Four years ago, I did a thing. What was that thing? Well, I watched V for Vendetta, realized how gorgeous Natalie Portman looked with a buzzcut, went to the store, and the next day I dragged my two friends into the bathroom (Hi Sara! Hi Scott!) and, bzzzzz. Did halfway through I get very nervous that I was making a huge mistake? Yes. But, let me get one thing straight: I loved my new cropped look. The fuzziness of a fresh buzzcut is one of the most pleasing feelings in the world, right next to getting in the shower, briefly scrubbing my scalp, then hopping out without a worry. Of course, not everyone was pleased with my chop (to name a few: my mom, my brother, my hairstylist). But as much as I loved the cut, growing out short hair is one of the purest hells known to man.
After growing shoulder-length hair only to cut it to my ears again one hot summer day two years later, I am now back where I started: With hair to my collarbones, a desire for change, and no patience. Only now my hair goals can't be achieved with a $20 trimmer. I want mermaid-length, to-my-waist hair, naturally. I've never had hair longer than my décolletage, but my God I want it now. If you share the same desires I do, we're in this thing together. With a little help from the experts, read on for the the best methods and products to get the hair we want.
Step 1: Maintain Health
Wait, wait, don't click away! Yes, telling someone to be healthy when they want to grow out their hair out is the thunder-stealing equivalent of telling someone who's hungover to drink water. But still: effective. Hormonal changes, stress, prescription drugs and illness are all components that affect how quickly and healthily our hair grows.
Just like every dermatologist tells me that what I eat affects my skin, your hair needs nourishment so it won't let you down. Celebrity stylist Juan Carlos Maciques lays down this hard truth: "Hair health and growth comes from within so nutrition and personal care are crucial." Hair-growing supplements get a bad rap, but there are a few on the market that Maciques believes can help. Even though there is sadly no magic pill to pop that will make me wake up with Rapunzel-length, some of the new supplements on the market contain ingredients that have shown to give strengthening nutrients that your hair craves, which might will it to grow a little longer.
Even with supplements, taking care of your health in a holistic way is a surefire way to encourage hair growth. Meditation, keeping a good balance between work and social life, and overall battling stress gives your hair a fighting chance. Bosley Professional Strength Certified Trichologist Gretchen Friese, trichologist (that's a hair doctor, FYI) and stylist, recommends a diet rich in proteins and healthy fats. Those foods help prevent hair loss and strengthens hair follicles. Plus, your skin will thank you. A win-win!
Step 2: Pay Attention To Your Scalp
Lately, people are starting to realize that our scalps are just as important to our hair health. Luckily for us, with this revelation has come a plethora of products all with the express aim of making sure our scalps are as healthy as possible. "Keeping a healthy scalp helps because build-up can hinder oxygen and circulation, which can contribute to bacteria and yeast," Maciques explains. Plus, scalp scrubs, serums, and treatments can be just as fun as a hair masque.
Sarah Schiek, stylist at the Marquee Salon in Oakland, finds that over-washing your hair can damage the scalp's protective barrier. Alternating wash days and finding shampoos that treat scalp issues can all help not stripping the scalp. You might even have some scalp-care ingredients in your medicine cabinet. "Tea tree oil and eucalyptus have antibacterial properties while apple cider vinegar and coffee combined with avocado oil have cleansing properties," says Maciques. When you find yourself with a quarantine-induced bored evening, maybe take some time to DIY yourself some hair-growth tinctures.
There are some medical conditions that affect your scalp health that can't be solved with standard solutions. For continuing issues, a dermatologist may prescribe you a topical or oral prescription if that's what's needed.
Step 3: Style Appropriately
A critical component of encouraging hair growth is to avoid harmful practices. Trey Gillen, the artistic director of SACHAJUAN, explains that heat and bleach are two of the most harmful things you could do to your hair if you want to see some extra length. If you're lucky enough to be able to survive without hot tools or the occasional hair-bleaching, then by all means, take this time to detox from those harmful practices. You should also avoid spending too much time in sunlight, or in saltwater or chlorine-treated pools, Friese informs us. If you can't resist taking a dip, wet your hair in the shower beforehand so your hair doesn't soak up too many harmful substances.
But if you, like me, consider your blow-dryer among your five best friends, then there are solutions for hooligans like us. If you are incapable of not scorching your hair at least a little, you need to take some precautions to at least make sure you're doing the least amount of damage. Gillen recommends using a lower heat setting on your blowdryer or flat-iron, and you should always use heat protectant. Schiek recommends the Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer ($399) for those of us who are unwilling to set down hot tools and want to use "healthy" blow dryers.
Also, if you're a faux-blonde or regularly bleach your locks, it might be a time to embrace the isolation and let your hair breathe a little. Plus, getting a glimpse of your roots will let you see how much growth you're really getting. For all my dyed ladies, roots are often a better measure of growth than looking at the ends.
When it's time to wash your hair, find shampoos and conditioners that are designed for strengthening, damage repair, or preventing hair loss. I personally have a head of hair that makes hair stylists say, "Wow, you have a lot of hair!" so I never considered that I'd need a product that encouraged more hair. But experts agree that the most common reason why you're not seeing your hair grow is because it breaks before getting to the length you want. Finding high-quality tools, like a stylish Mason Pearson brush ($240) can also help prevent breakage. In terms of products, Gillen recommends paying attention to the ingredients. Often, inexpensive products can contain ingredients that coat hair strands, which can cause damage and breakage. If you can, now might be the time to splurge on investment products.
Step 4: Avoid Cuts
The urban legend that frequent cuts makes hair grow faster is simply untrue. Maciques and Gillen both agree that leaving your hair alone and letting it grow without interference is the best thing you can do to achieve extra length. With salons closed and all of us unable to leave our homes, take this quarantine time to lock the scissors up and leave your hair alone.
The exception to this rule is damaged ends. There is essentially no time in my life where I've looked down at my locks and not seen a few split ends. I have naturally brittle, dry hair, which means that I have to treat it extra nicely to have it look healthy. "Split ends are the culprit that don’t allow hair to grow because the ends disintegrate on their own. Like ashes," Maciques warns. Gillen recommends "micro-trims": haircuts where only the dead ends are snipped off, leaving nourished, healthy hair that can continue to grow.
For me, this means that a few hours before my next shower, I'll throw on one of my favorite hair masques (or maybe DIY one – make a day of it!) and let my poor, tired locks soak in the goodness. Also, finding split-end treatments, like the Rita Hazan Triple Threat Split End Remedy ($30), can help as well.
Hair stylists, salon workers and small businesses are really suffering at the moment. While we're all navigating this new environment, if you can, please support these businesses and your go-t0 salon. Companies like R+Co are working very hard to support people and businesses by allowing you to purchase your favorite products from your local salon. Stylists and salon owners can also submit themselves to be part of the R+Co collective network. We all want to see these companies thrive and be there for us when this is all over. Your long locks will need a trim eventually!
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