A Hair-y Post

A comment on a recent hair post led me to consider sharing some of the secrets that I’ve discovered for shiny, healthy hair. I don't consider my hair to be anything wonderful but DH loves it long and so I keep it long and do all that I can to keep it looking healthy. So here are my tips (most are not specific to long hair so even if your hair is short you might find something that will work for you that you never considered before):

1. Natural versus Chemical. Sadly a lot of the chemicals we put in our hair from shampoos to dyes to styling products all have the potential to harm our hair. Some hair copes better with chemicals than others but I believe that all chemicals cause damage. Hence I limit my use of styling products, avoid chemical dyes completely, and use a natural shampoo and conditioner. However natural hair products can be more expensive. To keep costs down I dilute our shampoo 1:1 with herbal tea (I could dilute it even more but I find this ratio keeps it at a good consistency – you don’t want it so runny that it runs off your head before you’ve even massaged it in) and only use conditioner once a week. By the way, hair doesn’t need to be washed every day. The more we wash our hair the move oil it produces to compensate and it becomes a vicious cycle. I wash all my hair once a week but every second day do a scalp wash (instructions here). If your hair is mid-back and you’ve never tried scalp washes you should: it’s the best way I know of having shiny clean hair without drying out the ends through over-washing;

2.Herbs. I dilute my shampoo with a tea made from chamomile (from a teabag) and rosemary (from our garden). Rosemary supposedly brings out the highlights and shine in brunettes and I must admit that I’ve found it so. I also use rosemary and sage (also good for dark hair) in apple cider vinegar but this is more to mask the smell than anything else although of course it would help. There are many other herbs that can add shine or have some other beneficial properties for hair. Blondes might like to try chamomile in place of rosemary to naturally enhance their colour (chamomile also has a mild cleansing action which is why I use it to dilute my shampoo);

3. Vinegar. At the end of washing my hair I always finish with a rinse of 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (blondes or those with a lot of silver can use white vinegar) in 3-4 cups of water. I pour it over my hair, leave for approximately 20-30 seconds, then rinse out. It prevents hard water deposits building up and will increase shine. And the smell does go away once the hair dries;

4. Honey. I mentioned the benefits of honey previously, but I'm going to recap here. There are two ways in which I use honey. The first is to dissolve 1-2 tablespoons honey in warm water and pour over the hair after shampooing to leave hair shiny and soft. This step and the one above can be done together (that is you can add your vinegar to the water with the honey). The second is to mix equal parts conditioner and honey, heat gently, and apply to the hair for at least 5 minutes (the longer the better), then rinse out. If you've never experimented with using everyday kitchen ingredients in your hair care routine, this is a great place to start. You might be amazed at the results;

5. Healthy eating. You are what you eat and this is certainly true when it comes to your hair. You can’t expect beautiful hair if you exist on a diet of caffeine and sugar. Instead, eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts (especially almonds and I’m not saying that just because I happen to love them), seeds, and olive oil and limit caffeine, sugar, red meat. And be sure to drink lots of water;

6. Sleep and exercise. Our bodies need both for good health and as mentioned previously, our hair reflects our inner health which is why this one and the one above are so important (by the way, this is one where I need to practice what I preach);

7. Styling tools. Not every one will agree with me on this one and I think it depends a lot on your hair type (for example a lot of curly hairs never use a brush) but I don't know where I would be without my natural boar bristle brush. I believe that gentle daily brushing with the right brush can remove dirt and lint and increase shine. However there is definitely no need for the 100 strokes of grandmother’s day. Other items that I like to use include a wooden comb and a Mason Pearson comb. Neither of these combs have seams or sharp edges that snag hair - a big plus when you're trying to grow hair long and don't want a ton of split ends;

8. Regular trims. By trimming the hair to remove split and damaged ends which can look dull and lifeless, the remaining hair is healthier and thus more beautiful. I regularly take a pair of sharp scissors and carefully snip off any split ends that I find (in the long hair world this is called ‘search and destroy’ or ‘S&D’) but I also like to trim approximately every 8-12 weeks depending on the condition of my hair. I can tell just by the feel of it whether I’m due for a trim or not. It’s amazing what a difference just removing ¼” can make;

9. Oil. This is perhaps more for those with long hair although those with short hair that has been over-processed or damaged may find oiling helpful. There are lots of different oils that can be used (coconut, olive, almond, jojoba, grapeseed, apricot, etc) and it can be largely a matter of trial and error. Start with the least expensive ones (perhaps one that is already in your pantry) and see how it goes. I love almond oil. I’ve tried olive and coconut and jojoba (made my hair feel crunchy) but keep coming back to almond with just a few drops of lavender essential oil to make it smell gorgeous (and it might even help me sleep better – who knows?). There are almost as many ways to oil as there are oils. Some like to oil heavily several hours or more (overnight works well) before washing; others like to gently heat the oil and apply to the hair, leave for an hour, then shampoo out; others like to apply oil to freshly washed and still damp hair; while others oil perfectly dry hair several times a week. I’m in the latter category. To oil I first divide my hair in half. Then I place a drop of oil onto the palm of my hand, rub my hands together, then slide my hands (which have just the barest sheen of oil on them) along my hair from the ears down. I then repeat this on the other half. Sometimes I’ll add an extra drop of oil and just touch up the ends of my hair, depending on how my hair feels. I have found that oiling protects the hair from the elements and keeps it moisturised and soft. But be warned: it is very easy to overdo it when oiling and end up looking like a grease-ball (this is one time where less is definitely more). Applied correctly the oil shouldn’t be noticeable at all - if you can see or feel it, you’ve used too much;

