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How to Take Care of Long Hair: Tips and Tricks to Grow Your Hair and Keep It Healthy

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Alyssa loves sharing her favorite beauty tips and tricks with the world. She is a wife and mom who drinks a lot of coffee.


Every time I leave the house and pretend to be a human, I get compliments on my hair. People love the color and I usually get one of two questions:

1. Is that your natural color?

2. Is all of that hair yours or do you have extensions?

Hair is one of my favorite topics of conversation, and if time allowed, I'd stand around and chat with everyone for hours sharing my secrets.

I was recently perusing Pinterest with no real aim, and found myself watching countless hair style tutorials. Some of the styles were unique and cute, but what struck me was how no one had long, thick hair like mine. Most of the longer haired girls only had hair to their mid-back and everyone had thin locks.

I have a lot of hair. Not only is it long, as in down to my rear end long, but it's also thick. It's cumbersome much of the time, and when I find myself complaining about it, I think about a lady I saw in Meijer a few months ago. She had beautiful, long blonde hair that fell down to her ankles. I was in awe as she pushed her cart, locks flowing with each step while holding one small child, the other walking beside her. I turned to my husband and said, "I thought I had long hair. No, she has long hair!" With a chuckle I added, "I guess I have no room to complain."

Inspired by the tutorials I watched, today I'm spilling all my hair care secrets. I'll tell you how I achieved the length, products I use to keep my hair healthy, my hair care routine, and even my theory on why my hair is thick. Let's dive right in.


The Backstory

Like every good story, we must start at the beginning. I remember having extra long hair in kindergarten. It was thin and a dirty, dark blonde shade. I'm pretty sure that it was the recommendation of a hair stylist that inspired the cycle of chopping it off and letting it grow back that followed me through elementary school. I was never allowed to dye my hair or to get a perm, which I wanted with my entire heart and soul at the age of 12. These actions, along with good genes, is what gave me a solid foundation into adulthood. It's also my theory on why my hair is incredibly thick now. Those cycles of chopping the hair to the shoulders, allowing it to grow, only to chop it off again is what I blame it on anyway, science be damned. Additionally while growing up, I used quality products, kept heat to a minimum, and washed my hair every other day.

Those habits followed me into my adult years, with a few tweaks here and there. I've had my fair share of hair colors, experimenting with salon quality dyes and drugstore varieties. When I had my son, my hair was back to my natural color and down to my mid back. Juggling a baby, a demanding full-time job, and college didn't leave me with a lot of time to style it. The easiest option every day was to pull it back into a ponytail. A month or two after receiving a promotion, I decided I needed a change. I booked an appointment with a new stylist friend and went in to the salon with an open mind. A few hours later, I walked out a brand new person. My hair had been chopped off to my chin, in what was the upcoming hottest style of the time, the asymmetrical bob, and it was a beautiful shade of blonde. It was amazing! I strutted around with my new 'do, feeling very grown up and sophisticated.

I kept that style for a while, going blonder and blonder with each visit. However, being blonde is a lifestyle that requires time, money, effort, and more money. As life took hold, I realized it was a lifestyle that I no longer wanted to be a part of and promptly had my hair dyed a deep, chocolatey brown in preparation of growing it out.

As I'm sure many of you can attest, growing your hair out is a frustrating process. The majority of the time, all you want to do is chop it off again because you just can't stand it. It was during this arduous process that I found myself missing red hair. You see, my first foray into dyeing my hair was with a stylist who I had known for a long time. More like a close family member, I trusted her to guide me in this new territory. She told me I was lucky and could pull off any color I wanted. Together, we customized the most beautiful red shade with interwoven highlights of purple. It was gorgeous and looked so natural. That was the color I wanted and set off on a journey to find it.

