I’ve wanted long hair most of my life, but have not always been able to grow it as long as I would like. Yes, I’m a child of the 60s , but I’m also part Native American and have an affinity for all things natural and earthy.
Now that my hair is beyond my behind, I get inquiries into how it grew so long. There is no single answer. Growing my hair has many components…genetic, chemical, environmental and spiritual.
Genetically, I have thick wavy tresses from my dad, but fine individual strands from my mother. This makes it look full while being light on my head. People with thick long hair sometimes get headaches or neck strains and feel better with trimmed hair. Those with fine thin hair have little body and may keep their hair styled to give it pizzazz. The texture of my locks is a happy medium.
Chemically, I am very particular about what hair products I use. First, I have never dyed my hair, nor will I ever. I’m proud of my gray streaks knowing I earned every gray hair on my head. Second, I have only used natural shampoos, preferably without artificial ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulfate and other additives. This is hard to find and more expensive, but better for your hair and for the environment. No matter how long your hair is, you only need to wash the scalp. Let your natural oil stay in the rest of your hair. This also saves your shampoo budget. There are alternatives to shampoo, but I have not tried them.
I only wash my hair once per week, allowing it to go through an oily stage, pulled back in a ponytail, toward the end of the week. At least once a year, I’ll go for about a month and brush my natural hair oil until it thoroughly coats my hair to the ends. When freshly washed, it has a frizzy or wavy look. My hair is like a weather hygrometer (humidity) too, HaHa.
If you can tolerate it, rinsing your hair with cold water at the end of your shower helps to close the hair follicles, skin pores, and keeps your hair from stretching in ways that can cause damage. When washed, I drip dry my hair, no hairdryer or blower for my delicate hairs. Never pull on your hair or brush it when it is wet for it stretches and creates stress. I squeeze my hair, kind of like easing paste through a tube, to drain excess water.
Using an excellent hairbrush, such as the large Aveda brush, glides easily through wavy or curly hair with few tangles. A natural bristle, nylon reinforced hairbrush can be healthy for spreading your natural oil through your hair, but has more tangles, thus creating more stress on the hairs.
Brushing long hair without creating tangles requires a special technique. First brush strokes concentrate on the ends of the hair. With each new stroke down the hair you can start a little higher until the final brush strokes start from the scalp and glide all the way down. You’ll be surprised how tangle free your hair will be with a bare minimum of damage.
Finding the right balance between stimulating one’s scalp by brushing and minimizing stress to the hairs is an art to be developed by each person. Massaging your scalp is a nice treat for your head and hair follicles.
Speaking of ends…trimming one’s hair on a regular basis has been sold to us as a necessity to avoid split ends, frizzy ends, etc. I have found that by not trimming my ends I have fewer split ends. More on this toward the end of this article.
Environment and where your hair lives has a huge impact on its health, inner and outer. Since I’ve lived in a Pacific Northwest rainforest for almost 20 years, the moisture in the air has been one of the most significant factors in my hair health. Living in a dry environment has an obvious impact on one’s hair and skin, requiring more care and attention. Some people like to brush natural rosemary oil through the ends of their hairs as a healthy treatment.
Inner health is promoted with a healthy food and exercise lifestyle. For me, dairy products created dandruff and clogged my scalp pours. As many of you may know, there are certain foods that promote healthy protein production and bones. These can contribute to better hair shafts and finger nails.
Last, but most important to me, hair growth is a spiritual process and symbol. Before I knew I was part Native American, growing up in a predominantly white community, I already had an inner knowing that hair is sacred and not to be cut. It wasn’t until I was in my teens that I was given a choice not to cut my hair. I have not cut it since that time.
I used to trim my hair regularly because there was a standard I was influenced by that said hair must look neat, and neat is when all hairs are styled or are the same length. Since I did not style my hair, I tried to keep it trimmed evenly. What I finally realized is that I was working against the natural growth of my hair. Every hair on my head naturally grows to a different length and will never be even. It took being with and dancing with my Native American sisters at Pow Wow to realize that many of us have hair that naturally grows to a point, far from being even.
On the What Not to Wear TLC program, “Rebecca” episode, hairstylist, Nick Arrojo exclaimed “Your hair is an accessory, not a permanent fixture.” I was disturbed when I heard this, but completely understood that this represented his attitude as a professional dedicated to his art, albeit limited to fashion values. From a traditional Native American view, hair is an extension of oneself, much like one’s nose, hands, etc. We do not think of these as accessories.
The other sad extreme is where spiritual devotees donate their hair for a blessing, only to have their hair sold at a premium price, ultimately becoming hair extensions for fashion conscious hairstylists and clients, portrayed in the powerful film Hair India (link to YouTube trailer).
I know I represent a minority, in more ways than one, but a small voice has been nagging me to share my perspective and experience in case someone may benefit from my wisdom.
As I write this I’m hearing echoes of an oldie but goody musical….”Hair”
Gimme head with hair
Long beautiful hair
Streaming, flaxen, waxen
Give me down to there hair
Shoulder length or longer
Here baby, there mama
Everywhere daddy daddy
Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
Disclaimer – My hair recommendations may not apply to all types of hair. Please feel free to add comments with your experience and suggestions. For example…I would love to hear how various people maintain dreadlocks.
Many thanks to Susan Ertsgaard for the Portrait photo.
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