Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Mermaids Journey to Long Healthy Hair

This is a lengthy, very long-winded post.
I'd recommend making yourself a cup of tea or coffee, putting your feet up and settling in for a few minutes if you decide to read all of this! haha!

A Mermaid's Journey to Long, Healthy Hair
Its no secret that many of us really want thick, lovely hair. Thanks to so many 'hair-porn' posts on Tumblr its easy to find photos of girls with long, beautifully tamed locks who look like they've effortlessly gown it overnight to shimmering perfection. I fall under the category of people who “hngggg” loudly with jealousy when I see these photos.
The added vision of mermaids with long, waist length beautiful hair is embedded in my mind from years of dreaming. You could say I have super unrealistic hair expectations. But you have got to start somewhere!
And I have started now.
Thanks to the onset of Winter and the colder days, I know my hair is going to suffer. It always does. So now seems like the best time to really start concentrating on helping my hair grow stronger, longer and healthier. It wont be easy, or an overnight experience, but if dedication (aka, stubbornness) has anything to do with it, I feel its an achievable feet for anyone.

So, as this is my own personal journey I thought I would share the list of things which will hinder the progress of growing my hair longer and stronger. They may or may not apply to you, or there may be other factors in your life which will effect the outcome of your hair's health; unfortunately I cannot help you there! Haha! This is what I've learnt through my own 'hair discovery'.
  1. Winter. The cold air dries my hair out SO BAD. It suffocates without moisture and frizzes without the warmth of the sun.
  2. Bleach. I'm not ashamed to say I lighten my hair during winter. Without the sun and ocean to bleach it for me, my hair goes into its ugly hibernation colour- dull ash blonde. A lot of people like this shade, but having warm-toned skin it sucks all the colour from my face and makes me look constantly sick (general rule is warm tone skin needs warm tone hair, and cold tone skin needs cold tone hair). But the issue with bleach is it damages the hair, thins it, quite literally burns it!
  3. Heated hair tools. My beautiful GHD, although making my hair silky straight or bouncy with curls, is the ultimate hair destroyer. Even with the special heat-protectants I use, after one or two times I can already see the damage to my hair ends. This also applies to hair dryers, curlers, anything with heat or steam.
  4. Chlorine. This is something I loathe, but as a mermaid in winter, it is something I must face at least twice a week to keep up my fitness. It burns, smells, can dye your hair a different colour and if not washed out properly, breaks the hair.

So, looking at those 4 rather large challenges, I had a lot of thinking to do.
In order to keep up appearances (lol) the idea of leaving my hair its natural dull blonde colour scared me. Lightening seemed something I could NOT give up, even though it was a major killer of hair. Winter was here wether I liked it or not (which I dont), so I was going to have to find ways to get around the damage caused by cold, dry air. Chlorine, much like bleach, I couldn't avoid.

Let Hair Dry Naturally, Avoid Heating Tools:
I started with the heated hair tools. And by started, I mean stopped. I haven't used my GHD or hair dryer in quite some time: only once for a friends wedding in April! Haha!
My alternatives have been letting my hair dry naturally, which on most occasions I do anyway. Use something soft to dry your hair- a t shirt is actually a better option than a towel, as the light cotton pulls less. When drying your hair, pat it gently, never rub vigorously! Wrap it up in a t-shirt or towel on your head as a turban and leave for a few minutes to soak up excess water.
Avoid brushing your hair when wet. Wet hair is easily broken or snagged! If you must untangle it, use your fingers gently. I have to do this when applying hair products, so I am guilty of brushing with my fingers, but I do it sparingly.
Try to leave a good amount of time between washing hair and going to bed when air drying- let it be as dry as possible before sleeping! Believe it or not, the amount of damage which occurs when you sleep is incredible. I've been told switching to a silken pillow-case helps lessen the damage, as it lets your hair slip gently when you move (apparently its also great for the sensitive skin on your face!).
Another alternative to protecting hair while sleeping is putting it into loose plats. Some people go as far as wrapping it into a silken scarf every night. I'm of the loose plats fan-club, as if my hair is slightly damp still (yep, guilty of that too) I wake up with wavy hair!
There really isn't many alternatives for the GHD, though. Besides using dry, unheated rollers on damp hair to get curls, its near impossible to straighten hair naturally without heat or create perfect curls without heating tools. This is something I can live with.
Wigs are a blessing. I love curly wigs. They fulfil all my long, curly hair desires. If you are really dead without perfectly curled or straight hair, invest in some wigs. They don't have to be hundreds of dollars, but the nicest and naturally-looking ones are usually around $50-$100. I personally recommend Japanese gyaru-style wigs- they are long, luscious and styled really awesomely. Your hair will thank you from backing away from the heating tools for a while.
Wearing hair styles that do not pull the scalp, or doesn't use clips or rubber bands that can break the hair, is the simple way that you can protect your hair daily. Frequent brushing pulls out healthy hair, so only try to brush your hair once or twice a day, and invest in a good brush that wont snag or frizz the hair. Most long-haired women who are actively trying to grow it usually plat or pin their hair up using soft clips, which prevents knots. It sounds very simple, and it is!

