While I usually go all instructional, today I’d like to share something that’s a work in progress for me: my hair.¬†Growing ultra-long hair has been my quest for over a year now, but before that, I was a certified hair abuser.
I spent years bleaching my hair blonde, flat ironing and blow drying it to death and filling it with any and every product I could get my hands on. Before long, my locks felt like straw. I didn’t get it: why, oh why, didn’t I look like a Pantene commercial?
Flustered, I began my research. I discovered two forums that led me to find communities of women who go to new lengths (har) to get ultra-long hair: The Long Hair Community and Long Hair Care Forum. The latter is directed at women of color, but I found that their advice worked for my dried out, overprocessed locks too.
The more I read, the more my world was rocked. These people were serious. They put castor oil and Monistat in their hair to encourage growth. They spent hours concocting homemade conditioners. They counted the number of individual hairs in their brushes and shower drains each day to track their “shedding”. They spoke a strange language I didn’t understand with constant use of terms like “cones”, “BSL”, “cowash”, and “SMT”. They gave up shampooing altogether. Was this what had to be done to achieve long, beautiful hair?
While I wasn’t willing to go as far as some members of the communities I’d found, they did open my eyes to a world of haircare no-no’s I wasn’t aware of. For example, did you know that the kind of brush you’re using is likely causing physical damage and split ends in your hair? Really. I actually had a difficult time finding a brush that fit the bill – brushing, for most of the hardcore girls, has long been thrown out in favor of gentler combing and finger-combing.
(Hint: ditch your go-to brush for a seamless wooden detangling comb, with no edges or places on the teeth that could catch fine hairs. I got this one.)
My haircare routine is now much more healthy: I’ve traded peroxide-filled bottle blonde for all-natural pure henna red haircolor, switched to shampoos and conditioners that contain no alcohol and no sulfates, eliminated all heat styling, switched to a wooden seamless comb, and handle tangles like the bomb squad handles C-4. I put coconut oil in my ends since it’s supposed to both protect and seep in, and I take vitamins like nobody’s business.
What are my results? Pretty average. Your hair is supposed to grow six inches a year, depending on a number of factors, and mine has grown about exactly that in a year and a half with trims. The problem is, all that healthy hair goodness is going right on top of hair lengths that have been abused for years on end because I’m too attached and emotional to cut them off. Compounded with the fact that I now live in the desert where hair and skin moisture go to die, breakage happens, growth looks slower and I cry. Had I chopped the nasty bits and started over, who knows?
All in all, I see a definite difference in my hair texture and, of course, length. The biggest success factors in my new routine are eschewing heat styling and using only shampoos and conditioners that contain neither alcohol nor any variety of sulfate. Both are drying to your hair. Shampoos and conditioners that fit the bill can be tough to find in retail stores – I suggest the “Natural Hair” section. There’s a great brand called Aubrey Organics that makes lots of qualifying products, but check the label – I accidentally bought a set once and found it had alcohol in it.
Are you trying to grow your hair out? If so, what are you doing to achieve your goal, and how far have you come?