The comment to which I refer above, is the most common question I get, especially when a client has managed to grow their hair longer after having a shorter cut for an extended period. "Why am I losing so much hair?"
Well, the answer is almost always, "You're not." I know it seems too simple, but really, it's almost always true. Several factors go into this syndrome. The first, and foremost, is that the hair is longer (duh). When hair is short and you wash or brush it, it doesn't ball up, or clump together. This means it goes down the drain easier, it falls out of your brush or comb easier, and it doesn't tangle in your fingers when you run them through it, giving the impression that you are losing more hair, when in truth you are just seeing more hair. Oh, and one other thing, when you do see that wad of hair in the drain, or on your brush, count them. You'll find that it's not that many hairs there, they're just longer than they used to be!
Another topic that comes up a lot, "Does it really help my hair grow faster if I get a regular trim?" No...well yes, but really, no. It's just one of those wishy-washy answers that really is more along the lines of "kinda". It absolutely does not "cause" your hair to grow faster. Nothing known to medical science "causes" hair to grow faster. No shampoos, no diet supplements, not gelatin capsules, and no ritualistic dances that I am aware of can do that. A trim does, however, help your hair stay healthy, which makes it seem to grow faster. If your hair splits or frays, the only cure is cutting. And wether you call it a trim, or a cut, it's still cutting length off. And by the way, there's no difference between a trim and a cut. It's just a matter of semantics. When someone says, "It needs a health trim, but don't take off any length!", they are being non-sensical. That's why you go to a professional, we know how to interpret "non-sensical". Keeping your hair trimmed regularly, however, allows it to keep growing in a healthy manner (I recommend 6 to 12 weeks for gaining length, depending on the strength and growth rate of the hair). Split ends can travel fast enough once started that you may lose more hair to the trim over time than you can grow, whereas with a regularly scheduled trim you should end up with a net gain over time.
Something that always amuses me, is when a client says to me that their hair was sooo long when they were younger, so they are positive that they can grow it long again. "How long?", I ask, "Oh, down to my waist." is a common answer. But remember how tall you were back then? When you are three feet tall, down to your waist is somewhere around one and a half feet in hair length. Where does a foot and a half of hair hit you now? If you are still around three feet tall you should have no problem with the length. Somewhere above four and a half feet tall? Well, not so much, set your expectations to a more realistic length.
The life cycle of the hair is something that I often discuss with my clients because it's very helpful in understanding why you may, or may not, be able to get your hair much past your shoulders. Each individual strand of hair on your head lives somewhere around two to three years before dropping out and allowing a new hair follicle to take its place. If we also take into account the average growing time for hair, half an inch a month, we can come to a rough estimate of about 6 inches a year. Thus giving us an average of 18 to 22 inches for maximum hair length (on most "average" people). Throw curly or wavy hair into the mix, and the odds of getting your hair to a length past your shoulders without having a stringy, frayed mess is just that much lower.
Shampoos and conditioners are where a lot of people in my industry are going to be a bit disappointed in me. Shampoos and conditioners are not worth spending a fortune on. They will not grow hair faster, fix split ends, or repair dry and damaged hair. Nothing will fix hair, it's dead. Think of hair as a silk shirt. Now imagine that you wear that silk shirt every day, with the resulting washing, drying, and maybe ironing. A good detergent will help keep it from fading, but with that much wear, you know that shirt is going to be a ratty mess after 365 days of constant use. What you would do would be to protect your shirt, and treat it as gently as possible in the first place, because once that shirt starts to fray, you won't be able to fix it will you? Don't get me wrong, however, I do have shampoos that I love and recommend, but mostly it's due to their styling benefits, price, and user experience (scent, lather, texture). Our products cost the same as the ones you buy at the grocery store, and you get my and my staffs recommendations and guarantee. A good shampoo and/or conditioner will make your hair feel better on a daily basis (I particularly like leave-in conditioners that help protect the hair as much as make it feel soft and tangle free).
How should you deal with your hair when growing it out? Here's a list that may help:
- Brushing: NO, no, no, DO NOT, on a daily basis brush your hair! That's right, I said don't. A hundred strokes a day will not keep your hair healthier, quite the opposite, it will trash your hair. Brushing through hair stretches the hair strand, and rips through tangles in such a way as to create split ends. The benefits of the natural oils in your hair being distributed throughout the hair-shaft is totally wasted when causing stretching, breaking, and split ends. (see trimming above)
- Detangling: Only detangle freshly conditioned, damp hair with a wide tooth comb. That's what a wide tooth comb is designed for. If brushing dry hair is bad, brushing, or vigorously combing wet hair is even worse! Wet hair has the capacity to stretch up to 50% of its length, which is great usually, but stretching and pulling that same shaft on a daily basis will just degrade and weaken it. Use a leave-in detangling conditioner and wide tooth comb outside the shower, or a good rinse out detangler/conditioner and wide tooth comb in the shower.
- Chemical Services: Smoothing treatments, straightening treatments, and perms are a no-no. Many stylists will disagree with me here, but in my opinion, any chemical treatment to make your hair easier to style, will just make it easier to damage in the long run. Just be patient, and learn to deal with your own unique hair type.
- Ponytails, etc: Avoid pulling your hair back. Yes, without a doubt the hardest part of growing length is how much it gets in your way; and so you reach for the pony tail holder, clip, scrunchy, or whatever to deal. But this is a situation I see again and again: breakage. When you pull your hair back, you will end up with a very distinct line where the pony holder is stressing your hair little by little every day. Metal clips are the worst, pony holders a close second, and headbands a ways behind that. If you absolutely must pull it back, use a very soft scrunchy, or a cloth headband. Oh, and when you pull it back regularly, you also risk breaking fine hairs around your face.
- Your Pillow Is Fighting You: Silk/satin pillows will do wonders for your hair. Really. Hair is actually pretty fragile in many ways, and laying your head on a cotton pillowcase rubs against your hair day after day, roughing up the cuticle, creating frizziness, flyways, and even a bit of breakage. A cap would be ideal, but a silk/satin pillowcase will work, too. This is especially true for naturally curly hair, by the way.
- What's The Game Plan: One issue people don't often think about, have a goal. Yes, very important, have a goal, and stick to it. If you have a goal, you know when you've reached it. I always advise my clients to shoot for a particular length and style, once you get there you can change your direction, but having a finish line helps keep you focused.
- Get Help: Probably the most important factor in growing your hair out? Find a good stylist you trust, and see them on a regular basis. Having a good stylist on your side will not only help keep your hair healthier, but they can also help you deal with the issue of daily styling. The bangs are bugging you? How about a longer side-swept bang for a change? Hair's too heavy and falls in your face too much? Maybe some long (or short) layers? Hair is looking thin or scraggly on the ends? Maybe less layers. I'm sure getting your hair cut is scary when growing length, but I can absolutely guarantee you, getting frustrated with it will just lead you to the big chop eventually.
One last thing, ask questions! If you are in doubt, ask your stylist for help. That is our job after all, and we love doing it. I've yet to meet a single client who asked me to help them grow their hair out who didn't succeed. They may not have liked having long hair long term, but I can sure as heck get them there!