Back to my friend I went to try to convince her to dye my hair red. She did everything in her power to get me to change my mind, letting me know that red is the hardest color. "It'll fade quickly, and everyone I do red on is always disappointed and complains," she said. We were at an impasse and neither of us was willing to budge. Finally, we came to a compromise. She would give me a new rich brown with red highlights and if I still liked it, she'd do the red next time. Fast forward a month, I was back in her chair to make good on her promise. For a little while we did red with blonde highlights. It wasn't that original color, but it was beautiful and she wasn't lying when she explained that red fades quickly. My trips to the salon were getting expensive and I needed a better solution.

Enter the magical world of drugstore box dye. I tried multiple red shades with no success before I finally landed on the one that would change my life; Garnier Ultra Intense Light Auburn.

It's no exaggeration to say that this color is the holy grail of red. It is almost identical to the shade my hair was so long ago, and it looks completely natural; So much so that people ask me if it's my true hair color. It is by far the very best red dye I've ever used for one simple reason: it doesn't fade. It sounds almost too good to be true, but after over a decade of dyeing my hair this color, I can tell you, even when my roots are showing, the rest of my hair is red, not that mousey brown other reds tend to lean toward.

My Hair Care Routine

Now that you have the backstory, let me tell you about my routine. I'm a fan of the KISS Method and it applies perfectly in this area of my life. I dye my hair when it's needed, usually about once a month, but I try to stretch that out to a month and a half if I can. The winter months are easier because I can just throw on a beanie in the name of staying warm and no one realizes that my roots are two inches long. All they see are vibrant red locks in loose waves or in a messy side braid.

Over the years, I've trained my hair to go longer and longer without washing. It's a little game I like to play where I see how long I can possibly go without having to enter the tedious process of shampooing, conditioning, and drying. So far, I'm up to a world record of six days. Realistically, I wash my hair about twice a week.

I've learned a lot over the years when it comes to products. I'm a firm believer that you don't have to shell out a ton of money to achieve beautiful hair. To me, shampoo doesn't truly matter. I use a variety of brands and types. I've had great success with TREsemmé and Suave for color protection. Both are reasonably priced and I always grab the larger sizes. One shampoo I always have in the shower is Garnier Sleek & Shine Fortifying Shampoo. This acts as my clarifying shampoo, and my entire family loves it!

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When it comes to conditioners, I've gotten more picky. If you have long, thick hair like me, you understand the struggle of trying to use a regular conditioner to hydrate your strands. It just doesn't cut it. A few years ago, I finally nixed regular conditioners in favor of deep conditioners, and I use them every time I wash my hair. My absolute favorite is L'Oreal Paris Elvive Color Vibrancy Repair and Protect Balm. The problem is that Walmart never has it on the shelf. I've had to adapt and overcome, so the product that is always in my shower is Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Moist. Walmart has a great value deal where you can buy two bottles for $5. It's a steal! The Aussie works wonders, keeping my hair hydrated without stripping my color. I've tried other deep conditioners, some more pricey than others, but I always find my way back to the Aussie. As a bonus, my husband uses it to keep his beard soft.

No matter your hair type, if you have long locks you understand the tangle debacle. It's intense, annoying, and has you eyeing up every pair of scissors in your house. I've been known to chop off pieces of hair that refuse to detangle. All that is in the past now because of HASK Coconut Oil 5-in-1 Leave-in Spray. This stuff is magic in a bottle! I generously spray it on my hair after getting out of the shower and my comb just glides through the strands. I also use it on dry hair, when my mane is being stubborn. The Argan Oil one is also good, but I prefer the scent of the coconut oil.

Between washes, I love to freshen up using Not Your Mother's Beach Babe Texturizing Dry Shampoo. It smells like a luxurious summer vacation. My tip for dry shampoo is to apply the night before. I spray this generously throughout my roots and lightly through the length, waking up to gorgeous, voluminous hair.

Tools Of The Trade

When I was growing up, I used piks for everything. This followed me to adulthood until I broke my large pik. I took a trip to Sally's and entered the mystical world of combs and brushes. I walked out with a small bag of items that day, but the only item that has consistently been a part of my routine is a wide-toothed comb. It's meant for people who have curly or super wavy hair, but it has worked beautifully for me for over a decade.

