Friday, April 30, 2010

Progress Update For May, 2010

This evening I recorded my monthly measure-in.  While technically today is the last day of April, I will call this my May Progress Report.  After all, t's already May 1 in England. Right?

I was very pleased with my growth this month.  On the first of the month, my hair measured in at 24 inches.  Today, I measured in at 24 3/4 inches.  I call that a very good month. 

First I'm posting a photo of the comparison between my February update and my current update.  This shows my growth in three months.  I've also had a small trim in between.  

Here are two other photos.

I'm thinking I may be firmly at mid-back by the end of the summer!  Woohoo!!!

'Til tomorrow, my friends.  I wish you all a very happy weekend.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Me? Really, Madam, You Must Be Joking!

Do I think about my hair 24/7?  No.  Even though I write about hair and hairstyles every day, I really don't give it a lot of thought most of the time.  Except...

When the end of the month hits, I am filled with girlish glee as I anticipate my monthly measure-in and progress photo, which I do on the last day of the month.  Then I post the results on the Internet.  Sometimes I feel silly about it, I admit.

Yet there's something so satisfying about seeing a new number on that measuring tape, and knowing that there will always be a larger number.  There's something almost miraculous in the fact that hair grows in amounts that are measurable every month.

I also enjoy taking my progress photos.  I never compare it to last month's picture.  I look at the photo from three months ago.  Invariably the difference is visible.  This is just another way in which the long hair journey is fun for me.

So even if I feel that I'm making no progress, the tape measure and the photos tell me differently.  While I know I still have some damage that will eventually have to go, I am reminded that even with my quarterly 1/2 inch trims, my hair is still getting longer, and the amount of damage is getting less.  It's all so positive!

If someone had ever told me four years ago that learning how to properly care for and style my hair would become something of a hobby, I would have laughed. I couldn't have imagined that I'd ever be frequently looking for new braids or updos to try.  To be writing about all of this on the Internet?  Really, you must be joking!  However, here I am, enjoying talking hair to my Internet friends, sharing my thoughts on hair care and hairstyles.  I never would have imagined.

I know that to some people, one would have to be some sort of a nut to even think about measuring and photographing one's hair length every month.  

I guess I am some sort of a nut.  Filled occasionally with girlish glee.   I can live with that.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Protect Your Hair With Style

It's sunny but very windy here where I live today. The wind put my mind to just one of the reasons that protective hairstyles are important for longer hair.

Many people with long hair wear it down all of the time, because they like it that way.  I like to wear my hair down too, but wearing hair loose exposes longer hair to additional friction against one's clothes, being whipped by wind, and other wear and tear.

If you plan on growing your hair to mid-back or longer, it's a good idea to learn some easy protective hairstyles to wear not only most of the time, but especially when you're out in the elements.

We've all experienced those beautiful car rides in lovely weather, when the wind whips through our hair.  It feels good, but in the end, there are a mess of tangles left in the hair, which can lead to breakage. 

Then there are the more delicate areas of the hair.  First of all, the ends are delicate and more fragile than the rest of the hair, as the ends are the oldest and have been exposed to the environment for longer.  When you think about it, hair that doesn't yet quite graze the shoulder is already two years old at the very ends.  On average, every six inches of growth beyond that represents another year.

So we must protect those ends from too much wear and tear.

Secondly, the top part of the hair that grows around the crown is also more fragile than the rest of the hair.  We call this part of the hair the "canopy".  It's the part of the hair that you use if you make a half-up hairstyle.  It is the hair that is constantly exposed to sun and breezes if you're outdoors, and once again, it's the longest and therefore the oldest portion of your hair.

So we must protect the canopy as much as possible.

There are several ways in which you can contain and protect your hair that are quick and easy.

One way women have been protecting their hair for millennia is by wearing a simple, single braid.  It's easy to do, keeps the hair out of the way, and is protective.  If you don't like the idea of the braid rubbing against your clothes, you can wear a flipped braid as shown in my entry of April 26th, 2010.

Half-up hairstyles are perfect for when you want to still want to show your length but want to protect the fragile canopy hair.  You can wear a half-up bun or braid of just about any style you like, and it will help protect the hair that has most been exposed to friction and the elements.

Updos are among the most protective hairstyles of all, and I recommend wearing them most of the time, if possible.

Even when hair is at shoulder length, it's not too soon to start doing protective styles.  At shoulder length you may not be able to do a bun in your hair, but you will be able to make a French Twist, a Peacock Twist or a Gibson Tuck.  This is also a great time to learn how to French Braid, if you don't already know how to do so.  You can see examples of all of those styles in the Updos Gallery and the Braids Gallery on my website.

Half-ups can be done at any length as well, and are a wonderful way of not only protecting your hair, but of trying out updos that your hair may be too short for.  See my Half-Ups Gallery for ideas.

I will eventually be giving instructions here on how to do most of the hairstyles shown on my website.

Now of course there will be times when you're going out that you really want to wear your hair down and loose, and that's fine.  We all want to enjoy wearing our hair down from time to time. That's one of the reasons many of us want to grow it long.

