There’s a certain liberating feeling that comes with growing your hair out as a man.
Maybe it’s because we know that most men will never do it, whether it’s because they aren’t willing to endure the “awkward stages” or because many men start losing their hair in their thirties.
But that’s the very reason why men’s long hair never goes out of style. It’s a style that never reaches critical mass the way fades, and side parts have in the past decade. But at the same time, there are just enough men with long hair that keep it firmly entrenched as a cool and relevant style.
That said, growing out your hair is an endeavor. It takes patience, persistence, and steel resolve. Remember, hair only grows at a rate of a half inch per month on average. That means it will take over a year before your hair hits your shoulders.
I’ve now grown my hair out on two separate occasions, with much better results the second time around. Below are five things that I wish I knew the first time I grew my hair out.
1. KNOW YOUR HAIR TYPE
The first time I grew long hair, it was inspired by Brad Pitt’s role as Achilles in the 2004 movie Troy.
I envisioned myself with Pitt’s long, flowing locks. But, as my hair grew, one thing became increasingly apparent—my hair does not do what Brad Pitt’s hair does.
Brad Pitt has type 1 hair—it’s nearly as straight as the arrow that pierces Achilles’ heel. Pitt’s hair falls perfectly into place no matter the length.
Conversely, my hair is type 2b or 2c. It’s somewhere between wavy and curly, making it constantly frizzy, poofy, and the exact opposite of Brad Pitt’s.
The first time I grew my hair out, I did everything I could think of to try and make my hair more straight. I tried gels, hairsprays, and straightening creams. One time I even flat-ironed it—the result was not pretty, though, rather amusing.
Eventually, I grew frustrated and chopped it off, thinking that having long hair wasn’t meant for me.
The second time I grew long hair, I learned how to work with my hair type instead of against it.
Knowing your hair type is critical if you are growing long hair. It will give you a road map for how to properly care for, style, and ultimately get your hair looking its best.
Figuring out your hair type is relatively easy using Andre Walker’s Hair Typing System shown below. If you’re still unsure after looking at the chart, your barber or stylist should be able to tell you your hair type.
|Hair Type||Curl Pattern||Characteristics|
|1a||Straight (Fine/Thin)||Soft, thin, and oily.|
|1b||Straight (Medium)||Voluminous and full.|
|1c||Straight (Coarse)||Very straight, full, and hard to damage.|
|2a||Wavy (Fine/Thin)||Natural “S” shape. Can easily be straightened or curled.|
|2b||Wavy (Medium)||Natural “S” shape that can be frizzy and resistant to styling.|
|2c||Wavy (Coarse)||Natural “S” shape that is coarse, thick, and frizzy. More resistant to styling.|
|3a||Curly (Loose)||Curls are large and hair is thick and often frizzy.|
|3b||Curly (Tight)||Curls range from spirals to corkscrews. Often very frizzy.|
|4a||Coily (Soft)||Tightly coiled. Tends to be wiry and fragile.|
|4b||Coily (Wiry)||Hair has a “Z” shape with sharp angles.|
In addition to figuring out if your hair is straight, wavy, curly, or coily, there’s a few other characteristics to know.
Your hair density has to do with the number of hair follicles you have on your scalp per square inch. Your hair density can be thin, average, or thick. If you have a “thick head of hair,” you have a higher number of follicles than someone with thin hair.
Everyone’s hair density changes as they age—some more than others. When someone says their “hair is thinning,” it means their hair is becoming less dense. Most men will experience thinning to some extent in their lifetime.
Hair texture refers to each hair strand's actual circumference and is either thin, medium, or coarse.
Every hair strand has three layers—the medulla, cortex, and cuticle.
- The medulla is the hair strand's innermost layer and is made up of a soft, oily substance.
- The cortex is the middle layer, which contains hundreds of keratin microfibrils. The cortex is the thickest part of the hair strand and makes up 80% of the mass.
- The cuticle is the outer layer of the hair strand. It protects the hair and contains the nutrients that help it grow. Each hair shaft has 6 to 10 layers of cuticles.
Your hair texture is determined by how many cuticle layers are on the hair shaft.
