Do you feel like your hair won’t grow? Want longer luscious hair? Looking for simple solutions? If you answered YES to all of these questions, this post is for you. Here are 10 simple tips for growing healthy long hair. DISCLAIMER: I can’t guarantee longer hair within a specific period of time because genetics and life habits play a role in hair growth, but I can guarantee that following these simple steps will get you extremely close to your length goals (or, at the very least, your terminal hair length). I went from neck length hair in May 2011 to bra strap length hair in July of 2012 while stressed and mildly sleep deprived during law school. If I can do it under those circumstances, anyone can.
1. Start With Healthy Hair – i.e. Trim or Dust Your Hair As Needed
This carries different meanings depending on the state of your hair. If you are willfully lugging around weeds (aka damaged hair characterized as split ends, fried strands, and/or wispy unnaturally thin hair) for the sake of saying you have long hair, you are doing yourself a huge disservice and prolonging your journey to longer lengths.
Long before I started my healthy hair journey, I was OBSESSED with having LONG HAIR. At that time, the hair growing from my scalp was thick, but from shoulder length on my hair looked ABSOLUTELY HORRENDOUS – as in, it looked identical to the hair on dead zombies in movies. I could see through my strands and my ponytail was puny to say the least. I couldn’t understand why my hair wasn’t thick from root to tip until my stylist explained my split ends were splitting up the hair shaft and breaking off. That day I received a serious trim and my first healthy hair journey began.
For a long period of time I wasted precious time holding onto split ends and damaged hair that kept me from retaining the thick long hair I desired. I could have had thick mid-back length hair, but my willful ignorance and decision to choose longer lengths over healthy hair left me with shoulder length hair after 2 years of hair growth. My point is don’t be afraid to take a step back to move forward – i.e. don’t be afraid to cut of some of your hair to get a healthy start to thicker longer tresses. After all it is just hair that will grow back (often times faster).
There are three ways to do this:
- Dusting (aka Search and Destroy Method): This is method where you examine each strand and cut out straggly or split ends. When dusting you should clip no more than ¼‘’ of your hair. In my experience if you employ this method as needed, you can avoid trims altogether.
- Trimming: Trimming is the act of cutting hair to create a neat uniform appearance. Usually, cutting anything over ¼“ with the intention of getting rid of split raggedy ends constitutes a trim.
- Big Chop: Hit the restart button and cut off all of your hair.
2. Minimize Your Use of Heated Appliances As Often as Possible
Say bye-bye to blow dryers, flat irons, curling irons, wands, and crimping irons. Okay, maybe that is a bit extreme, but the truth is direct heat from these types of heating tools are B-A-D for the health of your hair. The heat breaks down the protein structure making your hair dull, fragile, and more susceptible to breakage and/or split ends.
- HEAT PROTECTANTS: If you are going to use heat, make sure you use a heat protectant. Keep in mind heat protectant serums are best when using blow dryers and heat protectant sprays are great when using flat irons and curling tools. Bonus: A couple of my all time favorite heat protectants are TRESemme Heat TamerSpray and It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-InProduct.
- LOW HEAT SETTINGS: It’s equally important to use your heating tool at a low heat setting. The heat setting you use will depend on the thickness of your hair, but do your best to stay away from the highest setting which is 400 - 450 degrees.
- CERAMIC TOOLS: Finally, use ceramic heating tools and/or indirect heat (roller sets and seated hair dryers).
3. Try to Avoid Harsh Chemicals
Bleaching, lightening, relaxing and perming your hair are all harmful chemical processes that can put a dent in your journey to longer lengths. I cannot stop you from using these processes altogether, but I’ll advise you to follow-up with a protein treatment and a moisturizing deep conditioner. Protein treatments help repair, rebuild, and/or fill-in the protein structure that has been broken down by chemical processing. Deep conditioners help revitalize the hair by re-moisturizing the hair after chemical processing.
A few hair-coloring alternatives include: low-peroxide or non-peroxide coloring products, hair rinses, henna and/or indigo treatments and more recently hair chalks. Some of these may not provide permanent results, but they are safer ways to change your hair without damaging your hair too much. Ultimately, bringing you a step closer to longer locks.
4. Avoid High Tension Hair Style and Dangerous Accessories
Tight ponytails, buns, braids, weaves, and other styles that pull at your edges, nape or anywhere on your scalp are NO-NOs! Improper use of these styles may lead to permanent damage. I’m not saying don’t wear these styles at all because I wear all of these styles often. I am saying be extremely careful when you do wear them because such styles can lead to tension alopecia, which is an irreversible condition that will leave you with bald patches resulting from dead follicles and hair roots.