Nevertheless, if you wear protective hairstyles most of the time, it will pay off with great rewards in the long run, giving you the freedom to wear your healthier-looking hair down for an afternoon or an evening out and even the occasional windy car ride.  And everyone knows; you're never too old for that occasional windy car ride.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Off-Topic Tuesday: Forgiveness and Nest Update

For me the process of growing hair symbolizes so many things.  Among them is the passage of time, and hopefully along with that, more wisdom.

In thinking about the wisdom that I have now compared with when I was young, I think of some of the very important things I've learned along the way.  I also realize how far I've yet to go.

Forgiveness has been a huge theme in my life.  I never really understood until my late 30s just how important real heartfelt forgiveness can be for the mind, body and spirit.

Holding on to anger simply makes one bitter and brittle.  Learning to let go is freedom.

So many people are or have been stingy with forgiveness, as we somehow believe that in the act of forgiving, we are condoning wrongs.  

That's simply not the case.  One doesn't have to condone or approve of someone's actions in order to forgive.  Forgiveness simply means letting go of anger and resentment.  How freeing that is!

Oddly, or perhaps not, I can forgive others more easily than I can myself.  Yet self-forgiveness is vital.

I have a long way to go.  I was just saying to a friend today that just when I think I have this forgiveness thing down, something will happen that will set me back, and it's as though I have to relearn how to forgive all over again.  I wonder if one ever gets to a place where it's not such hard work?  I don't know, but I'll never stop trying to find out.

I'm going to share some of my favourite quotes on forgiveness, from people from varying political and religious backgrounds.  They so often all boil down to the same thing.

"Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned."-- Buddha

"If we really want to love
we must learn how to forgive"--Mother Teresa

"Anger dwells only in the bosom of fools."

- Albert Einstein

Is the mightiest sword
Forgiveness of those you fear
Is the highest reward
When they bruise you with words
When they make you feel small
When it's hardest to take
You must do nothing at all..."--Charlotte Bronte (Jane Eyre) 

"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." --M. Ghandi

"To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it."--Confucius

"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."--The Bible, Matthew (ch. VI, v. 14-15)

 “We achieve inner health only through forgiveness--the forgiveness not only of others but also of ourselves”--Joshua Loth Liebman

"Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much."
— Oscar Wilde

Okay, the Oscar Wilde quote just makes me laugh, however true it might be.

A quick update on the robin's nest on my porch.  The robins were well into building the nest, and had all of their materials laid out below the porch lamp, but they abandoned it before completion.  Perhaps they had a fright from a predator.  I hope they've found a safer haven for their nest.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hairstyle How-To: Flipped Braid

This is another extremely quick and easy hairstyle.  It's so simple that it almost doesn't need instructions. It's also a great "convertible" style, as you can choose to begin your day with a simple 3 strand braid, and if you want to comfortably get the hair off of your neck, you can do this styles in the blink of an eye, provided that you have a hair clip, hair slide or a large barrette.  Here are the extremely simple instructions:

1. Make a single regular braid at the back of the head.

2. Flip braid up.

3. Tuck the braid's tassel under the braid.

4. Hold in place with the hair accessory of your choice.  I chose to use a Ficcare Ficcarissimo in the Eggplant colour.  The Ficcarissimo will hold that braid in place all day.

So that's it!  If you can make a braid and you have even a simple hair accessory, you can do this style in seconds.  This is a favourite for warm days that become hot days and it has a simple but classic look to it.

If you have some layers and bits stick out of the braid, don't give it a second thought.  This is one of those styles that doesn't need to look perfect.

Thanks to everyone for your kind comments yesterday regarding my instructions on how to trim your own bangs or fringe.  They're much appreciated.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

How to Trim Your Own Bangs--It's Easy!

If you wear bangs or a fringe, you'll find that you'll need to trim them fairly often.  Many hair salons will trim your bangs for free between regular cuts.  However, if you're growing out your hair, you may not be going to a salon regularly anymore. 

If you already have straight-across bangs, here are some tips for trimming your bangs yourself.

You don't need much in the way of supplies for this.  A mirror, clips or a headband, scissors (preferably barber's shears) and a fine tooth comb are the only tools you need

First of all, make sure your hair is dry when you trim.  Wet hair will shrink as it dries, and your bangs may well end up being too short.

Now, clip all hair back, leaving only your bangs exposed.  Comb them straight down with a fine-toothed comb.

With the fingers of your dominant hand, pinch the bangs together and place them right at the bridge of your nose below the brow line.

Take your non-dominant hand and grasp the bangs horizontally against your forehead between the index and middle finger. This frees your dominant hand to hold the scissors.  Slide your fingers down to the length you want your bangs to be.    Make sure that your fingers are truly horizontal and not tilting to one side or the other.  The fingers will serve as your guideline.  However short you think you want your bangs to be, lower your fingers by about 1/4 of an inch, to prevent accidentally cutting too much off.  You can always trim more later.

Now take your scissors.  Hold the scissors almost vertically and make repeated vertical snips until your bangs are at your finger line (the guideline).

Comb bangs straight down with your fine-toothed comb.  Look for any errant hairs that may have escaped your scissors during the trim and snip them off.

Now, check the length.  If you're happy with the new length, you're done.  If you need a bit more cut off, repeat the process with a slightly higher guideline.

You're done!  You've cut your own bangs.  With the almost-vertical cutting method you'll not have the straight as an edge home-made look, and by having pulled the hair to the center of your forehead, to the bridge of your nose, you'll have a nice natural line.

