Care and feeding of my hairs
September 3, 2013 10:21 PM   Subscribe

Due to a combination of experimentation and laziness I have pretty long hair for the first time in ever. How do I care for it properly?

Detail: I am of British ancestry, my hair is very fine, brown, mostly straight (used to be curly, but alas no more), and not too thick. It falls just below my shoulderblades. I'm basically just always keeping it in a sloppy bun these days because I don't have enough hair for nice ponies/braids/updos and it never looks right if I wear it down. The top is too greasy and the ends are too dry, and it has no body at all. I think I might also be losing a fair bit of hair to breakage/rough treatment.

I am a tomboy so I don't use product (aside from dry shampoo occasionally) and my hair care routine is basically daily washing/conditioning followed by a detangling brush and then air dry. I just got a boar hair brush to brush at night because I hear that will help with the dry ends? I dunno. Help!
posted by annekate to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
washing - just use the smallest dab of shampoo at the top of your head, rinse, then use a dab of conditioner from about the bottom of your ears down. keep a wide toothed comb in the shower, and comb your hair while it's got the conditioner in it. Squeeze it and wrap it in a towel for a few minutes to get most of the water out, and then air dry - your detangling brush is probably making your hair break! as long as you don't muss it up when toweling it off, it will stay nice and tidy as it air dries. Once dry, you can give it a gentle brushing
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:42 PM on September 3, 2013

Are you getting it trimmed semi-regularly? Even if you're growing it out you should get it trimmed once in a while. This will get rid of dry ends. And a good haircut will help it look "right" when you wear it down. It might just be sort of shapeless because of the way it's grown out.

Use a wide-toothed comb rather than a brush to detangle when wet; it is less likely to cause breakage.

Some people with fine hair find silicone-type ingredients in their shampoos/conditioners build up and cause limp hair. Check if your shampoo and conditioner have ingredients ending in -cone (exception: if it starts with PEG- it is water-soluble). You could try avoiding those for a while and see what it does.

But my very first piece of advice is still to get a good haircut and go from there.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:28 PM on September 3, 2013

I would try washing your hair with shampoo/conditioner every 3 days instead of everyday. You may just have too much product messing with the natural balance of your hair and it's making your hair. .. not happy.

I have thinish hair as well and I shampoo/condition about every 3 days otherwise my hair looks like how you describe the current state of your hair.
posted by littlesq at 11:35 PM on September 3, 2013

If you're always putting your hair up in the same way, you're going to break the strands at the point where the fastener is stressing them, so one way to help maintain your hair while still being a bit lazy is to put it up in different ways - high and low, maybe side to side or pigtails, simple braids, pinned in messy smaller buns. That way you're not hurting your hair in the same place every day. Look for big wide flat "slide" pins to help keep your hair up and away.

2nding getting it trimmed. Be sure to tell your stylist if you want to keep growing it out so they can give you a cut that will grow out well.

I bet that your washing it every day is making your scalp overproduce oil and since it's washed every day the oil never has a chance to reach your ends. So wash it way less. There will be an adjustment period, but stick it out - the third day after washing hair is often the best hair day for a lot of different hair types.
posted by Mizu at 11:47 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

A good haircut and regular trims go a long, long way in terms of hair maintenance.

Shampoo only goes on your roots, conditioner only goes on your ends.

Use sulfate- and silicone-free shampoo/conditioner whenever possible.

Use a comb, not a brush, to gently detangle your hair.

Youtube is a fantastic resource for hair advice.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:52 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can afford to stop shampooing your hair everyday. I've recently stopped washing my hair daily. I now wash every other day and am aiming to get that down to every other 2 days. I used to struggle with dry scalp issues, and my hair dresser told me that washing everyday can give rise to scalp problems since your scalp doesn't have enough 'dry time' ie it spends most of the time damp. Shampooing daily can also dry out your hair. Since I changed my hair care routine, I can already tell the difference - my hair is bouncier and shinier, and I think this is because the oil from my scalp is actually getting to reach the ends. It's also a lot more tractable and easy to style.

Don't brush your hair while wet. That is probably part of the reason your hair is breaking. Use a wide-toothed comb.

Since you tie your hair up a lot, do it with care to avoid breakage. Tie it in different ways (high, low, side, pigtails), and don't ever pull it too tight.

