I was flipping through pictures on my phone and came across one I took of myself last year at this time. Let me just say - holy crap - my hair has grown so much in the past year. You know when you're in the moment and it feels like you see no change and then BAM, hello longer hair. This got me thinking back to all the changes I've made in my hair care routine that could have helped reduce breakage to allow my hair to look longer and feel healthier - and it turns out that my list of improvements is longer than I thought.
Here are the top changes I've made for longer, healthier hair:
I used to find that the ends of my hair felt more brittle after sleeping on a regular, cotton-y pillowcase - you could actually see strands that had broken off on it. So I purchased a satin pillowcase and man, what a difference! The smoother fibers help keep my hair soft and shiny while I sleep and has cut down significantly on the amount of breakage I see. Plus, satin helps keep you cool on warm nights and is said to help prevent signs of aging on the skin.
I'm one of those people that prefers sleek updos, particularly ponytails and buns, and that means that I pull my hair elastics tight, tight, tight. I also like to gather the hair high on my crown when I wear it up. All this tension resulted in breakage near the root and breakage in the mid-to-ends of my hair....not cute. So I switched to wearing my hair down 95% of the time, and when I do wear it up, I try not to have it as tight and keep the elastic away from the ends of my hair where it's more fragile.
This is a big one, especially since I don't throw my hair up in an elastic as frequently. My hair is naturally straight and when I wear it down, it needs to be p-e-r-f-e-c-t. Straight hair can get "dented" easily if you put pressure on it when you're sleeping, or even just rest your head on your hand while you're working. To get stick-straight, healthy hair I follow these steps:
- At night after I shower, I let my hair air dry for as long as possible, and then blow dry it on medium heat. I used to dry it on high heat because it was faster but my hair felt "crispier" after and occasionally even smelled burnt. Ew. Medium heat takes longer but is SO worth it; my hair is so much softer and shinier.
- In the morning when I'm getting ready, I will straighten my hair at 375 degrees, vs the 425 degree heat I used to prefer. Again - it takes longer but makes a huge difference in the integrity of my strands.
- I don't curl my hair often. My hair takes a higher heat to hold a curl, so I tend to stay away from that. Luckily, it's not hard to avoid because I'm usually in too much of a rush in the mornings to do it!
Fewer Hair Care & Styling Products
It's easier to stay away from styling products like hair spray, gel or pomade since I don't wear my hair up as often as I used to, but in the past I used products to keep my "baby hairs" from sticking up when my hair was down. Using products frequently made my hair feel more dry, and over time the build up caused my hair to lose a little bit of it's natural luster. I've learned to embrace baby hairs and when I need a bit of hold, I'll use a leave-in treatments like It's a 10 for a little bit of structure. I also stopped going crazy buying hair care products like conditioning masks and serums. While I do think they can help damaged hair, using them in excess can disrupt the natural balance of oil production and do more harm than good. Just like with the skin, adding too much moisture or vitamins can cause the hair to produce less on its own, which can result in brittle hair that breaks easily.
Less Abrasive Hair Color Treatments
Obviously in last year's picture, I'm a blonde - which let me tell ya, does NOT come easily for a gal like me who has naturally super dark black hair. What you see there is multiple bleach treatments, which is pretty much the most damaging thing you can do to your hair. I did love being blonde, but every time I went to the salon I left not only with less money in my wallet, but less hair. I would see clumps of it in the drain after my colorist washed it out! And before you say anything - my colorist warned me that I was bleaching my hair too much, but I insisted. She's a hella smart colorist, trust me! These days if I want to change my hair color I try to go with a demi-permanent color, which deposits color but doesn't lift it, which helps keep the hair more in tact.
The interesting part of my journey to hair nirvana is that I've seen the best results when using fewer hair care products vs adding more in. Ultimately, I think the more you leave your hair be and let it do its "au-naturale" thing, the better it will grow and the healthier it will look.