Remember Crystal Gayle, Cher, Jan and Marcia Brady? These ladies had the hair I envied and exhibit the beauty extremely long hair embodies. Long, silky, shiny hair can be mesmerizing to look at as it flows and sways with each body movement.
If hair grows an average of 1/2 to 5/8 of an inch a month, just imagine how long it took Crystal Gayle to grow her hair to nearly floor length, taking regular trimming into consideration.
More amazing is the natural strength the hair must have to maintain its integrity through years of washing, brushing and styling.
Extremely long hair is something that cannot be attained by most people. One must have patience and take great care. The hair structure must be strong, with superb elasticity and a natural moisture content to allow it to withstand the damage of time and environmental oxidation in addition to the mechanical damage inflicted by day to day wear. Our hair is made up of 65 to 95% Proteins. Lipids, water, trace elements and pigments make up the remaining structure. Genetics play a large part in hair and its structure. We see straight, long dark hair much more often than we see extremely long blonde hair, although some red hair has what it takes to endure and grow to great lengths.
Some of our clients “long” for hair to their waist but may not have the type of hair with the structural ability to withstand time and elements. Long hair is not always beautiful hair if it is not healthy and shiny. A main of tattered split ends is not flattering to even the most beautiful face.
We can however, help any client in the quest of attaining the longest, healthiest, beautiful hair that they are capable of.
These are 7 of the most subjective topics I share with my long hair clients to maximize their potential:
- Cleansing…Use products for their specific hair type. Shampoo scalp only when necessary and avoid lathering ends (they don’t get oily.) Over cleansing strands can strip very important natural oils from the hair and scalp. Shampoo 1-3 times a week depending on texture and natural oiliness. Use fingertips to massage the scalp and increase circulation as well as exfoliate dead skin cells. Shampooing with fingertips, helps prevent tangling.
Being gentle with the towel and not roughly rubbing or using a paper towel to blot excess moisture is a gentler way to remove excess water. I always ask my long hair clients to never brush wet hair and to be gentle when detangling.
- Conditioning… Even fine hair needs conditioning at the last third of the hair shaft. Using a leave in conditioner will give added benefits, aid in smoother combing, and styling and help prevent breakage. Hair that is shoulder length or longer should be treated with a balanced moisture to protein re-conditioner at least twice a month. Using a chelating shampoo prior to this treatment will ensure maximum absorption. Coarse or curly hair requires extra moisture and can be occasionally washed in conditioner in place of shampoo to give it a shinier softer appearance as well as avoiding over cleansing. Final rinsing with cool water will flatten the cuticle and enhance shine.
- Diet, Exercise and Supplements… Eating well and managing stress are essential to healthy hair and skin. Eating a high protein, low carbohydrate diet and including moderate exercise will enhance the body’s natural metabolism. Incorporating good fats into your daily diet - such as omega-3s - and avoiding trans, saturated and hydrogenated fats will help improve the natural moisture level in hair, nails and skin. This can significantly enhance the strength and growth rate of the hair. Getting good rest and avoiding stress will also benefit hair growth. Our generation is showing that we are chronically low in some important essential vitamins and minerals due to modern day lifestyle and diet. Supplements may give a temporary boost to what our body is capable of. B complex, Biotin, Vitamin C and especially Vitamin D can aid in supporting of hair and nail growth as well as our skins outward appearance. Zinc, Iron and essential minerals all play a part in the body’s natural simulation of nutrients. Eating a diet high in lean protein such as meat, fish, eggs, nuts, beans and soy support the amino acids that make up the protein in hair. Eating an abundance of fruits, vegetables, and grains are a natural source of essential nutrients and minerals. Eating well and avoiding processed foods will create the balance the body needs to grow beautiful hair. When working with clients who are experiencing slow hair growth or hair loss, I encourage them to check with their physician to ensure it is not related to a medical problem. Medications, depression, thyroid and hormone changes can also affect hair health.
- Mechanical damage…This can be detrimental to even the strongest hair. Heat styling from dryers, irons and round brushing put great stress on the cuticle and the inner cortex of the hair strand. If your client truly wants extra-long locks, styling should be limited to gentle low or no heat styling. Wet styling with pin curls and rag curling will give hair a beautiful long lasting style with minimal stress on the hair. Avoid tight hair ties and barrettes or pins with sharp edges, they will break the hair. Styling the hair in braids or loose twists will provide minimal stress. Keep combing and brushing to a minimum and be patient while detangling. When hearing snapping and popping audibly, hair is breaking. Using a wide tooth comb or pick when wet and a natural bristle brush when the hair is dry to minimize friction and prevent breakage. Minimize use of strong hair sprays and products with high alcohol content as this dries the cuticle making it brittle and vulnerable to more breakage. Protect the hair from sun exposure by wearing a hat or spraying with a sunscreen. Amazingly, using a satin pillow case will also prevent wear and tear and unwanted friction while sleeping.
- Trimming…So many people feel that if they cut their hair, it will never grow long. The fact is, if the hair is not kept with a blunt end, the fraying of the cuticle quickly moves up the shaft creating the perfect environment for the hair to break much farther up the strand, essentially trimming itself. The hair grows from ½ to 5/8 of an inch a month. If the hair is trimmed 1 inch every six months, the length of the hair is still increasing. If hair is trimmed regularly it will have a more uniform, thicker appearance and help control split ends. Finer hair should be trimmed ¼ to ½ inch every 6-12 weeks to keep it strong.
- Chemicals…We are fortunate that we can offer clients enhancements for the hair that result in little or no chemical damage. These do not include permanent waving, straightening, or lightening with high lift tints or de-colorizers. High alkaline chemicals alter the natural structure and in turn weaken disulfide bonds. They must be avoided when a client desires very long hair. What we can offer is low or no ammonia color enhancers, protein based smoothing treatments, and low lift color lighteners. These can enhance shine impart healthy hair with little to no damage.
- Proper product usage and styling techniques…As a long hair specialist, taking the time to educate and support your clients desire to have long hair will create trust and loyalty. I work with the specific needs of each client and their lifestyle when recommending their products, home maintenance program and styling ideas. Keeping hair in good condition when it is extremely long takes a conscious effort. Often my clients are amazed that their hair can grow very long when in past attempts they could not get it beyond their shoulders. Sharing information on products and ingredients will help them make sound choices for the enhanced condition of their locks. You will be a hero for helping them achieve their goal of extremely long hair.
Long hair can be beautiful at any age if it is healthy. Healthy hair is more youthful. Helping my clients have the healthiest hair they can achieve at any length has always been and will continue to be my goal.