10. Gentle handling. Unfortunately for some, this means throwing away your heat appliances (hair dryers, straighteners, curling wands) or only using them occasionally. Very few can attain healthy long hair by regularly using such appliances. Sorry, but it's true. Since I've never been a fan of any, this one isn't too difficult for me, although I do on occasion blow dry my fringe (bangs). Other forms of rough handling (such as backcombing, ripping through the hair, brushing wet hair) can break down the integrity of the hair, causing damage and resulting in hair that over time becomes dull and lifeless. So please be gentle.

A few more tips for those wanting to grow their hair long:

a. Hair grows at a rate of approximately 1/2" (1.2cm) per month. Some hair naturally grows faster and some have reported increased growth with various nutritional supplements but for the majority of us our hair grows at the same maddeningly slow speed month after month. Patience is the key. Some people also report times of no growth. This happened to me when I hit waist and I know of others that have had the same experience. As long as hair isn't breaking off due to damage (thus appearing not to grow) then this is nothing to be concerned about. It usually does start growing again. This is different to terminal which is the length at which an individual's hair will grow to and no further. I suspect few people know what their own personal terminal length is (for years I thought mine was waist but I've proved that wrong);

b. Protect hair from the elements and from damage by wearing braids, updos (buns) etc. This doesn’t mean that you can never wear it down but there are times (when it’s windy, when it’s likely to get caught, when you work with children) that it’s just safer and wiser to contain it somehow;

c. Hair-safe hair ties. Avoid those with metal clasps and hair toys (accessories) that can cut or damage the hair. Accessories that are hair safe include hair sticks, Flexi-8, Ficcares, scarves, covered hair elastics, ribbons, barrettes with genuine French mechanism, leather hair accessories, and probably many others that I don’t yet know about (and my husband probably doesn’t want me to know about as they all cost money!);

d. Bed time. Some prefer to sleep on a satin or silk pillowcase; some like to wear their hair in braids or another style to bed; some even use a satin sleep cap. This is one that I think is a matter of personal choice. I prefer not to wake up and find myself pinned to the bed because either my husband or I are lying on my hair, so I tend to wear braids. It also stops tangles and makes combing out so much easier in the morning;

e. Support. It can be lonely growing your hair long when everyone else sports the latest hair dos. The solution? Find a like-minded friend and support each other.

So that’s it. I'm no expert but these are a few things that have helped me over the years as I've progressed from this:

to this:

to this:

to this:


Noel said…
I didn't know there were so many natural ways to take care of hair. Thanks for the post - can't wait till my hair grows out, but I have a feeling it's going to be a loooooong process :)
Jen said…
Jules, that was such a wealth of information! I am going to try the chamomile tea with the shampoo! I already dilute my shampoo, but have never tried it with tea before. Do you dilute it right before you use it, or do you dilute it ahead of time after you make the tea and just leave it in your shower? I am thinking the support is a big thing. I haven't been on the Loom much lately.
Jen said…
I forgot to mention that I love the picture of you from the front! You are beautiful!! You sure don't look old enough to be a grandma. I would have guessed you as being my age!
Daisy said…
You are certainly doing something right, because your hair is beautiful Jules! By the way your handsome son down below has a lot of your features, I can see you in him ... and yaaay for another baby girl!
busymomof10 said…
Beautiful hair! Great tips! :)
SchnauzerMom said…
Wow your hair looks gorgeous. Thanks for all the advice.
Jules said…
Hi Noel, it can seem like a long process at times but this was where I found the support of others really helpful. Not only did we share tips and ideas but each month we'd measure our hair to see how much it had grown. If that seems a little extreme I must admit I wasn't too sure about it in the beginning, but it is a good way to mark progress.

Jen, I bought two squirty bottles and half fill them with shampoo, then top up with herbal tea. Then I just keep them in the bathroom. But there are 5 people in my household that use them so I probably have to refill them every 2-3 weeks. You could mix up a smaller amount. I tried keeping just herbal tea in the refrigerator but it went bad. I've not had any problems with my shampoo going bad even when it's been diluted with herbal tea. I suspect the preservatives in the shampoo do their job very effectively.

Thanks for the compliment. That's the photo that I've chosen to go on my book cover. I've been nervous about showing my face but I thought it was about time I got over that. BTW, I don't look like that in everyday real life. Far from it unfortunately.
Jen said…
Thanks for the info! I am going to mix it up today and try it tomorrow morning :). I am so excited for you about all the wonderful things going on in your life! Jules!! This is such an exciting time for you! Your book, your son's graduation and engagement, your new grandbaby coming..wow! What awesome blessings :)! I am so happy for you :).
April said…
Hi Jules, I must say that is the most beautiful picture of you. I'd not seen your face except for in the tiny one where it's very hard to see you. This picture reminds me so much of your wedding day face. I agree with Jen; you don't seem to have aged much at all!

And your hair is looking beautiful as well!