For those of you more visually oriented, I'll make a video the next time I trim.

I'll give instructions for cutting bangs for the first time in a future entry.

Remember cut less to start with.  You can always cut more.  Good luck!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Little Things

Sometime it seems like hair just isn't growing.  Of course, waiting for hair to grow is far worse than watching a pot boil.  Yet there are surprising little things that one notices from month to month or even from week to week.  

Perhaps I'll try a hairstyle that I couldn't do a month ago because my hair was too short, but I can do it now.  Maybe I'll feel hair brushing against my arm or my back and know that I didn't feel it there even last week.

Only a couple of months ago, I couldn't reach up behind my back and grab my hair without leaning my head back a bit.  Today I can grab a good inch between my fingers with my head held high.

I think of these things as mini-milestones. They're not the major markers of hair growth like hitting shoulder length, or having my hair falling below the line of my shoulder blades, but they're pleasant little moments just the same.

Little things, little pleasures, little surprises--that's what keeps me going. 

That's also why I take monthly progress photos.  I may not see much or any difference from one month to the next, but if I look at a photo from three months earlier, what a change!

Growing long hair really is a journey, it's not a sprint.  Enjoy and savour every moment of it.  The length will come in time.  

In the meantime, enjoy the little things along the way.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Grass is Always Greener

One of the things that discourages many people when growing out their hair is comparing it to others.  You may have straight, fine hair, and see someone with wavy thick tresses or lovely dense curls that you adore.

Or you may be curly and envy those with straight, smooth hair.

You may put your hair in a braid and see how thin it is compared to someone whose hair you admire.

Let me just say that for most people, I've found it to be that the grass is always greener.

When I began my first journey toward seriously growing my hair long, I decided to give up heat styling devices.  I already colour my hair, and there's only so much that one's hair can take.  This meant having to deal with my fine, straight, flat hair.

I had previously spent most of my life doing whatever I could to achieve body, volume and curl, so this was new to me.  When I joined the online Long Hair Community, I was in the company of many people whose hair was much thicker, wavier and I thought, just plain prettier than my own.  I just felt that my hair was so--insignificant.

However, along the way, I began to notice that so many people whose hair I admired were admiring hair that was completely different from their own.  I realized that I was not alone in wishing my hair was different.

Spending more time with my fellow/sister LHC members, I started seeing the beauty in every hair type, and eventually, that included my own.

No longer did I wish for what I didn't have.  I suddenly appreciated my hair just the way it is.  Yes, there are people who can put their hair in three braids each of which is equal in size to my own.  Yes, there are people who have the lovely natural waves and body that I'd always adored.

And yet, there I was seeing my own hair in a new light for the first time.  I finally accepted and eventually really loved my own hair.  It was a true revelation for me.

So the bottom line is whatever your hair type, please try to see it for how beautiful it really is, and know that there's probably someone out there who wishes they had hair just like yours.

Once you love your own hair, you can learn to treat it the way it's meant to be treated and find the hair products and routine that make the best of what you have.

If you really want to grow, learning to love your own hair type, with all it's quirks and flaws is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your hair.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Silicone Debate

A lot of people don't realize that most hair products contain silicones.  There is a lot of debate as to whether using silicone-containing products is good for the hair or not.

There are benefits to silicones and there are drawbacks.  Having an informed opinion, and knowing how to care for your hair if you use silicones is very important.

Silicones do provide a lot of slip to hair, and prevent tangles very well.  They can provide shine, smoothness and they seal in moisture.  They can also help hide chemical damage and split ends.

The downside is that they also seal moisture out, and they do create buildup.  Eventually, this can lead to dull hair and potential breakage.

So if you feel that silicone products are beneficial for you, here are some tips on how to prevent problems down the line.

1.  Clarify hair.  I wrote an entry on April 9, 2010 that explains how to clarify your hair.

2.  Do a deep moisture treatment with a non-silicone based moisturizing conditioner.  I described a good moisturizing treatment in that same April 9, 2010 entry.

3.  When that is rinsed out, use the silicone-based conditioner of your choice.  There are also many smoothing and shining serums that contain silicones as well.

4.  Periodically, repeat the clarifying and deep moisture treatment process.  This will prevent the hair from damaging buildup, dullness and dryness that can occur with regular silicone usage.

I myself was on a regimen of non-silicone based products for about 2 years.  After dying my hair from dark brown back to blonde, I incurred damage that still remains in the last several inches of my hair.  It will be some time before it's all trimmed out. So I do use silicones now, and will likely until the damage is gone.

Most hair products these days have a full list of ingredients on the bottle.  Here is a comprehensive list, compiled by Nightshade from the Long Hair Community, of most of the most common silicones that are found in hair products.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to silicones.  It's all about what works for you and your hair, and knowing how to care for your hair if you use them.

Wishing everyone a wonderful Earth Day!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ah, The Controversy!

I had no idea that my choice to wear bangs was so controversial.

I came across this article from the New York times.  It was written almost three years ago, but I suspect that the opinions likely remain the same.  There are so many things wrong with this article, I don't even know where to begin.

I have no doubt that there are women who get a particular haircut believing that it will somehow change their lives.  I think most of us have had that feeling about either a haircut, a fashion accessory, or an article of clothing at some point in our lives.

