September 16, 2021 at 08:00AM
For the majority of my life, I haven’t had a particularly loving relationship with my hair. I always deemed it flat, fine and lifeless, and I longed for the sort of waves and curls that bounced as I walked. For the entirety of my pre-teen and teenage years, I experimented with countless hair trends (from an inverted bob with fringe to a scruffy shag) in an effort to find a style that complemented my limp, straight strands.
But as I entered adult life, I realised it was time to admit defeat and embrace the cards I was dealt. So since the age of 18, I have mostly sported the same long hairstyle. And while I’ve spent a lot of time resenting my hair, I recently realised that, when it’s healthy, it really works. In fact, my super-long, sleek hair has sort of become my most defining beauty characteristic.
Nowadays, my long hair is by far my most asked-about feature. Friends and colleagues are always asking me how I manage to grow my hair so long while keeping it healthy. In the past, I’ve been stumped for an answer. "It just kind of grows like this,“ I’d say. But truthfully, the many years of TLC I’ve given my strands have contributed to its current length and healthiness.
Below, I’ve compiled all of the things I do to encourage my hair to grow. And because my first-person account might not ring true for everyone, I also reached out to the creative director of colour at Butchers and my go-to guy for any hair-related questions, Dominic Roach, to get his insights. If you want to know how to grow your hair long, this is the best advice out there.
This is by far my most important tip. Applying high temperatures to the hair with tools like straighteners and tongs will result in dryness, split ends and breakage. A few years ago, I started using my Dyson Airwrap to dry and smooth my hair instead of opting for more intense heat tools. As a result, even after going a whole year without a trim (thanks to the pandemic), my hair stylist made a comment about how healthy my hair looked.
But avoiding heat styling is way easier said than done. “In an age when heat styling is very much de rigueur, it can seem impossible to avoid,” says Roach. “It’s key to make sure you use a thermal heat protector. Perhaps try and minimise your affair with tongs and straightening irons to once a week or experiment with heat-free techniques like rollers or plaits.”
I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but getting a regular trim really is the best way to keep your strands healthy and happy. “Split ends can travel up the hair shaft, causing breakage. I recommend a trim every four to eight weeks to keep split ends at bay,” says Roach. Over time, I have managed to stretch the amount of time between my haircuts. Because I reduced heat styling and have straight hair (which is not as dry as naturally wavy or curly hair), I can get away with having an inch taken off the ends once every 12 weeks or so.
Growing your hair long is all about keeping strands as strong as possible. If your hair is damaged and weak, you better believe it will snap and break (this is often the case when your hair won’t seem to grow past a certain length). Bond-repair treatments can make a world of difference and help keep your hair strong. “Use a product that strengthens the layers of the hair and rebuilds bonds internally. It will make hair visibly stronger, healthier and shinier. It’s an investment in achieving your ultimate long hair. I really recommend Aveda Botanical Repair Strengthening Shampoo and Conditioner,” says Roach.
This was the most recent and difficult hair realisation for me to come to terms with. If you ask me, throwing your hair up in a quick bun to keep it off your face is a quick and chic option. But when my hair started snapping, I realised the importance of changing my hairstyle daily. My stylist told me that to prevent breakage, I should opt for silk hairbands (which prevent friction), switch up the style (for example, a low ponytail one day and a plait the next) and tie the band looser. Since adopting this advice, the breakage has virtually stopped.
Healthy hair starts with a healthy scalp. In short, if the environment in which your hair grows isn’t fighting fit, you can expect growth to be inhibited. To help rid the scalp of build-up and keep it as healthy as possible, I use a pre-shampoo scrub once a week.