Monday, May 23, 2011

Grow Long Hair and Keep it Healthy

Growing long, beautiful and healthy hair is not an extremely difficult process. It does not require a multitude of salon hair products, handfuls of expensive vitamins, nor any sort of sacrifice to the long hair gods. What it does take is common sense, dedication, and a lot of patience. Indeed, growing long hair is actually more a question of what you shouldn't do rather than what you should!



It is also important to keep in mind that just about everyone has a "terminal length" which is the longest your hair will grow based on the active growth period of your hair follicles (the growth cycle of individual hair follicles turns on and off as determined by your genetics). Nothing here can help you alter your genetically predetermined terminal length. That being said, you'd be surprised how incredibly often what was thought to be terminal length turns out to be nothing more than hair too damaged to continue to grow... an easily resolved issue!



Hair is composed of strong structural protein called keratin. This is the same kind of protein that makes up the nails and the outer layer of skin.
Each strand of hair consists of three layers.
  1. An innermost layer or medulla which is only present in large thick hairs.
  2. The middle layer known as the cortex. The cortex provides strength and both the color and the texture of hair.
  3. The outermost layer is known as the cuticle. The cuticle is thin and colorless and serves as a protector of the cortex.

Structure of the hair root

Below the surface of the skin is the hair root, which is enclosed within a hair follicle. At the base of the hair follicle is the dermal papilla. The dermal papilla is feed by the bloodstream which carries nourishment to produce new hair. The dermal papilla is a structure very important to hair growth because it contains receptors for male hormones and androgens. Androgens regulate hair growth and in scalp hair Androgens may cause the hair follicle to get progressively smaller and the hairs to become finer in individuals who are genetically predisposed to this type of hair loss.

Hair loss, extreme dryness or any sudden change in your hair's condition may be due to a medical condition, often thyroid issues. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is imperative that you seek advice from a qualified medical practitioner.

  • Because there is absolutely no way to repair damaged hair, you must start out with healthy hair to have healthy hair when it's long, there's no way around it. Bite the bullet and remove every inch of hair that is considerably damaged, reminding yourself that it's the most important step to take towards your goal and that this is the last time you will ever have to do it. damaged hair will only get worse as time passes, it is especially important your hair be in excellent condition from the very beginning. long damaged hair is never as pretty as shorter healthy hair and because healthy hair needs to be trimmed less often and doesn't break as easily, the result is much faster growth overall.

  •  Avoid using any heated appliances whenever possible. No blow drying, no curling irons, no hot rollers, and especially no flat irons o! If you absolutely must blow dry do so minimally, and contrary to popular belief, it is best to let your hair dry naturally for as long as possible and use the blow dryer just to finish it off at the end.If you insist on using curling irons, flat irons or crimpers on a daily basis, really long healthy hair isn't in your future. If you do use any kind of heat on your hair, be sure to use a product that will help protect your hair from it, but keep in mind that every time you apply heat you are likely to cause some damage.
  • Don't use any harsh chemicals on your hair. Definitely no perms and no peroxide! If you must color, use non peroxide color or 100% natural henna 
  •  Be *extremely* careful of what kind of hair jewelry you use and be sure to use only hair-safe accessories. Never use metal barrettes (the "French" style) and absolutely NEVER use rubberbands, they will tear your hair when you try to remove them. Avoid anything that has sharp or rough edges, such as plastic combs with rough seams or hair claws with metal hinges. Never put anything in your hair that attaches with Velcro or springs. If you take anything out of your hair and a significant amount of hair comes out with it, don't ever put it back in your hair. 
  •  Never put your hair in any kind of style that will put undue stress on the individual hairs... no tiny braids, no extremely tight coils. If you pull all or some of your hair into a braid or a ponytail to create your hairstyle, make sure it isn't pulled tight enough to put stress on the roots of your hair. Pulling hair tight repeatedly commonly results in bald patches! If you go after the long hair "quick fix" and put extensions in your hair, be forewarned that your own hair will likely be significantly more damaged when they are removed than it was to begin with. Also, if you choose to style your hair in locs or dreads, please consider it to be a permanent change. While the dreads themselves will remain healthy (in fact, many find this a great way to grow otherwise "ungrowable" hair), they unfortunately almost always have to be cut off to be removed and the hair involved usually cannot be "undreaded." If you do choose to wear your hair in locs, twists or braids, it's definitely a smart idea to use a braid conditioning spray to keep your hair in top condition.
  • Avoid extreme diets. If your body isn't getting enough nutrition, neither is your hair. Even if you try to avoid fat, it's essential that you don't completely eliminate all fat from your diet. Your hair (and body) will surely suffer for it. If you tend to restrict calories then be sure to take a multivitamin.
  • Become familiar with the ingredients in your styling products. Once you know what affects your hair positively or detrimentally, you will be able to effectively choose products that contain ingredients that are best for your hair type. For instance, some people find that their hair does not respond well to silicone (found in most "smoothing" or "anti frizz" products and many conditioning shampoos), if used over a long period of time. Any ingredient that ends with the suffix "cone" in the ingredient list is usually a silicone derivative and should be avoided by those sensitive to it. Also, it helps to clarify your hair as often as needed by rinsing with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water or using a clarifying shampoo to remove build-up of product in your hair and avoid the damage to the cuticle this can cause if left unchecked. While everyone should clarify regularly, this step is absolutely essential of you use products that contain silicone. Products that nourish your hair with natural ingredients that are available at most health food stores are excellent alternatives to the chemical-laden lines sold in salons.
  • Lessen the friction on your hair whenever possible. Don't sleep with your hair loose or if you must, use a satin pillow case
  • Hot oil treatments using pure natural oil  are a good alternative for very dry hair or for extra conditioning (but be forewarned, to some extent hot oil treatments will lift any non permanent color you've added). You might want to try washing and applying conditioner at night, wearing a shower cap to bed, and rinsing in the morning for a really intense conditioning treatment as well. A word to the wise... conditioning nights have been conclusively proven to be detrimental to romantic evenings with the significant other. Use this information to your own best advantage based on the current status of your relationship.
  •  If you wash your hair often or have very dry hair, you may want to consider using only conditioner to wash it on occasion(co-wash). If your hair isn't very dirty the conditioner will easily rinse away surface contaminants while allowing you to avoid daily use of the harsher solvents found in shampoo. If your hair is dry but you prefer to wash your hair less often, you might want to try using a cleansing conditioner in place of shampoo. Don't pile your hair on your head when you wash it, that's just asking for knots.

Do keep in mind that to growing long, healthy hair in which finding what works for you from experience rather than falling victim to a marketing ploy is the way to go. While an influx of exciting new products on the market apparently really can significantly strengthen your hair and make it less prone to damage and breaking (and thus making it grow faster), remember that nothing can actually permanently repair damaged hair no matter what it says on the package.