When I was a little girl, I went to summer camp. Like most other little girls and boys, summer camp was a right of passage, a first taste of independence. I played pick-up sticks for the first time and had my first crush and it was all right in that sweet spot of the 90s where cellphones hadn’t yet existed and parents were still riding on a blissful high from the 80s. It was a time to be alive.
Summer camp was also the first time I learned how to braid. I braided everything – string, long pieces of grass, other peoples’ hair – because I couldn’t get enough of it. There’s one thing I didn’t really get to braid though and that was my own hair. I’d twist it three or four times and then my little ends would slip right through my fingers.
Why? you might ask. My hair was never much long than it is in this (adorable) picture of me at the age of five.
As I grew up, I realized how thin my hair was. Not that I was balding or anything extreme like that; some people just have hair strands that are thin as opposed to people with hair strands that are thick! Not only that, but my hair grows extremely slow – no more than half an inch a month.
A few problems with that arose when I started to feel pressure from my peers to style my hair. Being thirteen years old is hard enough without having to learn how to use a hair dryer and a straightener. Yet I learned and it, unsurprisingly, ruined my hair. I tried product after product that promised to keep my hair healthy even though it really didn’t do anything at all.
After years with short hair, I had had enough. I was desperate for long hair and desperate times call for desperate measures. So, without further ado, step one of growing out my hair was to…
LET GO OF DAMAGINGLY HOT STYLING TOOLS.
I know that’s hard to hear for some of you. Eighth grade me would spit on current me for even thinking those very words. But when it came down to it, hot plates and curling irons do more damage to your hair than you realize. You may think you can just continue to tame the frizz by straightening your hair over and over again. But what you’re really doing is sending inches of splits due to extreme dryness up the strands of your hair.
Going along with that, you may be under the spell that heat protection products are your saving grace and that I have no idea what I’m talking about. Trust me when I say that these sprays and gels are doing just about nothing for you other than convincing you to spend money on their product. Your hair is still being damaged- maybe at a slightly slower rate than it would without it but it is still happening. This brings me to my second point…
KNOW YOUR HAIR PRODUCTS.
I can preach to you until my face turns blue about what products I think are the best but when reality sets in, everyone’s hair is different and me telling you hair care routine is not going to give everyone the same results. The moral of this section is that you need to try all kinds of different products before you find the right routine for YOU. With that being said, the following hair products that I’ve used have worked for me – someone with thin, slow-growing hair. Proceed with an open mind.
When I came to college, it got into the habit of putting Argan oil on my ends. I’d seen a lot of praise about this stuff and those praising it weren’t exactly wrong. But what you need to understand about Argan oil is that it’s not a magical remedy that will bring your ends back from the dead. You can put as much Argan oil on the ends of your hair as you want but, at the end of the day, healthy hair starts at your roots. Putting Argan oil on hair that hasn’t been taken care of is like slathering a pound of butter on a steak that is already burnt to a crisp. Argan oil helps keep your ends moist – it does NOT reverse damage.
A great preventative measure that I have and always will standby is one of the most simple things you can do, which is just to invest in some good conditioner. Personally, I’m a huge fan of Aussie 3-Minute Miracle. I go through about a bottle a week but it’s cheap and has been nothing short of a miracle. (I really couldn’t help myself.)
One last product that is a bit on the pricier side but did wonders for boosting my hair growth. I bought the Fast shampoo and conditioner set by NISIM in the fall of 2013 and in the following six months, my hair grew nearly six inches. I’m sure that’s normal for some people but this was an outrageous amount of growth for me. The pictures below were taken about a year apart.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was extremely skeptical when ordering this stuff. But I did my research and made a leap of faith into the unknown. I bought mine on Amazon but you can also order straight from NISIM’s website. There’s also sulfate-free options for those of you who have hair that has a hard time retaining natural protective oils!
TIPS AND TRICKS THAT HAVE WORKED FOR ME.
When I was in middle school, I would slather 1/4 of a bottle of conditioner all over my head, including on my roots. On the same note, I would wash every inch of my hair, from my roots all the way down to my tips. I was convinced that this would make all of my hair healthy and moisturized. What it really did was dry out my ends and make my roots heinously greasy. With that being said my first tip is to shampoo only your roots and condition only your ends. It’s such a small change but it makes a world of a difference.
Once you’re out of the shower, you need handle your hair with care. NEVER use a brush on your wet hair. Your hair is so fragile and weak when it’s wet and anyone who was once a kid knows that brushing your hair, even when it’s dry, is a rough experience. Invest in a wide-tooth comb and comb out your knots starting from the bottom up. Also, while we’re on the topic of brushes… Keeping your hairbrush clean actually makes a difference. Your hair is like any other part of your body; exposure to the bacteria that grows on an unclean brush makes a bigger difference on your hair health and growth than you realize.
While we’re on the topic of wet hair, I also highly recommend rinsing your hair with cold water. I know it’s not the most pleasant thing to do, especially if you shower in the morning. But this helps close up your hair cuticles and seal in the moisture from your conditioner.
Finally, as counterproductive as it seems, you need to trim your ends. Let me be the first to say that even thinking this makes me cringe. I hate the thought of cutting my hair after working so hard to grow it longer. This is why I started trimming it myself. If you don’t trust your hairdresser to cut your hair correctly, take it upon yourself to learn how to use a pair of hair scissors. (Do not use regular scissors!) There’s thousands of easy-to-follow how-to videos on YouTube.
If you have longer hair, your mom, your best friend, your hairdresser, or your well-trained parakeet should’ve already told you a hundred times what you should or shouldn’t be doing to your hair. But for the sake of those of you who have terrible friends and hairdressers, here are some things that are just plain bad for your hair.
- Stop coloring your hair, especially if you’re going lighter. Hair dye dries out your hair and stunts growth. The color may look fab but your strands are on are their deathbeds.
- Don’t rely on up-dos for healthy hair. You’re probably under the impression that nothing bad can happen to it if it’s up and out of the way. How can I damage it if I’m not doing anything to style it, right? Wrong. Up-dos cause hair breakage, headaches and plenty of other problems.
- Don’t rub – squeeze. I’ve said once and I’ll say it again: be so gentle with your wet hair, even with your soft towel. Pat and squeeze excess water out of your hair. Rubbing it causes breakage and frizz. Yuck.
- Stop pumping your body full of Hair, Skin & Nails pills. They certainly don’t hurt but they don’t help as much as you think they do. Instead, start eating healthier (protein, veggies, the whole nine yards) because hey, the least it’ll do is regulate your tummy a little bit.