However, this article makes such sweeping generalizations that I can't believe the Times printed it.

First of all, there is a statement that women with bangs over the age of 30 are making a cry for help and are trying somehow to recapture their youth.

Secondly, there are numerous statements that imply that women have bangs cut have unresolved childhood issues or are somehow emotionally unstable.  The quoted hairdresser actually asks women who ask for bangs if they're on their period!

Thirdly, the article quotes a businesswoman as saying that no one with blunt bangs can be taken seriously in business.

Also, there are a lot of implications that women who wear bangs are high-maintenance women trying to be "cool".

While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I was shocked that there were almost no arguments to refute the ones I mention.

I am so tired of being told by society and media how I "should" look or dress at my age.  Is it so wrong to just want to wear hair or clothing in which I feel comfortable?

Myself, I have bangs because they are the most easiest style for me.  My hair is so fine that when grown out, my hair won't stay out of my face without a clip or hairspray.  For me, this is a no-maintenance, no-fuss style.

It's certainly not that I'm compensating for growing older. I don't think I'm anymore emotionally unstable than the next woman.  This is just me.  And I'm okay with that.  When will the rest of the world let us just be okay with who we are?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Off-Topic Tuesday: Birds' Nest and Time to Get Moving!

Nothing says Spring to me like watching birds nesting.  For the last few years, robins have built nests on our porch light.  A nest was started about 2 weeks ago, but it was a gusty day, and the beginnings of the nest blew away.  I thought that perhaps we wouldn't have the pleasure of watching the robins' life cycle this year.

I was very excited to see that it looks as though the robins have begun building again.  These birds are slow though.  The first photo was taken yesterday, and the second was taken today.  

I hope that the nest is completed and that the birds have a successful brooding and hatching.  I'll share photos if and when that happens.

On another note, I stepped on the scale on Saturday, and while I'm two pounds less than my all-time high weight, I'm about 25 pounds from where I'd really like to be, and about 18 pounds from where I realistically think I can be at this point in my life.

Some people can gain twenty pounds and it's almost unnoticeable, but I have the hereditary tendency from both sides of the family of gaining about 80-90% of my excess weight on my tummy.  This is not a good thing.  If it were more evenly distributed, I think I'd feel better about it, but I really don't like the way I feel right now.  I can't fit into my jeans, and my waistline is virtually non-existent.  A year from now, my hair will be inching toward waist length, and it would be nice to have a waist!

This is one of the few things that I've noticed about getting older.  The weight just doesn't come off as easily without a good deal of exercise.  I've been leading too sedentary a life of late.  I get a lot of migraine headaches, so it makes it hard to move the way I'd like.  I've been inspired by some of my friends though, who are in the same boat and who are starting to get more active.

I think I can find a way to do cardio, even when I'm not feeling at my best.  I have a stepper, and I used to love stepping.  It doesn't involve a lot of movements that are uncomfortable for the days that I have migraines, and it's easy.  Whatever I do for cardio now has to be low impact, so this is perfect.

So thanks to you gals who have inspired me.  I'm about to get moving again!

I hope that everyone has been enjoying this lovely April day.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hairstyle How-To: Peacock Twist

This is a quick and easy hairstyle for people with shoulder-length to lower mid-back length hair.  It's a great first updo for when you're first growing out your hair.  Even at my length, I've just about grown out of it.  There are different ways to wear it, whether you use different clips, or whether you finish it by fanning the ends out, bending them to one side, or dividing them in two to both left and right.

On my hairstyle site, I've had several people write and request instructions for this style, so I'll give them in this entry. As I mentioned, my hair has gotten just about too long for it, but I'm adapting.

Here are the instructions:

1. Brush hair back and hold it as if ready to make a ponytail.
2. Twist hair several times in a counter-clockwise direction.

3. Pull twist upwards while twisting some more.

4. With right hand, grab a jaw clip, beak clip, French Twist comb, or the hair accessory of your choice.  I have chosen to use a medium Ficcare Innovation Beak Clip in Pink Marble.

5. Insert clip.  Arrange ends to the left as shown below.
6. Or for a traditional "peacock" look, clip a bit higher, if necessary and fan hair out as shown below.

And that's it!  You've got a Peacock Twist.  It will likely look a bit different every time you try it and at different lengths, and it is a quick updo that can be done in seconds, which can come in very handy.

Another variation would to be to part the ends in two and have them lean both to the left and the right.  Play with the placement of the clip and experiment with how you place the ends.  Have some fun with it!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sometimes I Just Want To Give Up

Growing long hair is a really long-term commitment.  Sometimes I feel stuck and it feels like there's no progress at all.  Sometimes I look at the flaws in my hair and want to cut it all out, so that my hair looks perfect.  Right now I still have some residual damage and the perfectionist in me doesn't like it.

Even though my hair grows more quickly than some, it can be a discouraging process.  Even thinking about when I will achieve my next goal seems so far off and unreal.

So how do I keep going?  Well, there are a few things I do to help when I feel discouraged.

One thing I do is take monthly progress photos.  While I don't often see any progress from one month to the next, if I look at a photo taken three months earlier, then I do see that there's been growth.  This is a great tool for me, and often keeps me going when I get the urge to chop.

