Get rid of my tangles!
October 27, 2011 11:00 AM   Subscribe

My extremely thick and super fine hair is transforming me from a girl into a matted sheepdog. Help? If you can't, I need advice on how to cut it off.

Okay. I need so much help and I'm a little panicky after literally clawing through my hair with a comb and a bottle of detangler this morning. I read through 2 pages of hair-related ask.mefi and I'm still desperate.

My hairs is increasingly throwing me for a loop. It used to be thick and very much the opposite of fine, however; over the last year that's changed a lot and now I have super fine hair. Its pretty "normal" on the top of my head but then it gradually increases from wavy to intense spiral curls underneath, by the nape of my neck.

The bad news is that I recently moved to Provo from Washington. Between the stress of moving and the increased environmental dryness and cold my hair has went from semi-manageable to a daily torment. I wash every three days, only on my scalp so the ends don't dry out, and I condition the ends. I also do a coconut and macadamia nut oil treatment once a week, which helps tremendously, but can be kind of a hassle. I braid my hair at night, I avoid heat tools like the plague, and I try to avoid using bobby-pins and the like whenever I can. Today, after yoga I took a shower and I had this...beaver-tail flap of fully formed mat.

The good news is that I have a hair appointment this Saturday. I was trying to grow it out long, ninth-grade status, but right now its only slightly past the shoulders, excuse the mirror picture. I'm not sure if it's worth growing long, people with hair similar, any advice? Otherwise I'm completely willing to cut it, I just don't know how I should. I've had it short and I liked it because it was so untangled and versatile but, being winter, I think that maybe I want a more middle ground but I'm not sure.

I'm completely out of my mind and my scalp is sore from rabid brushing. Please help me.
posted by Marinara to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Welcome to Utah!

Cut your hair.

If you think it's dry now, January will have you in tears. You look adorable with short hair, and in the winter a good hat and scarf will serve you better than long hair will. Plus, short hair bounces back from hat head so much more easily than long hair. I have long hair, but I wear it in a bun, braid, or ponytail all winter. I also carry a dryer sheet in all my coat pockets. That way I can smooth things down after I take off my hat.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:08 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you considered that the water in the new area may be affecting your hair? It might not just be the environment, but the water in the shower.

I went nuts after moving to a new home and my hair turned into my enemy, all dry and frizzy and parched. I attached a decent water filter to the showerhead and it all changed. The filters that attach to your whole water system are better, but I didn't have that option.

Perhaps this will help!
posted by rachaelfaith at 11:10 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

It sounds to me like you should cut it short. The "short" picture you link to is really cute. Personally, I think there are very, very few women who look kempt and put-together with long hair (and even then, if you take a shortcut on maintenance even a little bit it can look scraggly and like a kindergartener who doesn't know how to wield a brush). I say this as someone who has had very short hair for most of the last ten years.

You appear to have a rectangularish face shape, so what about something Elisha Cuthbert-inspired? Something intentionally messy like this could be pretty easy to manage.
posted by phunniemee at 11:12 AM on October 27, 2011

Short is good for the winter! Dries faster.
posted by yarly at 11:35 AM on October 27, 2011

I don't think you should cut it (unless you really just want to cut it)! I think you should try going shampoo-free. My hair would have been greasy if I'd tried to do shampoo-free with it when it was short, but when my hair is long (and it is long), it only looks good when I'm using products without silicones and sulfates (like DevaCurl products, which are amazing but not the only way to go).

Take a look at the advice on Naturally Curly. It really changed my hair for the better. There was a learning curve, but my hair is so easy to manage now. It's almost easier than when it was short- I still had to do a daily wash-and-dry routine with short hair, or it was greasy. Long hair doesn't take half that amount of time every morning, and there's more variety in style available, and I just love it.

