1. Want longer hair? Trim it.
How often should you condition your hair? Every single time you get it wet in the shower, says Townsend. “Over time, coloring and heat styling cause strands to get thinner at the bottom,” he says. And that leads to more breakage and shorter strands. So to get your ends back to good health, load up on conditioner, which helps replace the lipids and proteins inside the hair shaft, as well as seal the outer cuticle. Basically, it’s your first defense against the damage that threatens your long-hair goals.
3. But don’t shampoo every day.
“It’s shocking to me how many women skip conditioner when showering, which is the worst thing you can do for your hair—especially when you’re trying to grow it long,” says Townsend. “In reality, it’s actually shampoo that you should be skipping as much as possible.”
Here’s why: The purpose of shampoo is to wash away dirt and product buildup, but most shampoos are filled with harsh soaps called sulfates, which strip away natural oils you need for long, healthy hair. When you really do need shampoo, make sure to to choose a sulfate-free formula and only lather up at your scalp, letting the suds slide down the rest of the hair as the water rinses it away.
According to Townsend, washing your hair with cold water at the end of your shower helps both when growing your hair longer and when maintaining the health of hair that’s already long. “Cold water lays down the outer layer of your hair more smoothly, which helps prevent moisture loss, snags, and heat damage,” he says. “You only need to do it for a few seconds, but this one extra step can make a huge difference over time.” Yeah, cold showers suck, but anything for longer hair, right?
5. Use a hair mask weekly.
If your hair is shoulder-length or longer, it’s already about 2 to 3 years old (weird, right?), which means it likely needs more TLC than a normal conditioner can give. And that’s where DIY deep-conditioning masks come in. “I make a natural oil treatment and give it to all of my clients to use pre-shampoo,” Townsend says. And trust me: It’s very easy to do at home. Just mix together the following ingredients for his easy hair-oil recipe:
Because oils can leave behind a residue, Townsend recommends applying it to damp hair—rather than soaking-wet hair—then leave it on for 10 minutes before shampooing and conditioning as normal to remove the oil. “These oils are able to fill strands up with fatty acids, even after they’re rinsed out,” he says. Not into DIY? Try one of these pre-made oil treatments.
6. Consider hair-growth supplements.
PSA: Hair supplements are not a miracle cure and should not be taken without talking to your doctor. I know, sorry, but hair vitamins aren’t regulated by the FDA, meaning they can contain whatever they want and claim whatever they want. That being said, if you don’t eat balanced meals or you’re in an intense period of stress or trauma, you might not be getting the proper amount of nutrients you need to grow healthy, long hair.
And in those uncommon cases, hair supplements might actually be beneficial (again, check with your doc first). “I personally take Viviscal Extra Strength and biotin supplements every day and tell my clients to do so as well,” says Townsend, “especially if they want to grow their hair and make it healthier as soon as it comes out of the follicle.” I’ll say it again for the people in the back: Before starting to take hair supplements, check in with your doctor to make sure that you take the right amount and that they won’t interact with any medications you’re currently taking.
7. Brush very, very gently.
Aggressive brushing can cause physical damage to your hair that will prevent it from ever looking long. Basically, if you can hear the sound of the brush crunching through your strands, you’re being too rough. And be especially careful when your hair is wet and more susceptible to breakage.
“When you detangle wet hair, be sure to start from the bottom and work your way up slowly,” says Townsend. “We often instinctually brush from the scalp down, but that just pushes small tangles into one large knot and can cause you to lose a lot of hair.” Instead of using whatever janky comb you’ve had since high school, Townsend suggests reaching for a natural boar-bristle brush, which helps gently distribute your scalp’s natural oils down the hair shaft (which means healthier, more moisturized strands).
8. Sleep on a silk pillowcase.
If you wake up with matted hair and tangles, your cotton pillowcase could be the culprit. Townsend recommends switching to a silk or satin pillowcase instead—it has a softer surface that won’t cause friction with your hair the way that regularly woven cotton does.
9. Don’t wrap your hair in a towel.
What could be so bad about putting hair in your super-plush bath towel? A lot. “It causes so much breakage,” Townsend says. “Your hair gets caught in all the woven fibers, and since most women almost always wrap it too tight around their head, all those tiny, fragile strands around your hairline are pulled taut and prone to breaking.” Opt for a T-shirt or a super-thin, microfiber hair towel instead (like Aquis microfiber hair towel), which are much better for wrapping.
10. Switch up your hairstyle.
Wearing your ponytail or topknot in the same place on your head every day causes your hair to break over time from the constant tension. Frequently changing your pony or bun placement is an easy move that can help maintain the strength of your strands, which means they’ll continue to grow out strong and damage free.
11. Bleach-blonde hair? Maybe not.
When you bleach your hair, it opens up the cuticle of your hair strands, causing significant damage—especially for those with darker hair—every single time. And hair that’s been color- or chemically treated is more likely to break off or split, which means more trims and less length for your. Are you sensing a theme here? Healthy hair = longer hair. Oh, and while I’m on the topic of damage…
12. Skip your hair tie.
One ponytail–one!–can give you what stylists refer to as a “chemical cut.” This might sound like an new, edgy cutting technique, but it’s actually what happens when your hair breaks off at the point of tension where the elastic hair tie is wrapped. YUP. But that doesn’t mean you’re banned from ever wearing your hair up again. Just switch out your hair elastics for claw clips, bobby pins, or larger pins instead.
13. Give the hot tools a break.
Put the hot tools down for a hot sec, k? Hair straighteners, curling wands, chemical relaxers, or any other treatment or style that causes a lot of damage to your hair will not help your long-hair cause. The healthier your hair is, the longer it will grow, and overuse of these tools are not conducive to long hair.
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