Since hair grows an average of a half-inch every month, you’ve been patient if you’ve managed to grow your hair to any great length. What’s more, hair that is exposed to the elements is prone to dryness, damage, discoloration, and can become quite vulnerable.
It takes extra TLC to manage long hair, and its quantity means extra time at every step from washing to drying to styling to keep it in good health. Here are the best tips for taking care of long hair.
1. GO SUDS-FREE
Because of that exposure to the elements, long hair can require more attention – and more products. Goal number one should be adding moisture at every stage of your hair regimen to keep hair supple and soft.
Start with a detergent-free cleanser that won’t create a moisture deficit. This means reconsidering your relationship with traditional shampoo. You wouldn’t wash a precious cashmere sweater in any old detergent, and then toss it into a hot dryer, would you? Of course not!
New Wash cleanses with a special blend of Aloe Vera and essential oils – and no detergent. It doesn’t lather – a small sacrifice for much healthier hair. Preserving your hair’s natural oils means maintaining its protective barrier, allowing your scalp to relax, which means less oily hair, less hair breakage, longer-lasting hair color, and overall shine and health.
2. KEEP LONG HAIR WELL-CONDITIONED
The smoother and more tangle-free your hair before attempting any combing or styling, the better. Conditioning products are key for long hair, both in the shower and out; this is where most of your hair care dollars should go, as you’ll likely be using a lot of them. But before applying any conditioning product, leave-in or not, gently wring out as much water from your hair as possible to help the products penetrate the cuticle and deliver moisture to the deeper layers.
Conditioning products are key for keeping long hair healthy, both in the shower and out; this is where most of your hair care dollars should go.
For long hair, leave-in conditioners make more sense than traditional in-shower versions, which only have a few minutes to do their work before being rinsed away. And since blow-drying should be done only on occasion (more on heat styling below), the leave-in variety is the perfect way to “set” your hair as it air-dries and bring out its natural texture, whatever that may be. Hair Balm is one of the most versatile products of its kind and has something to offer any hair type. If you aren’t sure of your hair type or how to care for it, take our hair care quiz to get started!
3. USE DRY SHAMPOO TO AVOID OVER-SHAMPOOING
In general, hair should be washed less frequently than most people think as frequent shampooing with traditional shampoo is the best way to ensure dried-out hair and a shell-shocked scalp. Dry shampoo or hair powder can keep hair oil-free between washing. Don’t rely on it too heavily because build-up on the scalp can impact hair follicles, lead to hair loss and potentially reduce the diameter of each hair strand as it grows or stunt hair growth in general.
4. MASSAGE THE SCALP FOR HEALTHY FOLLICLES
Thoroughly massaging your scalp on a regular basis is a simple and sensual form of self-care that also stimulates blood flow to the follicles to deliver the nutrients necessary for healthy hair growth. To grow long hair, you have to start caring for it at the root. We recommend a scalp massage brush to help release dead skin and stimulate blood flow to bring more nutrients to your roots.
5. STAY TANGLE-FREE
Tangles are extra stress for any hair and frustration and impatience can lead to breakage; keeping lengthy hair tangle-free can be a full-time job. Best avoid knotty situations altogether: Secure your hair in a ponytail, bun, hat, or scarf in windy situations.
In the shower, use a brush designed for wet use to comb your conditioner through, and to help rinse while letting the force of the water sculpt hair smooth. After washing, don’t attempt to comb it out without using conditioner first; hair is most elastic when wet and most prone to snapping off.
Once you’re out of the shower, pat and blot your hair dry with a soft towel or tee (a microfiber towel is best) rather than rubbing and getting roughed up… and tangled! Before styling, use your fingers to gently coax out any snarls, then move to a wide-tooth comb. Start at the ends, and gradually and gently make your way upward so you don’t complicate knots by pulling them down in one motion from the roots. Only when hair is dry should you take up
6. INVEST IN A GOOD BRUSH – AND BRUSH WELL
Long hair that doesn’t feel or look as healthy as it should probably lacks moisture in the form of lipids; the ideal lipid is the sebum your scalp secretes through the hair follicles, but most people aren’t willing to let hair look oily. This is where a good quality brush makes sense – to help distribute sebum down to the ends where you most need it.