Fine hair has the fewest cuticle layers, and coarse hair has the most cuticle layers. Everything in between is considered medium hair. Because coarse hair contains more cuticle layers, it is wider in diameter than fine hair.
Like hair density, your hair texture can also change as you age. As you mature, your hair may go from being coarse to being medium or fine.
So, which hair texture do you have? You can usually tell if you have coarse hair by feeling it. Roll a single strand of hair between your thumb and index finger. If you can’t feel the hair strand (or can barely feel it) between your fingers, you have fine hair. If the hair strand feels thicker than a piece of sewing thread, you have coarse hair. Everything in between is considered to be medium hair texture.
If you still aren’t sure about your hair texture after feeling it, your barber or stylist should be able to tell you.
2. LOSE THE HIGH HOLD PRODUCTS
High hold products like pomade are great when your hair is shorter, and you have a more manicured side-part look.
But as your hair gets longer, you don’t want to be trying to lock it in place. You want your hair to fall and flow naturally.
Trying to control your hair with heavy hold products as it’s getting longer is a mistake many guys make when growing their hair for the first time—myself included.
I was so accustomed to using pomade and other similar styling products in my short hair that I continued to do so as it grew. I just ended up with long, stiff, crunchy hair that didn't look very good.
If you have curly (type 3) or wavy hair (type 2), high hold products will not give you straight hair no matter how strong the hold.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD
If you are going to use a styling product, opt for something with low hold, like a Sea Salt Spray.
If you have Type 1 hair that is thin and straight, Sea Salt Spray can help add some volume and thickness to your hair.
If you have wavy or curly hair, Sea Salt Spray can help enhance your hair's natural wave and curl without making your hair hard.
3. MANAGE THE OIL
Managing long hair really comes down to managing the amount of oil in your hair.
Your scalp produces sebum (oil) that works its way onto your hair strands. This oil is critical to the health and look of your hair. In other words, your hair needs that oil for it to look and feel its best. This is the reason why people with long hair typically feel like their hair looks the best a few days after they washed it last.
A few days worth of oil buildup in the hair can help your hair relax, be less frizzy, and have a bit more shine.
There’s a fine line with oil, though. Too much oil and your hair will look clumpy, dirty, and eventually become matted. Too little oil and your hair will be dry, frizzy, and wiry.
You need to find the sweet spot for your hair, and there’s no uniform answer. This is where knowing your hair type comes into play, as well as a little experimentation.
Now, the best place to begin managing the amount of oil your hair is in the shower. Most men wash their hair too much—like, way too much.
Every time you wash your hair, the shampoo removes oil from your scalp. If you wash your hair every day, your hair never gets a chance to benefit from your natural oil.
I made this mistake the first time I grew my hair out. I washed it too much, and my hair always felt dry and wiry.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD
We recommend something called co-washing (short for conditioner washing). Co-washing is the art of using conditioner to clean your hair.
Hair conditioners hydrate, moisturize, and prevent hair strands from breaking or splitting. But conditioners also contain some light cleansing agents that can remove daily debris from your hair without removing as much oil as shampoos do.
Now, here’s where co-washing gets a little confusing for guys—you’re still going to need to use shampoo to wash your hair a couple of times per week.
Below is an example of my co-washing routine.
EXAMPLE OF A CO-WASHING ROUTINE
|Day||Wash hair with shampoo||Use conditioner|
I use a conditioner on my hair every day. But every three or four days, I wash my hair with shampoo and then condition it.
Now, co-washing routines will vary from person to person. You’ll need to experiment with what feels best for your hair. Some guys won't be able to go more than a couple of days without their hair getting too dirty.
That said, unless you have type 1a hair, which usually comes with an overly oily scalp, you don’t need to wash your hair with shampoo more than a few times a week.
TRY A LEAVE-IN CONDITIONER
If you have type 2, 3, or 4 hair, you may find that your hair still dries out quickly, even with co-washing. Don’t abandon the co-washing technique. Instead, consider adding some additional hydration in the form of a leave-in conditioner.
Leave-in conditioners are applied to the hair after you get out of the shower, and as the name implies, you don’t rinse the product out.
