must to smooth wet hair. I have probably tried a hundred combs but now I use only the Mebco Shower Detangler on my hair, wet or dry. I have five of them scattered all over the house. Of course, I only know where one actually is.

11. Be very careful with what you choose to style your hair. When you do use a brush, use only a natural 100% boar bristle brush which will not tear your hair and 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, a high-quality, smooth wood pin brush will be kind to your dense tresses (kinder than boar bristle combined with nylon, as nylon bristles tend to be pretty rough on 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 often throughout the day to detangle it. Work in small sections, always starting close to the ends, combing down in long, smooth strokes until all tangles are removed, and then starting the next set of strokes higher on the same section of hair. Knots are very 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. See our Ultimate Guide to Removing Knots to learn the best way to deal with this common problem. Also, avoid back combing or "teasing" your hair with a fine-tooth comb. This lifts and tears the cuticle, destroying even 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 keeping your shower drain clean and your plumber at bay). Try to teach your husband to do the same. Good luck.

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 yunmy chocolate bonbons (go ahead, chocolate contains sulphur which helps build strong hair!) and watching Out of Africa for the umpteenth time (my favorite movie of all... live vicariously through Meryl Streep by rewinding a few times to watch Robert Redford wash her hair while reciting poetry), 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 for any reason before shampooing! Well, unless of course you are expectingBob to drop by with a bottle of Pantene.

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 and less likely to tear.

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. If your hair is dry but you prefer to wash your hair less often, you might want to try using acleansing conditioner in place of 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, you didn't heed my stern advice in Step 1 and your hair is damaged (do NOT make me come over there) or if it is prone to damage easily, you may want to consider using a leave-in conditioner in addition to a regular rinse-out conditioner (I highlyrecommend Infusium 23 Leave-In Treatment
, 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 (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 lines sold in salons. I personally recommend Nature's Gate hair products, which are very affordable and there is a huge variety from which to choose. My personal fav is their their Herbal Hair Conditioner (the scent is out of this world) which I've used on and off for more than 30 years... egads, how did that happen?! Anyway, no matter whether you choose to go low- or high-end, what is most important is to use whatever works best for your hair, not what is necessarily the hottest trendy product nor for that matter, the cheapest thing you can find.

Also, it helps to clarify your hair as often as needed by rinsing with a mixture of cider vinegar and water or using a clarifying shampoo to remove build-up of product in your hair and avoid the damage to the cuticle this can cause if left unchecked. While everyone should clarify regularly, this step is absolutely essential of you use products that contain silicone. I have to admit that I am very addicted to Aveda Scalp Benefits Balancing Shampoo for clarifying, which is also very reasonably priced (especially for an Aveda product), and smells absolutely divine.

Do keep in mind that this is one step to growing long, healthy hair in which finding what works for you from experience rather than falling victim to a marketing ploy is the way to go. While an influx of exciting new products on the market apparently really can significantly strengthen your hair and make it less prone to damage and breaking (and thus making it grow faster), remember thatnothing can actually permanently repair damaged hair no matter what it says on the package.

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 using pure jojoba oil 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 based on the current status of your relationship.

20. Lessen the friction on your hair whenever possible. Don't sleep with your hair loose or if you must, use a satin pillow case. 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 LongLocks 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! 

                                                                                                                                                        Copyright 2002-2011 by Susan Maxwell Schmidt, all rights reserved.
No copy of this material, be it in print, electronic or other form, may be
made or distributed without the express written permission of the author.


Disclaimer: The information provided on this site is offered as-is, without warranty. The reader of the information provided by this site assumes all risks from using the information provided herein. This site's owners, operators, authors and partners disclaim any and all liability from the information provided herein. Any medical, health, psychological or other information provided on this site is not intended as a replacement for professional consultations with qualified practitioners.






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