Opt for boar bristles for fine hair, or a boar/nylon combination for medium hair, or a nylon model for very coarse hair. Be gentle with your scalp; abrasions are anathema to healthy hair growth.
Good brushes can be expensive, but if looked after properly, they can last for years. Keep them free of hair, oil, and styling products with a mixture of baking soda and warm water – or a mild shampoo or dish soap – whenever you wash your hair.
7. CUT LONG HAIR FOR HEALTH
Shape up your ends by trimming an inch or two every 3 months or so – remove any signs of damage or split ends that curly textures are especially prone to. Your longest hair is your oldest hair, obviously, and your ends are usually the driest and most damaged.
Split ends are the beginning of hair fibers unraveling, and once the fissures make their way up the hair shaft, it’s too late. The best preventative measure – and the only real remedy is a sharp pair of scissors. Trim and shape up even if you see no evidence of split ends; curly textures are more prone to them. If that sounds like you, make sure you know how to take care of curly hair and get a trim every so often.
8. LONG HAIR CUTS
There are a variety of long hair cuts and hair doesn’t have to be all one length. In fact, it can obscure your features and distract the eye.
We asked scissor wizard Wes Sharpton the question: What is the modern long haircut? “You have to understand that the eye has to travel, he replied,” as Diana Vreeland famously said. “Long hair has the tendency to draw the eye downward and away from the face, which is where you want someone to be looking, ideally.”
The Shag haircut can be a great option for long hair for this very reason because, “First, you look straight at the eyes framed by the bangs, and then the side layers draw attention to the cheekbones, and on down to the clavicle.” By definition, the Shag is a multitude of lengths that all work together to frame any feature.
The perfect illustration is by Beau Bollinger at Hairstory Studio Dallas who cut a truly epic shag (below) on a client with hair “so long I could barely fit it in the frame.” In his 20 years of cutting hair, “This took the prize for the longest – and perhaps maybe most nervous-wracking – haircutting session,” and required bringing in @shelbiebartok to style it with Hair Balm (never shampoo) to bring out the best in her curls.
Styling tip: To give long bangs a classic curlicue sweep, “tuck them behind your ears while you let them dry,” suggests Sharpton, and you’ll have the perfect bend when you untuck them. If shags, bangs, and bits aren’t for you, “Keep it simple and classic,” he advises, and, “don’t go overboard with the framing in front. Think more classic Cher than The Rachel.”
9. AVOID HOT TOOLS WHEN STYLING
Hot tools – curling irons, flat irons, and blow dryers – break down your hair structure with high temperatures so it can be reshaped to your wishes. Daily heat styling is not ideal for keeping long hair long, but for the occasional change of texture – coily hair to straight hair or the opposite – it’s essential that you use a product that coats your hair strands and protects them from the heat.
Air-drying is the safest way to go, but when you’re feeling the need to raise your glamor game, Choose a hair product with copolymers, proteins, and essential oils to help hair withstand heat and hold on to moisture – reach for Dressed Up.
- Try not to heat style more than twice weekly.
- Use a heat protectant cream that will hold your hairstyle while also preventing damage.
- Work quickly to limit contact with hot metal or air.
- Unplug when you notice chronic dryness, frizziness, or split ends.
Many products claim to revive, restore, and actually ‘heal’ dry, damaged hair – falsely, because there is no way to actually reverse frying by heat tool. There are ways to improve its appearance, however. Read about the best ways to treat – and avoid – dry hair here.
A few final hair care tips to keep long hair healthy:
Eat plenty of protein.
Nutritional deficiency can compromise hair growth and condition. Eat a wide range of healthy foods, including lean protein since hair consists primarily of keratin, a hardened form of the same protein that makes up your skin. Protein deficiency can result in hair thinning. In general, opting for whole and lightly processed foods as often as you can, and drinking plenty of water is important for so many reasons, including the condition of your hair and skin.
Mind your hair ties.
Long hair needs to pulled-back and up from time to time to get it out of the way, but it’s important that you avoid bands that are so tight that they can cause hair breakage. In addition, Try not to put elastics or clips in exactly the same place every day; switch between high ponytails and low and with just enough tension to keep hair in place. Scrunchies are still in vogue after all these years, and your long hair will appreciate them.