“It’s a painstaking process, and I suggest you don’t do it,” said stylist Nate Prescott when I asked his advice for girls, guys and non-binary identifiers who want to grow out their hair. He’s right– how many times have you seen fraying, waist-length locks that are totally fried? So here is your definitive Bullett Guide to how to grow your hair out long. If you’re going to go for the grow– like I am, having spent the past three years transitioning from what was essentially a fade to the painfully-in-between above-shoulder length I’m gritting my teeth through now– then it’s important to do it properly, so in addition to imparting years of my own wisdom, I got Prescott and fellow Trephin stylist Sean Kavanagh to open up about the best ways to achieve Rapunzel status without looking like Amanda Bynes.
First things first: let’s talk about your diet.
Step away from the KFC Double Down– if anemic is your look, then your hair will reflect the same dull, broken lifelessness. Lots of fruits, vegetables and good fats like avocado and olive oil will help give you that essential vitality. “It’s important to have a good diet in general,” says Kavanagh. “A plant based diet is great for growth.” He also recommends vitamins D + B-Complex (Prescott is a fan of Biotin), or picking up a multivitamin formulated specifically for hair and nail strength. Vitamins A + E are also key, and depending on how into old wives’ tales you are, you can try Grape Seed oil, gelatin, or shark cartilage capsules. If you think that’s gross, you should see what’s in a Double Down.
You can’t escape the gym.
Unlike your gut, aerobic exercise will actually help your hair grow faster. “Exercise is super important,” says Kavanagh, as I try not to look disappointed. “Hair is made up of a protein called keratin, which comes from the blood. More exercise means more blood flow, which means more hair growth.”
Cut smart, but not too often.
Bad habits while you’re young will catch up with you when you’re old– this is true for people and hair. Start the growing process with a cut to remove split ends, and be clear with your stylist about wanting a shape that will grow out nicely, even with the longer time in between cuts. “Grow out the top and front first, to avoid any sort of mullet situation– unless you’re going for that sort of thing,” says Prescott. “The use of a bobby pin can save the day throughout the process. Pinning up the uneven hair may make it more tolerable. And finally,” he adds, “don’t wait a year to get your ends trimmed up! You’ll be sorry when your stylist cuts inches off.” Get a trim every few months, and if you’re rough on your hair, be honest with yourself if it needs a quick snip sooner. “Dusting” is the term for cutting to remove split ends while taking off as little length as possible, and is only useful if you do it often enough not to need the full trim.
Color even smarter, and less often.
If you have dark hair, and you want to try any color that resorts to bleaching on its path to achievement, you probably shouldn’t be growing your hair. If you insist, be prepared to require more frequent cuts to keep the ends healthy. Need those highlights? Opt for ombré, which keeps the lightening effect away from the roots and doesn’t require constant maintenance. Aim for subtle over Ciara.
Keep your hair clean, but stop acting OCD.
Don’t overwash your hair. Just stop. Once every few days for finer/oilier hair works, and dry or curly hair is best left a little longer. You can always wet it in between full washes, or even deep condition if your mop can never seem to get enough moisture. Even if you’re a total greaseball, dry shampoo (this Oscar Blandi is my go-to; it’s not dirt cheap but it lasts me a year) can help you keep from continuously stripping hydration, and possibly color, from your strands.
“Scalp stimulation is also important,” says Kavanagh. “Be sure to really massage your scalp when shampooing, but keep conditioner away from your scalp and focus on the ends.” This will also help you avoid breakouts around your hairline.
Also, say no to sulfates! You don’t need to spend a fortune to avoid damaging drugstore garbage. Kavanagh recommends Maxi Wash from Kevin Murphy (a terrific line of paraben and sulfate-free products) for shampoo, and Hydrate Me for conditioner, or Aveda’s Invati system. If you don’t feel like shelling out that much, Dr. Bronner’s Tea Tree Oil Liquid Soap/Shampoo is amazing for your scalp, all-natural and very lathery. I like to use it with Davines (pronounced dah-ven-uhs) Vegetarian Miracle deep conditioner.
Here’s how you style it (or not).
“Try to lay off the heat styling- blow drying, flatironing and curling,” espouses Kavanagh. It’s also good to skip the super-stiff styling products once your hair starts to get longer; Prescott recommends Kevin Murphy UN.DRESSED for lightweight, flexible tress-taming purposes. I also love pure Argan oil (from the health food store; don’t buy that plus chemicals from Duane Reade) or Davines Authentic Nourishing Oil, both of which can be used on the face and body as well.
The little things count.
Kavanagh wisely told me not to put my hair up when wet, one of the factors that causes those supershort stray hairs to break around your face. When you wear your hair back, avoid any thin or uncovered rubberbands, as well as barrettes or clips (because they’re just plain ugly).
It was actually the queen of the mermaid weave herself, Azealia Banks, who told me that sleeping with a silk scarf wrapped around your head is the best surefire way to prevent breakage and tangling. I can’t manage not to fall asleep clothed half the time, so if that’s you too, invest in a silk pillowcase instead. If you already have satin sheets, you win this round, but not at life because you’re still corny.
The lengths we go to for beauty…