everything I've learned about growing, maintaining, styling, and loving long hair

hair care tips

oil vs water

Years ago, when I first began my hair journey, I quickly discovered that some of the widely accepted and practiced methods for growing long healthy straight hair did NOT work for me at all.  In fact, sometimes it made it worse.  One of those practices is stretching the time between washes (as in, don’t get your hair wet in the shower) so the natural oils will have a chance to soak in.  Another is to apply oil to the ends of the hair where the natural oils never get a chance to reach.  I tried this for a few months.  It made my hair look and feel awful.  What I hadn’t yet learned was that curly hair is generally dehydrated by nature, and that my hair actually NEEDED the water I had been depriving it of in the shower.  I do try to shampoo only once a week or less, and I use a gentle shampoo, to keep from stripping away all the natural oils on my scalp and hair.  But I still get it wet, even when I don’t wash it.  Doing this improved the health significantly.

This article does a good job of explaining why.

Written by Jonathan Torch, owner of Curly Hair Solutions

At the base of every hair on every human, there is a gland that secretes a waxy material called sebum. The sebum is essential for supplying nutritious minerals to the follicle that moisturize and protect the skin and hair. The sebum has a tiny molecular weight that allows for deeper penetration and absorption of these minerals without blocking or clogging any other pores and cuticles – and to make it even better, the sebum evaporates without any residue.

When it comes to oils and our hair, we have had quite a long track record of using them! All around the world, humans have been using and bathing in oils; to try and replenish the missing moisture that preserves youthful glow and energy. Cleopatra, the infamous Queen of Egypt, was constantly in search of a more miraculous oil to preserve her beauty. The more exotic the oil, the bigger the price tag, and therefore, the more in demand it was. It was seen and believed to be cosmetic elixir.

To this day, oils are still extremely popular in hair care and therapy. Sales of oil-based products continue to grow every year, as more and more exotic and potent oils enter the beauty industry – and it`s completely understandable, as the benefits of oil on hair are so easy to notice. In particular, the look and feel of soft, shiny, and supple hair is most appealing to everybody who uses oils.

When I started to focus on naturally curly hair as my specialty, it became increasingly obvious to me that while oils make the exterior of hair look beautiful, there is a tremendous difference in the quality of the hair when comparing oil-based products and water-based products. My focus was on the end results: Style Management is incredibly easier to have when there is absolutely no silicone or oils coating the hair. Water is the healthiest moisturizer in the world – it is what makes up our atmosphere, it is what our bodies are made of, and it is an integral part of the hair. Water is essential to life, and hair automatically responds as a natural moisture magnet – it sucks up all the moisture it can, particularly when water is involved.

By understanding this common-sense fact, it became obvious that eliminating oils from the styling process makes it far easier to moisturize and style hair. Oil and water do not mix. While they both have their proper roles and benefits, they are very far apart in what they do. Oils act as a lubricator, cosmetically softening – and weighing down – the hair. When there`s a coating surrounding the hair, it becomes very difficult for each hair to group with other hairs to make a beautiful curl or a ringlet. Because of this effect, any movement to the hair causes flyaway hairs, essentially encouraging frizz. On the other hand, water fills the hair cuticle, encouraging grouping and joining of each hair, and this automatically creates a frizz-free curl. Water works every time in every scenario of curl formation in all weather conditions – and it`s the most natural thing I could base my products on.


tangles & knots

I don’t personally have a lot of experience with tangles, so I’m probably not the best source of information on this topic.  But I’m still going to share with you what I know because many times tangles is what keeps you girls from growing your hair long, or makes you want to cut it off.  If you are the type to brush through your hair, ripping out the knots as you go…. imagine me slapping your hand and saying “NO!” 🙂  Believe me, that’s the worst way for you to deal with it!  Few things make me cringe more than a child crying out in pain as her head is being yanked around by a brush in her mother’s hand.  The mother always saying, “She just hates having her hair brushed!”  Many times I have asked for permission to take over, and the little girl sat calmly and quietly as I detangled her hair.  No, she doesn’t hate having her hair brushed, she just hates the way you do it.

Like I said, I have limited experience.  I have been blessed with hair that simply is not prone to tangle.  I think it’s because it’s more on the coarse side.  However, I have dealt with a lot of different types of hair on other people, including very fine hair, tightly curled thick hair, and children’s hair.  Please keep in mind that different hair types have different needs.  These are just some basic principles that I have discovered to work well for me.

