The secrets to great looking long hair (for guys)
Ever looked at that girl with great looking long hair and wondered why your hair seems dull, frizzy and disappointing by comparison?
As a guy with long hair I was particularly jealous. Why didn’t my hair look as good as my girlfriend’s? I mean biologically speaking there’s no significant difference between male and female hair so the same results are possible right?
Even girls with wild curls seem to make the most out of it so how come when guys grow their hair it frequently gets consigned to the ponytail in a functional attempt to pretend we have it under control?
Well the truth is the secrets to great looking long hair are the same for guys as they are for girls. Girls who fail to observe these key points end up with bad hair just like guys. So I’m going to reveal to you the secrets of great looking long hair, which I gleamed from women.
The right cut
Guys grow long hair and then don’t get it cut. We fall into this trap of believing that length is everything (typical guy right?) But girls get their hair cut regularly, even those with longhair, typical time between trims is 6-12 weeks.
Trims involve a minimal amount of cutting and are concerned with taking off dry, spilt and damaged ends and with maintaining shape, particularly around the face. Notice how girls tend to have shorter bangs? It frames the face and it works for guys too. Why does it work? Well surprise, surprise, we have faces too!
Girls are also willing to experiment; this is partly due to the fact that for most girls longhair has been the norm, whereas guys are more nervous and protective of their first time longhair. Fear prevents us accepting good advice. If a girl’s hair is too thick for her liking, she gets it ‘layered’, yet we fear this very word as synonymous with a high-maintenance cut. More on layering in another hair-care hub. But the bottom line is when it comes to hair cuts, guys are afraid of losing the hair they have grown.
The right hair care routine
At some point you’ve probably noticed that bewildering array of hair-care products in a girl’s bathroom. Well, whilst at first glance this may well seem excessive, generally speaking each has a purpose, and the results will be far superior to your solitary bottle of Head and Shoulders 2in1.
Any self-respecting hair care routine involves between 3 and 5 products.
(i) A shampoo matched to your hair-type, idealy one you can’t buy in a supermarket.
(ii) A conditioner which compliments the shampoo, typically the same brand and for the same hair type. To be used after the shampoo has been rinsed out.
(iii) A ‘detangler’ – a type of leave in conditioner that is designed to help you comb/brush your hair with less snagging and thus reduce damage. Used after you shower, whilst your hair is still damp and before combing out.
(iv) A deep conditioner, something used occasionally (once every 2-6 weeks) in addition to the regular shampoo+conditioner hair wash, its purpose to moisturise, protect and restore your hair.
(v) A heat protect serum, typically a spray used before heat styling, ie: hair dryer/ ghd straighteners. If you don’t use such styling tools you can forego this particular product.
Frequency is also important. If you use all these products on a daily basis your hair will become lank and lifeless, so it’s important to get into a routine of washing and conditioning your hair no more than 2-3 times a week and then using the other products as directed.
Brushing and combing
As a boy growing up I was taught to comb my hair before I left the house each morning, then again the next day. When I first grew out my hair I applied the same logic, but I’d find that by the end of the day my hair was a windswept mess and the next morning it was a battle to get a comb through it. Brushing morning and night can help with this problem.
The next thing to realise with long hair is that small barber’s fine toothed comb isn’t going to work any more, you need a wide tooth comb for detangling your hair after washing and a paddle brush to use morning and night.
Whilst sleeping, it’s also a good idea to tie your hair on top of your head and toss it over your pillow, this way you avoid tangling it as you toss and turn during the night.
The other key tips for brushing and combing are to start brushing the ends of your hair working up to the roots, this way you get the snags out of the bottom of the hair first and gradually work your way up.
The final simple rule? Wet hair gets combed, dry hair gets brushed. Following both these simple rules result in far less damage.
Styling Tools and Products.
As guys we are naturally averse to using styling tools and products on our hair. We actively spread myths about the perils of heat styling whilst watching our girlfriends use the very same tools to achieve enviable results.
The hair-dryer is not your enemy. Used correctly (and in conjunction with a heat-protect serum) it can produce excellent results. A full tutorial is beyond the scope of this hub, but I’ll write another detailing the basic techniques.
Girls also appear to use a dangerous amount of hair-spray. So much is consumed that you fear for their safety when they pass close to a naked flame. Still unless you work in a church or as a welder, the perils of naked flames in modern society are somewhat diminished and a ‘light hold’ conditioning spray can protect against the worst excesses of a blustery day. If it doesn’t well, there’s always the ponytail.
For curly and wavy hairstyles a mousse or gel can add control and definition. For straight hair, a little light wax applied to the ends can also help add definition and protect against tangles. Use of hair straightners together with heavier waxing can create more radical emo-styles such as those sported by Toyko Hotel front man Bill Kaulitz in his earlier years.
For guys with long hair the defacto styles are the ponytail and letting your hair hang loose. Girls in contrast, seem to be much more creative. What’s more these creative styles have practical benefits.
A braid (plait) for instance is a great way to protect your hair from tangling, so it’s a great choice for a windy day. It’s also a good option if you have wavy/curly hair as it takes advantage of your natural hair type. If you are worried it will look ‘girly’ then grow a beard to complement this very practical style.
The ‘half-tail’, is a style popularised by footballer David Beckham and also by actor Tom Cruise in the films Magnolia and the Last Sumarai. This is where the hair from the top of the head is gathered at the back into a high ponytail and the lower layers allowed to hang loose. It’s a great option for guys as it keeps your hair out of your face, but still lets it fall around your shoulders.
Even the classic ponytail has its variants, the most notable been the height of the ponytail. Most people wrongly conclude that a higher ponytail is a more feminine style, so for most guys the hair is always tied at the base of the neck. The truth is the best position for you to tie your ponytail is largely determined by the shape of your head and the cut and length of your hair. (Layered cuts and longer hair can typically be tied in a higher ponytail, and higher ponytails suit people with a less prominent occipital bone.)
Another variant is how tightly you tie your hair back; a loose ponytail that lets your bangs work loose can give a more casual look. This again has practical benefits as it avoids stressing your hair by pulling it too tightly which can lead to damaged ends or traction alopecia, where hair is literally pulled out by its roots. (Common in Afro-Caribbean and curly hair which is pulled back in a severe style).
For the most part, guys are new to growing long hair, whereas, most women have been doing it for all of their lives. As such to ignore what they can teach us is folly. After all, bio-chemically their hair is no different to our own.
That’s not to say there aren’t women with bad hair, or that there aren’t guys who know a thing or two about great hair either, but the norm is guys fall into the trap of talking amongst themselves and learning very little. So to not recognise the opportunity to observe and learn from women is foolhardy.
- Men's Longhair Hyperboard - a support group for guys growing long hair.
- 5 Pro Tips for great hair - from refinery29.