Beware of barrettes, ponytail holders with the metal links, metal clips, and accessories with Velcro or sharp edges. These styling accessories are lethal to your length goals. They will rip your hair out – resulting in split ends and breakage.
5. Implement a Regular Hair Routine that Reduces Manipulation
Consistency is key to growing longer hair. By implementing a regular hair regimen, not only do you ensure your hair is getting the all the TLC it needs, but also you learn how to care for your hair and what products work best for your hair. Think about adding the following steps to your hair regimen.
- Weekly Hot Oil Treatment or Prepoo Treatment
- Cleansing Routine Followed by an Instant Condition
- Deep Condition Treatment (at least once a weekly)
- Moisturize and Seal Your Ends 3-4 times a week (if necessary)
- Scalp Massage: 3-5 minute at least 3 times a week because it will stimulate your follicles
A regular hair routine will lead to healthy hair and enable you to retain your length to achieve your length goals. However, the buck doesn’t stop there. It’s important to reduce how much you style or play with (or in) your hair. The longer your hair is, the more fragile your ends are and the more care they require. To minimize breakage, keep your hair protected from the elements by wearing it in a bun or ponytail or any protective style (i.e. weaves, wigs, etc.). Alternatively, when wearing your hair out, wear hairstyles that are low maintenance and keep your hair moisturized.
6. Be Mindful of the Products You Use on You Hair
We have all heard that sulfates, silicones, mineral oil, and other products are “bad” for our hair. While there may be some rationale behind these blanket statements, the truth is everyone’s hair is unique to some degree. Your hair may react differently to certain products or ingredients than other people with different or even the same hair texture as you. When I started my hair journey, I read tons of articles about how terrible sulfates are and how silicones prevented moisture from penetrating your hair strands, but I’ve found that these ingredients aren’t the worse if used sparingly and properly. Sulfate help with my clarifying process and silicones protect my strands when using heat tools. On the other hand, sulfates can be drying and silicones can clog your strands. However, the key is proper use and removal of these products.
My point is be mindful of what you are putting in your hair and why you are using the products you are using. Just because it works for one person doesn’t mean it will work for you. Take the time to understand your hair type. Learn about what your hair texture requires. For instance, if you have super curly or kinky curly hair your tresses will be begging for moisture so water-based (first ingredient) products are best for you. Following up with an oil will help seal in the moisture – keeping your hair moisturized throughout the day. On the other hand, if you have light wavy or straight hair, you want to limit the use of oils to oil treatments (if used at all) and use light water-based products to avoid weighing down your luscious locks. Furthermore, you may water to use protein-infused products for volume.
7. Sleep on Satin/Silk
Cotton is damaging. The friction resulting from sleeping on a cotton pillow will cause breakage. Your hair is already exposed to the elements (i.e. your clothes , the weather, etc.) during the day, so don't subject it to further abuse at night. Do yourself a favor and use satin or silk to protect your hair as you sleep. Here are some places where you can snag a satin pillowcase, bonnet, or scarf (click the named item for a direct link to it).
8. Maintain Proper Moisture/Protein Balance
To reduce breakage and achieve length goals, you must maintain a moisture and protein balance. Moisture increases flexibility and elasticity, while protein ensures strength and maintains structure. Too much or too little of either of these things will lead to breakage. Look out for detailed post on this topic, but for the sake of brevity the key take away is use a deep conditioner weekly and protein treatments as needed.
9. Eat Right and Drink Lots of Water
Proper nutrition is just as important as external hair care. I watched my hair grow longer as I upped my fruit and vegetable intake, indulged in protein galore, drank tons of water daily, and exercised 3-4 days a week. Additionally, I take multivitamins, which range from the Costco Adult Multivitamins Gummies to the Flintstone Kids Multivitamin Gummies with extra Vitamin C. I have tried hair vitamins, but found that they don’t seem to work any better than these ordinary vitamins.
Here are a few ways to ENHANCE your diet to OPTIMIZE your HAIR GROWTH. Please note that these are the foods I eat often and seem to contribute to the overall health of my hair and hair growth
- FRUITS: All the berries, cantaloupe, apples
- VEGETABLES: Kale, Spinach, Broccoli, and Carrots
- PROTEINS: Salmon or fish (generally), Chicken, Quinoa, and PBJ Sandwiches
- NUTS: Almonds and Pistachios
- WATER: 8 glasses a day (add lemon for additional health benefits)
- OTHERS: Oatmeal and wheat bread
10. Patience is key!
You’ll reach your length goals before you know it. So focus on taking care of your hair, forget your length goals, and length will come. It’s worth noting that you have a predetermined terminal length, which means you may not be able to grow your hair as long as you hoped. That being said you won’t be able to determine your terminal length without monitoring your hair growth and practicing healthy hair habits. So take care of your hair, record your progress, and be patient!