1. Always condition.
Dove Ultracare Concentrated + Moisture Creme Conditioner, from Dhs18, pharmacies
Do it every single time you get your hair wet in the shower, says Mark Townsend, a celeb hairstylist for Dove. “Over time, coloring and heat styling cause strands to get thinner at the bottom,” he says, and that can lead to breakage. Loading up on conditioner helps strengthen hair by replacing the lipids and proteins along the outer shaft and sealing the cuticle. That’s all fancy expert-speak for: This is your first line of defense against the stuff that mercilessly kills your long-hair dreams.
2. But don’t shampoo every day.
“It’s shocking to me how many women skip conditioner, when in reality, it’s shampoo you should be avoiding as much as possible,” says Townsend. Its purpose is to wash away dirt (duh), but most shampoos are filled with harsh surfactants called sulfates, which can strip the natural oils you need for healthy hair. When you do really need to shampoo (we’re talking post-Spin-class levels of gross), choose a sulfate-free formula and lather up only at your scalp.
3. Use a mask weekly.
L'Oreal Paris Ever Creme Renourishing Butter, from Dhs37, pharmacies
If your hair is shoulder length or longer, it’s already about 2 to 3 years old (so weird, right?), which means it likely needs more TLC than a normal conditioner can give. Townsend suggests applying a moisture-based mask or oil treatment once a week. Do this especially if you’re wearing your hair natural and regardless of whether it’s in a protective style. Sounds high-maintenance, but honestly, it’s necessary if you want that extra length.
4. Brush very, very gently.
Drybar Flat Mate Boar Bristle Brush, from Dhs312, thedrybar.com
Aggressive brushing can cause physical damage that will prevent hair from ever being long. “When you detangle wet hair, be sure to start from the bottom and work your way up slowly and gently,” says Townsend. “We often instinctually brush from the scalp down, but that just pushes small tangles into one large knot and can cause you to lose more hair.” And instead of using whatever comb you’ve had since high school, Townsend says to go for a natural boar-bristle brush, which gently distributes your scalp’s natural oils down hair shafts, promoting healthier, more moisturized strands.
5. Sleep on silk.
Slip Pure Silk Pillowcase, from Dhs312 for queen-size, slip.com
Yeah, it’s bougie, but those rich ladies are on to something. Silk or satin pillowcases have a softer surface that won’t mat or tangle your hair like cotton can, says Townsend. There are some good cheapy options on Amazon for us normals, and some OTT pretty picks for when you’re craving a splurge.
6. Don’t wrap your hair in a basic towel.
Aquis Rapid Dry Lisse Hair Turban, from Dhs110, sephora.com
What could be so bad about twisting some terry cloth around your strands? More than you think, actually. “Your hair gets caught in all the woven fibers, and since most women almost always wrap it too tight, all those tiny, fragile strands around your hairline are pulled taut and more prone to snapping,” Townsend says. Instead, use a soft T-shirt or a superthin microfiber hair towel, which is better at absorbing water anyway.
7. Switch up your style.
Wearing a ponytail or topknot in the same place every day can cause your hair to break over time because of the repetitive tension. Changing up your lewk is an easy way to help your strands stay strong and growing. P.S. If you have bleached or super-fragile hair, you may want to skip the ponytail completely. One ponytail–ONE!–can give you what stylists refer to as a chemical cut, which is what happens when your hair just gives up and splits right where your hair tie is. YUP. Terrifying—break up with your hair tie and switch to scrunchies. They won’t cause as much damage.