Hair DIY: How to Take Care of Long Hair: My Hair Care Horrors & How You Can Avoid Them (Including Split Ends!)
just a note...
because of the photos, this article is best viewed on a computer or tablet rather than a phone.but if you don't mind - the progress pictures I've posted below will just come first before the actual article :)
My Hair Horror Story and Why I Decided to Share It
Long hair is beautiful - when it is maintained well. There are a lot of people who would love to have it, but it does take a little maintenance to achieve the look you're going for!
I myself have run the gamut of hairstyles, colors, and lengths. My hair has been super long, super short, somewhere in the middle, red, brown, blonde, pink, and almost everything in between!
When I was in college, after my last dyeing spree sophomore year, my hair was really damaged and looked it...but I was so attached to my long hair that I was terrified of cutting it short. The pictures to the right show you my hair color chronicles.I really liked the colors that I picked - I thought they looked great. But, it was only the color that looked good. If you could see my hair in person during those times, it was fried really bad after the first four times, and it started to look unhealthy and terrible. And this is why:
- I was young. I dyed my hair without caring about the consequences of picking the wrong color, or not waiting long enough between dye jobs. My first dye job away from my natural blonde was my junior year of high school where I decided to go Ariel red. From there, I went to dark brown, strawberry pink, and platinum blond all in the course of about 4 months (terrible decision).
- I was a lifeguard for five summers in a row starting after my sophomore year, and I swam on the swim team. My hair was ok in the sun and chlorine before I started dyeing it, but after the dye, the sun and chlorine bleached my hair out and damaged it even more.
- For a very long time I didn't trust anyone to cut my hair so I did it myself. Often times I didn't cut enough of the damage or split ends out for my hair to look better, or I didn't bother to cut it for 5-6 months at a time (terrible idea, don't do this!!)
- I wasn't keeping my hair moisturized like I should have been. I didn't really care at first about how much my hair was being damaged after those first several dye jobs - I was just concerned about getting the color I wanted, when I wanted it. Part of the commitment of dying your hair involves practicing good hair care habits from the beginning, and I was not doing that at all. A lot of issues that people have with dyed hair looking so fried is because after they dye it they aren't keeping the moisture lock in there like they should. (for tips on how to dye your hair properly and start those good habits early, visit my sister's blog on HubPages!)
- I definitely wasn't using the right products for my hair - even when I wasn't doing anything except shampooing and conditioning it was still making it a little worse. I started using more of the right products in college, but in high school when my hair was more than just blonde and brown I wasn't using the right shampoo and conditioner to keep the color from fading - in addition to not using the protectants I should have been using to keep my hair from further damage.
When I got to my sophomore year of college, I decided I wanted to go back to my more natural color of blonde. So like I had done in the past, I went to the store and got a box dye and tried to do my hair - but it was a disaster - the wrong shade of blonde turned my hair a bluish gray! From there I had no choice but to cover it up with brown - but I was so embarrassed I wouldn't go to a hair salon to do it. So, I did it with a box again.
The Brown looked fine - but my hair was fried. Especially the last eight inches of it or so, which had incurred the most damage since high school. In addition, I had gotten into curling my hair every day with a flat iron. While I was using some silk oil to help protect it a bit from the heat, the heat from the flat iron was still frying the ends of my hair even more beyond belief because I hadn't been taking care of it very well before that point.
So, about two months of dealing with extremely damaged hair that was just hanging past my shoulders and not doing much else, I'd had enough. I entrusted my hair to a friend of mine named Maggie, who is a FANTASTIC hair stylist, and instructed her to just chop it all off. I marked a point on my head where the damage appeared to stop for the most part - right at chin length. She was more nervous than I was - if I were cutting the hair I would be nervous too, as I was asking her to cut almost nine inches off at once!
Maggie did such a great job and gave me this super-cute angled bob that looked great with the brown that I had. I loved it! After that, I decided I was going back blonde and not dying my hair again for a very long time. I missed having healthy hair, and I knew at some point I wanted it back long again.
