Last week I promised I’d share some of my “secrets” (they’re not secrets) as to how I keep my hair long and healthy. It’s something I get asked about a lot and sometimes I just want to say “IT’S EASY TO HAVE LONG HAIR, JUST STOP CUTTING IT” but there *is* slightly more to it than just ditching the scissors.
People will inevitably offer different advice when it comes to this sort of thing (“Get your hair cut every six weeks! No, get it cut once every six years! Condition it before washing! But not before you’ve made a mask out of avocados, honey and wishes!” Etc etc) but I can only speak from my experience of what works for me.
I’m not a hairdresser (although I have had the privilege of working with some of the best in the business) and my main experience of long hair is just, errr, having it. But I’ve had long hair for over a decade and I BLOODY LOVE LONG HAIR so hopefully a few of the tips below will be vaguely helpful.
I know that some of the points below will be non-negotiable for some women (avoiding colouring and avoiding heat especially!) so if you have to do these things then just be aware that they are inevitably damaging. You can of course have long healthy coloured hair, but if you don’t want to ditch the bleach you’ll need to up the ante with conditioning treatments and so on.
Here’s what I do…
1. Rarely use heat styling.
There are lots of heat protecting products you can buy these days but the protection they offer doesn’t compare to avoiding heat styling altogether. I straighten my hair perhaps twice a month at the most and when I do straighten it I make sure it’s completely dry before starting so I’m not “steaming” my hair.
I try to avoid drying my hair in general and whilst I may rough dry my hair once every ten days or so, I’ll rarely sit under the hair-dryer til it’s bone dry. Generally after a shower I just tie my hair up (wet) into a loose bun and let it dry naturally. (I am aware that for some people this would result in epic frizz!).
If you blow dry your hair every day then to cut back would probably feel really drastic, but if you can change when you wash your hair (at night rather than before work, for example) you may find it easier.
And of course, *always* use heat protectors on your hair before stepping near hairdryers, wands, curlers and straighteners! I really adore this Bumble & Bumble one (£20.50).
2. Only use thick fabric hair ties.
Hair elastics can put an enormous amount of stress on the hair, leading to breakage and even hair loss if you tie really tight. I only use thick fabric hair ties to put my hair up and I’ve noticed *such* a difference in breakage since I discovered them a couple of years ago. They don’t have any metal so indiviual hairs can’t get trapped and the thicker size means they’re much more forgiving on each delicate strand.
I pick them up wherever I see them and most recently have bought in Accessorize but they don’t seem to have them online. Claire’s sell them in various colours though and on Amazon they are ridiculously cheap. (£1.32 for 12 with free delivery!).
3. Only brush with a Tangle Teezer.
I assumed Tangle Teezers were a Dragons’ Den gimmick item until one was used on my hair in a salon six or so years ago. I bought one there and then and haven’t looked back. In fact, when I forgot mine on honeymoon (A MISTAKE I HAD NEVER MADE BEFORE NOR SINCE) I genuinely contacted local suppliers to see if there was *anyone* who could get a Tangle Teezer to Mauritius before I shaved my head in a comb-induced rage.
You have to try a Tangle Teezer to appreciate how gentle they are but if you have a lot of hair – be it because your hair is thick or long – then trust me when I say a Tangle Teezer will prevent your hair from going through a lot of unnecessary damage and breakage.
They’re around £8 on Amazon if you buy the original size, which I much prefer to the compact version.
4. Brush hair in sections STARTING WITH THE BOTTOM.
Regardless of what you use to brush, it really makes a huge difference to your hair if you brush it in sections, starting from the bottom and only working your way up once any tangles at the mid-lengths and ends have already been dealt with. Brushing top down from the get-go will only make your hair more tangled and damaged.
5. Don’t bleach or colour your hair.
I have regularly wanted to colour my hair and have had consultations about it only to be told that I will have to sacrifice the length if I want a new colour. Bleaching is not good for your hair – that’s just a fact – and whilst you do see blonde girls with long lucious locks, it’s not an easy thing to achieve. If you want to hit the bottle you need to be aware of just how much more care and attention your hair will need.
