How do I keep my hair out of my face without hurting my scalp?
June 16, 2004 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Hairfilter. I've been growing out my hair for a few years but have generally lived with it quite short. Now I have trouble keeping it out of my face, food, etc., comfortably. [more inside]

The hair in question is about shoulder length in front and maybe 6 inches longer in back. It's on the fine side, and can range from mostly straight with a flip at the ends to some big curls to fluffy and somewhat wavy. Having spent so much time with shaved or short hair, I'm extremely lazy and basically don't do anything to it beyond washing and towel/air drying, partly because it keeps itself in order most of the time.

My real problem is that I often want to put the hair up or back - to keep it out of my way, to feel less hot, and so on - but most things I've tried are painful, pull out hair, are awkward, too hot, or all of the above. I usually use a thick soft elasticy hairband with no metal parts to make a ponytail or something similar, but after even a few minutes this can start hurting my head, and sometimes will eventually cause a headache. I also use bobby pins to make a bun or various twisty hair designs, but they are often unstable and can have the same scalp-hurting aspect.

Hats and bandannas are sometimes employed, but they tend to increase the heat factor. I occasionally try other stuff like hair sticks (chopsticks, really), cloth headbands, braiding. Nothing has really been satisfactory for longer term use. Do I just have a really sensitive scalp? I'd like to keep growing the hair but be able to tame it sometimes. I'm also opposed to scrunchies on principle but if that's the way to go, maybe I'll have to embrace my inner prep. Snoods are not an option. Any thoughts?
posted by ungratefulninja to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
My hair sounds a lot like yours (just longer than shoulder length, very fine) and I have not had any problems with my scalp hurting while pulling my hair up. I wear a thin, metal-free hair elastic around my wrist so I have it handy. I typically either pull my hair into a low ponytail and secure it with three wraps of the elastic, or twist it into a loose bun and wrap the elastic twice around the large part of the bun. I'm not careful/picky enough to involve bobby pins.

I would try a thinner elastic hairband and make sure that you're gathering your hair loosely when you pull it up.
posted by Coffeemate at 12:02 PM on June 16, 2004

Wow you've just about exhausted all of your options. It really does sound like you have an extremely sensitive scalp. You can try to "train" your scalp to accept the tail, but it takes a few days of wearing your hair in exactly the same way to get over the pain. I went through the same thing as a pre-teen with a ponytail, and again a few years later when I tried braids - a few days of torturous pain when taking out the rubber bands (yes I used to wear office supplies in my hair) before the pain subsided. Hair is like grass - somewhat unnecessary (debatable) and a royal pain in the arse to maintain (not debatable).

The only hair accessory I can think of that you haven't mentioned yet are some kind of barrettes or clips, which have the added plus of not breaking your hair, the way that elastic bands can do.

A thought - do you put your hair in a tail when it's wet, or dry? Whichever way you're doing it, try doing it the opposite way a few times and see what happens.

Metafilter: Snoods are not an option.
posted by iconomy at 12:24 PM on June 16, 2004

PS - I meant the kind of grass that you use a lawnmower on, in case that bit needed clarifying.
posted by iconomy at 12:27 PM on June 16, 2004

Right with ya - use your sunglasses while indoors, though at night some may wonder. I don't fully blow dry my hair, unmanageable if I do - use the cool setting and blow it out of your face or even before you shower – notice the day I try looking my best it looks better the day after with little effort. If you don't like hair spray or mouse, try an after showering hair conditioner to keep it manageable.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:37 PM on June 16, 2004

How good were you at braiding? I had long hair for a decade or so and found that braiding, once I trained myself to do it well, was the ideal way to get my very very long hair out of the way on hot days. You should be able to get a good braid without it pulling on you scalp.

I gave up on long hair once I moved to NYC though. The summer's are just too damn humid to put up with long hair here. It wasn't long into my first summer that I shaved my head and have been repeating the performance every few months since.
posted by ursus_comiter at 12:52 PM on June 16, 2004

Have you considered braiding with only an elastic at the bottom? That should alleviate a lot of the scalp pain, I would think. Otherwise, I imagine training your scalp is the only option. Just think of how nice it will feel when you let the tresses free.
posted by dame at 12:53 PM on June 16, 2004

Try scalp massage every time you shampoo your hair (get your fingertips in under the hair really well), air-drying your hair or using the cool-shot button on the dryer, combing it with a wide-tooth comb when it's wet, instead of a brush - and don't braid or ponytail wet hair.

Also try dutch braids (upside-down braids) rather than english braids (normal) since they don't anchor as tightly to the scalp. Maybe a french braid might work to get all your hair up with minimal scalp-pulling, or a french twist anchored with a comb or a long smooth tight hairpin (takes practice to do smoothly but it's worth it!). Or twist rolls of hair over each ear and pull back into a braid - might need some hairspray to stay in place but shouldn't pull on your scalp. You can also french braid the sides instead of twisting them.

I use tuck-combs a lot to keep my hair out of my face when it gets long and shaggy, one over each ear, or one high at the back holding all the front/top hair.

Try thin elastic bands and make smaller ponytails/braids, like two tails (one over each shoulder) or loose cornrows, or even a couple of small braids at the front of your face clipped or braided back to hold the rest of your hair in place. That way the weight of your hair is distributed and not all in one heavy tail.
posted by Melinika at 1:29 PM on June 16, 2004

My hair is about the same. I also usually air-dry, because fine hair gets fried real fast if you are always applying heat to it. Don't make a ponytail while your hair is very wet-- hair seems to lengthen when wet, and then shink back when dry. Wet ponytail=headache when it dries, in my experience. I like the magic bun device, because it doesn't pull too tightly (at least for me), and when you take your hair down, it's all wavy at the bottom. I also used braids a lot when I had waist-length hair (although it's below shoulder length now)
posted by Shoeburyness at 4:09 PM on June 16, 2004

Oops, forgot to mention I also put my hair in a bun and clamp it in place with a sideways jaw clip. That doesn't seem to pull on my scalp too much. I find I do use scrunchies, because they are more comfortable than regular elastics. Sorry. Maybe try some mini-scrunchies, they look more like a regular elastic; not so huge and puffy as a standard-issue scrunchie.
posted by Shoeburyness at 4:13 PM on June 16, 2004

Thanks everybody. I pretty much never tie up the hair until it's dry - I don't like that weird kink it gets after you take it out. But it sounds like I should really practice the braiding. I'm great at doing someone else's hair, not so good at my own. I'm sure I'll get better, though. I'll definitely try some scalp massage as well. I miss the frequent scalp massages from the short-hair days.
posted by ungratefulninja at 8:23 AM on June 17, 2004

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