So, on my spring break vacation junior year of college, I decided I wasn't dealing with box dyes anymore and went to a hair salon to have it professionally done (no more blue-gray hair for me!!). It looked great the way she did it - but then the week after spring break I started lifeguard training for an amusement park I was working at - and the chlorine completely bleached my hair out from the original color. All of that sun plus the dye had a serious effect on my hair. Luckily, it was short, and the most damaged parts of my hair were already gone so it wasn't as bad as it could have been.
After getting my hair done professionally and after the lifeguarding season was over, I knew I would be able to give my hair more time to heal from all the damage, and started to grow it out to my natural color.
It's been about four years since that point I think (I'm terrible at math). And I have stopped dying my hair and have promised myself to not ever proceed with changing my hair color in like I used to. My plan is to let my hair grow all the way out it's the length I want and there is no dye left in my hair. Once it's back to completely natural, I may highlight it so that it's a little closer to my favorite blonde - but I'm going to do it using a little more natural methodology instead of breaking out the box dyes!
Today, my hair is healthier than it has been in almost seven years. It's halfway down my back - and just a little bit of the old color is at the ends, giving me an ombre look that I do love a lot. I've changed my hair care methods since that time, and now my hair is thicker and shinier than when I was a kid. I love my natural hair and never want to put it through what I did when I was younger again!
Now that I have learned from my hair care mistakes, I have compiled some tips for people who have long hair that is a similar hair type to mine so that you can avoid the same mistakes I made. However, even if your hair isn't quite the same hair type, I still recommend some of the basic tips because they can be beneficial to all hair types if you use them correctly. These tips are also beneficial for people who dye their hair a lot - and if you are like me and did that, these tips will be great for helping you restore the healthiness to your hair after all of the dye. I hope you enjoy, let me know what you think in the comment section below!
1. Take Care of Your Hair In the Shower
One of the best and easiest ways to take care of long hair is to perform your preventative care in the shower! When you are about to wash your hair, take the following tips into consideration to make sure your hair looks and feels as healthy as can be!
DO NOT wash your hair every day!
First of all, washing long hair every single day is extremely tedious. It takes FOREVER to wash, and even longer to dry! Not only that, if you wash your hair every day it actually causes more damage than if you wash it less frequently. Every time you wash your hair, especially with heavy duty shampoos, you are stripping your hair of the natural oils it needs to look good. The more you wash, the more oils you strip away. Yes, you are replenishing some of those nutrients when you condition - but think of your hair like a kitchen sponge or a brillo pad. The more you wash it and use it, the more worn out it becomes - and it starts to look kind of gross after several washes.
You also should not wash your hair every day if it's long because, in most cases, more showers leads to more blow drying - and blow drying or straightening your hair every day can seriously fry it - just as much as if you dyed your hair a lot like I did, and twice as much if you both dye it a lot and use a lot of heat and styling products.
In addition, The longer and thicker your hair is, the more difficult it is for the oils from your scalp to travel all the way down the hair shaft. Because of this, you will not need to wash your hair as often as someone with short hair. I usually will take a shower every other morning, but only wash my hair once every three to four days.
Condition your hair with a mild conditioner each time you wash it.
Each time you wash your hair you should ensure that you are using a mild conditioner. My recommendation is to follow the deep conditioning steps mentioned below each time you wash your hair with your regular conditioner too - it really does work wonders, but since it's a milder formula you won't be over-conditioning your hair when you wash it! My favorite type of shampoo and conditioner is Herbal Essences Naked Shampoo and Conditioner. This brand contains no paraben, heavy residues, or dyes. It's a really light formula that smells great.
Deep condition your hair at least once a week.
To keep your tresses looking voluminous, shiny and smooth, I recommend deep conditioning your hair at least once a week. You can even do this with standard conditioner! After a lot of experimenting with deep conditioners, I have found that my favorite specific deep conditioner is "It's a 10" Miracle deep conditioner. I highly recommend this stuff. It works like magic!