Caveat: I have different hair from you (curly). But I think these tips apply regardless of hair type.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:55 AM on September 4, 2013

I've tried not shampooing my hair daily and it simply became more oily and limp. So try different things and stick with whatever works for your hair.

Definitely get a hair cut. Have you tried using a bandana or scarf to tie it back? That seems like it would be gentle on your hair.
posted by bunderful at 4:19 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

What shampoo are you using? It's not working for you. Stop using it. Start with something else. Give it two weeks. Better? Keep using it. No better? Stop, try another new one. It's fun! A science experiment!

Doesn't need to be expensive. I loved Pantene Ice Shine (my hair is similar to yours - long, greasy at the roots, kindling at the ends) though they seem to have stopped making it. I hate Clairol. I don't get on with Tony & Guy. I love Kerastase. You just need to cycle through a few. Try using Batiste at the roots to soak up some of the greasiness if needed.

YMMV but there is no way in hell I ever used to be able to get away with not washing my hair daily. Sometimes more than daily. That's changed since I started dying it (the texture seems to be different) but if you need to wash it lots, just embrace it.

Airdrying is great for your hair (compared to heat treatment) but is exacerbating your dry ends problem. Get the dry ends cut off frequently. Keep airdrying it.

But change your shampoo ASAP.
posted by citands at 5:33 AM on September 4, 2013

We have similarly textured hair, from the sounds of it. A couple years ago I stopped washing my hair for the most part, and it's really evened out the dryness vs. oiliness situation, as well as making my hair a lot less wispy and fly-away.

I do a daily condition with a really good conditioner, then about once a week I wash my hair after I condition it. Conditioning first brings all the build-up to the surface of your hair so you actually wash it away. Otherwise you're basically just washing the build-up and not the hair.

When it's humid (I live it the southern U.S.) and I'm exercising outdoors, I shampoo more often, but for the most part it's just once or twice a week. Shampoo is really pretty pointless.
posted by carolinecrane at 7:10 AM on September 4, 2013

I've tried not shampooing my hair daily and it simply became more oily and limp. So try different things and stick with whatever works for your hair.

Agree with this. Also have very long, fine hair so I'm watching this thread for more tips - mine looks OK these days, although it could always be better (see my similar previous question). My hair is much much happier when washed every day (less oily at the scalp and also less dry/tangled at the ends, I guess from the daily conditioner), but these things definitely vary person to person.

My strategy:

-wash hair every day (shampoo scalp only, conditioner below ears)
-try different shampoos/conditioners, your hair might hate your current one. Mine likes fructis.
-if it's getting dry, deep-condition with warm oil, or just leave more conditioner in than usual, or use leave-in conditioner
-rarely blow dry, squeeze water out with a towel (don't rub)
-use a wide-toothed comb to detangle hair when dry (or in the shower with conditioner in if it's in really bad shape, but that's rarely needed)
-use a boar bristle occasionally on already detangled hair. Never ever those plastic knobby-ends brushes, they wreck my hair.
posted by randomnity at 7:19 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I only wash my hair 2x/week, but I wash my bangs every 2-3days.

Get good shampoo. You may pay $20-$30 for a large set of shampoo/conditioner but it's better than the cheap $3 stuff. There is stuff for fine hair for sure.

Conditioner, and once every two weeks use a deep conditioner.

Drip dry. When damp, I add Moroccan hair oil but this may weigh down your fine hair.

Every month or so, I wash with Garnier Fructis. It is NOT for every day use, but it strips out oil build up very nicely.

Boar hair brush is good. Spreads the oil from root to tip.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:19 AM on September 4, 2013

Healthy, shiny hair begins on the inside - make sure you are eating enough protein, iron (if you are premenopausal) and good fats to nourish your hair. I find that taking a vitamin rich in B-complex and minerals does wonders for my hair (I used to take prenatals without iron; these days I take a brand called Garden of Life, which is easy to digest).

I also take supplements of fish oil (Coromega brand, which doesn't give nasty fishy burps) and evening primrose oil (Barlean's) and I'm noticing a big difference in how thick and shiny my hair is.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:20 AM on September 4, 2013

Thanks, this is all really helpful! I have tried washing it less but seriously, after 24 hours my hair looks wet it is so greasy. I can maaaaybe pull off second day hair if I dry shampoo the fuck out of my roots, otherwise it's a no-op. So I think I am just one of those people who has to wash daily.

