If you’ve ever toyed with the idea of growing out your hair, it’s time to give it a shot. Maybe you want to re-live some long-haired glory days. Perhaps you’re thinking you could channel a bit of that Jon Snow swagger. Or maybe you want to transcend the 1970s and 1990s (two decades known for shaggier locks) by perfecting the modern long look — choppier and more rugged. To help you on your follicle-filled adventure, we asked hair expert Cleve McMillan to walk us through the process of going long in the name of style.
Pick A Logical Conclusion
Whatever your inspiration, make sure you have a clear idea of what you’re going for from the start. “When somebody says to me, ‘I want to grow my hair out,’ the first thing I ask is what’s the end target?” McMillan says. You don’t need to have a photo of Brendan Fraser in Airheads in hand (though that might help), but you at least need to have a general idea of what your hair goals are. Layered? Grazing the top of your shoulders? “I can’t guide you on the runway unless I know where you’re flying,” McMillan explains.
Ghost Your Barber
Depending on the length you have in mind, be prepared to ignore your barber’s Siren’s Call for at least nine to eighteen months. Trust us: in this situation, your barber’s like an ex — only bad things will happen if you text or call them. Hair grows at an average rate of half an inch per month for most people, so grab a ruler and do the math. Once your hair has grown beyond four inches in length, you can begin auditioning for a hair metal revival band. Until then…
Going long isn’t for the timid. It’s a continuous cycle of looking like crap one day, then looking pretty good two or three weeks later. Since everyone’s hair grows in differently, managing those awkward phases is all about ingenuity. “The longer it gets, the more you’ll want to keep it out of your face, which will call for two things: (1) a headband; and/or (2) products,” McMillan says. A thin, elastic headband worn closer to the forehead and higher around the nape of your neck will keep your not-quite-flowing locks out of your face without having to tie them back into a bun or ponytail (though those are other options).
If accessories aren’t your thing, McMillan recommends using “a firmer product like clay or pomade on top to keep your hair out of your face and eyes, and a pliable, softer product like hair cream or paste on the ends to prevent it from frizzing and to give it a little choppy, textured look.” This part is mostly trial and error, so don’t sweat it if there’s hair everywhere. In fact, McMillan says that’s kind of how you’re supposed to look. “The longer the hair, the more unstructured it should be. Unless you’re slicking it back, you’re better off going for a more bohemian, grown out look.”
Condition Your Condition
Around month four, make sure to invest in a good conditioner. “The reason your hair needs more help now is because of its age,” McMillan explains. “Like all things that get older, hair deteriorates because of the environment. A strand of hair that’s six months old has likely been shampooed 180 times. Longer hair is usually around two to three years old — it’s been shampooed more than 1,000 times.” Add to that the stress of sun exposure and air pollutants, and you can see why a little conditioner can go a long way. “Because hair is protein, as the elements break it down, conditioner helps put the protein back in and rebuild the amino acid chains that may have broken.”
Tidy Up, If You Must
If you’ve got a full-on mullet growing back there — or just really hate what you see in the mirror — have your barber take a look. During the growth stage, McMillan recommends going in for a cut if you have a special occasion coming up, but other than that, every four to six months should suffice. “Ask for an air cut, not a haircut. That means take off a whisker of hair, no more than 4 to 5 millimeters all over. Tell him if you see too much hair on the floor, you’re going to key his car.”
Can you finally feel the power of your hair flowing through you, like a modern-day Samson? Good, good. Now just keep those luscious locks happy and healthy, ‘cause that gorgeous head of hair is about to make anything possible.