Whether you’re growing out your hair for the first time or the tenth, here’s how to do it right.
By Adam Hurly via GQ
You can only rock the same crew cut or high and tight for so long, until you wonder what life is like on the other side. What is it like to have long hair? you wonder to yourself. It must be so nice to run a hand through it, to slow-motion shake it back and forth after a shower, like a dog that’s drying itself off. And let us tell you: Yes, it is so nice to do these things. Plus, long hair looks really good on most guys, when it’s healthy and grown out with a bit of care and planning.
But how do you grow your hair out properly, to ensure that it looks healthy, full, and vibrant?
We’ve got all the tips for the road ahead, plus the best products for long hair, and a simple guide for styling men’s long hair. We’ve got tips on how frequently to wash and condition, as well as how often to get it cut as it grows. (Seriously, you gotta get it cut as it grows, if you want it to look sharp and cared for, as opposed to downright lazy and indifferent.)
The first thing you need to accept is that it’s going to be a tedious, often awkward journey. You’re going to have a few new haircuts en route. You’re going to learn how to use new products and style your hair in different ways, only to change them out as it continues to grow. It’s kind of like losing or gaining a bunch of weight: You don’t fit in the stuff you used to, and so you have to adjust for the change and grow comfortable with constant change. Eventually, though it’s a year or more away, you will tuck that hair effortlessly behind your ear, or feel it sweep across the tippy tops of your shoulders. And it’ll all be worth it.
Speed Up Hair Growth with Supplements
One way to grow your hair out faster (and stronger) is to supplement it with the right pills and potions. Some doctors will tell you to take biotin and call it good, but there’s more out there that will expedite hair growth and strengthen it at the follicle, so that your hair stays strong for the long haul. Find vitamin-enriched serums that you can massage into the scalp, or ingest herbal supplements that thwart things like stress, hair-thinning hormones, and environmental toxins.
Consider Proactive Hair Loss Measures
While you’ve got enough hair in the first place (after all, you’re growing it out and showcasing it), it’s not a bad idea to fight hair loss simultaneously. That is, to slow down its advances, so that you can maintain your enviable hairline, or fortify the hairs you do have. This way, each follicle continues to grow strong, and you might even resuscitate some dormant follicles in the process, meaning you’ll have even more hair to show off. Visit your doctor to discuss prescriptions for finasteride (now available as a generic, though you might know it as Propecia), and minoxidil (often called Rogaine, and available over the counter). Finasteride blocks the hormones that lead to hair loss, allowing it to grow undeterred (or with slower advances of loss), while minoxidil increases blood flow and nutrient delivery to the scalp and the hair follicles, making them stronger. Your doctor will help monitor the process and will warn you of any risks involved with taking these drugs. It’s fast, cheap, and easy—just don’t forget to check in with your doctor regularly.
Switch Your Hair Products
Gone are the days of fibers and clays. You’re in a new lane now, so the texturizing products that you relied on for short, choppy styles are no longer suitable. Instead, you have to switch to lighter products that you can apply to towel-dried hair, in order to tame it as it grows.
This is going to be drastically different for every person and their unique hair texture and density, but in general, you should familiarize yourself with pastes and creams. Pastes are a reliable product for months 3-6, when it’s long enough to lay flat instead of sticking up, and until it’s so long that paste restricts its natural movement. Pastes give you touchable hair with medium control, meaning they’re light but not too light.
Creams, on the other hand, are your trusted styler once your hair needs more taming and less coaching. In other words, creams help you embrace the natural flow of your hair, but they’re so lightweight that all they really do is suggest the direction in which your hair should rest, while preventing frizz and poofiness.
Both products are water soluble and will rinse out cleanly in the evening.
Get Strategic Haircuts as It Grows
It seems counterproductive to get a haircut while you’re growing it out, but there are a few imperative reasons to do so. First, it’s going to help you avoid lots of awkward phases along the way. Your hair won’t grow out in some uniform, camera-ready style. It needs to be trimmed and texturized in order to look good. And a haircut need not be drastic; it just needs to be strategic, so that it looks good without compromising overall progress. (The same goes for growing out your beard, too.)