Another thing I do to distract myself from the impatience of growing hair is to try new styles that I can do at each new length.  I enjoy practising different braids and updos, and it's always a revelation when I learn something new or when I discover that I can do a style that just a month ago I couldn't do just because my hair was that tiny bit shorter.

Sometimes it's necessary just to put my hair up in any old updo and forget about it.

The biggest thing I have to get over is my need for perfection.  Yes, I have some breakage from my last big lightening that remains and there's a slight colour demarcation line from where my hair was dyed lighter.  In the past, I would have just cut my hair off either the level of the breakage, or the level of the slight colour change.  I'm learning to live with the imperfections of my hair.

That's a hard thing for me to do.  It really is.

So I have a plan to rid my hair of damage, and that is to trim about 1/2 inch off every three months.  That way my hair still grows, but I'm gradually getting rid of damage.  Also, it helps keep my ends looking neater and fresher.

Anyway, as humans, none of us is perfect.  Why must I expect my hair to be?  I'll be mulling that one over the next time I get frustrated.

So there are no big chops looming in my future.  I've been there and done that and I know it's not what will make me happy.  I think I'll just put my hair up now and forget about it.

Tomorrow I'll be posting a quick and easy hairstyle.

I hope everyone is having  a wonderful weekend.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cassia Obovata For Conditioning and Strength

Many people have heard of something called "Neutral Henna".  However most people don't know what it is or why it may be used.  The neutral henna that you may find in your local drugstore is not a good choice, as it may contain metallic salts which can be potentially dangerous to your hair.

Cassia Obovata is the true neutral henna.  It can be purchased organically, and is a terrific way to add some shine, strength and a bit of thickness to the hair.  I purchase mine from HennaSooq.

I use Cassia, also known as Senna, about once a month.  It doesn't interfere with my hair colour, although for people with extremely pale blonde hair or silver hair, it's not a great option, as it does deposit a pale yellow colour to the hair.  While it doesn't show on most people, it does show on very light hair, so be aware.  However, some people with silver use Cassia for just this reason.  And some blondes use it to warm up their colour.

Unlike regualar henna, Cassia is temporary and eventually washes out after a month or so.  It works to condition hair by binding the hair with Chysophanic acid.

It's very easy to use, and only takes about an hour and a half from start to finish.  It's well worth it if you feel that your hair needs more strength.

It is a very messy process though, so you'll need an old towel and an old shirt or robe, or a painter's smock.

Here is how I use Cassia.  Despite the quantities that are often recommended on the online sites, I find that 100g is enough to coat my hair easily even when it's almost waist length.  Obviously people with thicker of courser hair will  need to use more.

First of all, I boil some water.  I like to use distilled water, but tap water will do.  I pour the green cassia powder into a bowl, and then slowly add the boiling water, while stirring constantly.  Add enough water to make a pancake batter-like consistency.  You may want to allow the Cassia to "develop" for 15 to 30 minutes, but I've found that it's not really necessary.  I mix it and apply right away.

Now, I'm wearing my old shirt.  (something that buttons, zips or wraps like a robe is what you need--you really don't want to remove a t-shirt over your head once the Cassia treatment is over).  I apply the Cassia from the back of my head to the front, covering the scalp first and then working it through to the roots.

I then cover it in plastic and cover all of that with an old towel.  There will likely be some yellowish-brownish staining on the towel.  I leave the mixture on my hair for an hour to an hour and a half, and the treatment is done.

Now it's time to rinse out the Cassia.  I have to tell you that this is not easy.  I usually rinse, rinse, and rinse some more until the rinse water becomes clear.  This can take some time.  Then I take a bottle of inexpensive conditioner (Suave Naturals is my usual choice) and slather it on my hair and work it through.  I may use up to a half a bottle of this conditioner for this purpose.  I clip up my hair and then leave it as I do the rest of my shower routine.

Now it's rinse time.  I rinse for as long as necessary.  I usually rinse for at least three minutes.

All done!

As everyone's hair is different, you may find that your hair feels a bit dry after the Cassia process.  I recommend putting a small amount of moisturizing conditioner on the hair as a leave in, and then when the hair is dry, lightly oil as usual.  In a few days, when you're ready for your next wash, you might want to do a deep moisture treatment.  For most people, the hair "normalizes" on it's own.

The result for this is something that I've found to be quite amazing.  My hair feels fuller, more conditioned and looks shinier.  It's a great treatment for anyone, but especially for anyone who has damage.  It also has the added  benefit of being an antifungal, which can really be of help to anyone with a flaking scalp or other scalp issues.

So give it a try.  Unless your hair is very pale, there is no permanence to this treatment, and you may find that it makes a big difference in your hair's health.

I'm including a photo of what Cassia Obovata powder should look like.  The photo is courtesy of  If you see Cassia that's brown, it's just not the real thing.

I'd love to hear anyone's results from using Cassia!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Putting Your Hair To Bed

Unless you sleep like Lily Munster, you likely move around a lot while sleeping, and the friction that your rubbing against your pillow puts a lot of wear and tear on your hair.  There are some steps you can take to prevent this, and no matter how short your hair might be right now, it's not too soon to start protecting your hair at night.  Remember that whatever hair you have now will be one, two or three years old if you're planning on growing it long.  Proper care now will help your hair to be healthier down the road.

