Thanks to my dad’s thick-ass hair and my mom’s bouncy curls, I was blessed with both thick strands and dense hair (as in, a lot per square inch). Growing up, this was a burden due to my hair’s general unmanageability and the fact that my pigtail braids were 2x the size of the cute blonde girls’. Coupled with the fact that I was a fat child, my big hair just made me feel even bigger than I already was (and we all know how charming middle school kids can be when it comes to your width). Because of this, I spent most of my youth, up through high school, straightening the life out of my hair. It would take about three hours from start to finish and would need to be done every other day when I washed my hair. In total, I would say I wasted about 160 days straightening my hair alone (I calculated that shit on Google). I could’ve played so much more Pokémon.
Since then, I’ve learned a lot about how to respect your hair and what you’ve been given to work with. Not only that, trends have changed. Thick, luscious hair is now coveted and there’s nothing I’m complimented on more than the huge, auburn-brown coif that used to shame me. People always want to know what my “secret” is and, since I’m the least secretive person in the world, I’m going to share everything I know with you guys. Please keep in mind that all hair is different and what works for me, may not work for you.
1. Never Wash Your Hair
Ok, not never, but VERY infrequently. The thicker your hair is, the longer it can go. The picture above, taken while using my boyfriend as a noble steed to pick stubbornly high-up apples, shows my hair after two weeks without washing it. I’m now on my third week and my locks are still going strong. It took me a while to get to the point where I could go this long, so make sure to start small by not washing for a couple of days and then add a day or two each time. Dry shampoo will be your best friend for those times when you’re pushing the filth threshold quite hard.
Why do this? It gives your scalp a chance to produce the natural oils that nourish and protect your hair. The longer you go, the more oil is produced and the farther down your hair is saturated. If you have long hair, it will probably never reach your ends entirely, but the oil will make the hair closer to your scalp grow into healthy, strong ends.
2. Get Frequent Cuts
This seems counterproductive, I know. As Aladdin once shyly asked Jasmine, “Do you trust me?” I’m fortunate enough to have an Aveda-trained friend, Ty, who lives close by and gives me frequent haircuts (holla at me NYC-ers if you want his info). He understands when I tell him I’m trying to grow my hair to my waist and to keep it as long as possible while still getting rid of what’s dead. It’s important to make your hair goals very clear to your stylist so that they will cut your hair with your future in mind.
A lot of people just go without a haircut until they reach their length goals. While you will reach your goal faster this way, the bottom 2/3rds of your hair will most likely be brittle and dry from split ends that were never remedied. Once a split starts, it can’t be repaired. Don’t let Pantene tell you that they’re going to make all your split ends disappear. They sit on a throne of lies. In between haircuts, although Ty frowns upon this, I take a pair of hair scissors and seek out any split ends and just give them a quick snip before they get any worse. This is called the “Search and Destroy” method and is favored by many long hair forums. I find it’s actually incredibly relaxing.
If you want to achieve my haircut specifically, which is the most voluminous I’ve been able to get below-boob length hair, you’ll want to ask your stylist to cut in lots of layers and keep the longest layer as long as humanly possible. It gives the hair a nice rounded shape and helps facilitate bounce and movement.
3. Pay Attention to Your Products
It’s hard to find hair products which are all-natural and, even if they are, they sometimes just don’t clean or condition quite right. I’ve found success in using Lush’s Godiva Solid Shampoo, Lush’s Big Shampoo, and Aveda’s Pure Abundance Shampoo and Conditioner. I switch between them depending on what mood I’m in during that shower. These brands are known for using minimal chemicals and preservatives which can harm hair in the long run. Organix is a cheaper, drugstore alternative that does not use sulfates or parabens. With the same ingredients as the Moroccan Oil brand (yes, I checked) and less than 1/3rd of the price tag, their line of moroccan oil is essential to my hair regime and is a product that I’ve repurchased about six times since I first discovered it. I apply a quarter-sized amount to wet hair post-shower and then reapply every morning to dry hair (dime-sized amount) and just to my parched ends and on any fly-aways to smooth them down.
I also use hair masks about once per month to give my hair an even deeper treatment than normal conditioning can give. I find that Lush’s H’Suan Wen Hua is an amazing hair mask containing fresh ingredients such as avocado, free range eggs, watercress, banana, vinegar, olive oil, and more! Of course, if you’re pressed for cash, you can easily buy the ingredients above and make your own hair mask. Come to think of it, feel free to do this with any hair mask out there on the market! Other ingredients that are amazing for hair include coconut oil, jojoba oil, honey, nut oils, henna, and herbs (think rosemary, mint, lemongrass, etc.). I usually leave these masks on for 45-ish minutes and tie a plastic bag over my hair to seal in any heat (which I find makes them work better but who knows, I could’ve made that up).
4. Don’t Dye or Fry
This isn’t to say I never style or color my hair, but just that I’m wise about it. I’ve dyed my hair everything from black to a deep red, but only using semi-permanent dyes or henna (except for one ombre-ing). These two types of dye do not contain as many of the extremely harmful chemicals that most permanent dyes contain. I would opt for henna over a semi-permanent dye as it’s actually good for your hair and more of a natural stain. If you find that you want to color your hair lighter, and therefore need to bleach it, carefully consider whether you’d prefer lighter hair or longer/fuller/healthier hair. This is not to say that you can’t have both but that for a lot of people, bleach can really damage the hair irreparably.
When I’m not letting my hair dry into its natural curl (pictured above), I use no-heat techniques to get softer waves. To get the look in the first, apple-picking picture, which is how I usually style my hair, I spritz my hair with water until it’s slightly damp (or partially dry it post-shower) and then either use Flexi-Rods or the headband tutorial (click the links to see how-to videos). Unfortunately, I don’t have any tutorials for those who want their hair completely straight, but I’m sure you can find some no-heat techniques on YouTube. I’m also careful to use only a wide-toothed comb to get out tangles when I’m still in the shower and in the conditioner stage. Hair is very fragile when wet, so you never want to use a brush on it. Use your brush only for gently combing out tangles in bone-dry hair.
I think that’s all I have! My longest layer just hit the bottom of my rib cage this weekend and so I’m pretty jazzed to be closer to my hair goals than ever before. If you have any hair-related questions, comments, or anything at all, feel free to hit me up in the comments section. I would love to help all Feminspire readers tame and accept their hair for the animal that it is.