Tips on Caring for Men's Long Hair

Making the Most of Your Mane

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On the right guy, a well-maintained head of long hair can look great. For men, however, maintaining a long hairstyle can be a bit of a chore. It takes more of work to keep that mane looking good -- so, before you grow out your hair, it's important to know how to take care of it with these tips on caring for men's long hair.

Like most anything, proper maintenance is critical to keeping your long hair in top condition.

If you damage your car, it can generally be fixed. If you scrape your arm, it will heal. Hair, on the other hand, normally can't be fixed -- hair is basically just protein with no blood supply and no way to heal itself once it's damaged. The only real way to fix damaged hair is to cut it off, so proper care is crucial. Following these ten tips will help ensure your hair stays in great shape.

1) Know Before You Grow. Before growing out your hair, make sure to have realistic goals and make sure the maintenance of longer 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.

2) Get the Right Tools. Just like working on your car or building a deck, the right tools can make all the difference. For working with long hair, you'll want to invest in good tools. A wide-tooth comb and high quality hair brush with natural bristles are essential.

If you wear a ponytail, buy some cloth coated bands (rubber bands will damage the hair). Blax Snag-Free Hair Elastics are a great alternative -- they look like mini bungee cords. so they're easy to hook and unhook without damaging the hair.

3) Shampoo and Condition Daily. Choose the right shampoo and conditioner for your hair type and use them daily.

Before shampooing, use a wide-tooth comb (working from the ends to root) and make sure the hair is free of tangles. Wet your hair with warm water and work the shampoo through from the roots to the ends using your fingertips. Rinse your hair after two or three minutes of gently working the shampoo through. Using your wide-tooth comb, gently comb through the hair (ends to root) and smooth the hair before you apply conditioner. Most conditioners require two or three minutes to work their magic -- follow the instructions on the bottle. Rinse the conditioner out with cool water. Water that is too hot will strip essential oil from the hair sand scalp.

4) Dry Carefully. Towel drying is one of the biggest causes of damage to men's hair. When hair is wet, it is highly susceptible to damage. When the hair is rubbed with a towel, some of the hairs become tangled in the threads of the towel and become stretched to the breaking point, causing damage to the cuticle (the shingle-like outer layer of the hair), frizziness, and split ends. To properly towel dry, shake out the excess water and stroke your hair in the direction it grows, rather than rubbing the hair with the towel. Drying takes a bit longer this way but after a few haircuts, you'll notice the difference in the way your hair looks.

Blow drying is also a common cause of damage to the hair. Excessive blow drying can dry out the hair and scalp. If you must use a blow dryer, apply a thermal styling spray or detangler to coat the hair and protect it from damage, use a wide-tooth comb to prevent pulling, and always leave the hair slightly damp. This will prevent over drying the hair.

5) Loosen Up. Wearing tight hats or very tight ponytails can cause a condition called traction alopecia -- hair loss due to damage to the hair's root from pulling hair too tight. Wearing a tight hat or ponytail can also stretch the hair and cause it to frizz and break. Ever notice someone who regularly wears a ponytail with shorter frizzy hairs around the hairline? This halo of short frizzy hairs is often caused by tight ponytails and rubber bands.

Wearing your hats and ponytails looser will help prevent these types of damages.

6) Avoid Damaging Pool Water. If you're a swimmer, make sure you know to avoid damaging your hair in the pool by using leave in conditioners and clarifying shampoos before and after you swim.

7) Use Care in the Sun. We all know what damage excessive sun can wreak on the skin, but too much exposure can harm your hair as well. UVA and UVB rays can penetrate deep into the hair and cause damage and make your color fade. A leave-in sunscreen for your hair (yes, they do make hair sunscreen) can help. For sun protection, we like Aveda Sun Care Protective Hair Vail and Redken Color Extend Sun Sparkling Shield Leave-In Smoother

8) Stay Healthy. The condition of your hair is often a direct reflection of the condition of your body. How often do you see an unhealthy guy with great looking hair? Not often. Stress, poor diet, smoking, and lack of sleep all contribute to poor health and dull, lifeless looking hair. So eat well, drink lots of water, don't smoke, reduce your stress, and live well -- both your body and hair will thank you for it.

9) Fight the Frizz. With longer hair, frizz can become a problem. To combat frizz, you'll want to make sure you use a good conditioner each day. A light leave-in conditioner or a smoothing serum such as CHI Silk Infusion can go a long way to helping reduce frizz.

10) Trim Regularly. Since the only real way to remove damaged hair is to cut off the damaged section, keeping your hair trimmed regularly will help eliminate split ends. Make sure to have your hair trimmed about every six to eight weeks, but make it clear to your barber or stylist that you only want enough hair removed to eliminate the split ends. It's amazing how much healthier hair can look after a light trim.

Now that you've got the knowledge to care for that long hair, are you ready to grow out your hair and make the commitment to keeping it looking great? Long hair requires a bit more work, but for the right guy, it can be worth the effort.

 And the beauty of hair is that you can always change it up.  When you get tired of the long hair, you can always cut it short.