Natural, Chemical Free Products and Remedies:
Now, tackling the damage side of things from winter, bleach and chlorine seemed a bit harder. I couldn't (or didn't want to) avoid any of them, so it was about the lessening of damage and strengthening of health to keep the hair from suffering. The best way to do this was through products and natural remedies.
I wont lie, the last two months or so I've changed my opinion on a lot of products. As you may or may not know, my partner owns a health food store, and on occasion he was on my back about all the smelly products I used for my body and hair. I've always used a natural face moisturiser made here in Australia (Sanctum, from Byron Bay if you were interested) which was free of any nasty chemicals, so I felt I was doing my face some justice. But the rest of me... I started reading the back of the products I was using. It had never bothered me before, but all of a sudden I noticed how many chemicals I was rubbing onto my skin and hair, without any real knowledge of their uses. It scared me a little that I was so blasé about what I was adding to my cells, especially when I was rather anal about what I ate.
So, I started by changing my hair products. To be exact, my shampoo and conditioner. Switching to an all-natural, chemical free product was both because of the chemicals in others, and because of the success in hair growth I'd heard from so many people online after switching. Long story short, silicone and other chemicals in shampoo strip your hair of its natural protecting oils. After washing your hair it may FEEL lovely and smooth thanks to the silicone blocking the follicles, but it is actually damaging the hair at the roots, which is where it grows from. Natural shampoo does not strip the hair of the natural oils, and it certainly does not stuff the follicles with silicone to 'pretend' your hair is healthy.
I've been using the natural shampoo and conditioner for a month now. They are both from the same company and are in the ' for dry, long hair' range. I was warned that the first month was the hardest! It takes a while for your hair to get used to the lack of silicone. You may find your hair will get oilier a lot faster as your natural oils start kicking in again. But after a month, your hair will feel NICER. As nice as it did when you used chemical shampoos and conditioners, but this time your hair will actually be healthy! Yay! I personally found I didn't have to change my hair washing routine; my hair did get oilier faster, but it wasn't as noticeable or annoying as I had anticipated.
Now my hair is as nice as it was before :) I will have to get back to you after another month, however, as the change in my own length wont be noticeable for a while I think. Haha!
Another thing I have started doing is coconut oil hair treatments. HOLY MOTHER OF PEARL. I cannot believe that hairdressers dont use this?! Quite simply, using some organic coconut oil, scrape it out of the jar and let it melt a little in your hands. Run it through your hair until your hair is damp with it (I require a fair amount to get my hair damp) and then pin your hair up. You can choose to put on a shower cap and add a little heat for half an hour, otherwise leave your hair up like that for an hour. Then wash it out. AND YOUR HAIR WILL FEEL AMAZING. Seriously. I've only used it twice and I can already tell the difference in the quality of my hair. Its super soft, even the ends that were once dry and slightly brittle.
After some research and the sworn testimonials of women with SUPER long dyed hair (I'm talking past their butts long), I have also discovered that using coconut oil in your hair prior and during bleaching will lessen the damage dramatically. And it does not hinder the dying/bleaching process at all- you literally put the coconut oil in, let it sit for an hour (some women wait overnight) then dye your hair with the oil still in. It protects, strengthens and softens your hair, which is just amazing after bleaching it!
I guess the best way to protect hair from bleach and dye damage is to put off bleaching or dying it as long as possible. I've had to do this, and its painful seeing the re-growth creep onto my head, but leaving it as long as possible means theres more time for the hair to strengthen between dyes. Frequent hair treatments, such as the coconut oil, will also help speed up the strenghtening process. I've done the coconut treatment before every wash, and intend to continue to do so.
Finally, I still recommend using a good leave-in conditioner and UV Protectant. They don't have to be chemical free, but if you can find some that are I would look into using them. They are both extremely handy year-round, but leave-in conditioner keeps the hair moist and soft in the cold air of winter. I also use Moroccan Argon oil to stop frizz on my ends- however, and this is important, dont use it too often. After speaking to many women and hairdressers, when the argon oil craze started everyone used it everyday, and within months people began to notice it started drying their hair out- myself included. The overall census was that our hair became reliant on it, and dried out faster. So long story short, use it sparingly on bad days! Haha!