I never owned a hair brush until a few years ago. I found a large paddle brush that I thought would work better for detangling my dry hair. It did for about a year, until my hair destroyed it. The rubber backing that held the bristles started breaking away from the rest of the brush. Being the frugal gal I am, I made do for as long as possible, even trying to fix it with my hot glue gun. That worked for a short bit, but I ultimately needed to get a new brush. After days of endlessly checking out my options, I decided to try the KareCo finger brush. The bristles are attached to long, flexible fingers that move seamlessly through the hair. So far, so good. It's worked like a charm and my hair has not managed to destroy it.

Let's chat heat. I like to avoid heat tools as much as possible. I wash my hair at night, giving it plenty of time to air dry before I go to bed. I use my straightener and curling wand sparingly, maybe once or twice a month.

Using a hair dryer is not a fun task, but if it can't be avoided, I pull out my Infinity Pro by Conair. It has advanced ion technology that prevents frizz and is supposed to boost shine. I can't speak to the shine, but it doesn't make my hair frizzy. It came with three attachments, but I've found that it saves me time to use the diffuser. I section my hair and slowly run the diffuser through. Doing this has cut my dry time in half! What I love about this hair dryer are the features. It has a cold blast button at the top, three heat settings: hot, warm, cold, and the typical high and low speeds. I usually start with hot, but when I get too warm standing there, I'll switch to cold.

I have owned many straighteners in my life. My favorite was a pricey one that had a compartment for oil. I would put the oil in, turn the straightener on, and as it straightened my hair, it would boost the strands with the oil. I loved it and was devasted when it broke from traveling. I currently have two straighteners in my drawer: Wild Primrose by Conair and a Remington one. Both are fine, but I always reach for the Remington. It has slightly bigger plates and locks closed. It does what I need it to and it didn't cost an arm and a leg.

The curling wand was given to me by my mother-in-law. I don't know what brand it is, but it's tapered and always gives me beautiful curls. I love wearing my hair in loose waves!

Hair Cuts and My Secret To Long Hair

Growing my hair super long was never intentional. As I mentioned above, I had short hair for a little while before deciding to grow it out, around 2009. A year later, it was just past my shoulders. I was still visiting the salon, getting a trim every few months or so. By the time of my wedding in 2012, my hair had grown to about my mid-back. I had a long, layered cut. Nothing fancy, just simple. It wasn't until around 2014 that I stopped visiting the salon regularly. Life was busy and big changes were happening.

After a few cancelations in a row a year later by my stylist, I opted to visit my old stomping grounds. My hair was long, the layers had grown out, and I was in desperate need of a cut. I went into a walk-in place and it was a complete waste of time. The stylist who cut my hair was timid and took a few centimeters off my length. My long locks were intimidating and despite my laid-back demeanor, she was scared to mess it up. I walked out of the salon looking and feeling no different than I had walking in.

From then on, I took matters into my own hands. I had been using my thinning shears for years and I had a pair of decent scissors I could use to cut my hair. I found a wonderful tutorial on YouTube from a girl whose hair was similar to mine. In that video, she taught me how to cut my hair into layers. I took care of it myself and continued to just let my hair grow.

My secret to getting long hair? Simple; don't get it cut. There's really no need, unless you have split ends or breakage you want trimmed. I was comfortable with the scissors and confident that I had watched my stylists' techniques over the years. I'm certainly no expert, but I do have a lot of hair which gives me a little leeway.

The last time I went to the salon was in the spring of 2018. I found a wonderful little salon downtown with a lady who was skilled with long hair. She did a fabulous job and even complimented my color. Turns out, everything I had being doing was working fine. My hair was healthy and she didn't have to chop a ton of length. I ended up asking her to take additional inches off, as the length was almost down to my rear end at that point.

