Keep Your Long Hair Healthy and Beautiful

Are you noticing split ends, frizz and a general lackluster lankness to your flowing tresses? That’s no surprise. “Long hair is often damaged simply because it’s been around longer and exposed to more daily wear and tear from styling and the environment,” says celeb stylist Corey Powell of The Salon by Maxime, in Beverly Hills. After all, hair that tumbles to your shoulders and below may be at least five years old. But hold the shears! Your Rapunzel locks can still radiate youthful sheen with these simple, no-fuss tips.

Get Frequent Trims
The only successful treatment for repairing split ends is a sharp pair of scissors. While some hair care products may temporarily merge split ends together, this fix lasts only until your next shampoo. And left untreated, these tiny splits can splinter farther up the hair shaft. “Have your stylist take off a quarter inch or less every six to eight weeks,” suggests hairstylist Mario Russo, founder of Mario Russo Salons in the Boston, Mass., area. After trims, use a protecting leave-in cream to prevent split ends from recurring so frequently.

Beware of the Sun
Oxidative stress from the sun can fade your color and leave hair dry and lackluster, warns Russo. Studies also show that hair is more vulnerable to sun damage in both very dry and very humid climates, particularly when it’s wet. “At home or on vacation, don’t let your hair bake dry in the sun after swimming,” says Powell, “and wear a stylish scarf or hat to protect it during any prolonged exposure.”

Invest in a Few Hair Tools
When investing in hair products, these will help keep long locks strong:

  • A natural boar-bristle brush. Its fibers are best for distributing your hair’s natural conditioning oils down the shafts.
  • A wide-tooth comb. It’s gentler than a brush when your hair is wet and weakest.
  • A microfiber towel made for long hair. It wicks water out of your hair so you can air-dry faster and more easily.

Color Correctly
Coloring makes long locks even more prone to breakage, and the damage is usually cumulative. To offset it, celebrity colorist Johnathan Gale, who has worked with Charlize Theron and Jennifer Garner, brushes organic neem oil throughout hair before painting on color or highlighting solution. “It conditions the hair and buffers the chemicals so you minimize damage, but it won’t interfere with the color process,” he says. Ask your colorist to do the same. After coloring, be sure to use a shampoo formulated for color-treated hair during each hair wash.

Condition, Condition, Condition
Use instant conditioner after every shampoo. It will lessen friction between hairs so you have fewer tangles. Apply a deep conditioner for about 15 minutes every couple of weeks (more often for coarse hair), then wrap your head in a damp microwave-warmed towel to help it sink in. “Frayed and frizzy strands are like totally open flowers, so you want a penetrating conditioner that really gets into the inner shaft to smooth it down,” says Russo. Once a month, treat hair to a strengthening and smoothing mask. Hair masks are specifically designed to help stop breakage and create additional shine.

Styling 101
Treat your hair (as often as possible) like a model does in her off time; lay off the blow dryer, curling iron, hot rollers and flat iron. “Use these hot tools three times a week max if you must,” says Russo. “And always use a heat-protective product with them.” To prolong a blowout, sleep on a silk pillowcase: The slick fibers don’t rough up the hair’s cuticle. Also try this healthy hairstyle: “Smooth on some conditioning hair cream and create a single braid,” says Gale. “It’s a sexy look for long hair and good for it too.”