Long hair begins at the ends. . .
With the exception of those people with superfast growth – which most people with long hair do not have – long hair is simply old hair. The hair at the ends of your hair is the hair that's been around the longest. And the longer hair has been around, the longer it has been exposed to damaging forces.
Everything from water, to heat, to cold, to pollution, to harsh products, your coat collar, to poor handling, and plenty more besides, can damage your hair.
Every exposure to damage weakens your hair so that it eventually breaks off, with the fragile ends that have taken the most abuse over time being the first to go.
And if the ends go, the length goes. So protecting it from these sources of damage is the key to getting - and keeping - it long.
General protective measures, like minimising the use of heat and chemicals, shielding hair from pollution and reducing friction from harsh fabrics, also benefit your ends. But they do also need a little bit of extra love to get them to hang around longer.
Watch out for those combs
The biggest source of damage to hair is manipulation, particularly in the form of combing or brushing.
While damage from chemicals and heat is often immediately obvious, as combing damage comes a little at a time, it is more insidious and often passes unnoticed.
However, since the hair is so frequently exposed to this source of damage, with most people combing or brushing their hair multiple times a day, the amount of damage it inflicts can be immense.To minimise it, first be sure that the comb is not cutting your hair by checking your tools.
Even with a good tool, however, combing and brushing create friction and tension, too much of which places too much strain on your hair shaft, particularly its fragile ends. So the main thing you can do to protect your ends is combine these two best practices: keep brushing and combing to a minimum, and use only the best brushes and combs.
To help stretch the periods between handling, sleep with your hair tied in a silk scarf to maintain styles and try to pick styles that do not need to be touched up in between washes. And on the times when you do comb or brush, make sure your hair from root to tip - especially the tips - are fully protected by a generous helping of slippery product each and every time.
Don't let that dryness happen
Often, the ends of your hair are the first to lose moisture. On top of that, they also have a hard time holding onto the emollients that protect the hair from friction and other damaging factors in the environment.
Hair derives much of its strength from its water content, so when strands get dehydrated it doesn't take much for the ends to start to disintegrate.
When you layer on your leave in, make sure you apply extra moisturiser and sealant at the tips. A trick to insulate your hair even further, is to repeat the last two steps of the layering process: apply moisturizer, then sealant, then a smaller amount of moisturizer, topped up by a small amount of sealant.
The added layers will trap the moisture and the emollients for longer.
Keep those ends up
The other main enemy of your ends: drag. Just as the friction from combing can be like cutting your hair, so too can the friction from leaving it dangling all the time. Hair left loose scrapes against your clothes, gets scratched by your collar and snatched out of the way all day long, as you constantly push it back into place.
All of this grinds your ends into powder, crumbling away microscopic pieces of cuticle and even taking inches of the whole strand at once. And all of this is easily avoided: if your hair is long enough to drag (i.e., any lower than right after your nape) put it up.
Use clips (ones that are kind to your strands of course), ponytail holders, or creative styling using the hair itself to keep it out of harm's way.
Leave your flowing styles for an occasional, or scheduled, infrequent period, like a monthly blowout or a day when you want to wear your 'fro out and BIG.
This way, not only is your hair less exposed to the air, which can be drying, but it's less vulnerable to the drag that is one of the biggest reasons for end damage. Plus it encourages you to mix it up, with down styles some days in the month, and a whole range of innovative updos the rest, not to mention cute accessorising with scarves and satin-lined hats!
The long and the short of it. . .
So it's simple: stay on top of dryness, keep combing stress to a minimum, and put your hair up. Then sit back and watch those inches increase!
DHA Hair Care Experts
Dominican Hair Alliance