Mermaid Woes:
Now we've got the products down, its onto the difficult task of protecting hair that gets exposed to pool chemicals, salt water and the general water-logged mermaid life.
I personally dont have too many issues with salt water, but after a few days in the sun my hair does feel drier. This is where the UV protectant comes in handy! Its essentially suncream for your hair. It may not stop your hair drying entirely, but it will protect it somewhat from the effects of the sea and sun rays, as well as stop any dye in your hair from fading.
Chlorine is a challenge. Unfortunately, no matter what I do, chlorine will always damage hair. Even the smell of it effects my nose and the air around me, therefore it will effect my hair before I even get it wet. My first step to protect my hair is to rinse it in cold, fresh water. Yep, before getting your hair wet, you've got to get your hair wet. Haha! The hair follicles will swell with the fresh water, and the cold will close the follicles, so by the time you hop into the chlorinated pool your hair cannot 'suck' in any more water. Its also recommended after wetting it, to put some leave-in conditioner through it as another barrier. Warning, it can cause a dirty oil-spill look across the surface of the pool when you hop in. Haha!
The final protectant you can do before poping into chlorinated pools, is to tie your hair up in a bun after wetting it, or even better, put it into a swim cap. Swim caps are FAR from attractive or mermaid-like, but I'm going to have to move past that if I want to grow my hair stronger. For training in the pool, they are close on essential. Having the pre-rinsed hair underneath with the layer of conditioner, is the most reliable way to defend against damage. Free-flowing hair in the pool can break, much like wet hair that gets combed, or very tangled.
These steps do help with avoiding colour-change thanks to chlorine, but I have heard many stories where no matter what, it still happenend. The same thing has happened to me while I was home for Christmas after swimming in my Auntie's pool- despite rinsing my hair before and washing it straight after, I had green streaks! Haha! Although it didn't bother me too much, what with it looking very mermaidy, I can understand how this would horrify other people. Unfortunately I think this is just a risk with swimming in pools, as the different levels of chlorine on certain days can really alter the hairs reaction. Following these steps is your only chance of prevention, I think!
Finally, for any and all swimming situations, wash your hair as soon as possible. At the pool I wash my hair in the changerooms asap, at the beach if there is a shower I'll rinse off quickly and wash my hair properly when I'm home. Using natural shampoo and conditioner washes the hair of chlorine pretty well, as well as encouraging your natrual oils to produce to protect it. There are special types of shampoos which are made to strip the chlorine from your hair, but again these have chemicals, so its really up to you to decide what works best! I find the natural shampoo does just fine, if not better than my old chemical shampoo.

