Manetaining long hair

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Some of you will know that I have very long, thick hair.  I am often asked how I maintain it and told I am so lucky to have it!  I am very lucky to have had naturally thick hair all my life.  However, the way in which I maintain it helps it to be healthy and stay long and strong.  Here are my haircare tips!  Please remember that there is a spectrum of hair care obsession and I am up towards the obsessed end.  These are the things that I do, most of which have been added to my haircare list in the last three years.  They won’t work for everyone, and will depend on your hair type.  My hair is naturally wavy, thick (both thick strands and a lot of hair), dark, and wiry.  I have to manage its wiriness and used to have to manage frizz and flyaway on the top layer.

The list!
1.  Avoid using heat tools.  Anything that burns your skin (including the sun) will burn your hair.  Burning your hair means depriving it of its moisture, which allows it to be elastic and strong.  When hair is continuously deprived of moisture it becomes brittle and breaks easily.  I used to straighten my shoulder blade-length hair everyday and it never got any longer.  I soon realised it was still growing well, but was breaking and splitting at the ends.
2.  Establish a haircare routine.  Work out how often you need to wash your hair and what products work well in your hair.  I only need to wash my hair twice a week because I have a dry scalp.  Washing your hair strips it of its natural oil (sebum), so washing too frequently may cause dry hair and scalp.
3.  Only use a comb.  Yep, I know it feels awesome to scratch your scalp with a brush, but they have a nasty habit of breaking your hair.  Always comb from the bottom of your hair up to the scalp in small sections and if you find a knot, use your fingers to untease it.  Take your time to minimise breakage.  If you’re hearing any ripping or catching sounds as you comb, you’re potentially breaking your hair.  Go slowly and carefully, treat your hair like silk.
4.  Tie it up with the right ties!  Your hair will be well protected tied up, but it depends on the styling you choose.  Try not to overstyle your hair as you may cause breakage at the roots.  If you always wear your hair in a pony tail or a plait, vary where you place the band so you don’t cause breakage in one spot.  The band!  Use the right hair bands.  This one’s a must because if you have hair bands or ties that have metal clasps or glued ends they will tear your hair.  Generally, I avoid all metal clasps and clips and only wear them infrequently.  Bobby pins or bun pins with a moulded rounded end are fine, but once the tip comes off they will break your hair.

5.  Use coconut oil!  There are many different types of hair oils you can use.  Cactus oil is good for hair loss, as is the intake of zinc in food or a supplement.  Almond and jojoba oils, along with argan oil are commonly used for softening hair and providing extra moisture.  I use organic coconut oil from the cooking aisle (yep it’s the same as the expensive hair oils) because I like how well it works in nourishing my hair.
6. Trim.  There’s mixed reviews about trimming hair.  Some say to trim every six weeks, others say not to trim at all.  I think it’s about finding the right balance for your hair.  If you trim every six weeks you may just be cutting off the hair that you’ve grown in those six weeks and you won’t end up with any growth.  If you leave it too long, you’ll end up with split ends and they may cause weakening and breakage up the hair shaft.  The way I worked it out was to ensure adequate nourishment to my hair through the use of oils and adequate nutrition and when I noticed a few split ends (tiny tiny ones!) I’d make an appointment with my hair dresser.  It usually takes me about five months to find split ends and my hair grows about five centimetres during that time.
7. Find the right hair dresser!  The hairdresser who listens is the right one!  If you want your hair in a certain style and they don’t listen, you don’t know what you’ll end up with.  Beware the scissor-happy hairdresser!  I’ve finally found a fantastic hairdresser who only cuts about five millimetres off my hair when I ask for a trim.  I’ve had a number of bad experiences with hairdressers who cut off a few inches (INCHES!) because they’re not listening or see long hair and instantly want to chop it off.  In finding the right one, I asked ‘can you cut a centimetre off my hair?  JUST a centimetre?’.  If the answer was anything but ‘yes’ then I moved right along.  If the answer was yes and I found inches of hair missing, I’ve complained.  Once you find the right hairdresser, stick with them.
8. Maintain good nutrition.  Hair, skin and nails are the last to receive any nutrition we put into our bodies.  They are less important than organs and muscles (or so the body thinks). Maintaining not just adequate but good nutrition helps to keep hair strong and healthy.  There are supplements that can reduce hair loss and improve hair elasticity, strength and growth, but they are not required if you maintain good nutrition.
My routine!
1. Every night I scoop a teaspoon of coconut oil into the palm of my hand and run it through the last four inches of my hair.  I comb it and plait it overnight in the winter and a loose bun on top of my head in the summer.
2. In the morning, I comb it through using a detangler if necessary.  The oil from the night before has soaked in.  If you find the oil hasn’t soaked in all the way try using less oil.  Since my hair reached my hip length I started to comb out each portion of my braid as I untied it to prevent knots forming.  Then, I tie my hair up for the day.
3. The night before I wash it, I run coconut oil through the hair from the nape of my neck to the ends.  It looks and feels oily.  If you’re worried about your pillow case having oil on it you can either put a spare, old pillow case on or oil your hair in the morning before you wash.  For optimum results, oil overnight and wash in the morning.  Don’t use a towel on your pillow case because it’s too rough and can cause breakage.
4. The morning of the wash!  I comb through my hair, that still has excess oil in it.  I use tepid warm water and rinse all of my hair.  I then use a natural shampoo massaged into my scalp only (not the length of my hair).  I leave the shampoo to sit on my head while I put some conditioner in the ends of my hair.  I wash myself while I let the shampoo clean my hair and the conditioner soak in.
5. When I rinse, I use tepid warm water, letting it run from the scalp to the ends of my hair.  The conditioner helps protect the ends of my hair from becomming dry as the shampoo runs over it.  The excess shampoo running the length of the hair clean the hair shaft and tips.  After I have rinsed all of my hair, I shampoo and condition again.
6. After the second rinse, I squeeze my hair with two hands to let excess water run off.  I never rub my hair or bunch it up to squeeze it.  When hair is wet, it is especially vulnerable to breakage so you need to be extra careful!
7. Out of the shower, I use a microfibre towel to squeeze excess water out and then apply a moisturizing treatment (once a week) to the hair from the nape of my neck to the ends.  I twist it into a bun and put on a shower cap.  The shower cap keeps my hair from falling, stops any treatment residue from going on my clothes and allows the heat from my head to activate the moisturiser.  I leave the treatment in for 15 minutes or longer, depending on what I’m doing.
8. I hang my head over the bath and rinse my hair with tepid water until the treatment is rinsed off.  I squeeze and add conditioner then put the showercap back on.
9. After about five minutes, I rinse my hair with cold water.  Cold water helps to give hair a lovely shine when it is dry.
10. I squeeze my hair to remove all dripping water then wrap the microfibre towel around it and squeeze gently.  I wear it out or in a loose braid until it is dry.  I am very careful with it as it dries because I don’t want to have any breakage.
11. Before my hair is totally dry I add a split end mender serum and a heat protectant straightening serum to the ends of my hair to help with its elasticity and reduce the heat to which is naturally exposed.
12. Once my hair is dry, I comb through and style as desired.

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