In the 1950's and 60's, men in the United States began to grow their hair long as a form of self-expression and rebellion against the shorter hairstyles of the previous generation. Today, long hair is about much more than making a stand against the establishment, and can be found on everyone from college students to businessmen.
But for men who choose the long-hair lifestyle, the demands of caring for longer locks can often seem overwhelming. With the right hair care routine, any man can manage long hair without resorting to hats or hair ties. Send the right message and keep your most important accessory looking its best with these top hygiene tips for men with long hair.
Don't Fight Nature
Working against your natural hair type can leave you feeling frustrated, especially when your hair falls past your shoulders. Part of the problem is that many guys have never had to even think much about their hair type and how it impacts the morning grooming routine. While short hair tends to hide variations in hair type, longer hair forces you to confront Mother Nature head on. If you try to force your hair into a style that doesn't reflect its natural texture and growth patterns, plan to devote countless hours to styling each week.
Guys with fine or thin hair should stick to slightly shorter lengths to keep hair from looking too weighed down and flat. Hair that's overly long drags down volume and can make hair look uncared for. Above all, keep hair care products away from your roots to avoid that greasy, unwashed look.
Men with thick or course hair should look for mid-length styles that add weight and a bit of control. If your hair is curly or frizzy, stick with longer cuts to weigh hair down and keep volume at a happy medium. The thicker or curlier your hair, the more product you should add to keep hair manageable.
Choose the Right Styling Products
The number of men's styling products on the market is starting to rival those available to women. While these styling aids can be a lifesaver for guys with long hair, many men have trouble distinguishing between all the different options. The right styling products can not only add volume and shine, but also make hair more manageable so you can create exactly the look you want. Be warned, however, that the wrong hair care products can leave hair looking heavy, flat or just plain unwashed.
Many men reach for the gel automatically to add hold with long or short hair. While gels of all types can add hold and shine, they're no longer the only option for men with longer locks. Guys with curly or course hair should consider cream-based products, which add moisture and definition without the stiff texture associated with gel. Waxes work best on straight or fine hair, and can be used to add that textured look that so many men -- and women -- love. To create this textured look with curly or thicker hair, try pomades, which are basically a blend of creams and waxes. To cut frizz and add shine to curls or waves, look for defrizzing serums.
The secret to successful application of these styling products is to not overdo it. Even the right product can look just plain wrong if used incorrectly. Always start with no more than a dime-sized amount, and apply products starting at the back of the head to avoid volume-killing buildup on top of the head.
Shampoo and Condition With Care
For the average guy with long hair, shampooing every day can strip the scalp of its natural essential oils, which can result in damaged hair and a dry, flaky scalp. Instead, plan to shampoo every two to three days to maximize hair health and cut your grooming time.
Of course, how you shampoo can be just as important as how often, so focus on proper cleaning techniques to keep your hair looking its best. Start with a dime-sized amount of shampoo, and work it into a lather in your hands before you touch your hair. Apply the shampoo to your hair and massage gently into the scalp using your fingertips, not your nails. Finally, rinse with cool water to avoid drying hair out. Make sure to rinse away all shampoo, as any remaining residue could dry up and lead to embarrassing flakes. If you tend to use a lot of styling products, repeat this process to ensure hair is truly clean.
Once you've finished shampooing, it's time to add conditioner. While men tend to skip this step, conditioner is a must for long hair to maintain softness and keep tangles at bay. To keep conditioner from flattening out volume, make sure to apply it to the ends of hair only, and steer clear of your roots. Leave the conditioner in for a few minutes to work its magic, then rinse clean using cold water for added shine. If your hair gets unmanageable between shampoos, try rinsing with cool water and conditioning every day to maintain control over your tresses.
Don't Shy Away From the Shears
Just because you have long hair, it doesn't mean you can skip regular haircuts. For so many men with long hair, all sense of style gets lost as hair gets too long and out of control. If you find that you always need a rubber band or bandanna to keep your hair out of your face, maybe it's time to consider a new style.
Of course, a trip to the barbershop doesn't mean you have to trade in your long hair for a shorter 'do. Instead, a simple trim every six to eight weeks can help you maintain a longer style and maximize hair growth. Regular trims also help to minimize split ends and other signs of damage that can ruin the look of long hair.
The right cut can also add body and volume to hair that's weighing you down. Have the stylist cut away bulky or thick layers to tame curly or wavy styles. For those with thin or fine hair, a few added layers around the face can lighten up your look and eliminate flat-head syndrome. Men who experience thinning or balding can benefit the most from a simple cut. Eliminate some length and gain much-needed volume to conceal hair that's thinning on top.
Remember, don't be a slave to the ponytail. Maintain regular cuts and show your style without losing the long hair you love.
Minimize Damage to Keep Hair Healthy
Shiny, healthy hair is the perfect complement to any style or hair length. Damaged hair tends to appear dried out, with numerous broken strands, while healthy hair stays shiny, smooth and full of natural body. While diet and even genetics play a role in hair health, taking steps to protect your locks from damage can also have a major impact on your looks.
Many of the things you put your hair through every day without a second thought can cause damage to longer locks. Blow drying or even rubbing your hair with a towel too vigorously can stress out your strands and leave them dry and damaged. Skip the blow dryer and allow your hair to dry naturally for that perfectly-tousled bed head look. If you must use a hair dryer, apply a thermal-protection spray to your hair first to minimize damage.
Choose a brush with natural bristles or a wide-tooth comb, and never, ever brush your hair when it's wet if you want to maintain optimal hair health.
To avoid drying and frying in the sun, wear a hat when you venture outdoors during the day. After a day at the beach, minimize saltwater-related damage with a deep conditioning treatment to bring back much-needed moisture.
While hats and bandannas may be part of your everyday style, they can also pose a threat to your style. Over time, any accessory that holds hair in place can also contribute to broken or damaged locks. Wearing hats and hair ties too often can even lead to a condition called traction alopecia, which can contribute to hair thinning and premature baldness.
After a certain age, a lot of men start growing hair in places they don't want it — and stop growing it where they do. HOwStuffWorks looks at why.
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- Carter, Holly. "How to Choose Hair Product." GQ. December 2003. 02/24/2011.http://www.gq.com/how-to/groom/200312/choose-hair-product
- Kalogeropoulos, Maggie. "Proper Hair Maintenance For Man." AskMen. Date Unknown. 02/24/2011.http://www.askmen.com/fashion/fashiontip_300/393_fashion_advice.html
- Vetica, Robert. "Good to Great Hair." Fair Winds Press, Massachusetts. 2009.