Whether you decide to use this or another deep conditioner, here's how you should use it: Brush your hair before getting in the shower. Shampoo your hair like normal. then, squeeze out the excess water and towel dry it as much as possible. Apply the deep conditioner generously through your hair until all of it is covered - I recommend using a wide tooth comb during this step to help de-tangle and ensure the conditioner has reached every part of your hair. Put your hair up with a clip on top of your head, and leave the conditioner in for a minimum of 5 minutes. (I usually continue with my shower during this time!) After the five minutes have passed, take your hair out of the clip and rinse it out thoroughly. You will feel a difference in your hair after the first wash!
What do I do if my hair is greasy in between washes? Won't all this extra conditioning make my hair even more oily?
You may be reading this whole section about conditioning your hair and be thinking, you're crazy. all of this will make my hair so oily! But I promise...it won't if your hair really does need it! And if you are trying to grow your hair long or it is already past your shoulders - trust me, it needs it!
But, I do understand how the waiting in between washes can generate a little grease at your roots. Not to worry - there are products that can combat that, AND make your hair a little more tame! My favorite type of product to use to fix this is dry shampoo. Dry shampoo comes in a bottle and is a spray that you can apply to your roots to soak up some of that oil so you can go a little longer between washes. It also helps provide a little bit more body if the roots of your hair are looking a little flat. If you can't tell, I really like the Herbal Essences Naked line of products - and I highly recommend their line of dry shampoos as well - it works like a charm!
1. Keep the Split Ends At Bay
Split ends can be a pain in the rear end, especially if your hair is long because they become more noticeable the longer your hair gets. A split end happens when the outer layer of hair, the cuticle, starts to wear away at the tips and expose the proteins at the center of the hair. Follow these simple tips to keep those pesky split ends, which are so common with long hair, away.
If you choose to snip your ends yourself, make sure to use hair cutting shears instead of regular scissors you would use for paper. These scissors are not quite sharp enough to give a clean cut on the individual hairs. They can cause fraying and create more split ends in the future.
Have you ever cut your own hair before?
Get your hair trimmed regularly.
If you're anything like I was, I was terrified of going to a hairstylist because I was afraid if I told them to only cut one inch they would cut five - or if I asked for layers they would look terrible. That's not to say that hairstylists are bad at their job - I was just so attached to my long hair that I didn't trust anyone to touch it but myself - that way if it looked bad it was my own fault.
In high school I did a pretty decent job cutting my own hair - I would flip my head over and trim about an inch off while looking in a mirror - then flip it back over and BAM! I would have layers just like what a hairstylist would give. Sometimes I cut a little too much from one side, but it was my fault and no one else's so I found a way to live make it look unnoticeable and move on.
When I got to college though, my hair was so damaged I was afraid if I decided to cut it myself it would be more noticeable because my hair was so fragile and broke easily. After all of the stuff that I did to my hair, and knowing that I wanted to cut more than an inch off at that point, I had Maggie cut my hair, and she did great. Since then, I haven't been so afraid to trust my hair to hairstylists for a little trim up - they know what they are doing - trust them.
But cutting my hair defeats the purpose of growing it long!, you might be thinking to yourself. WRONG. If you let your hair grow for a long time without giving it a trim up, you will get split ends. The longer you let the split ends go, the further up your hair they will go, and your hair will start to look frizzy and frayed like mine did.
To help keep the split ends at bay, I recommend getting 1 inch cut off every one to two months (some hairstylists recommend more, but base it on your comfort level). This will keep the split ends from getting out of hand, even if it's the only thing you do differently to your long hair.
Trimming your ends will not only make your hair look healthier, but it also makes it easier to drag a comb or a brush through it when you are doing your hair. In addition, if you decide to curl your hair or put your hair in a style that tucks your ends away, they will be more willing to cooperate and less likely to stick out in weird places! Having your ends trimmed will also help the silk oil I mention below to protect them from splitting for longer periods of time!
Protect your hair from heat damage.
One of the best ways to help prevent split ends before they start is using some kind of protectant on them before styling your hair for the day. One of my favorite products EVER is silk oil. This stuff is MAGIC.
