A No Bullshit Guide for Growing Long and Healthy Hair

Do you struggle with your hair? I always have. I look at other women who have consistently beautiful hair, especially those with long, shiny locks, and I stave off waves of jealousy.

Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande told reporters her hair was so weak and damaged that she depended on hair extensions. This larger-than-life ponytail has become her signature look.

I frequent one of the best hairstylists in the country, I’ve tried not washing my hair for months, I’ve used zillions of different chemical-free and chemical-filled products, but I still spend most of the month lamenting how my hair looks, watching the split ends multiply, and scratching my scalp. And I’m just thinking: it really shouldn’t be this hard, right?

Those of you who are saying “actually it’s quite easy! I have my routine down and my hair always looks good!” you can get out of here right now. For the rest of us still looking for the perfect formula to nourish and love our hair, here’s a guide written by Helpless Hair Dummy aka me:

    1. Everyone’s hair is different. Extremely different. Our ancestry, or climate, our diet, the season, the place we live: they all affect our hair and what it needs. Therefore it is extremely difficult for one blogger to give advice to everyone in the world about their hair. There is no one-size-fits-all formula. The depressing truth is that we each have to figure out our own formula through trial and error (or by tracking down family members with the same hair to teach you!) 
    2. The primary thing your hair needs in order to grow longer is: moisture. Especially at the ends. If it doesn’t have enough moisture at the ends, it will split. There’s multiple ways to get moisture down there – the easiest is by bringing the oil that your scalp naturally produces down onto the tips of your hair with a powerful bristle brush like this one or this one. If brushing all day every day still isn’t enough (it’s not for me, especially in dry climates), then you need to add moisture. Take your pick! Jojoba, coconut, argan, or one of the chemical varieties, if you prefer. I have to put oil on the ends of my hair way more often than I want to. It seems like my hair strands are actually just straws and as soon as I put oil on the ends it sucks the oil up to my scalp. But you cannot stop, you must make sure the ends of your hair are moisturized to prevent split ends!
    3. The other thing your hair needs to be strong/long/whatever is a healthy scalp. This means regular stimulation (brushing and massage), cleansing (away chemicals and dead stuff), and not stripping it of all its healthy oils. I use New Wash as a shampoo and I think the reason it has such a huge
      KM WEdding Hair.png
      On my wedding day I opted for a side-part and a low bun, essentially eliminating any attention to my hair.

      following is because it tells you to massage your head on the bottle three times. Many women believe their hair grows faster after they go to the salon. And it does. The reason? The massage while they’re washing your hair! So brush your hair and scalp all the time, and massage your scalp while you’re washing or conditioning. If you do that and still have dandruff than its worth seeing a medical professional about liver issues (been there, done that). 

    4. Oh and the OTHER thing your hair needs is nutrients. That means you have to eat nutrients and then have them magically come through your body and out through your follicles into your hair. Yes – internal supplements and your diet does affect your hair, over time. If you are very healthy your body can expend energy making beautiful hair. If you aren’t getting the right nutrients or your body is fighting infections, allergies, removing toxin, then its less likely to have energy to make your hair beautiful. Long hair is a long-term relationship given the fact that the bottom one-inch of my hair came out of my head probably 10 years ago (my hair grows very slowly, due to afore mentioned infections, allergies, and toxins.) Luckily there are other benefits to ingesting healthy foods and plenty of water, but this is essential for long healthy hair.
    5. Don’t hurt your hair by ripping it or burning it. This is probably obvious to most of you but it wasn’t to me. As an athlete I was always throwing my hair into a tight ponytail, falling asleep in a messy bun, and then looking at my fly-aways wondering where the heck they came from. This advice is particularly for people with fine hair (as in small, weak pieces of hair, not as in “fine-ass Superwoman hair”):
      1. Don’t put your hair up into tight ponytail holders and go for a jog.
      2. Don’t sleep with your hair tied back so that when you roll at night it can rip. Either cover it completely with a scarf or let it down so it can move when you do.
      3. Don’t ever use your hair dryer or irons on their hottest setting. If it would burn your skin it’s burning your hair and for me that means basically not using heat at all.
      4. DO sleep with a silk pillow case like this one.
      5. DO let your hair air dry before styling, or at least use your blow dryer and irons on the lowest setting.
      6. DO brush your hair before you shower. Our hair is at its weakest when its wet so the less we do with it until its dry, the better.
    6. Hair cuts don’t really matter and products don’t really matter. What’s that L’Oreal? You’re revoking my sponsorship? Let me rephrase that… Haircuts are nice and very important when our hair is unhealthy or grows out lopsided or we prefer a high-maintenance look. Haircuts can also be symbolic and spiritually meaningful when we do them with intention or to signify a change. But a cut and style once every few months does very little compared with all the aforementioned steps we should be doing (brushing, oiling, not attacking, eating things) every day. And of course, finding the right products can be great. The wrong products can be very bad. Anything with sodium lauryl sulfate is stripping your hair and undoing any of the good things you’re doing up there. Most mainstream products are on the cancer-causing spectrum which in the long term could mean losing all your hair but in the short term doesn’t really matter. So I suggest finding products you love that don’t cause cancer but don’t stress about it until you 

If this feels overwhelming, just know that I’ve spent time inspecting people with long beautiful hair and it often is actually full of split ends just like mine is. So there may be some truth to simply not cutting your hair and seeing what happens. I can’t do that because I love my hair stylist too much and I’m too afraid to see what would happen if the split ends went all the way up the hair shaft and then my whole brain started splitting too.

The only thing left to say is that for many of us, brushing makes our hair look bad. In the short term anyway, it gets all puffy and weird. As a wavy-haired person, I think I went years not brushing my hair, just crossing my fingers that the whole thing would work itself out. The trick is to do it before bed, before showering, and/or before adding your moisturizing agent. But like my hair cutter, head stylist at several NY Fashion Week shows, told me: “Don’t ever stop brushing your hair again. Or washing it, for that matter.” Poor guy.

I am (quite obviously) not an expert and would love any additional information from you experts and beautiful-haired people out there!

P.S. If you want to next-level your hair, try doing a hair treatment of your choice (I like this one from La Tierra Sagrada) in a ritual context like the new or full moon.

Hair credit for top bar photos: Yazameenah Rossi, Lindsay Anne, Jessica Spellman by Nico Nordstrom, Tess Holliday, Jessica Gomez, and Crystal Westbrooks