It can of course be done, but if you have fine hair then a drastic change of colour – especially if you’re going lighter – will require a lot of TLC to maintain. Don’t be fooled by celeb pics of long and healthy bleached hair (or at least be aware that they probably have a live-in hairdresser!).
6. Protect your hair from the sun.
It’s really easy to forget to protect your hair from the sun but if you’ve ever felt your hair whilst sunbathing on holiday, then you’ll know how incredibly hot it can get. I *always* protect my hair with a UV product in the summer and I haven’t yet found a product I like more than label.m’s Protein Spray. (Currently reduced to £12.10 with free P&P on LookFantastic or it’s £9.95 on Amazon, but only free delivery if you’re buying other stuff).
Yep, I’ve mentioned Protein Spray approx 100 times before in videos and on the blog but it really is a fantastic product for protecting from heat and the elements. Oh and it smells like HEAVEN.
Of course in the midday sun you should really protect your hair (and face!) with a wide brimmed hat, but I am not ready to morph into my mother and tell you that just yet.
7. Either trim regularly or be prepared to take off a decent amount when you do get a haircut.
There are two camps when it comes to growing hair – those who say you need to trim regularly for your hair to grow and those who say just leave it for as long as possible. I fall into the latter and I don’t get my hair trimmed regularly, when I had my hair cut recently it was my first cut in 18 months (which is bad – I don’t advise waiting that long either!) but I did have about six inches off.
I can “get away” with leaving my hair for a longer time between cuts because of the fact I do all the other things in this list, but you’ll be able to tell when your hair is looking scraggy or you need a cut simply to bring some shape back into your style again.
Once your hair *does* look like it needs a cut, don’t delay it or split ends can lead to breakages which is the opposite of what you want for long healthy hair. And always take off at least the minimum amount your hairdresser advises, there’s no point only asking for half an inch off and expecting it to be healthy.
8. Use decent products to wash your hair.
Perhaps this goes without saying, but find the right hair products for you and *your* hair. Everyone is different, but some of my favourites are here. (If you don’t want to watch the video just read the text in the video description for a list).
9. Treat yourself to hair masks.
I’d like to say I use a mask every week but it’s probably more like once every ten days. Yep they smell heavenly and leave your hair superbly soft, but the long lasting effects are important too and a decent mask really will make a noticeable difference to your hair’s overall condition.
10. Protect hair when swimming.
If you swim in chlorinated water, you *need* to protect your hair. Swimming caps aren’t for protecting your hair, they’re for keeping hair off your face and making your stroke more streamlined. Before putting your swimming cap on you need to saturate your hair with freshwater as this will help prevent your hair from absorbing as much chlorine, then at this point you can also put in a protection creme or a leave-in conditioner.
I rarely bother putting a special product in to be honest, but I *always* make sure my hair is really wet with fresh water from the showers before I step foot in the pool.
11. Don’t wash hair everyday.
If you do a lot of sweaty exercise then I can see why this wouldn’t be an option, but as somebody who obviously doesn’t spend much time working up a sweat (lol) I only wash my hair a couple of times a week. When I do wash it I always shampoo twice to make sure my scalp is super clean. I also only use warm water rather than searingly hot water. A healthy scalp is important for healthy hair.
12. Don’t be tempted by extensions.
I’ve never had hair extensions, but I know enough people who have had them and seen enough dodgy disasters to know that they’re a bad idea if you want to grow your own hair.
If you really can’t grow your own hair then I can see why extensions would be alluring, but just remember that shortcuts nearly always come with pitfalls. It’s no different to nail extensions or eyelash extensions, inevitably some damage will occur to what’s naturally there to allow the extensions to stay in place.
13. Make sure you’re in good health and getting the right nutrients.
If your hair is thinning or breaking more than what’s normal for you, it’s always worth investigating with a doctor in case something else is going on. All sorts of things can cause problems for your hair, from thyroid issues to anaemia to fungal infections.
I take omega 3 supplements because I’m vegetarian and I’m always very aware that I miss out on the fatty goodness that most people can get by eating fish. I take Perilla Oil as it’s more potent than flaxseed oil and whilst I don’t take it for my hair specifically, it does make a difference to hair, skin and nails.
So the above is what works for *me*, but I know everybody is different. Do feel free to chime in any top tips you swear by!
And happy hair growing 🙂