Pillowcases can be hard on hair.  To minimize friction, I suggest silk pillowcases, satin silk pillowcases or if your budget does not allow, then a regular satin pillowcase will do just fine.  Satin pillowcases are not terribly expensive and are much worth the price.

Also, bedtime is a very good time to apply oil to your hair.  What I like to do is to put a few drops of jojoba oil on my detangled hair from the ears down.  Then I brush with a boar bristle brush to evenly distribute the oil.  Also, sometimes I like to do a deep oiling.  That entails using a large amount of the oil of your choice.  I usually use extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) or coconut oil for deep oil soaks. 

Some people use satin sleep caps.  Personally, I move around to much to ever be able to keep a sleep cap on, and frankly I don't think I'd feel comfortable wearing one, but for those of you who have a lot of damage, or whose hair is fragile, it's a good idea.

How you wear your hair to bed can also help to reduce wear.  When my hair is too short to bun, I like to use double braids or a single braid as a bedtime hairstyle.

At the length my hair is now, my favourite bedtime 'do is a bun placed right on top of my head and held with a satin scrunchie.  This style is extremely comfortable, as well as being functional and secure. Also, when I take my hair out of the bun in the morning, I have a bit of extra volume, and also, I have no tangles!

So think about protecting your hair at nigh time.  It takes almost no time at all, but the rewards can be great.

Here is a photo of my hair deeply oiled and in my sleep bun. 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Long Hair Over 40

It doesn't matter where I look or what I read.  It seems that just about everyone in the world of fashion and the professional hair styling pundits seem to agree that women over the age of 35 or 40 should not have hair any longer than shoulder length. 

Well, I'm not buying it.  Undoubtedly, there are many women who for a variety of their own reasons like to keep shorter hair and of course, many look lovely.  But there are still others who want to wear their hair long and get it cut because they think they "should".  So they end up getting "mom" cuts that they don't really like, but that makes them feel as though they are part of the crowd.

It is those women to whom I write today.

Do you feel more age appropriate with shorter hair, or do you just feel old?  I know myself that when I had hair above the shoulder, I felt more matronly, and it just didn't feel like me.  Do I want to be younger than I am?  No.  But I do want to be myself, and being myself means having longer hair.  I just feel happier with it.  And I really believe that being happy with oneself is a truly important thing.

Of course, one might find that it's not appropriate to wear one's hair loose in a business environment, but there are a wealth of hairstyles that are both business-like and attractive.  Wearing hair up doesn't have to mean a severe updo.  There are plenty of styles that are serious and at the same time flattering.  It might take a few experiments to find just the right style, but I guarantee that there is a hairstyle that is both attractive and businesslike for everyone.

Also, is it really so terrible to still feel feminine and sensual after the age of 35 or 40?  These days, women live much longer, and 40 is not what it was 50 years ago.

I look at some lovely older women such as Faye Dunaway and Meryl Streep.  Both of them wear hair longer than shoulder length and in my opinion, they look lovely, and yes, sexy.  Is that a crime?

I think that in 2010, we women can feel confident in being ourselves whether that means wearing shorter hair or longer hair.  We can define what it means to be a woman of a certain age.  We don't need to listen to the so-called experts.  While there are some who say that an older woman with long hair is just trying to relive her youth, I don't agree.  I think it's all about looking the way we want to look and feeling comfortable in our own skin.  To me, that's what  being a woman is all about, whatever the age.

Here is a photo of me with short hair when I was 37 and below a photo of me with longer hair at 48.  Yes, I clearly look older at 48, because I am, but I look the way I want to look; not the way an "expert" or society at large tells me.  It makes me happy and I like how I feel. And I'm good with that. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Styling Longer Hair Without Causing Damage

When I decided that I wanted to grow my hair long, I knew that I had to stop using blowdriers, curling irons and hot rollers, if I expected my fine hair to be able to grow without damage.

This was a real challenge for me, as I am all thumbs, and not the least bit good with my hands.  I started trying to learn how to create styles that would not only look interesting, but also protect my hair and not require heat appliances.

The first style I learned was the French Twist.  I had often seen this style, but I didn't think I'd ever be able to do it myself.  But after reading a few tutorials, I was able to do it using just one little pic or comb to hold it up.  I then learned some other styles that worked with my length, such as the Gibson Tuck and a Tucked 3-Strand Braid.  All of these hairstyles can be found in the Updo Gallery of my website.

I had a book that taught me some elementary braids and updos.  I recommend it to anyone, no matter how much you think you may lack talent in styling hair.  It is Hair: A Book of Braiding and Styles by Anne Akers Johnson.  The styles you can learn in this book are the foundations for most more difficult styles that you may want to learn down the line.

As I said in an earlier post, until I was 45, I didn't even know how to use a hair stick.  I always thought that a bun held by a single hair stick was just a trick in the movies before I learned how to do one myself.  How happy was I to discover that it actually could be done!

As I became more and more interested in just what I could do with my hair, I began trying to learn more difficult braids.  I was able to do a French braid, but not much more.  My next project was to learn how to do a Four Strand Box Braid.  It took days for me to get the fingering down and to develop the muscle memory to successfully make this braid.