Actively growing hair long:
With all these steps, all this information, I feel like I can finally start to grow my hair longer and stronger. Protecting it from the elements and daily life is actually the hardest part. Its the waiting that sucks, though! Everybodies hair grows at different rates. Despite conciously deciding a few months ago that I would grow my hair longer, I doubt that I've had much change lengthwise. Utilising these new 'healthy hair' habits will increase my hair growth, I've no doubt, however there are some more steps I can take to guarantee I'm doing the most for results.
Suppliments and protein are at the top of the list. I've swapped my normal breakfast for a protein shake each day (which will in theory help my bloating winter body also...) as protein is the main ingredient in your bodies growth of new cells! Adding extra protein to my diet will increase the growth of hair, skin and nail cells, as well as muscle recovery after tough exersizing! And NO, taking protein will not make you super buff like a female body builder. To become that muscular takes YEARS of correct diet, extreme workouts catered to building muscle, and a variety of particular suppliments. What they do to look that way is extremely hard work: drinking an extra protein shake a day is not going to be enough to be muscular, haha! You can always add extra lean red meat or chicken to your diet, but this is difficult for me as I'm super inexperienced and uncoordinated in the kitchen. I cut myself very badly on a tuna can last week; its still healing.
As for suppliments, I've recently started taking mineral silica. Its in a chewable tablet form- kinda like eating chalk, lol. But it is a hair, skin and nail nutrient, which strengthens hair and enourages growth. I have to take it 4 times a day about half an hour before meals, with one before bed. Sounds annoying, but I'm pretty keen to see some results so it doesn't feel like a hastle. So far I've only done about 4 days of it, and I dont expect to see any results for at least a month and a half, so I'll keep you all updated!
Scalp stimulants sound a bit strange, but they are pretty relevent to growing hair. Blood flow is essential to help hair grow at the roots, so stimulating the scalp is a great way to promote good circulation. I've used a special scalp oil which you massage into your head & roots, then leave for an hour before washing off. I do this as well as adding coconut oil, because if I'm going to sit around for an hour I might as well do both treatments at once! The scalp oil smells like tea-tree oil, and heats up to a tingly feeling.
You can also use head massagers, which are seriously devine. Some chemists sell them, although I am yet to purchase one myself. You may notice that after a head massage, your hair is oiler? Could it be your scalp producing healthy oils through increased blood flow to assist hair growth? Le-gasp! Of course, if you dont have special scalp stimulants or massage machine, the simple and best way to promote circulation is to give it a good massage while using shampoo in the shower. Massage the base of your neck right up to your temples!
Besides brushing sparingly to avoid hair breakage, another thing most long-haired women recommend investing in is a good, sharp pair of sissors. Why? Because you're going to want to trim your hair yourself.
Most of us have that story. You go to the hairdresser just wanting an inch off, and come out with hair trimed to your ears, thined out so its layered, in a style you're not sure you can recreate at home without seven extra hands. Sounds like an exaggeration, but for someone trying their hardest to grow their hair out this is a nightmare. The solution- find a hairdresser and drill it into them exactly what you want, or trim your hair yourself.
Trimming your hair yourself does not have to be terrifing. In fact, its recommended you just cut the indiviual hairs with split ends on them. Having layered hair thins it out, which is super frustrating for someone like me who's hair gets whispy and dry during winter; cue a frizz-filled head of fluffy hair. It has no weight when its thinned out, which means most people reach for the hair straighten to give it some texture and reign in the fluff. Unfortunately if I want to grow my hair long, I have to say goodbye to permanent 'hair styles'- no more layering.
You only have to trim your hair once every three months if you want. Cutting out the individual spit-ends you can do whenever you're bored. The long-hair world is 50/50 regarding doing the 'big chop': removing ALL the dead hair and starting from scratch. But that is a huge thing; it might mean losing 6 inches of hair!! By trimming your hair yourself this guarantees that, slowly, over time you are removing all the SUPER dead bits of hair at the ends, instead of doing one big scary chop. And by taking good care of your hair, the ends will stay in good condition, which means less trims and more hair growing!

Journey Begins for Long Ends:
I know that there is essentially hundreds of things to do to help increase hair strength and growth, but I dont know if I could do hundreds. Haha! I feel like what I have aimed for is achievable, if not a little overwhelming for those who are reading this. Lol!
Making this huge post was about getting out the information I know, and also marking the beginning of my attempt at growing long healthy hair.
The only issue is: because I've already been doing many things on this list for a few months now, I feel it will be hard to determine what helped with hair growth (if there is any)! It could be that in the next month the time and effort put in will really show, or that the suppliments and protein I recently added to the mix will make the difference. I guess that will be up to speculation! All I can hope is that I have healthier, longer and thicker hair in a few months.
Do you have any tips or remedies you use to get healthier hair? Maybe you know someone who attempted something similar?

Thanks for reading, even I'm shocked at the amount I've written! Haha!

(Pictures taken from Google)


  1. I found this a really interesting read as I don't particularly do anything special with my hair, but I would love it to be a little longer and healthier so perhaps I'll give some of these tips a try! Thank you!

  2. Protein shakes as supplements are very strong supporters. Very smart idea, thank you.

    I do natural oil masks and take vitamin pills, try to eat fish, vegetables with vitamins especially my hair needs, and that kind of beneficial, healthy foods.

    I read satin pillowcases are better because it doesn't hold the hair like cotton pillowcases, satin glides, so it doesn't hurt.