5 Habits for
Long Healthy Hair
January 05th, 2018
Most of us have at one point or the other, bought into this myth that a particular product/range of products could be the solution to our long-term hair struggles. Sorry girls, they lied – but hey, that’s consumerism for you. The truth is, no matter how great a product does what it claims to do, what it cannot do is instantly make up for weeks, months or even years of malpractice that resulted in damaged hair.
No matter how religiously I apply my ‘MagikGro Ointment’, my hair will neither appear any healthier or longer if my ends are breaking off quicker than the hair shooting out of my scalp. When it comes to growing black hair long and healthy, the winning combination will always be ‘Practices over Products’ i.e. the haircare practices that you use will always be more crucial to healthy hair growth than the haircare products that you use.
Here are a few haircare habits that I have noticed long healthy haired girls have in common – some of which helped me to retain up to 21 inches of hair in just 3.5 years!
1. PROTECTIVE STYLING
These are simple hairstyles that require very low daily manipulation/re-styling and involve your ends being tucked away (as they are the oldest parts of our hair, and so need more care and protection from natural daily weathering). Care, however, should be taken with how they are installed. Braids needn’t be so tight that you end up looking like you’ve had a face lift, neither should your wig be worn directly on your head - without the barrier of a wig cap. Over time, abuse of such protective styles commonly cause traction alopecia (semi-permanent/permanent hair loss from stress on the hair).
2. MINIMAL/SMART HEAT STYLING
Most girls with healthy long hair tend to stay away from frequent an improper direct heat because no matter how resilient your hair is, with every time you apply heat you are increasing the risk and extent of permanent damage to the cuticle layer(s) that kept your hair so resilient and healthy to begin with. This will in turn affect the hair’s ability to withstand common daily manipulation, and even its ability to retain moisture – causing the hair to break more easily. Opting to do without heat, or getting into the habit of using heat infrequently, and with a good heat protectant, will greatly contribute to long term length retention.
3. GENTLE DETANGLING
Constant combing, detangling, and pulling knots apart do a lot more damage to our hair than we may realize. 9/10 times when we aggressively brush, or comb through our hair (especially where there are knots) we create split ends that cannot be repaired. Rough split ends catch onto other good hairs to create more tangles and knots = more breakage. Now for our kinky/coily haired girls, avoiding knots may be impossible, but gentle detangling is not. Using a wide toothed comb, or even your fingers, will go a long way to minimizing mechanical damage. And, having a pair of hair shears handy to use to cut loose any stubborn knots, is better for continued hair health. Blunt ends are always better than split ones.
4. TRIMMING – ONLY WHEN NECESSARY
Growing up, I remember the dreaded monthly/6-weekly trim at the salon where about (what felt like) 1/3 of my hair would be chopped off to “make it grow faster”. But then it dawned on me…If hair grows an average of 1/2 an inch per month, surely, it’s sheer madness to trim 1/2 an inch off my ends every month, right? Trimming quarterly instead will train you to do so with intentionality, and not just to tick a box. But here’s the caveat; extra care must be taken to protect your ends from damage in order to afford the luxury of trimming only 3-4 times a year. Adopting the other habits on this list helps to extend time between trims.
The most important habit of all. Hair can only give back to you what you put in. As black hair is naturally more fragile than that of other races (whether relaxed or natural), we’ll need to form a habit of patience when handling it in order to prevent breakage and ensure length retention. Similarly, you cannot expect to put in one week’s worth of good haircare practices and see one year’s worth of results. Good things (with lasting results) take time. You may not be able to see it straight away, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Adopt a healthy haircare regimen, focus on developing good haircare habits, and the length will creep up on you quicker than you will realize.
Making a habit stick never happens overnight, this is why consistency is key. You will have to be disciplined for the first few weeks/months, but eventually these practices will become habits. And, we all know what they say about old habits…they die hard. Once you get the hang of them, it’ll become hard to stop. So, why not make your good habits ‘die hard’.