Style - Hair
By: - at June 5, 2013

The Ultimate Guide to Growing Long Healthy Hair

Long Red Flowing HairHave you always wanted long, flowing tresses? Do you find it difficult to grow your hair past a certain length? Have no fear! In this article, all the information you could possibly need is provided to help you grow the hair of your dreams. Constantly portrayed as being sexy, young and stylish by the media - long hair is the envy of many people. Huge amounts of money are spent each year maintaining false hair extensions, which often need to be replaced after a few months of wear. If you're tired of paying for something you could have naturally with a little TLC, read up! I started growing my hair around 2 years ago using all of these tips from shoulder length - it is now down to my waist.

Step 1: Assess the Damage
After x amount of years of harsh products, heat damage, chemical build up or colorants - hair becomes damaged. Not everybody knows how to tell if their hair is actually damaged or not. Typical characteristics of damaged hair are dryness, frizz and excessive breakage. To determine if the amount of breakage you experience is abnormal - place a white piece of paper on your lap before brushing your hair above it. You will likely see lots of small strands of hair, each around an inch long. They are generally from the ends of the hair, and break off during brushing or styling. A certain amount of breakage is normal, but for some people this occurs so much that it hinders hair growth. (This isn't strictly true, but its effects are the same ). A normal amount of breakage would be around 20 - 40 bits of hair depending on thickness and other factors. If you are seeing amounts much larger than this, your hair is definitely in need of a trim!

Step 2: Starting with a Clean Slate
In order to grow long hair, seriously damaged hair needs to be removed to see any progress. It is a fact that isn't welcome news for most, it was hard for me too. My hair was down to my bra strap, and had been this length for years. I couldn't understand why it wasn't growing. This is a common misconception hair that stays the same length for a very long time is too damaged to gain length. The hair is growing, but the ends are breaking off at such an alarming rate that no growth can be retained! Many people stubbornly leave their hair for years, insisting that it simply 'doesn't grow'. In actual fact, a trim is necessary to remove the damage. For me, this meant cutting hair that was down to my bra strap up to shoulder length. I was upset, it seemed like a backwards step towards achieving my goal. It is a necessary evil just be sure to remind yourself that you are doing this to have lustrous long locks in the future. Your future self will thank you. You may not have to cut off much, only what is unsalvageable. If your hair hasn't 'grown' for years, a few inches at least will be sufficient.

Step 3: Change Your Styling Habits
Ok, so the damaged hair has been removed. In order to preserve the health of your hair and its new growth, styling habits must be assessed (and changed) if necessary. The main culprit here is heat. Curlers, tongs, flat irons, blow dryers they all contribute to hair dryness and breakage. I went from blow drying and flat ironing my hair everyday to just drying it naturally nothing else! If your hair is used to frequent heat, it may take time for your tresses to adjust. At first, my naturally dried hair was a frizzy mess. Patience is required to 'train' your hair into looking presentable naturally. There is simply no way around it, if you want to grow hair that is long and healthy certain things must be sacrificed. Now, there are products on the market that claim to protect your hair against heat damage. This is true (to a small extent). These products create a thin usually silicone based layer over your hair in between it and the heat source, preventing damage on a very small scale. Generally, these kinds of products are for the most part ineffective. There are many alternatives to heat styling that can give you a similar result. A quick internet search of techniques such as 'heatless styling', 'foam rollers', 'hair wrapping' or 'pin curls' can provide many suggestions. As well as heat, lots of mechanical damage can occur through brushing or combing. Many people are unaware of the kind of brush that is suitable for their hair type, and are much too rough. Using a wide tooth comb instead of a traditional bristle brush is recommended for all hair types, especially for those with curls. Using this will reduce breakage and retain more length. Another mistake many people make when trying to grow their hair is brushing it when it is wet don't ever do this! When wet, hair is much more elastic and therefore prone to breakage. To maintain the health of freshly trimmed hair, ensure that hair is only de-tangled when dry and with a wide tooth comb. Besides heat, the other big no-no is chemical hair dye. Now, I seem like quite a hypocrite here, since in the photograph provided I clearly have dyed hair! When you have reached your desired length and don't want to grow much longer, this is fine to do (within reason). You can't over process your hair and expect little damage. During the process of growing your hair it may hinder length retention. When I was growing mine, I completely stopped dying it. Henna is a fantastic alternative to chemical hair dye, and is actually great for your hair! Many users report that thickness and shine increases after henna usage. As well as this, it provides a beautiful spectrum of permanent color.

