Let’s be honest, the way your hair looks can make or break your day. Ladies who wear short styles aren’t entirely exempt from the universal bad hair day, but the odds are more for than against them. Once your hair hits shoulder length, it tends to have a mind of its own. Longer hair is also more prone to damage and breaks, which is never a good look. Crispy frayed ends must be trimmed faster than they appear, lest they make their way up the hair shaft. Certainly silicone serums and leave-in conditioners lend the appearance of healthier, more put-together hair, but they can actually do more harm than good to your crowning glory in the long run. I’m no scientist, but I am pretty well-versed in hair knowledge, if I do say so myself. Here’s how to get longer, stronger, healthier hair in 2012.
1. Put down the blowdryer, straightener, curler, or whatever your weapon of choice. Heat styling sucks the life out of your hair at any length. I have fine hair that air-dries into bizarre kinks, but I counteract its natural tendency to weirdness by putting it in a high ponytail or bun after towel-drying. When I let it out later on, it’s half-dry and not as susceptible to going flat on one side if you so much as look at it wrong. If you absolutely must use heat to style your hair, do it once every few days instead of every day. Wear a cap to shower and use dry shampoo to absorb any errant oils.
2. Wash less frequently, and definitely not every day. Shampooing too often strips your hair of its natural protective oils, which both dries out the lengths and ends and urges your scalp to produce more oil. If you must get your hair wet in the shower, just condition the ends. If you’re the type who washes their hair daily or even twice daily, switching to an every-other-day or every-two-days hair-washing routine may seem daunting, but there are plenty of dry shampoos on the market that will absorb grease and impart fresh scents (see the Shopping Guide below!). Yes, you may feel a little dirty at first, but you will get used to it. A bit of grime also gives hair texture and makes it easier to style.
3. Don’t brush your hair except for before and during hair-washing. That “100 strokes every night for beautiful hair” adage? So false. Brushing the hair causes breakage, especially when wet. Before washing your hair, comb gently from root to ends, distributing the natural oils that heal your strands and protect them from lathering agents. When in the shower, load on the conditioner (from midlengths to ends, never near your scalp) and use a wide-tooth comb to detangle hair. If your hair tangles near the top, use the comb to spread through just a bit of conditioner. Always rinse completely.
4. Switch your shampoo to one that doesn’t contain sulfates. These harsh detergents are commonly listed in the ingredients as sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, and ammonium lauryl sulfate. Many people opt out of them because of the rumored carcinogen properties; I don’t use them because they irritate my scalp to the point of itchy red bumps for days, plus they strip color from hair. They’re used in things like hand soap and washing detergent, so it’s no wonder that they’re too harsh for delicate hair. If your hair is damaged or color-treated, or you’re susceptible to a sensitive scalp, steer clear of formulas with these chemicals. Yes, shampoos that don’t contain them can be significantly more expensive, but alternative formulations are becoming more and more common, even cropping up in drugstores.
5. Try a supplement like biotin. Biotin is a B vitamin necessary for cell growth and the production of fatty acids, both of which are hallelujah for your hair. I’m rather vain so I don’t know if it’s particularly normal to ingest pills for better hair, but biotin is virtually harmless, even in extreme high level doses. Fish oil pills not only work wonders for the growth and quality of hair, but they also are believed to have countless other health benefits. Both of these of supplements can be purchased at any drugstore or pharmacy. There is also an all-natural treatment called Viviscal which is significantly more expensive — I’ve never tried it but models and celebrities en masse swear by it to make their hair long, strong, and healthy. Regardless, always consult with your doctor before you start taking a new pill, no matter what it is.
6. Use a deep conditioner weekly for soft, shiny hair. If you make a routine out of slathering your hair with a rich cream and hanging out with a shower cap on for a half an hour every week, your hair will be that much better for it. Such a habit can even help to eradicate split-ends before they even begin so you’ll need less haircuts to keep ends healthy and able to grow.
7. There are a lot of little things you can do to make your hair healthier and keep it that way. A silk pillowcase may sound over-the-top but it will put an end to nighttime pulling and breakage. Flip your hair around to get blood flowing to the scalp. Give yourself a head massage for a couple of minutes; you’ll look weird but your hair won’t. Get a trim to part with your dead ends every 6 to 8 weeks. Whatever you do, don’t get frustrated and cut it all off, because chances are you will regret it! Been there, done that… more than once, I’m sorry to admit.
- Socialite Shower Cap [$9.99, Folica.com]
- Tresemme Fresh Start Dry Shampoo [$5.49, Walgreens.com]
- Rene Furterer Naturia Dry Shampoo [$24, Dermstore]
- Swissco Tortoise Wide Tooth Wet Comb [$12, Amazon]
- Pureology Hydrate Shampoo [$29.99, Target.com]
- Organix Moroccan Argan Oil Shampoo [$7.99, Drugstore.com]
- Solgar Biotin 5000mcg [$14.38, Amazon]
- Res-Q High Grade Fish Oil Pills [$41, Amazon]
- Viviscal Extra Strength Dietary Supplement [$38.69, Amazon]
- Pantene Pro-V Beautiful Lengths Replenishing Mask [$5.03, CVS.com]
- Spasilk 100% Pure Silk Beauty Pillowcase [$19.99, Amazon]