Specifically, you might look into giving up shampoo, and washing with conditioner only, and only combing it while you're in the shower, combing the conditioner through your hair. Naturally Curly has the steps to follow. A hair towel/turban helps reduce frizziness and tangles too (instead of regular terrycloth), and I sleep with my wet hair in a loose bun on top of my head so that it's dry and tangle-free in the morning.
posted by aabbbiee at 12:26 PM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ok, I had the exact same issue when I moved from Washington to a different state. My hair is very thick, pretty fine, and wavy. It sounds like your hair has more curl than mine does, but it's pretty similar. Give your hair time to settle (not scientific, but it worked). I've learned that I need to wash my hair more often now to have good results; I need to deal with it every two days instead of every three. I always use a deep conditioner now.
posted by 200burritos at 12:37 PM on October 27, 2011

Aussie 3-Minute Miracle is fantastic for this. I also highly recommend the DevaCurl products if you want to encourage curls.
posted by Mchelly at 1:15 PM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Could you say more about the exact products/brands you use in your hair? In particular, what kind of shower conditioner and leave-in are you using? Are you doing the "plop" method, post-shower, to deal with your curls, or are you simply towelling and then attempting to detangle? Are you using a wide-toothed comb, tiny-toothed comb, or brush? I think it might be easier to make recommendations, knowing exactly what sort of routine you're doing now!

Also, I want to second RachelFaith on the possibility of a filter being helpful. It looks to me from this map that Washington (both state and DC) have much harder water in general than Utah. I've noticed the difference in the way my skin and hair feel when I'm in a place with a different hardness of water. If you didn't want to buy a filter just yet, you might be able to test this out by buying distilled water, washing your hair with it, and seeing if it feels any different. A long shot but maybe worth trying.
posted by UniversityNomad at 1:18 PM on October 27, 2011

Oops, sorry, got it the wrong way round - meant to say that Utah seems to have in general very hard water, much harder than Washington does (either state or DC).
posted by UniversityNomad at 1:25 PM on October 27, 2011

Your hair looks very similar to mine!

Your hair may be damaged, hence the change in quality from the tip to the root. I would recommend cutting it to get rid of the damaged portion. Grow it out over the winter, and see what happens.

Get a water softener, and wash much less frequently, and don't use super hot water. Use a leave-in conditioner (Paul Mitchell is my choice). FWIW, I never blow dry or treat my hair with color or perming.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 3:24 PM on October 27, 2011

I love the picture you have up of your hair when it was short. If I would look even half that good with short hair, I would do that in a minute. Short hair is awesome.
posted by mjcon at 3:28 PM on October 27, 2011

Thanks for all your help! These are all super helpful and I'm definitely going to invest in a showerhead water purifier as soon as I can.

UniversityNomad - I'm using Verde Botanicals Broccoli shampoo and conditioner right now. It was recommended to me because one of my stylists thought it would help but I kind of disagree so I am browsing some others. I've used Alterna in the past but the smell was awful.

I usually style with Aveda's brilliantine prep spray to control damage and then use bumble and bumble's styling creme or Janet Waddell's Genius Hair Balm. The come I use is wide-toothed. I don't use brushes because I kinda can't get them through unless it's just been blown out.

Hope that helps!

Thank you guys. My hair appreciates it.
posted by Marinara at 4:44 PM on October 27, 2011

Whether you go Team Short or Long (you are one of those lucky people who looks totally cute with both!) you may want to consider investing in a tin of L'Occitane's shea butter. It is ridiculously expensive and yuppierific, but also the only way I've found to help my Laura Ingalls Wilder hair survive dry prairie winters. Every two or three days, I warm a teeny-tiny amount (1/4 tsp?) in my hands and then run them through my dry hair until the balm is absorbed. A little goes a really long way - there is a fine line between relief and greaseball - so a tin lasts throughout the season. The stuff also works wonders on dry winter skin too.
posted by muirne81 at 7:31 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have Medusa ringlets and have to detangle my hair with my fingers in the gym shower.
posted by brujita at 7:46 PM on October 27, 2011

I just came across this. Your hair is gorgeous and you should grow it, I say as a long hair lover with the same hair.

I can't recommend the Tangle Teezer enough. It feels cheap and plasticky, but it does exactly what it says. I keep my hair under control by always, always putting it up when I go outside - I keep a handful of very large open French pins in my pocket, and stab one into a bun whenever I go out.

I also find regular deep treatments and a siiconey conditioner helpful. I tried going silicone and sulphate free before, and it just turned my hair into a matted mess.
posted by nerdfish at 11:39 AM on October 29, 2011

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