If you have long hair (meaning several inches below your shoulders or longer) you probably have already noticed that your tresses need some extra-special care that shorter haircuts don’t require. Many beauty magazines make recommendations for hair care that are well meant, but these suggestions are not one-size-fits-all. Here are two rules you can break, and one rule never to break.
Rule #1: Only use combs or “vent brushes” on your long hair, because bristle brushes cause split ends and breakage.
This actually isn’t a bad rule to follow 90 percent of the time. It is better to carefully comb out any snarls or knots in your hair, and to use “vent brushes” to comb your hair on a day-to-day basis. Natural or man-made bristle brushes can cause split ends or breakage, especially if your hair isn’t entirely dry when you use them, or if you over-use these brushes.
However, if you have long hair and want to prevent the ends from becoming dry, brittle and split, you should wash it less often than folks with shorter hair do. At most, you should be washing your locks every other day, and many owners of long hair only wash their hair once or twice a week. While this will keep dryness and breakage to a minimum, this can sometimes lead to unsightly greasiness at the scalp.
The solution to the greasy look is the boar hair brush. Used sparingly, this type of bristle brush will keep your hair looking shiny and healthy all the way to the tips. With several dozen strokes, this type of brush will redistribute the oil at the scalp all the way to the tips of your hair. The brush can often tame frizziness during humid weather as well. I keep a boar hair brush in my desk at work, and when my hair is looking frizzy or greasy, I take it to the restroom and run it through my hair for twenty strokes or so, leaving my hair looking much more professional and put-together in mere minutes.
Rule #2: Only use conditioner on the tips of your hair.
If you’re using a two-in-one combined shampoo and conditioner product, please stop right now! Get yourself a good shampoo for your hair type (dry or oily? straight or curly?) and a separate conditioner, also suited for your particular hair type. It may seem like an unncessary extra step in your hair care routine, but combination products are generally inferior. You also don’t have to spend a lot of money on these products. Suave, for instance, makes inexpensive but acceptable shampoos and conditioners, though my personal preference is for Pantene’s “Hydrating Curls”, which helps cut down the frizziness in my long, wavy hair.
If you’re already using a separate shampoo and conditioner, you’ve probably heard the advice to only condition the tips of your hair, and to keep conditioner away from your scalp. The reasoning behind this is that too much creamy conditioner at the scalp will weigh your hair down and make it look greasy and limp. While this is true if you pile on the conditioner and don’t rinse it out well, it’s not true if you condition it properly. Also, using a small amount of conditioner at the roots and on your scalp may help with they dry itchiness you can often experience in cold, dry weather conditions.
The best way to condition your hair is to squeeze a dollop the size of a quarter (or more if your hair is exceptionally long) into one hand, rub it onto your other hand, and slowly “walk” your hands up your hair from the tips to the roots, smoothing the conditioner in as you go. By the time you get to your roots, you’ll only have a trace of conditioner on your hands, and this is the perfect amount to massage into your roots and scalp. If you do experience a greasy look, back off with the amount you use next time, or try dabbing at your roots with a cotton ball soaked in apple cider vinegar if you’re in between washes.
Rule #3: Never comb or brush your hair when it’s wet.
This is the one rule to always keep! If you want to keep your long hair long, avoid combing or brushing it while wet at all costs. Your hair is more elastic and fragile when it’s wet, and It’s much easier to cause breakage and split ends when you groom hair that isn’t dry. Using brushes when your hair is wet is an especially bad idea.
If at all possible, wait until your hair is at least 90 percent dry (just barely damp to the touch) before combing. If you are in a huge rush and don’t have time to let your hair dry, it’s acceptable to gently comb it with your fingers or a wide-toothed comb, but use the combs sparingly and don’t over-comb.
If you keep in mind the rules you can break and the one you shouldn’t, you’ll be well on your way to a maintaining your fabulous head of long hair.