You may be thinking, but my hair is really oily already! Why would I ever even think of putting MORE oil in it? Valid question, dear reader! But don't worry - silk oil won't make your hair oilier because a lot of oil in your hair is at your roots, not your tips. Silk oil should be applied from about halfway down your hair, all the way down to the tips but not all the way up to your roots. Plus, once you apply a little heat to this oil, your hair soaks it right up and doesn't leave greasy residue.
You can find silk oil at Walmart, Target, or your local hair care retailer. You don't need a lot of it for it to have an effect - so buy a small bottle - it will probably last you six months and it's worth the investment!
In addition to preventing the forming of split ends, this stuff also will make current split ends less visible. But let's be straight here - no product will "heal" split ends - they are all lying to you. Product that say they are healing split ends are only bonding the cuticle back with the protein, like a glue, but it will come undone again later. Better to just snip the ends and start fresh!
Silk oil also has a GREAT use as a protector against chlorine. I always put some silk oil in my hair before going to the pool to protect it from the chlorine and keep it from getting too dried out while you are in the sun. I highly recommend doing this before heading out for a relaxing day at the pool :)
To use silk oil on your ends when your hair is dry, all you need to use is about a pea sized amount of silk oil. Rub the oil into the palms of your hands. Then using both palms, rub the silk oil into the middle section and ends of your hair until your ends look relatively coated. Wash your hands if you have any extra residue so you don't get it in the rest of your hair, and then use your flat iron or curler to finish your hair as needed. If you aren't planning to style your hair, just use a blow dryer and lightly apply heat so that the silk oil will soak into your hair.
To use silk oil on your ends when your hair is wet, towel dry your hair as much as you can so it's not dripping wet. Apply the silk oil in the same method as mentioned above, and finish with the application of heat. My preferred method when my hair is wet is to blow dry my entire head after applying the silk oil.
Have you ever dyed your hair yourself, or do you prefer to go to a salon?
3. If You Dye It..Be Careful
Dying long hair can also be a pain. But if you do decide to do it, make sure to do it right. I highly recommend going to a salon to get it done, but if you do it at home, make sure to follow these tips:
- ALWAYS do the strand test to see if the color is what you want it to be, and also to help check for allergies or to see if your hair can handle the dye job in the first place.
- Long hair will generally require two boxes of dye. Make sure you buy enough to cover your entire head down to the ends of your hair (trust me, splotches don't look good!)
- Condition your hair afterwards on a regular basis and make sure you are using color safe shampoo and conditioner so that you do not strip your color.
- Trim your ends before you get your hair colored.
- Do not wait too long after the dye has been sitting in your hair to rinse it out - you could risk hair falling out!
- If you are dying it more than once, especially to drastically different colors, make sure to wait 2-3 months in between each dye job to preserve your hair (root touchups can be done in shorter intervals).
- Make sure to use your silk oil to preserve the ends of your hair - by the time you have dyed your hair a few times, the ends will be the most damaged out of all of your hair because they will have been dyed more times than the hair near your roots!
- For more hair dying tips, check out my sister's hub article about how to care for bleached hair - her tutorial is applicable for both dyed and bleached hair (I wish I would have done some of these when I went on my dying spree!)
Now Go Take Care of Your Hair!
There are many ways to maintain beautiful, long hair. Now you are armed with some simple, cost effective tips for growing your hair out and maintaining the length for healthy, beautiful hair! When used together you will have truly wonderful results.
As always, let me know how these tips work for you in the comments section below! Happy growing! :)
About the Author
Victoria is a 22 year old obsessive DIYer, living in the beautiful city of Charlotte, North Carolina with her two cat babies, Oliver and Zeus. She loves the outdoors, writing, and swimming. A year and a half ago she started an addiction by taking a Scuba diving class through Scuba Schools International, and now she can't get enough of it and has obtained her advanced certification, with more classes to follow. She is also am very interested in home décor and love to experiment with color. Another huge area of interest is gluten free cooking.