I have very long hair, about 31 inches long, and I am always getting asked for advice on how to get long hair! So I figured it would probably be a useful article for many people.

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1. Patience

I will get this one out of the way first. Patience is absolutely crucial, and unfortunately there is no getting around having to wait for your hair to grow. Hair only grows about half an inch, or just over a centimetre, per month. For some people it will be a little more, or a little less, but waiting is still inevitable! Hair is also only living at the follicle. All of the length of the hair is dead protein. This means that hair cannot heal or repair itself. This also means that when trying to grow your hair long, what you need to focus on is avoiding damage and breakage to the hair, so that the length is not lost as you are waiting for that centimetre every month.

It will also be beneficial to familiarise yourself with your hair type, because different hair types can have very different needs.

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2. Bodily Health

Our bodily health shows extensively on our hair. When we are sick, or deprived of nutrients, our bodies will divert energy from growing out our hair to more essential functions of healing and survival. So, to grow your hair, you want to ensure you are as healthy as you can possibly be. A diet that contains all of your needed nutrients, as well as drinking enough water each day, will support your hair growth. If you are in circumstances where you are having difficulty with getting all your nutrients through food, a multivitamin from a reputable brand/producer would be beneficial to you. Additionally, biotin can be helpful for some in growing their hair and nails, but it is non-essential and will not make a huge difference for most people. And while hair vitamins are a popular trend right now, you are probably better off taking a multivitamin.

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3. Avoiding Chemicals

While dyeing your hair different colours is very fun, and gives beautiful results, dyeing your hair while trying to grow it is probably not your best bet. While dyeing your hair darker, or with semi-permanent dyes within your colour family, doesn't produce very much damage, you should definitely avoid lightening your hair--which is highly damaging--if you are trying to grow it out. If you want to dye it, do it at a moment when you are pleased with your length and you can afford time to let your hair recover. With that being said, it is good to remember than natural hair colours are absolutely beautiful on their own!

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4. Heat Reduction

Heat is highly damaging to your hair as well. Styling tools such as curling irons, straighteners, and blow dryers all contribute damage to your hair, so those should be avoided as much as possible. But, many styles that you achieve with heat tools can be done without them--look up no-heat styles of all sorts for alternatives! It is also not just heat tools that can damage your hair; even hot water can cause damage. So it is advisable to wash and condition your hair in water as cold as you can stand!

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5. Reduce Washing

It is also advisable to not wash your hair daily. This is because washing strips the natural oils out of your hair which help protect your hair and scalp and prevent damage. It is recommended to only wash your hair two or three times per week. This of course depends on your hair/scalp type. My hair, for instance, is on the finer side and my scalp tends to get oily, so I wash approximately every three or sometimes four days. As I shower every night, on non-wash days I still wet and condition my hair (but this also may vary due to one's hair type). You don't want to forgo washing for too long, though as well, particularly if you use products or dry shampoo, because it is not good to leave buildup on the hair.

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6. Environmental Damage

Sun, wind, precipitation, and cold can also damage your hair, drying it out and/or tangling it, which leads to breakage. Tangles can also be caused when your hair rubs against or is caught and trapped in coats and scarves. It is important to take these factors into consideration when you are going out and about. Protective styles and accessories can be a big help, like wearing your hair in braids on a windy day, wrapping your hair in a silk scarf during winter outings, and wearing hats in the sun to protect your hair and scalp.

And while this isn't an environmental factor, your hair can even be damaged while you sleep if you aren't careful! Wear your hair in a protective style during sleep (in braids, or as I like to, use soft scrunchies at intervals all the way down the length à la Disney's Princess Jasmine). A silk or satin pillowcase is also beneficial.

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7. Damaging Styles

While most styles when wore occasionally will not do too much damage, wearing your hair in some styles too often can cause damage. Frequent tight ponytails or buns can cause a lot of breakage around the hair line and around the point at which you place the elastic. Further, more complex styles and any style that requires backcombing will produce a lot of breakage! It is always advisable to let your hair "rest" without any elastics or clips or tension on it. And it is also a good idea to switch up the placement of ponytails, and even your parting, every so often so that your hair never experiences too much tension in one spot.

We all know that we should make sure our hair is free from tangles as well, but over-brushing is also a concern for our hair. If you brush your hair too often or too aggressively, it can lead to unnecessary breakage and fall-out.

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8. Oils and Conditioning

Something that will help a ton with preventing damage to your hair is properly conditioning it. You should definitely be conditioning your hair on a regular basis, and especially on the days you wash your hair. But in addition to regular in-shower conditioning, oils can provide some of the best conditioning of all. Coconut oil is a particularly beneficial oil, but as is castor oil, almond oil, argan oil, or really any other nourishing natural oils. From experience, using the oils directly works much better than products made with the oils for deep conditioning. My routine is generally using a palm-full (keeping in mind my hair is to my hips) of argan oil to distribute from ends upward on my wash-days, generally several hours prior to when I shower, and I do a coconut oil treatment once a month roughly. However, when I started really taking care of my hair in 2011, I would do weekly coconut oil treatments. The drier your hair is, the more deep conditioning is helpful. You can apply the oil directly, or heat it up. You can add some nice smelling and skin safe essential oils, or not. You can mix oils. You can leave them on for a few hours, or over night (a shower cap and towel over your pillow is recommended for that!)--oils are very versatile conditioners!

Two things to keep in mind though. The first is that different hair and skin types respond differently to different oils, so experiment if one or another oils or conditioners is not giving you the results you want. The second is that you shouldn't go too crazy with applying oils, especially if your hair is on the thin or finer side of things, because the oils will weigh down your hair quite a bit. They also do require slightly more rigourous washing out, so factor that in as well. Some people do experience more hair fall when they apply oils too heavily--especially coconut oil--and find it hard to wash out. So start with a little bit of oil when you are applying it, and add a little more as you need.

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9. Trims

Trimming hair is necessary to some extent, but if you are trying to grow your hair out, your trims should only be taking taking off the smallest amount. Emphasize to whoever cuts your hair that you are trying to grow it out, and remember the rate at which hair grows: the recommended 4 to 6 weeks in-between trims is only for those who want to maintain their current length. Only trim your hair once you start to notice breakage and split ends. To prolong the amount of time between trims, you can "micro-trim" your ends--essentially, grab a strand of hair and carefully examine the ends (curl it with your fingers to make the ends stand out). If you notice any breakage or split ends or little knots on single hairs, trim those off with hair scissors (the scissors need to be sharp so that the hair cuts cleanly--cutting hair with dull scissors can lead to split ends). This way, only the damaged ends are removed and your length can be maintained. And that is also why trims are required even if growing your hair out--damaged split ends need to be removed while they are at the bottom of the hair and/or have just split off. Otherwise they will split further up the hair and break off higher up, resulting in a more substantial loss of length. And if you go to the hairdresser with a lot of damage and split ends, they will more than likely cut a few inches off, so make sure to keep split ends to a minimum by trimming them off.

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Remember, you cannot do much about the rate of hair growth, so while you are waiting, ensure that you are doing all that you can to minimize damage and breakage to your hair. Avoiding damage will help your hair grow as quickly as possible!

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