Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The things every girl needs for growing uber-long, healthy, happy hair!

Ok maybe not, but still!...

For those that don't know, the Large Hadron Collider is not the first thing some of us think of when someone mentions the LHC. The Long Hair Community is a web-based forum ( where people who are growing their hair gather to share tips and support on a variety of things (not just hair) and gain friends all over the word (there are regular meets in places across europe, the UK, and various states of the US).
Since I joined the LHC, my knowledge of hair care, and the way I care for my hair has changed a lot. Not completely, mind you - the dryness of my scalp and hair meant I never really shampooed it more than once a week, and I prefer to have the ability to keep my hair out of my face, so I kept it long enough that I could throw it up into a pencil bun at a moments notice for chemistry classes and such at school. I got it trimmed twice a year at the salon, where they routinely cut off at least an inch more than I asked for. I also never got into the habit of heat-styling or blow-drying my hair, partly because I couldn't be bothered with the static from straightening, the frizz from curling, the extra slippiness on top of normal caused by all three that meant my hair being a pain to deal with, and the pure fact that I couldn't be bothered to spend an hour or more drying and styling my hair every time I washed it. The only time my hair got heat styled was on my twice-yearly visits to the salon, when they would blow dry it. Usually they would ask if I wanted it straightened, and I think I did once, but like I said, it wasn't exactly a regular thing. So basically, before LHC, my hair was, probably by most peoples standards, pretty healthy.

So, as it's slowly coming closer to my 2nd year anniversary at the LHC (which will be in March), I decided to make a list of the things I don't now how I ever lived without, and maybe do a little enabling in terms of hair accessories. (right now I'm wishing I could find a blogger layout that had working smilies - another thing I have got much too used to over at the LHC)

So first things first - the biggest thing I found that helped my hair was changing the products and the way in which I washed my hair. My scalp is so dry that I could literally go weeks without washing my hair, and it still wouldn't look greasy - I washed my hair because without it, my ends would get so, so dry, and breakage would ensue, and also because I went horse riding every weekend, and prefered to wash my hair to get out all the dust, and sand, and hay, and horse-hair before going back to school on monday. I used to just shampoo and condition with a regular shampoo and conditioner, full of SLS and silicones, as most are. Turns out that the build up of silicones was preventing any moisture from getting into my length and ends, and whilst the SLS was needed to clean off the silicones, it doesn't do a great job of it, and it just dries my ends out more. My hair hated it. So I used a clarifying shampoo to clean my hair of all the silicones and other gunk, effectively resetting my hair, then invested in a -cone free conditioner and an SLS-free shampoo. I made up an SMT (a homemade moisture treatment popular on the LHC, containing lovely things like aloe vera gel) with it and left it on for a good half-hour I could tell the difference after just one wash. I currently do what is known as a CWC, or condition-wash-condition, meaning that I condition the ends before and after shampooing, reducing the drying effect of the shampoo on the ends, whilst still getting the hair clean. I still use a clarfying shampoo and do a moisture treatment once in a while, depending on how my hair feels, or whether or not somebody manages to spill beer in it on a night out (a more common occurrence than you would think - theres a reason I often wear my hair up on a night out). Anyway, using the shampoo just down to the nape level, and the conditioner just from that point down, I have a balance of reasonably well moisturised, soft length and ends and a happy scalp that isn't irritated by the SLS my skin is apparently sensitive to - who knew?
Mind you, my type of washing doesn't work for everyone - there are condition-only, water-only, no-water, cone-free, SLS-free etc, etc, and then there are those who try all these, and go back to regular shampoo and conditioner. Everyone's hair and scalp are different.

The next major breakthrough was the magic of henna. Now, I know there is a lot of misinformation out there about henna, and that has caused many people, and almost every training hairdresser in the land to gape in horror at the mere suggestion. Before you go screaming at me about the horrors of henna, please just take the time to read up properly on the subject. The horror stories of melting hair and such often come from people using hair dyes advertised as henna, which often contain little or no henna at all. In fact in some parts of the world, the word henna is used to describe any hair dye, whether they contained real henna or not. Its the metallic salts in these hair dyes, and in some "hair" hennas that cause the adverse reactions, of which includes melting of the hair, when combined with regular chemical treatments. Body Art Quality henna (the type that artists make patterns on the hands with, and gives an orange stain on the palms of the hand) is perfectly safe to use on the hair. Henna contains lawsone, a dye molecule that gives a red stain, meaning that every real henna will only ever add an orange to red stain to the hair, depending on the origonal colour of the hair, the lawsone content of the henna, and the number of applications used. There is no such thing as black henna. Black henna often contains PPD, which can cause burns on the skin. That said, a black colour can be obtained by a two-step dye process with henna and another plant indigo. Indigo, cassia, and amla are all plants that people may use with, or in the case of cassia, instead of henna, though I don't use any of them. Henna is permanent on most people, and it is almost impossible to remove in a lot of cases. That said, I have found it to be great for my hair - not only does it enhance the reddish tint to my dark brown hair, and turn it firey in the sunlight in a way I love, the colour doesn't fade, my hair is more resilient to damage, and it becomes more manageable to deal with. I do love my henna.

