Beauty IRL: How To Grow Out Your Hair Successfully

I cut my hair in August, going from a tangle of shoulder length, non-committal hair that was usually piled atop my head in an attempt at a topknot, to a short, flippy little crop. For the first time in a long time, I had a Capital H Haircut, a style that needed to be maintained and wrangled into submission. My hair was suddenly an accessory that I had to deal with every morning.

Short hair is deceptive. People think that it’s effortless, the kind of hair that you can really just roll out of bed and run with, but that is decidedly false. Some mornings, my hair looked awesome, as if I had spent time doing something to it. Those days were treasures. Most mornings, I woke up looking like I had slept in front of a fan blowing all four inches of hair I still had straight back. I had to reacquaint myself with my blowdryer and start using products beyond my go-to salt spray.

It took a while, but I got the hang of it. And then one day — after waking up from a very vivid dream in which I was putting long, shiny sheets of hair up into countless ponytails, over and over again, as if it was some sort of self-soothing ritual — I made the decision to grow my hair out again. What would normally be a painful process has actually been an easy one thus far, but only because I figured out early exactly what I needed to do. Now, I impart this information to you!

Tip #1: Establish a healthily codependent relationship with your hairdresser.

Product, styling techniques and fancy blowdryers aside, the most helpful and important thing in growing your hair out with grace and dignity is a solid relationship with your hairstylist. Lots of salons offer free or very cheap bang trims and clean-ups in between actual cuts. When I decided to grow my hair out for good, I made a commitment to getting my hair cut every three weeks or so, until it reached a length that I could manage to style in a few different ways. This is the kind of thing you can’t really deal with yourself.

Sure, you could press a pair of hair-cutting shears into the hands of a trusted friend and hope that they do a decent job of removing the horrid duck tail that keeps touching the collar of your jacket, but the results will most likely be disastrous. Instead, drag yourself to the hairdresser and get regular trims and even more regular haircuts. You need that mess on your head shaped into something that resembles an intentional look.

Tip #2: Teach yourself how to braid, because you will need that.

So, there will be a time when the front forelocks of your hair look kinda dumb. Floppy. I was convinced for a while that the two front sections of my hair made me look like Jonathan Taylor Thomas in his prime. So, I mastered braiding that shit up and out of my face, vintage Whitney Port style. Hair that is at a weird, in-between length is perfect for experimenting. Master some looks that involve braid and you’ll be halfway there.

Tip #3: Hats! Bobby pins! Headbands!

You take long hair for granted, because when it looks bad, you can put it up in a ponytail and move on. When you’ve got short hair that looks like shit, there’s no styling that can save it, and you’re late for work, some artfully placed bobby pins will work wonders. This is also a great time to get wild and crazy with hats. Those dumb bowler/boater things actually look good with short hair, though I was never bold enough to feel I could successfully pull one off without feeling self-conscious. Also helpful are headbands, which on short hair make you look sophisticated, somehow, and not like a giant baby.

Tip #4: Prepare to use products that you didn’t need or use before.

The fabulous thing about long hair for me was that I didn’t need to put stuff in it. I harbored a relatively strong addiction to sea salt spray, telling myself that it gave my hair “texture” as I scrunched it, but always lacked the patience to let it dry all the way to see the full results. When I cut my hair, I was stymied. This was completely out of my purview. When left to dry on its own, my newly shorn locks dried flat and straight, sometimes fluffy, making me look like my mother. That is not a resemblance hat I’m ready to accept as truth yet. I’ve found great success with men’s styling products, because they are formulated to do the things that my hair needs. As my hair grows out into a tiny little bob, I’ve been using pomades to (sort of) tame it into submission. I like Kevin Murphy’s Easy Riderwhich smells like ginger and makes my freshly blow-dried hair soft. In a pinch, this weird, squishy L’Oreal Advanced Hairstyling TXT IT Deconstructing Gum would work too.

Tip #5: Don’t freak out, because really, it’s just hair.

Yep, this seems simple, but I have to remind you once again — it’s just hair. Hair grows back. There will come a time when you’re looking in the mirror, staring at the wisp of a mullet sticking out like a visor from the back of your neck, wondering what life was like when you had long, glossy sheets of wavy perfection, but don’t despair. There are bigger things to worry about in this world. Ebola. The 2016 election. Whether or not you’ll be able to spend the entire weekend watching “House Of Cards” without your roommates bothering you. Your hair is a very, very minor thing.