I made an appointment just before the pandemic hit, but ended up having to cancel. I've been cutting my own hair ever since. I continued to use the same tutorial, until Jenna Marbles made a video cutting her own hair. She used an interesting technique and I loved the result. I decided to give it a try myself and was thrilled at how easy, quick, and beautiful my hair turned out. I've been using that method ever since.

My hair grows fast, and I cut it once the length starts hitting mid rear end, or when I get annoyed with it. I use the same set of scissors and point cut into the ends. The thinning shears only get pulled out once a year or two.

If you want to try cutting your hair yourself, give the following method a try. Be sure to follow the instructions exactly and only cut a little at a time. It's always worked for me and I think the results are amazing.

The Best Hair Hack ♥ How to Cut & Layer Your Hair at Home - Bebexo

Trimming My Own Hair - Jenna Marbles

Color Tips

I mentioned dyeing my hair above, but I wanted to share a few more tips and tricks. First a little disclaimer. If you are blonde or want to become blonde, I encourage you to visit a salon and let a stylist help you. Blonde is tough and incredibly easy to mess up. Additionally, if you aren't comfortable doing it yourself, just make an appointment with a stylist. The last thing you want to do is spend money on supplies only to botch your hair and have to spend more money having it fixed.

That said, if you feel confident and want to dye your hair yourself, go for it! I've been doing it for over a decade and it's not as intimidating as it might seem. I don't recommend making a drastic change on your own, maybe stick to a shade that's close to what you have now. There are websites and apps that will let you virtually try hair color to see what you like. Take advantage of those resources. I've tried a few different brands and in my opinion, Garnier is the best. I've tried their Olia line with my current color. I liked the initial result and it made my hair feel silky soft. However, I wasn't impressed when my red started to fade. The Ultra line, my current color, does not fade and I immediately switched back to my trusty green box.

No matter what your color, you want to make sure that you use products that will preserve it. After dyeing my hair is when I swap shampoos. I only use one formulated to protect hair color and I wait to wash my hair for as long as possible. For any hair color, John Frieda is great! There are plenty of products to help blondes, brunettes, and even us red-haired folk. I love the TREsemmé Color Revitalize and Suave Keratan Infusion Color Care shampoos. I will usually use my typical Aussie deep conditioner, but occasionally I'll see something at the store I want to try.

One final note about products. Over the years I've tried numerous brands, some pricier than others. Growing up, Biolage was a staple. Once I got out on my own, I used Pureology for a bit before switching to less expensive drugstore brands. As a member of several Influencer-type websites, like Influenster and BzzAgent, I've been able to test many hair products at varying price points. I usually like the salon quality brands, but for me, it has to be a life-changing product in order to justify the price point and get me to switch. So far, that hasn't happened.

My signature color.

My signature color.

Every Day Hair Accessories

I mentioned above that I love wearing my hair in loose waves. I like to do that when I know I have to be somewhere or if I need to take pictures for something. My days are typically spent around the house, helping my son with school, working out, writing, and getting tasks completed. I like to keep my hair out of my way, but I don't like wearing it in a ponytail. Most days I use claw clips to either wrap it in a bun or pin it to the back of my head 90's style. The bun stays in place during my workouts, even during cardio. I also like to braid it, usually opting for a messy side braid. All claw clips are not created equal and I've gone through a lot of them! My current favorites are two large ones I found at Claire's. I also love the smaller versions, and the side claw clip works great for pulling just the sides back out of my face. For those times when a ponytail is the only choice, I love the Hair Slinky. It holds all my hair in place and also works great for quick buns.


Final Thoughts

To sum up:

  • You don't need to spend a ton of money to have great hair.
  • To grow your hair longer, simply don't get unnecessary hair cuts and trims.
  • Drugstore products work well, but make sure you're using products for your hair type and concerns.
  • Don't be afraid of hair color.
  • If you want to be blonde, I recommend visiting a salon and letting a stylist help you.
  • Red is a beautiful color. My signature red hair is Garnier Ultra Light Intense Auburn.
  • To preserve your color, don't wash your hair every day and be sure to use appropriate products.

© 2022 Alyssa

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