Long hair is fun and keeping it nice takes more effort than you guys realize. Be nice to the women in your life, and appreciate their long hair. Act like you care when they describe their hair care routine to you.
Growing up, my sister and I cut off our locks to our chins every summer to prepare for the heat and humidity of Georgia :-P, then let our hair grow all year before our annual hair cut again the next summer. My hair care routine consisted of a shampoo and conditioning every two days or so when I was younger, increasing to every day when I was about twelve. From then on, for years I faithfully shampooed my hair every day to combat my oily scalp. Ah, the joys of adolescence.
The summer I was fourteen was the last time I cut my hair above my shoulders. I spent the next three years growing out my hair to my waist, discovering the previously unknown delights of long hair. I had always loved playing with hair, be it my hair or someone else's hair. There was so much more I could do with my long hair - all sorts of fun buns, coiled braids, crowns, loops, knots, and twists. Long hair is a lot of fun :).
For those interested in fun ideas for fixing hair, try Klutz's Braids and Bows or Hair for some great ideas. I found my copy of Braids and Bows for fifty cents at a garage sale :). Both books are great; Braids and Bows is aimed more for younger styles, while Hair leans towards older styles. Hair has many elegant styles to try if you're looking for something extra-special. In Timely Fashion also has instructions for some nice period styles. Unfortunately it is becoming increasingly harder for me to find instructions for styles that match my length of hair, which is currently about nine inches below my waist. Most styles are recommended for hair "no longer than waist length" or "no longer than mid-back." Combine extra-long hair with extra-slippery hair, and Houston, we have a problem ;).
Anyway, as I said, I started growing my hair out when I was fourteen. The winter I was seventeen my hair had finally reached my waist. That Christmas vacation I cut twelve inches off my hair, leveling it to a few inches below my shoulders. I had enjoyed my long hair, but realized that it was becoming an obsession for me at the time and also a difficulty for me to manage. I never regretted cutting off those twelve inches, as it really did help me put my priorities in focus, and because I really was having a horrible time caring for my hair. It was dry, brittle, staticky, and flat. I couldn't find a brush that would work well on it, which didn't help matters. All in all cutting it was definitely a good choice.
I never did have any curl growing up, even as a baby, but the length of my hair had made it flatter than ever. I received my dad's fine, straight hair, unlike my brother and sister, who definitely inherited my mother's curly genes! I never minded my straight hair, but I did want my hair to have body, which just wasn't happening with my current length and care of my hair! Can you say '70's double-take?
Although, as I said, I never regretted cutting my hair, I also decided right away that I was going to try to grow out my hair again. I calculated that in two-years time my hair would be waist length again. (My hair grows about 6-7 inches per year.) Sure enough, two years later my hair had reached my waist again. This time around my hair was much more manageable, so much so that I have continued to grow out my hair and am still waiting to see when it finally stops growing. I love having long hair! It is currently nine inches below my waist - soft, shiny, and manageable on most days. (It's still not bouncy with a lot of body ;), but it's not as flat and blah as before.) Why is it more manageable this time around? Several reasons.
First of all, I educated myself about split ends. Split ends usually occur at the end of individual hairs (which are all different lengths), not just at the end of one's entire length of hair. Trimming one inch off a long length of hair does nothing for the split ends that are somewhere in the middle of that length. I started individually trimming my hairs for split ends. It sounds tedious, but it's not if you do it gradually and methodically. I also have my mom trim my hair an inch or so every year, just to even up the ends. I find that most of my problematic split ends are on the underside of my hair, especially concentrated in the hairs directly below my ears. I don't know if this is common, or if it's just me, but I mainly focus on keeping split ends trimmed in these areas.
When I sit down to brush my hair out at night I try to start at the ends. When I reach a snarl I pull that section of hair forward and trim it for split ends. I have found some fascinating split ends over the years :) - all sorts of interesting patterns. Anyway, this works very well to systematically trim split ends as I find them. I also occasionally sit down and pull random sections of hair forward to trim for split ends. The key is to remember to look all up and down the section of hair - not just the end - and twist and turn the hair section to look at it from all sides. Hold your hair against a contrasting color. My hair is very light so I look for split ends against a very dark brown or blue or a black background. That way my hair shows up well and I can see splits easily. I use a pair of small sewing scissors to snip individual split ends.