Tangles are very damaging to the hair and cause weak spots and breakage.  Here are a few rules to follow to avoid tangles, and to deal with them when they do happen.

hair1.  Avoid letting your hair loose on a windy day.  If your hair tangles easily, please follow this piece of advice!  I knew a girl who had to cut her knee length hair off at her waist because she spent a day outside enjoying the feel of wind in her hair.  She ended up with a huge knot.  Three different people worked on it over the next few days with very little success.  She cut the knot out, but it left a gap that was too noticeable, so she cut it all off.

So put your hair up or in a braid if you’re going to be out on a windy day.  The same goes for riding a motorcycle, riding in the car with the windows down, etc.  Don’t let the wind whip your hair.

Note:  It is a good idea to always put your child’s hair in a protective style (braid, bun, etc.) when she goes out to play.  Especially if she has very long or very curly hair.  Why subject your children to long, unpleasant detangling sessions when it can be prevented?  It will save you and her a lot of time and frustration.

2.  Condition!  I know you’re going to get tired of hearing me say this.  You’re probably thinking “that’s her cure for everything!”  Well, you’re not far off.  🙂  If your hair is dry or brittle, it will be much more likely to tangle.  A good conditioning routine can take care of this.  Proper hydration means your hairs are smoother and less inclined to catch on each other and knot together.

3.  Use a wide tooth comb.  This is something I started doing about 20 years ago and I never looked back.  I know there are many different types of styling brushes.  If you want to use a brush for styling, ok.  But don’t use it to detangle.

4. Start at the bottom and work up.  Never start combing or brushing at the top, even if you don’t think you have any tangles.  This can create tangles.  Also, work in sections.  If your hair is very tangled, smaller sections work better and you don’t get frustrated as easily.

Something that I found to work really well for my hair is to always detangle in the shower while my hair is soaking wet and conditioner applied heavily.  I usually stand under the shower head so the water runs down my hair while I’m combing.  You’ve probably heard that you’re not supposed to comb/brush wet hair because it will stretch and break the hairs.  It’s different when it’s coated in conditioner.  The comb slides through without stretching the hair (unless you run into a knot, at which point you will immediately stop and pull out the comb, then gently work on the knot).  It’s much easier for me than combing it dry.  By all means, do whatever works for you.

I’ve heard good things about the Tangle Teezer.  I have never personally used one, but 3 of the hair girls I watch on youtube rave about them.  If you’re not opposed to using a brush, it might be worth a try.

growing out curly hair

I happened across this video today…. It was on my “recommended for you” list on youtube.  I thought her advice was great and I wanted to share it with all of you.  I know your first reaction might be “I don’t have African hair, this won’t help me.”  Trust me, it’s not a matter of race, it’s all about hair texture.  I figured out a long time ago that products and techniques African women use for their hair will many times work perfectly for me!  Straight hair and curly hair are cared for and maintained in different ways, sometimes the information will even contradict between the two.  That’s ok.  Methods will even differ depending on how curly your hair is.  Choose what works best for your hair type.  So if you have curly hair, her tips will be helpful to you.  I do almost everything she lists here.

I browsed her youtube channel and found it interesting that she had been relaxing her hair since she was a child because her mom didn’t really know how to care for it.  She grew up not even knowing what her natural texture was!  Her hair wasn’t super damaged from it, but out of curiosity she cut off all the relaxed part and started fresh and has been growing it for two years.

I think this is a great example of what has been happening for ages with curly girls.  Especially when the mom has straight hair, she has no clue how to deal with a curly haired daughter.  She treats the daughter’s hair the exact same way she treats her own straight hair.  And it doesn’t work!  I see this a lot and it makes me sad because the daughter grows up hating her hair and thinking the only option for making her hair look good is a flat iron or blow dryer.  Ladies, do your daughters a huge favor….. If their hair is a different texture than yours, learn about how to care for it properly and teach her how to as well.  Don’t help her grow up hating her natural hair!

dealing with static

Winter is quickly approaching.  With winter comes static electricity.  Static in your hair is a big deal.  The longer your hair is, the bigger deal it is.  It can get a little creepy when your hair starts reaching out to people standing two or three feet away, or when you pull back from a hug and your hair is still clinging to the other person. 

Imagine this with 3 feet of hair!

So I’m going to share with you some ways I’ve learned to help reduce static in hair.

1.  Wear clothing that isn’t prone to static.  We all know that sweaters are like the best conductors of electricity, right?  But does that stop us?  No!  🙂  Here’s a tip….. natural fiber clothing (cotton, bamboo, wool, silk, leather, etc.) is less prone to static than synthetic fibers.  Cotton is actually neutral when it comes to electricity.  Cotton sweaters don’t get static!  (But you have to get fabrics that are 100% cotton, not mixed with a synthetic.)  So keep this in mind when you go shopping for your winter clothes, hats, coats, gloves, and scarves.