It took me even longer to learn a Five Strand Braid, but with patience and practice, I did learn how to do it, even a French Five Strand braid.  I think my happiest achievement was learning how to do a Crown Braid.  Again, all of these and more can be found on the Braids Gallery on my website.  All of the photos there can be clicked for larger images.

I've learned a lot since developing a knack for styling my own hair, including what hair accessories work best with each style, and that patience pays off.

In the coming days and weeks, I plan to give some tutorials on how to do some of the various styles I've learned, as well as discussing my favourite hair accessories, and what makes them superior to others.

I'm not the best stylist in the world, but I've been able to do things with my hair that I never thought I'd be able to do.

If I, who am not a dexterous person, can do it, so can you!  I'll leave you with a photo of the first style I learned, the French Twist. It is held in place with only a France Luxe Chignon Pic in the colour "South Sea".

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Off-Topic Tuesday

Well, it's Tuesday, and I am taking a day off from thinking about hair.  I'm going to show a couple of photos of The Best Dog In The World, my dog Barclay.

The first photo is of Barclay enjoying himself out on the front lawn in the dew one night.  The second photo is sort of hair related, as he is photographed in typical Long Hair Community hair photo pose.

Tomorrow, I'll be discussing how I first learned to style long hair without heat appliances.  I was 45 before I knew how to even use a hair stick.

Hope you enjoy the doggy pics.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hairstyle: Rope Braid Half-Up

Today I'm wearing a rope braid half-up. The rope braid is one of the easiest braids to make, but one of the most eye-catching. People always notice a rope braid and often are fascinated by it.

I first learned how to do a rope braid with written instructions, and I found it easy to do. I'll give some quick instructions.

Part hair you would for any half-updo. Divide that hair into two equal strands. Take the strand on the right and twist it in a clockwise direction or, in other words, to the right. Cross it over top of the left strand. You will be crossing the hair over to the left, or counter-clockwise. Now the original left strand in your new right strand. Twist this strand to the right and cross it over to the left. Repeat until the braid is done.

So in brief:

Twist to the right.
Cross over to the left.
Twist to the right.
Cross over to the left.

Keep it going until you have run out of hair to twist, tie off the end of the braid with a hair friendly tie or elastic, and you're done. Prepare to be asked about your braid.

Rope braids are also a base for a beautiful bun, which I'll post another time.

In the meantime, you can take a look at this and some of the hairstyles I've done in the past at my website,

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Beautiful Quiet Spring Sunday

Well, it was pretty quiet until a black squirrel started making all kinds of noise on the deck. I thought it was a crow, it was so loud.

Anyway, lots of sunshine and it finally feels as though spring is really here.

I did do my deep moisture treatment with 1 part honey and 2 parts conditioner today. My hair isn't completely dry yet, but I can really feel the difference. Nice and silky smooth again.

As a timesaver, instead of rinsing my hair prior to applying the moisture treatment, I thoroughly dampened my hair with a spray bottle of distilled water. When I got into the shower I added a bit of water, worked the conditioner with my fingertips and then put my hair up in a clip while I did my remaining showerly duties. I then rinsed my hair for about 3 minutes and finished of with a mild apple cider vinegar rinse. I use just a few tablespoons of ACV in a pitcher of water. It not only gets rid of the excess conditioner, but restores the natural acid mantle of the scalp. It also tends to close the cuticle of the hair, thus creating more shine.

I also cut my bangs. I think that I may have cut off about 1/8 of an inch too much, but that will take care of itself in about a week.

I think tomorrow I'll post a hairstyle photo here and add it to my website. I don't know yet what style I'm going to do, but I think I'll do a half-updo. Half-ups are a great way to protect the top layers of the hair (or the canopy) from damage. They're also a great way to do updos that your hair is too short for.

For example, at the moment I can't do a Figure 8 bun at my current length, but I can do a figure 8 half-up style. I love going through the various phases of growth and seeing what hairstyles do and don't work.

Well, it Sunday, it's a beautiful day, all is right with the world and that's about all I have to say for today.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bangs, Fringe--It's All The Same

I've had bangs all of my life, with the exception of about 2 years from 2006-2008 when I grew them out. I loved the way they look grown out, but with my fine, straight hair, they were always in my face, and I had to clip them back, even when they were well grown out. I finally caved and cut bangs again.

Not everyone is a fan of the fringe, but I guess it's just part of my identity. I'm including a photo of me at the age of 10. Basically, I have the same hair style now as I had then. After years of perms, curling irons and even crimpers (yipes) in an effort to have bigger, wavier hair, I've finally come to love my straight hair, and I find it ironic that I wear my hair the way I did when I was 10. It's all come full circle.

My hair grows fairly quickly, so I need to trim my bangs every 2-3 weeks. Fortunately, I have a good pair of scissors and I've learned to trim them myself. It's quite easy. In fact I cut the bangs I have now from the grown out bangs myself. I am quite pleased that I don't have to worry about going to salons for those trims anymore.

So, today, the bangs are falling in my eyes, and I guess it's time for a trim. Again.

The clarifying yesterday went well. I didn't end up having time to do the hour-long deep conditioning, so I loaded my hair with a ton of conditioner in the shower and left it for about 5 minutes. I'll have to do the deep conditioning tomorrow.

Nonetheless, my velcro ends are gone, and my hair feels less tangly. So if you ever find that your ends are tangling, don't forget; clarify before doing anything else, like getting a trim.