Oil! Ok, now there was a time when people would look at you like a lunatic if you told them you put oil in your hair. Now, thanks to the growing area in the hair industry of "hair oils", people are a little more accepting. For a very long time, after discovering oils on the LHC, I thought my hair didn't like oils. Most of the regular liquid oils left my hair feeling odd and nasty. Apparently argan oil is very good for hair, but its expensive, and I couldn't afford it. However, I recently tried coconut oil, and its made a great difference to the neverending dryness of my ends. I bought mine in a big jar from the chinese supermarket for around £1, and its pretty solid because of the cold weather here. Usually I use two pea-sized dollops or so, and rub it between my palms to melt it, before pressing it along the length of my hair from the shoulders down. I do that the night before a shower, braid it, then wash it out the next day, when my hair has soaked most of it up, and my hair has gone from greasy to almost normal again. It takes a bit of trial and error to work out which oil works for you though.

Another major breakthrough in hair care for a lot of LHC-ers was Nightbloomings Panacea Hair Salve. Nightblooming is an etsy seller, and she makes 3 different hair salves, amongst other hair care products. Here is the sample trio, which I am currently trying out to see which one my hair likes. Since my hair usually freaks with protein, I'm using the winter blend at the moment, which my hair seems to be loving. A tiny amount is applied in the same fashion as the coconut oil, on wet hair after washing, like a leave-in type conditioner.

Everyone should also have a good, snag-free brush that doesn't pull on hair, but then if your hair is curly, you would likely be better off with combs instead. My brush is one of the original Denman styling brushes.
Everyone should also have a decent regular and wide-tooth comb, free of seams if plastic. I have a lovely horn comb, but I'm due a replacement. I love the horn combs by Quecraft. I'm hoping to get one of the pheonix ones. :)

Then comes the fun part! Hair-toys!!!
Ok, so I'm a bit of a hair-toy addict. In fact there's even a forum thread for us all. I started putting my hair up with a pencil when I was at school, so the idea of hairsticks was an easy step for me. Since my hair has got longer, I've loved finding loads of different buns to use my hairsticks with. For clarification, a hair-toy is literally any hair accessory that can either completely hold up a style, decrate a style, or most often, both.
Heres my list of my must-have hair-toys:

  • A ficcare - probably my most well-used hair-toy. Unfortunately, over-use and rather less than perfect care has battered mine a bit, so the metal has bent and the enamel on top is coming off in parts of my lotus jewel. They are expensive, but nothing holds like it. Just a shame they're not meant to be waterproof - my insistance to use it on wet hair might have something to do with the separation of the enamel.
  • A glass hairstick - glass is waterproof, meaning you can use it with wet hair and not damage it. Emergent Glassworks has some lovely pieces. I got an octopus stick from him, shortened to a functional length of 5", as most of his are rather long for me, but he is very willing to alter them. It's a little top-heavy, but holds a pretzel bun brilliantly.
  • A hairfork - I have a 60th Street 2-prong in a woody-coloured dymondwood (can't remember the name of the colour), and I'm saving up for a 3-prong wooden one, though which make, I am undecided. Dymondwood is meant to be waterproof too, but I wouldn't want to chance it with a regular wooden one - I like forks too much for that.
  • A RavensCroft Moon - I was lucky enough to get a gorgeous purpleheart and ash 4" moon as one of my first hair toys. Shirl's moons are often snapped up pretty quick, so don't be surprised is she has nothing in stock. Her pieces are lovely, and well loved by a number of LHC-ers. Once you figure out a couple of ways to keep your hair up with them, I promise you'll love them. They are a little thick, though, so a four inch moon is about the right size for my almost-hip-length hair.
  • A simple wooden hairstick plus a pretty one (or two or three or four...)
Ok, enough hair talk. Oh - yesterdays bun was a nautilus, first with a pencil, then with Goody spin pins (UK-ers can buy them from Morrisons) for OTC, and today, its a braided bun, oiled for tomorrows wash.

Ok, now, enough hair talk. See you soon.

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