2.  If you wear something that is prone to static, wear your hair up.  This is the simplest solution.

3.  Use combs made of bone or horn.  I used to use a plastic wide-tooth comb.  Every time I combed my hair, it would get static.  Since buying a horn comb, I no longer have that problem.  (I do use a plastic comb in the shower because water can damage natural ones.  Besides, in the shower you don’t have to worry about static.)

4.  Using fabric softener or dryer sheets on your hair is a very common remedy that I hear a lot.  And I admit, in a pinch, I’ve prayed Static Guard on my hair.  I don’t recommend this.  It works, but the chemicals are not good for your hair.  Please only do this if you’re desperate!

5.  Condition, Condition, Condition.  I can’t stress this enough!  This is the most important thing to do!  Dryness is what brings about so much static.  I read that even dry skin will cause static in your clothing.  So keep your hair (and skin) moisturized!  Do regular deep conditioning treatments about once a month, and use plenty of conditioner when you wash your hair.  Make sure you don’t have build-up that is preventing the moisture from soaking in.  I like to scrunch raw shea butter into the ends immediately after my shower to seal in the moisture.  (I also use it as body lotion.)  For those with straight hair, smoothing a few drops of oil into your ends daily is highly recommended.

I wish you all a happy, static-free winter!!

water temp

I had a “duh” moment.  One of  my biggest problem areas is a dry flaky scalp.  Over the last few seasons, I noticed a pattern.  During the summer, my scalp was fairly free of flakes.  As winter came on, I started seeing an increase.  Then summer again and it decreased.  I was thinking it didn’t really make sense because it had been a particularly hot and dry summer (three months of no rain and temps over 100).  The dryness in the air and the heat should have made my skin/scalp drier, right?

Then it hit me!  I’m very cold-natured and have to take steaming hot showers in the winter.  I was taking much cooler showers in the summer (especially after being outdoors) because it was so hot and dry.  The water temperature was affecting the dryness of my scalp!  Now, I’ve known for a long time that washing your hair with very hot water can be a contributing factor for dry hair/scalp.  I’ve even advised people about it.  Why did it never occur to me that it was my problem?  I have no idea…..

So now (after slapping myself on the forehead for being so ignorant) I try to wash my hair with cooler water, even if I have to wash it while leaning forward so the water doesn’t touch the rest of my body.  Then I adjust the water to be warmer for the rest of my shower.  I would like to be able to just wash my hair separately by kneeling next to the bathtub and putting my head under the faucet like I used to, but the position of the bathtub in the house I’m living in now makes that impossible.  I still have issues with flakes, I think I always will because I just have naturally dry skin, but it is better when I use cooler water.

“no-poo” article

Melissa Dahl
Health writer

Andrea Lynch can’t exactly remember the last time she shampooed her hair. Maybe it was last summer? No, more like September. She thinks.

For most Americans, the idea of skipping shampoo for even a day is enough to make us feel a little itchy. But some hair stylists and dermatologists say going a few extra days between shampoos — or ditching the stuff entirely — could actually benefit your tresses.

It’s a bit counterintuitive, but those who’ve tried it are quick to brag about the improved condition of their hair. “I’m thrilled with it; my hair’s very shiny and it’s just thick,” says 34-year-old Lynch, who lives in South Vienna, Ohio.

In recent years, “no poo” has become something of an underground beauty trend (despite being saddled with an unfortunate moniker) that’s split into two camps: beauty mavens who believe they’ve found hair care’s dirty little secret, and environmentally minded folks who want to use fewer plastic products and products with fewer chemicals.

“I think we’ve been so conditioned that you have to wash your hair every day … that it’s just bizarre for somebody to think something otherwise,” says Lynch, who fits comfortably within the eco-friendly category of no-pooers.

Europeans and Australians have a more lax attitude toward shampooing, but in the U.S., the thought of going more than 48 hours without shampoo makes many squirm. Still, the idea seems to be finding its footing here — beauty blogs and message boards are abuzz with ‘poo eschewers, and some stylists say more of their clients are asking about it.

“The first time I heard about it, I thought it sounded pretty gross,” says Kendra Spencer, who’s 32 and lives in Sonoma, Calif. “I thought your hair would be constantly greasy and it would dreadlock or something like that. I know when I used shampoo normally, when I would go any length of time without using it, it would turn into a complete mess.”

Courtesy Of Kendra Spencer
Kendra Spencer, 32, snaps a photo of herself after going four months without shampoo.