I also educated myself about cleaning my hair. I was perplexed that my hair could be dry and oily at the same time. This seemed rather contradictory to me. I faithfully washed my hair every morning to rid my scalp of build-up oil, but by mid afternoon (when it finally dried!) it was dry and crackly, especially right under my ears. Ick! I shiver when I think of the dry frizziness of my hair right around my neck. It was clingy and didn't feel right down. All I wanted to do was pull it back away from my neck! My hair just didn't feel comfortable down because it was so dry and clingy, yet the next morning it was greasy at the roots and begging to be cleaned. Thus went the vicious cycle. What was I doing wrong? I was determined to find out.
There are many standard comments I get about my hair. One comment I have gotten many times is You must use a ton of shampoo! I find it amusing to set people straight on this point. You see, I use far less shampoo than the average American female. It takes me about 7 months to go through an 8 oz bottle of shampoo, and I'm not exaggerating. I am able to do this for two reasons: I only wash my hair about twice a week, and when I do wash my hair I only use an amount the size of a quarter.
See, what I found that I was "doing wrong" was over-washing my hair, not under-washing it. The harsh chemicals in most shampoos aggravates the scalp, causing the scalp to over-produce oil to compensate for the drying effect of the typical shampoo. Solution? Milder shampoo, less shampoo, and less frequent shampooing - I now wash my hair only twice a week. I place a dab of shampoo on top of my head and throughly massage it through my scalp. I only shampoo my hair until about my shoulder, lifting the remaining length out of the way as I rinse my hair to get minimal shampoo on the rest of my hair. This helps the ends of my hair from drying out, but the hair near the scalp from being too oily.
Now, I may scrimp on the shampoo, but I apply conditioner quite liberally (heh, and you thought I was conservative. . . ). I focus mainly on coating my hair from the shoulders down, often barely applying any conditioner to the scalp. This keeps my scalp less oily and my ends more conditioned. I coat on the conditioner and let it sit for several minutes. I turn off the water to conserve hot water (see, I'm back to being conservative again. . . ). When I rinse it, I don't do so thoroughly, leaving my hair still feeling a bit conditiony. This keeps my hair softer with more moisture and even something resembling body at times. Conditioning is so important for long hair! I also finally did decide to buy Pantene ProV, which while much more expensive than my previous choices, really does make a huge difference.
When washing and rinsing your hair, be nice to your shafts and use lukewarm water. For the final rinse, the colder you can bear it the better. Rinsing in really cold water is one of the best ways to get a really shiny look, although I personally don't care enough to withstand freezing cold water just for a little more shine. Also, use a blowdryer sparingly (or never)! All that heat applied directly to your hairs is so bad for the shafts! I avoid blowdryers at all costs, resulting in a morning of airdrying whenever I wash my hair. My hair is so dry if I use a blowdryer, and it takes me forever to untangle it, not to mention the dangers of having it sucked into the back of the blowdryer. Ouch!
It was hard to wean myself off a daily hair shampoo, as I just didn't feel completely clean after years of slowly becoming addicted to a daily shampoo. I was determined to break the vicious cycle, though! I started skipping a hair wash every three days, then went to every other day, then increased the gap gradually until I now only wash my hair every 3 or 4 days. My hair has mood swings so sometimes it's only 3 days and sometimes it's as long as 6. It really is much better now! I wouldn't go back to a daily wash (especially with long hair) if you offered me a lot of money. Okay, okay, it would depend on how much. . .
For those with curly hair or really thick hair, the time between washings could likely be extended even longer. I have very fine hairs and only medium thickness hair, so oil collects much easier than for someone with coarser, thicker, curly hair. All the above tips work for my hair, and I do not profess that they will work for other types of hair. Experiment, experiment, experiment! Enjoy your long hair, and be thankful that God gave us women long hair as our glory! :-)
Some of my favorite long-hair pictures:
Okay, admittedly this picture was just an excuse to show off my grandparents' gorgeous view from their back deck. Who wouldn't love to live overlooking the Ohio River in Southern Indiana. *wistful sigh*