Secondly, this strategic trimming will help layer the hair to *continue* growing in the way you want it to. You can cut the back in a way that allows the top to pour over it, until it’s time to let it all grow in unison. (This will spare you from having a mullet along the way.)
Lastly, the barber or stylist will trim the ends ever so slightly, just to manage any splitting or breaking that may occur. See below for a few long-hair care tips that will help prevent this kind of damage.
Wash Your Hair Less, Condition It More
Short hair or long, you do not need to shampoo daily. It dries and damages the hair, and signals to the scalp to produce even more oil than is natural, since you’re constantly depleting its sebum supply. (It’s weird that shampooing *less* in the long run makes your hair *less greasy*, but it’s true.) You will also minimize the frequency at which you strip the hair of these same oils that have slid their way down each strand (aided by nightly brushing, of course). This natural oil from your scalp keeps everything soft, healthy, and shiny, and shampoo compromises that.
Shampoo is still good, but it isn’t a daily necessity. (Stick with a hydrating one, which will be gentle on your hair.) On the other hand, you need to be conditioning every single day. It’ll help rid of excess grime as well, far less abrasively than shampoo. More importantly, conditioner is nutrient-rich and plumps the hair full of vitamins that keep it strong and soft. So, shampooing 1-2 times weekly and conditioning daily. (Always shampoo before conditioning, and don’t combine them, since conditioner restores moisture lost in washing.)
You can also use a leave-in conditioner as a lightweight styling cream, or a temporary hair mask for a heavily hydrating pick me up, whenever your hair is parched and needs a nutrient boost.
Buy a Few Hats
Trust us on this one; some days, you’re just not going to know what to do with your hair. Whether you are on a run or are in need of a quick trim, you’re going to want a hat or two at the ready. You’ll be grateful for hat days, since they’re a vacation from caring and thinking about your hair. But the necessity for hats will also test you: It’s likely that you’ll long for the days of buzz cuts and high-and-tights. Stay strong, cowboy. It’s a long game, remember?
Get the Right Tools (And a Few More Products)
Besides cream and paste, here are the other things you should have in your bathroom, so that your hair looks its absolute best every day.
Best Products for Long Hair
Dry Shampoo: For the days between washes, spray dry shampoo at the roots of your hair to soak up excess oil and give everything added volume. It makes your hair more textured and lively, instead of limp and greasy.
Hair Spray: This is the finishing touch for any style. A quick zap will preserve your hair for the day. Just don’t touch it!
Salt spray: A texturizing spray that also doubles as a pre-styler, which gives you beach-like grit for a piece-y finish, as opposed to straight, lifeless hair.
Blow dryer: Helps volumize hair or activate styling products, to magnify their effectiveness. Get an ionic one to minimize heat damage.
Hair brush: A nightly brushing will help distribute the natural oils from your scalp, so that your entire hair strand is nourished. This prevents split ends, and can also be imitated with hair oils that you apply yourself.
Hair oil: A lightweight, nutrient-rich, and fast-absorbing conditioning agent. Apply a couple drops in the palms, then rub together and distribute through the hair evenly. Gives hair a healthy shine and prevents frizz. Can be brushed through for even distribution, and added to hair products for an extra pinch of shine and nourishment.
Learn How to Style Long Hair
Here is a simplified styling regimen once your hair is long enough to tuck behind the ears.
Rinse (or wash) and condition the hair first.
Dry it with a towel, but leave it slightly damp.
For texture, apply a few spritzes of salt spray, throughout the hair, scrunching it together as you go, to distribute the product and create some grit.
Apply a nickel-size of lightweight hair cream (or less), working it into both palms and then massaging it evenly through the hair. Start at the roots and run hands through the hair. You can comb it through to distribute evenly, and then tousle it again so that it falls more naturally. (You can also do this during the next step.)
Blow the hair dry, in the style or direction you want it to rest. You can loosen it and separate it for a piece-y, textured finish, or leave it as it for a more polished result.
Apply a couple drops of hair oil, if you want added shine and need to prevent any frizzing throughout the day. Warm the oil in your palms and then apply it evenly through the hair, targeting the long strands and any unruly strays.
Give it a zap of hairspray if you want to preserve it in its place. The more spray, the heavier the hold, or just check the label for the product’s strength. If you’re feeling breezy and want to touch your hair throughout the day, then skip the spray.