Sunday, October 18, 2009

What NOT to do if you want longer hair

I received an email from a reader the other day. Her question to me was so incredibly relevant that I thought I'd share it with everyone. The reader asked about tips and tricks she can use to help her lengths get to the next level. She's currently above shoulder length and wanted know more about how to get her hair past the shoulders. Part of the reason why I was asked that question is because she knew that I am a self-proclaimed non-protective styler. Everyone knows that if you want to gain length, protective styling can be your best friend.

But what if you aren't protective styling consistently?

Let me first start off this conversation by stating the following:

*I've had above shoulder length hair on more than one occasion.
*I've suffered several setbacks during my journey and have since come back victoriously.

O.k. now that we've got that out of the way, let's get back to business.

I know I can start this conversation by discussing some of the things you should be doing to retain length, but I think I'll look at it from another angle and focus on what you should avoid doing. This way, if you ever catch yourself doing them, you'll be overcome with a sense of guilt for your naughty behaviors.

Don't be a heat styling addict

The very first action that comes to mind that you shouldn't do consistently is heated styling tools. You should not use your heating tool (flat iron, curling iron) as your main means by which you style your hair on the regular. You need strong ends more than anything else while you are on your journey. Strong ends aren't going to happen if they are constantly being assaulted with a hot piece of metal day after day. It just can't happen. You've seen if for yourselves, the lady at the grocery store standing in front of you in line. Her hair is chemically treated. In your mind, you commend her for not resorting to weaves and for having relatively healthy edges. But you can tell by the stiff bump on her ends that the curling iron is her friend. You look on her shoulders and notice a few broken hairs on her shirt. You think about how unfortunate it is that she doesn't take a more organic approach to styling her hair. You say to yourself, "if she only knew about steam curlers, flexirods, etc. Maybe, just maybe her hair could be transformed if she incorporated other styling methods in her routine.

Don't skimp out on your vitamins
I know that when we talk about retaining length, we focus on our ends. But may I suggest to you, that moving to the next level of length would be that much easier if you supported your hair with life-giving vitamins and supplements. Just as an athletes would take supplements to enhance the performance of their limbs so must you supplement to support the strength of your hair. Vitamins give you such a leg up on your journey. It's the difference between taking a pop quiz with no forewarning or taking the same quiz with an open book. The vitamins are there to support you, take full advantage of them.

Don't let those damaged ends linger
There's not a worse feeling in the world than trimming when you are trying to gain length. The experience is horrible and makes you wanna cry like a Next Top Model contestant getting her head shaved during a makeover. You know when you ends are damaged. They look thin and no amount of moisturizer can get them to look right. I know that you need them to hold on just a little bit longer, but what you may not realize is that they are silently causing more damage. Damaged ends are the reason your broken hairs are all around the same length. They are robbing you of your chance at longer lengths. Thinking you can save damaged ends is like thinking you can nurse a foot infected with gangrene back to health. The longer you allow that thing to hold on, the more you risk loosing the whole leg.

Don't be so quick to relax
You know how on those work out videos the crazy exercise lady is always telling you to hold a pose for a few seconds more to feel the burn? What she's doing is making the exercise more effective on the muscle, causing it to become stronger. Well today, I'm going to be the crazy hair lady and ask you to hold on to your relaxer stretch for just a little bit longer. Yes I know it's painful, yes I know you want relax, but it's going to make your hair stronger. If you are able to manage to make it up to seven weeks, why not go for eight, or maybe nine? The longer you are able to successfully stretch the more proud you will be of yourself when you see the results afterwards. Notice I used the word successfully. This means that you aren't experiencing a ton of breakage while you stretch. This also means that your new growth is merely a hassle and not a hinderance. Your goal should be to keep tangles at bay, the hair moist, and the ends strong. Even though I don't protective style on the regular, I do know when to say when. You will likely find me sporting a bun from week 7 on up. I tend to think of the last weeks deep into the stretch as going into battle, and my ends are the target. My job is to keep as many of my men alive as I can until the battle is won and I can relax again.

Alright, so I've given you four tips of the things you should not do if you're looking to experience more length. Thank you all for've been great.
  1. Great tips b/c I have been wanting to give up protective styling and go back to a simple regimen of rollersetting/wrapping. I know it can be done and I follow just about all of your tips except for the trimming. I know, I know I'm headed to get a thorough trim next weekend after stretching 24 weeks. I am definitely going to remember these tips. I normally bun right before a relaxer too.

  2. excellent tips! And, btw, I stopped reading at the word 'vitamins' and went upstairs to pop some in my mouth =) Then I came back to finish.