I can't say that my hair looks any different after clarifying, but it feels different and is better behaved. So much about hair is not visible to the eye but is visible to the touch.

After a gloomy week of rain here in Southern Ontario, I'm delighted that the sun is out again. It looks to be a promising week of Spring weather. I hope that everyone is having a great weekend.

Off to trim the bangs.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Velcro Ends OR: Time to Clarify

Every few weeks, no matter how well I care for my hair, the ends tend to get a bit tangly or "velcro-like". Usually this means that there is buildup on my hair, and that means it's time to clarify and deep moisturize my hair. Today, I'm noticing velcro ends, so I think it's clarifying time.

It's easy to clarify one's hair. Some people mix a bit of baking soda with their regular shampoo to clarify. While that works well for some, it's too harsh for my hair.

Many drugstore brands have special clarifying shampoos, which is what I use. They basically strip all of the buildup from product, environment, and even some elements of hard water from the hair. I no longer use mousse, gel, or hairspray, but buildup is pretty much inevitable. Clarifying is very easy and fairly quick. I rinse my hair very well, apply clarifying shampoo and work the lather through to the ends. I leave it for about 3 minutes and rinse extremely well, making sure as I can that every trace of shampoo is gone.

Of course now my hair is stripped and exposed, so this means a very deep conditioning treatment. My favourite is a blend of moisturizing conditioner and honey. I use a mix of about 2 parts conditioner to one part honey. I warm the mixture up in the microwave for just about 15 seconds. This prevents the honey from lightening my hair, which can occur.

I apply a generous amount, (about 1/2 cup for my hair's current length). I work the conditioner through to the ends, and then I cover it with plastic. I often use a plastic grocery store bag, as it's easy to tie around my hair. I cover that with aluminum foil and cover that whole mess with a towel. It's not exactly a pretty sight, and is best done when I'm home alone. Of course, it doesn't always work out that way, so I do get a bit of teasing once in a while.

I leave the deep conditioner on for an hour at least, and then rinse it out completely. The difference in my hair is amazing afterwards. It's soft and silky and feels like new hair.

It sounds like a lot of work to some, but it's just like a spa treatment for my hair that I only need to do every few weeks.

So that's what I'll be doing either tonight or tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes.

Now if I could just figure out what to do about these dishpan hands.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

My Mission

When I was approaching my 45th birthday in the summer of 2006, I made a decision to grow my hair as long as it would grow. Why? Well lots of reasons. First of all, I'd always wanted long hair, but all my life I'd been told that my fine hair was "thin" and wouldn't look good long. I was inspired by some of the older women who were sporting long hair and I decided that I was going to do my own thing and just see how long I could grow it. I wanted to have the hair that I always wanted, and I decided that the social conventions of women having shoulder length hair or shorter after the age of 40 was irrelevant to me. I had a notion of me as an old lady with very long hair which my grandchildren would ask to see take down out of a bun or braid. I also had a sense of the growth of hair as being a measurable way to somehow chart the growth of wisdom that I hope to gain with maturity. Some reasons might seem silly, but they're all very meaningful to me.

In trying to learn not only how to care for my hair, but also to learn how to style it, without blow-driers or curling irons, I joined a long hair forum, The Long Hair Community. I began learning how I had been previously abusing my hair with heat styling products, using ultra light blonde shades of hair dye that were far too harsh on my hair, and not even brushing and combing my hair properly.

I came into my long hair quest with fairly damaged hair, but I vowed to change all of that, and I was doing pretty well with it. However, there were a few things I goofed up on.

First of all, about a year into my journey with my hair closing in on waist length, I had the--ahem--bright idea to dye my hair medium brown. It was almost immediately that I knew I had made a mistake. My predominantly white natural roots popped out almost immediately after colouring. This made it necessary to colour far more often than I had been with a medium blonde shade. Oops. So it wasn't long before the previous damage became more apparent than ever. So I chopped off 5 inches. Back to square one.

My hair was actually looking great at this point, because the hair that had been previously damaged by "ultra light" blonde hair colouring was just about gone. However, now I was stuck with this brown shade that in some places was almost black. While I enjoyed being a brunette for a change, it really was far too dark for my colouring. I hung in with it until March of '08.

Now, how does one safely go from dyed dark brown to blonde without damaging one's hair. Well, the short answer is it really can't be done. So I bleached out (ouch) the brown, and started colouring with medium blonde again. But the damage! I couldn't live with it. So another 5 inches cut off. And there was still plenty of damage. Another 3 inches off. Still more damage. I just maintained my length until January of this year 2010, when most of the damage was cut out and I decided to start growing again. By February, the length of my hair was back to where it was when I first decided to grow it. Back to square one yet again.

It's now April of 2010, and my hair, when measured from the hairline on my forehead to the tip of my ends is 24 inches, as pictured above. My current goal is to reach BSL length, which means "Bra Strap Length". I hope to be there before the end of this year. By summer of 2011, I'm hoping that my hair will be at waist length.

I'm on my way again. I'm still dying my hair, but in my low-maintenance medium blonde shade. Now I have the knowledge of hair care, and I've learned my lesson about trying wacky colour experiments (I promise). I've learned lots of protective hairstyles, which are featured in my hairstyle/haircare website. This time, I'm going to do it!