There are plenty of options out there, but I use Beardbrand Utility Balm on my hair. It’s the only thing I put in my hair these days.
Utility Balm is formulated with shea butter, cocoa butter, mango butter, apricot oil, jojoba oil, beeswax, and lanolin, which are all amazing at locking in moisture. Utility Balm doesn’t have any hold, but the butters, beeswax, and lanolin help tame frizz and flyaways. Plus, apricot and jojoba oil are both outstanding at moisturizing hair follicles.
4.QUALITY MATTERS WHEN GROWING YOUR HAIR
The first time I grew my hair out, I used whatever shampoos, conditioners, and styling products I could find at the grocery store that I could also afford.
I’m no longer on as tight of a budget as I was back then, and what I’ve learned since is that quality ingredients make a huge difference in how my hair looks and feels.
Inexpensive shampoos and conditioners often contain silicones and sulfates that left my hair drier and more challenging to manage.
The trouble with silicones
Silicone is a rubber-like material that has been used in everything from hardware products and sportswear to cosmetics and—ahem—certain body enhancements. But we’re only interested in understanding how silicones affect the long-term health and appearance of your hair and skin.
Silicone is used in many grooming products like shampoo and conditioner because it coats the hair shaft, trapping in moisture, and instantly giving hair a shiny, healthy appearance.
The instant gratification offered by silicone can be very appealing.
The catch is that silicones are notorious for attracting dirt and oil like a magnet. Additionally, many silicones repel water, making them difficult to wash out.
All of this causes your hair to feel dirty and oily faster. In turn, this causes you to wash it more frequently and use more product. Over time, this can lead to dry, frizzy hair that is more prone to breakage.
The trouble with Sulfates
Sulfate is a type of salt formed by chemical reactions involving sulfuric acid. In grooming products, it generally shows up in the form of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES).
For years, sulfates have been used in soaps and shampoos because they help create a big lather—and well, people love a good lather. Sounds great, right?
The downside is that both SLS and SLES are known to irritate the eyes, skin, and lungs—especially with long-term use. Some experts even recommend rinsing off sulfates as soon as they're on your skin to reduce the risk of irritation—so you can’t even really enjoy that extra lather.
And even if you’ve got skin that tolerates sulfates, sodium lauryl sulfate is known to strip an excess amount of the natural oil from hair and skin, leading to hair that is drier, weaker, and more susceptible to damage.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD
Read the labels of shampoo and conditioner bottles and look for products free of silicones and sulfates. You don’t have to break the bank, but focussing on quality natural ingredients will go a long way in helping your long hair look and feel awesome.
You can also look for shampoos and conditioners formulated specifically for your hair type, but this isn’t always necessary.
Naturally, we feel strongly that Beardbrand Shampoo & Conditioner are an excellent option for all different hair types.
5. GROW A BEARD
Okay, this tip is less about your head hair and more about helping you tough it out through the awkward stages of growing long hair.
I couldn’t quite grow a beard the first time I grew my hair out. I was still in my early twenties, and my facial hair was still pretty sparse.
Having a beard as I’ve been growing my hair out for a second time significantly helped me feel better and more confident when my hair looked a little less than optimal.
Having a beard adds more balance, which can help your face and head look more symmetrical throughout the growing process.
THE WRAP UP
Have questions about your hair? Shoot us a message at [email protected], or Text "STYLE" to 512-879-3297 for a free personalized consultation. We’ll be happy to help you out.
Keep on Growing.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES TO HELP YOU GROW LONG HAIR
The Truth About Not Washing Your Hair - Greg Berzinsky shows what happens when doesn’t wash his hair for nearly a week.
How To Survive Awkward Stages - Eric Bandholz provides a few tips for getting through the awkward stages when growing your hair out.
5 Ways To Style Long Hair - Greg Bersinsky and Trav White show you their five favorite ways to wear long hair.
The History of Long Hair on Men - Greg Berzinsky breaks down how men have worn long hair throughout history.
How to Deal with Unruly Coarse Hair - We break down how to manage and care for type 2 and 3 hair that is coarse and unruly.
Shamp like a Champ: How to Wash Your Hair the Right Way - You’d be surprised how many guys get this wrong.