A well-maintained head of long hair can look fantastic on any guy. But, as you may guess, taking care of a long hairstyle can be a bit of a chore. This is especially true for men who are more accustomed to taking care of shorter hair, which tends to require a lot less TLC. Because hair health starts at the roots, prior to growing out your hair fully, it's important that you begin taking care of it.
Like most anything, proper maintenance is critical to keeping your long hair in top condition. If you damage something like a dishwasher, it can generally be fixed. If you scrape your arm, it will heal. Hair, on the other hand, usually can't be fixed—it's just protein with no blood supply, so it has no way to heal itself once damaged. The only real way to make damaged hair appear less damaged is to cut the problem parts off, so proper care is crucial.
Meet the Expert
Read on to get some expert tips on how to best care for long hair for men.
Get a Proper Haircut
The right haircut will not only look best, but it will be the easiest (and healthiest) to maintain. "Get a very loose haircut, only cutting the shape with texture and not cutting the length, so the hair appears to be un-cut, allowing the hair to hang natural and masculine," says IGK Hair Care co-founder Chase Kusero. Ask your stylist for help if you can't narrow down a look.
Find the Right Shampoo and Conditioner
"The right shampoo and conditioner have such an impact on how the hair behaves, especially considering men typically do less blow drying and styling," says professional stylist Clariss Rubenstein.
Prior to shampooing, make sure your hair is free of tangles. Work the shampoo through your hair like you normally would, but keep in mind that it should take longer, reaching every strand.
Follow the same steps with conditioner, keeping in mind that most conditioners require two or three minutes to work their magic. Keep in mind while washing that too-hot water will strip beneficial oils from the hair and scalp. Having long hair will make you want to shampoo and style more often, even daily, but it's not good for your hair. Kusero says to wash the hair only a couple of times and a week, and "only condition the ends, every other time, so the hair isn’t weighed down and looks thick."
If you've been in the pool, use a leave-in conditioner and clarifying shampoo after your swim, as chlorine can take a toll on the hair. We like Paul Mitchell Clarifying Shampoo Three ($12).
Invest in High-Quality Accessories
Before growing out your hair, make sure to have realistic goals and that the maintenance of long hair is going to be something that will fit in with your lifestyle. You'll need extra time in your grooming ritual to maintain your mane, and the right tools can make all the difference.
Invest in a wide-tooth comb and a high-quality hairbrush with natural bristles to help detangle hair and to prevent breakage.
If you intend to keep your hair in an updo, finding the right cloth-covered hair elastics is crucial: there's a reason Scünchi's No-Slip Hair Elastics ($6) have been popular for so long. For a sportier alternative, we love Invisibobble ($8), and for any formal gatherings, Slip's Slipsilk ($39) ties are perfect. Keep in mind that very tight ponytails can cause a condition called traction alopecia, which is hair loss from pulling hair too tight.
Be Careful if Towel-Drying
If you have the time, the healthiest way to dry your hair is just to let it air-dry, styling a bit with your fingers if necessary. Still, towel drying can be a major cause of damage to mens' hair when it's long. This is largely because when vigorously rubbed with a towel, hairs can become tangled in the threads and break off. Rough drying may not only cause damage to the cuticle (the shingle-like outer layer of the hair), but frizziness and split ends as well.
To prevent breakage when towel drying, shake out any excess water and stroke your hair in the direction it grows rather than rubbing it back and forth.
If you do notice some damage as a result of breakage, don't fret. Since the only real way to eliminate damaged hair is to cut off the damage, you should get your hair trimmed every six to eight weeks. However, make it clear to your barber or stylist that you only want enough hair removed to eliminate the split ends—it'll cost you a lot less.
Take Care When Blow-Drying
Blow drying is also a common cause of hair damage. If you must use a blow dryer, apply a thermal styling spray like Living Proof's Restore Instant Protection to coat the hair and protect it from damage, use a wide-tooth comb to prevent pulling, and always leave the hair slightly damp.
And prior to hitting the hair with heat, use a product like R+Co. Bleu Ingenious Thickening Shampoo ($59) and Conditioner ($59), which Rubenstein says is great "for hair that needs volume — with or without a blow dryer it gives thin hair some great lift. "
Keep Diet and Exercise in Mind
Ultimately, the condition of your hair tends to reflect the condition of your body. Stress, poor diet, smoking, and lack of sleep may all contribute to poor health and dull, lifeless looking hair. Although products can fix it a little, your hair health may come down to your body health, so eat well, drink lots of water, reduce your stress, and live well. Both your body and hair will thank you for it.
American Academy of Dermatology Association. Hairstyles that pull can lead to hair loss.