I have been using a knobby-ended brush while wet, so I will toss that sucker and detangle with a comb in the shower. I do have tangling issues (I guess because it's still a little wavy?) which seem to be worse when I use shampoo/conditioner for fine hair. I am pretty loyal to Aussie Moist, which may well be weighing me down, but is the only thing that seems to touch my dry ends. Hand-combing is also good, right?

I did not at all know that tying it the same way every day was bad. Very good to know.

Oh and I eat Atkins so protein/iron/fat probably not an issue. :)
posted by annekate at 7:41 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I thought I had wavy hair, until I did the no shampoo thing. Now I treat my hair like it's curly so I only ever use a wide-toothed comb on the rare occasions I brush, I shampoo once a week or thereabouts - I give it a good rinse nearly every day, conditioner on the ends, but actual shampoo once a week. I use a leave in conditioner most days too, and vary up the way I tie it.

The grease thing is a self-fulfilling prophecy though, and getting through it is a mission. I used to be an every day washer, then stretched it out to two days by using headbands and scarves on the second day. Now it's once or twice a week, and I rarely get horrible amounts of grease (just a sweaty smell on occasion, or thanks to having a toddler, cereal) (or forgetting how long it is and getting it in my food/spitting toothpaste on it).
posted by geek anachronism at 7:50 PM on September 4, 2013

Up until recently I had waist length hair that I dyed every three weeks, so I know a thing or two about keeping long hurrs well fed (much of it learned from the INCREDIBLY weird and woo and compelling Long Hair Community board). The most important things are:

- Conditioner before you shampoo. And also after. But, importantly, before. This is really helpful if you have the kind of scalp that needs to be shampooed often to stay happy. I keep an el cheapo conditioner on hand, coat my hair from the ears down in a palmful before I shampoo, do it when I shampoo a second time (my scalp feels weird without two shampoos), and do a final condition with the good shampoo.

- Use way more conditioner than you think you need to. Conditioner - yep, even expensive organic silicone free conditioner - works by coating your hair. It's also a prime opportunity to detangle your hair. I apply my final conditioner, clip it up while I shave my legs and junk, then comb it out with a shower comb before rinsing. Makes a big difference.

- It's vital to detangle before you brush. I ADORE my Tangle Teezer. Dumb name, dumb looking product, miraculously does exactly what it says on the tin. I follow up with the Mason Pearson I bought during a treat yoself moment in the evening to get the sebum going and sleep with my hair braided. Actually, sleeping with your hair braided is also pretty essential - it cuts down on tangling and broken hair at night.

- Oils! They are cheap and easy to use and basically the easiest way to deep condition your hair. After a lot of experimenting I discovered that a 3-2-1 ratio of coconut, olive and castor oil works best for my hair. I wait 'til my hair is scungy and dirty, work enough oil through the ends to make them feel wet, braid my hair and go to Crossfit to really get gross. Then I shampoo and condition as usual. Works a treat.

So: do you want hair down to your butt? Then you'll want to protect your hair. The easiest way to do this is to wear it up a lot. There's more to holding up you hair than ponytail holders. The Long Hair Community swears by a confusing array of hair forks and sticks. I swear by an old pencil and a bunch of giant hairpins (the length of my palm) that I buy from dance supply stores. I always keep one in my back pocket, and if it's windy out I'll whip my hair back into a bun and jam a pin into it.

There's a trick to using sticks and pins that's best learned by going into a deep, dark YouTube hole, but once you've got the trick it's golden. It puts much less stress on your hair and scalp to put it up with a pin (or fork, or stick...) so it's worth investigating.

Do you want it to just look... nice when it's down? Do a YouTube search for heatless or heat free styles. And, TBH, a bit of flat iron or a blow drier never killed anyone. Keep a good heat protectant on hand for the times when you're like, fuckit, I need to look done tonight. The best i've ever found is Kerastase Ciment Thermique. It's super spendy but if you rarely heat style your hair it will last you for.. forever.

And get a trim! Seriously! It will be like night and day for your hair! Regular trims are probably the most important thing when your hair is long. It makes the difference between lovely healthy hair and woman who looks like she might actually believe in unicorns.
posted by nerdfish at 8:01 AM on September 5, 2013 [7 favorites]

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