Spencer used to wash her hair about every other day, but decided to quit shampoo last summer after reading several positive, lengthy discussion threads on the topic on a parenting message board. “I haven’t told many people about it,” she admits. “It’s just kind of … weird.”

Modern shampoo has been around since the 1930s, and in the decades that followed, it became one of America’s most heavily advertised products. The harsher formulas of those initial iterations of shampoo meant that most women were washing their hair only once a week (and telling unwanted suitors, “I can’t go out; I’m washing my hair.”). But as formulas got gentler in the 70s and 80s, daily shampooing became the norm.

But some wonder if we were sold a bill of goods. That trend toward everyday cleansing might have triggered a vicious cycle, some experts say — shampoo cleanses by stripping the hair of its natural, necessary oils, causing the scalp to produce more oil in response, making it impossible for some to skip shampoo for even one day without sprouting a gigantic greaseball.

“When you over-shampoo your hair, your hair is over-secreting oil in order to survive,” says Lorraine Massey, co-owner of Devachan Salon in New York and creator of the No Poo conditioning cleanser. (It’s been more than 20 years since Massey’s last shampoo.)

Dr. Paradi Mirmirani, a dermatologist in Vallejo, Calif., says it’s a matter of preference. Shampoos are fine to use every day, but “there’s nothing gross” or unsafe about ditching shampoo.



Some who’ve junked shampoo use only hot water to rinse the hair. Others use only conditioner, which can be especially helpful for the curly hair that tends to dehydrate quickly and explode into frizzies. But for Lynch and her like-minded no-pooers, the cleanser of choice is simply a 59-cent box of baking soda: She mixes one teaspoon with one cup of water.

“You shake it up real good, and when you get in the shower you pour it on, massage it in and let it sit for a bit, and rinse it out,” Lynch says. The mixture absorbs excess oil without the chemical frills or fruity scents. (On the downside, no bubbles and no lather make for a rather unsatisfying shower for some.)

But step out of that shower, and the no-poo learning curve just gets steeper. In the beginning stages of a no-poo experiment, most people seem to go through a two- to six-week period when their hair looks like, well, poo.

“It took a few days to get used to. The first time I used it, I didn’t feel like my hair was clean,” Lynch says. “It was grimy.”

Courtesy Of Andrea Lynch
Thirty-four-year-old Andrea Lynch says she loves the shine and body her hair has gained since she stopped using shampoo about seven months ago.

Some stylists say that’s because once the shampoo is no longer stripping the hair of its natural oils every day, the scalp must learn to scale back production of those oils. Mirmirani says that although measuring scalp oil is not an easy thing to do — she’s in the middle of a project that is seeking to do just that — the theory does make sense.

“On the other hand, I think there’s some people who have bigger oil glands and have oilier scalps than others,” she says. “In some degree, it’s genetically based.”

Both Lynch and Spencer, the reluctant California no-pooer, pushed through an awkward phase of grease and grime — and each were rewarded with shinier, healthier-looking hair that had less frizz and more body than they’d had before. And no, it doesn’t smell or itch, they both say.

But many dermatologists, including Dr. Wilma Bergfeld of the Cleveland Clinic, are skeptical of the no-poo idea. She’s mostly concerned that some might take the idea too far, failing to adequately remove scalp oil and subsequently inviting millions of microbes to a delicious feast. (That’s when things can start to get smelly.)



Cleansing the hair with baking soda followed with an apple cider vinegar rinse, something both Lynch and Spencer have tried, might work, Bergfeld says. But without the acidic effect to balance the harsh alkaline of the baking soda, the hair and scalp might become brittle and dry. That’s what happened when 25-year-old Anna Allen of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, swapped shampoo for baking soda in February. She noticed her scalp felt drier and itchier than it ever had, and she saw telltale dandruff flakes for the first time in her life.

But Allen liked the effect her little experiment had on her hair, if not her scalp, so she’s still avoiding shampoo. She’s now two years into her no-shampoo venture, and apart from baking soda, she’s also tried going conditioner-only. Without shampoo, she’s found her hair has a loose, pretty wave to it, rather than the unruliness she thought she was cursed with. She’s really learned what her hair can do — all by doing much, much less.

towel drying technique for curly hair

Wrapping the towel around your hair this way makes the curls form better and they are more bouncy.  I don’t do it exactly like the pictures show, but somewhat similar.  I wanted to add the picture to give you an idea of how it’s done.  It took me a while to get the hang of it, so don’t give up too quickly if I doesn’t seem to be working for you.
     I leave the towel on for 10-15 minutes.  If your hair is shorter or thinner, it may not take that long.