A year ago I sat down in my hairstylist’s chair and asked, “If you had total control over my hair, what would you do?” She looked at me through the mirror and said, “I’d grow it out a bit.” I quickly responded, “Okay.” For years I had been wearing my hair quite short and was perfectly happy keeping it that way. I liked the fact that I hadn’t touched a brush or a hairdryer during that time, could just towel dry it and go about my day. I always say I have hair ADD. I give myself five minutes to do my hair, and after five minutes whatever it looks like is what I go with. This made my short hair really desirable.
However, I was starting to feel like a change was due. It was also the New Year and my birthday is on the 5th of January (happy recent birthday to me), so everything felt fresh. I made the decision, in general, that I would be more flexible in places I hadn’t been before. While I may be a bit of a control freak, when I fully trust someone, I easily give them the reins. I feel this way about my hairstylist, Nikki, who works at Soon Beauty Lab in Fort Greene Brooklyn.
So, in that moment, I was growing out my hair.
It’s not all the exciting when you decide to grow your hair out because, literally, nothing happens…at all, for a long time. It’s about as exciting as watching grass grow. I have been doing it for a year now and am going to take you through my journey, what I did to make the process more bearable, the products I used to keep my hair in good shape and photos of me along the way.
How to Grow Your Hair Out without Wanting to Rip Your Hair Out of Your Head
To give you a starting point, this was my hair last December at Christmas, right before I decided (or my hairstylist decided) to start growing out my hair. I was relatively happy with my haircut, although it all depended on the angle at which my face was turned. Sometimes it looked chic and other times my very small head looked like a tiny pinball on my very curvy body.
Trim your hair often
If you’re attempting to grow your hair out, the first thing you might might notice is that your hair looks exactly the same, only a little flatter and slightly less perfect. When you have short hair, you get used to every hair being in its place. So when your hair around your ears is starts to grow over them, just slightly but enough to be annoying, it can get difficult to deal with. You may find it’s too short to tuck it behind the ears but doesn’t fall as well around them. The neat “sideburns” in front of your ears will begin to get odd and long and the top of your hair may lose it’s body and start to feel limp. This is what happened to me a few months in to the growing out process. I also started to feel like my hair got really heavy and round on top despite it’s flatness. I used to call this stage my “70’s anchorman hairdo.”
What I recommend is going for trims often. I keep to a very steady routine. Every eight weeks I get a cut and color and every four weeks between that I get a quick trim which literally takes 15 minutes and costs about $15. While it may seem counterintuitive to get your hair cut this often when trying to grow your hair out, this schedule is what can make the process bearable. Check to see if your hair salon offers in-between trims or if your can make some sort of arrangement with your stylist.
The back of my hair grows very quickly. Like, mullet-in-a-month quickly. By being able to frequent my hairstylist to clean up the parts of my hair that could be trimmed while I could grow out the other parts, I felt like I had a hairstyle throughout this process. It might not have been the hairstyle I would have chosen, but it looked presentable and purposeful, not like I was growing it out.
When your hair changes for the worst
Right around summer is when my hair hit its worst point. The hair around my ears had grown to the point that I could tuck it behind them, but I was still left with those overgrown sideburns that looked odd if I I tucked them back but looked stringy if I let them hang. The layers on top were starting to grow out which took away any lift I had and my bangs were a disaster. I developed this sort of “whoop-dee-doo” wave of bangs that would feather into my stringy sideburns. My hairstyle was no hairstyle. Of course, it didn’t help that this all happened during the hottest time of the year and I spent a lot of the summer outdoors with visits from my nieces and nephew on separate weekends.
This is what made those in-between trims so crucial. Only four weeks would have to pass before I’d visit my hairstylist and beg her to do something to make my hair look decent. The photo on the bottom right was somewhat of a pivotal moment where Nikki, my hairstylist, and I decided to trim some bangs. I don’t know why we hadn’t thought about this sooner; my forehead is large enough to show a movie on, making bangs ideal. In addition to thinning out the bulk, and cleaning up the back, the bangs really made a difference.
It’s all about the product
When people tell me I have great hair, I tell them, “I don’t have great hair, I have a great hairstylist.” I grew up always being told my sister got the good hair, which she did. My mom also told me and my sister that you never scrimp on shoes and hair, which I believe (in addition to skin care products). So I invest in my hair care products and this makes a huge difference. Even if you aren’t growing your hair out, investing in your haircare is important. But when you are growing it out it’s crucial because during that dreaded in-between phase you have to at least make the quality of your hair look good.
Everyone has different hair, but for my oilier, thinner, straight, color-treated hair, I have been using Kevin Murphy’s Angel Wash shampoo for years. It’s light but effective. I usually buy the big salon size when I get my haircut which is the better value. I am sure the conditioner is equally good, but, because I have color treated hair, my hairstylist custom mixes my conditioner called Fabuloso Pro from EVO. It starts with this base and then intensifier custom pigment is added by my stylist to keep my color fresh between my eight week color appointments. I don’t recommend you custom mixing it yourself unless you have professional experience.
I wash my hair twice a week. Even though it is oily, washing it less actually keeps the oil away because if you strip oil, more oil will be produced. One of those days a week I use the Fabuloso Pro conditioner and the other day I use another product I recently started using and LOVE! Oribe makes a glaze that is outstanding. It’s super expensive for the size of the bottle but, remember, you will only use it once a week, even if you wash your hair more frequently. What it does is help retain that super shiny glossy look you get during a visit to the salon. It also helps keep your color fresher and vibrant longer. Since using this product, my color hasn’t faded nearly as much as it has in the past. Oh and all Oribe products smell insanely good.
Admittedly, I don’t use a lot of styling products. Heck, I just started blowing my hair dry a few months ago (I use a Super Solano hair dryer, another smart investment. I have owned mine over 10 years). When you have a good cut you often don’t need tons of styling products, I have found. When I want to add a little dimension, I use a styling paste called Mannequin by R+Co. This might change as my hair gets longer. We’ll see.
When a cut finally starts to change
This was the point that my hair started to change. Suddenly the hair over my ears grew long enough that it didn’t look stupid if I didn’t brush it behind them. However, what took the longest to deal with were growing out the back layers to the point that we could take the back up enough to look more like a bob and less like a long, short haircut.
This was the stage where my sister started calling me Dora the Explorer. I wouldn’t have chosen this hairstyle, but was thrilled to have finally gotten to this point. This was taken in November on Election Day.
A few days later, I attended a wedding with my family. Again, not necessarily my dream haircut, but this is what progress looks like and it was a heck of a lot better looking than in the summer.
Reiterating the importance of in-between trims, it only took a few weeks for my hair to get unruly again. I was due for a haircut a few days after this photo was taken with my niece on the Brooklyn Bridge Thanksgiving weekend. My hair actually blew around in windy weather. This hadn’t happened in a long time.
By December my hair started to feel long…for me. The back had become one length and now the sides needed to grow.
A few days before my birthday last week, I got a cut and color. This is a photo I added to my Instagram Story before I headed out to dinner. A year later, this is my hairstyle. Still not a style I’d consciously choose, but now it is finally starting to look like I’m not growing it out anymore.
I’m not sure how long I am going to grow my hair. I have had very long hair before but after it grows past my shoulders it doesn’t look as good. So, maybe shoulder length. We’ll see what the next year brings.
What about you? Have you ever grown your hair out from a short style? I’d love to hear what worked for you.