Step 4: Review the Products You Use to Maintain Hair Health

Shampoo
Jason ShampooIn order to grow hair that is long and strong, the correct products need to be used to maintain its health. Many people are using products that are not appropriate for their hair type. Most shampoos and conditioners found at drugstores contain harsh chemicals such as sodium lauryl sulphate or sodium laureth sulphate. These chemicals are mostly found in shampoos and are used to create the luxurious lather we are all used to when washing our hair. They break down oils and sebum, leaving hair squeaky clean. All of the hairs natural protective oils are stripped, which means that for most people conditioner is necessary. There is much debate on the 'safety' of sodium lauryl sulphate and its cousins with some reports suggesting that it may be carcinogenic. A wealth of information on this topic is available online, if you wish to research further. Many reports are contradictory and the majority of people use SLS with no ill effects. Using a shampoo that is sulphate free can help heal dry hair and alleviate flaky scalp problems. I have included some photographs of personally tried and tested brands for this (an example of each), but products work differently for everyone.

Conditioner
Herbal Essences ConditionerAs well as this, most products contain silicones particularly conditioners. Silicones are used to cover the hair in a protective 'film', making the hair silky to the touch and shiny. The most commonly used is dimethicone. Some other examples include amodimethicone, cyclomethicone and cyclopentasiloxane. These kinds of silicones are not water soluble, and therefore leave a residue on the hair. The only thing that can remove these chemicals are sulphates, just mentioned above. For some people this chemical is fantastic for hair conditioning, while for others it builds up extremely quickly leaving the hair dry and brittle. If you decide to use a sulphate free shampoo, using a conditioner that has water soluble silicones or is silicone free is a good idea to prevent build-up. Dimethicone copolyl and lauryl methicone copolyol are both examples of water soluble silicones. I have included a photo of two conditioners that I consider to be excellent, one that is silicone based and one that isn't.

Hair Treatment RedkenUltimately, it is completely up to you whether you want to use sulphate shampoo or non sulphate, silicone conditioners or non silicone etc. Each persons hair responds in different ways, but these are things you must consider when choosing products to maintain healthy hair. Choosing products that are right for you also depends on hair type and texture. For example, if you have dry hair choose moisturizing products. If you have oily hair, experiment with cleansing products that leave little residue. If your hair is heat damaged or treated with chemical dye, a protein based conditioner would be beneficial. Heat and chemical color break down the chemical protein structure of the hair shaft. If a hair product is described as being 'reconstructing', it is most likely protein based. If you are unsure, check for chemicals such as hydrolyzed wheat protein or keratin on the bottle. I have included a photograph of some protein based products.

 

Step 5: Treatments, leave-ins and oils
Different Hair OilsHair health maintenance is about a lot more than shampoo and conditioner! In order to grow long healthy hair, the ends need to be very well cared for. As well as your usual cleansing routine, incorporate a once a week deep conditioning treatment. It will make a huge difference and most definitely contribute to the overall health of your tresses. There are a wide variety of deep conditioners on the market, which one you use is all a matter of personal preference. Leave in conditioners come in several forms creams, sprays and oils. If you have fine hair, experiment with the liquid spray kind these are nourishing without leaving too much residue. If your hair is thick, creams and oils may be your best bet. These products are designed to be left in the hair after washing, and are mostly applied at the ends and mid lengths of the hair not the scalp. They provide further conditioning after your regular routine, sealing in the moisture from water and other products. Many people prefer to make their own leave in treatments with oils, the most popular being coconut or olive oil. Of all the oils used in hair care, these two are the only ones that have been proven to actually penetrate the hair shaft and give intense nourishment. Coconut oil is not as heavy as olive, and is what I personally use. It can be used as a deep conditioner, a pre-shampoo treatment or a leave in treatment. Try to use an oil that is fragrance free and 100% pure. If you want to experiment with olive oil, ensure you use only the extra virgin kind. I have included a photograph of some examples of deep conditioning treatments.

 Step 6: Consider Up-Dos
Hair in a BunWearing your hair down invites opportunities for breakage. This can occur from brushing after it has tangled or friction from other objects, such as car seats or clothes. The most efficient way of protecting your hair as far as up-dos go is with buns using hair sticks. This is totally damage free, and will ensure that any length you have gained is retained. A quick internet search of 'hair stick up-dos' will provide you with hundreds of techniques. I have attached a photograph of my hair in a 'figure 8 bun' using 1 wooden hair stick. This is a very easily style that can be easily achieved with minimal practice.

 Conclusion:
Now you have read all this information, it is time to put it into practice! By following the guide above you are sure to have the healthiest hair possible, while also promoting hair growth and length retention.

Side note:
All of the products shown on this article have been purchased by the author. I am in no way affiliated with any of the brands shown.


 

 

 

 

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