Sunday, March 10, 2013

Mortem's Apothecarium: Long Locks-- Long post

I had this entire post in my drafts for a couple weeks now ... I keep adding and subtracting, hoping I am not missing even the smallest details (much like my guide to oils for natural beauty). I am not used to writing guides. With how expansive the information on the internet is, I feel like I'm just being redundant; trying to offer advice which can be procured far more efficiently and from people of good standing on the subject. But a change of pace can be a good thing, and with all the support I've been receiving I feel a little obligated to give back... though I assure you, I mean this with the utmost sincerity; my blog is not a chore!

This is the title tag I will use when I post any tips and tutorials for DIY bath and beauty that I keep inside my noggin'.
To break in this new part of my blog, I'd like to discuss my own opinions and beliefs on obtaining long luscious locks-- a post that was sparked by a friend who suggested the idea to me. Just so we're clear, these aren't cement facts; I have no science to back these statements up, I gathered this information through my own experiences while growing out my hair, and common sense.

My hair doesn't get as long as some people out there, but because it's still longer than the norm I get quite a bit of compliments on it. I also get a lot of questions to go with-- so here are answers to some of the more frequent inquires that I receive:

Source unknown
Is it hard to take care of?
As I was growing it out, yes, but you eventually become so used to the care, that it becomes second nature. The problem is deciding out how to style it!

How long does it take to grow it out?
This completely depends on your diet; the healthier your intake, the faster it'll grow. It took me roughly 10 years to grow mine, and that is largely due to the fact I was not living the healthiest lifestyle as I was growing it out (i.e. bad primping habits, and consuming lots and lots of soda and processed foods).

Does it tangle and get caught everywhere?
The current short answer is yes... there's a big BUT in there that I'll elaborate on further down. However, if we're assuming the best conditions, then no!

Do you ever think about cutting it?
Some days I feel like a change, but in the end I decide not to. Let's face it, the attention is kinda nice!

Does it get dirty quickly?
No more than other lengths of hair-- you just notice smells more on longer hair because there's more hair to catch ambient scents with. But I don't see or feel a significant difference other than that.

So there you have that. Currently, I'd say my hair is partially damaged. This is due to the conditions my hair is going through in the new climate I find myself in. I have to deal with the damage high winds, dry-hot weather, hard water, and a bit of laziness incurred to my hair (not really practicing what I preach-- opps!). It isn't as long as it could be because I've had to clip a total of 6 inches off the bottom--I've learned my lesson... yet again. Damaged hair tends to tangle easier and become statically charged more often; healthy hair does not.
But anyway.

Hair differs from person to person as you might've guessed. The extent of it's texture and rate of growth are completely dependent on that person's life style; the total length is dependent on the individuals genes.
Some people are blessed with the genes to grow well past their knees, while some can only reach the apex or mid point of their derriere (like myself)-- or even sometimes only their mid back before reaching the "permanent length".

The permanent length is the length in which your hair grows up to-- we all have one, even if your hair grows to be longer than your entire body. Currently, there is no way to coax hair past its permanent length (that I know of), and this fact can be the source of frustration to some women wishing for long hair, or the bane of those wishing it'd just stop growing so long. You can, however, increase the rate of growth through the use of hormones (which come with a mess of unwanted side affects, such as mood swings to name one), or simply eating right and drinking water more than any other drink. Though, to be honest, the latter is easier said than done with so much tasty food and beverages everywhere; as long as we stop ourselves from binging, everything is fine.

If you've decided that long hair is for you, you might be completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people telling you how you should go about it, do and not do, and whatever! It's enough to scare any person away from growing out their hair! I suppose this post and my opinions are no different, but when it comes right down to it, hair growth and care is pretty basic-- which is the aim I am attempting to convey in this post. I'm quite certain you will find these tid bits useful, even if you aren't planning on growing out your hair!

Ultimately you decide how much care is needed, but I tend to find many pieces of advice floating about to be a bit excessive and extreme in many cases; y'know what they say, a watched pot never boils! In other words, if you fuss over anything you'll constantly be disappointed; case in point, thank the gods I stopped fussing over my skin! I would've lost my mind if I had not found out about the effective simplicity of the OCM.

These days I try and let mother nature just do her blessed thing, with little to no direct aid on my part. A couple examples that I feel won't define your success in hair growth are:
  • Applying copious amounts of hair care products, and special treatments: Honestly, there isn't anything special to put onto your hair in order to ensure fast growth; many products serve to mask the underlying problems of your hair or help prevent the problems. Keeping up with trims, and a good diet with plenty of veggies and water is the best thing you can do. I assure you. Your hair and skin are especially sensitive to dietary habits, but unlike skin, hair can only be repaired from the inside out. If you have bad hair coming from the roots, then it's time to reconsider your dietary intake! Otherwise if you just have split ends, it's time for a snip! Natural products, such as plant extracted oils, can prevent dryness by nourishing the roots and scalp, but it cannot "fix" dryness; in order to do that, you must ensure that you're drinking enough water for your entire system. Hair growth is a non essential function of your body; if you're drinking water and consuming veggies only just enough to get by then your hair and skin might not receive the nutrients they need to look and feel beautiful. Your body might limit the production of these functions for more essential functions like your brain cells and blood.
  • Brushing your hair with a special brush, 100 strokes a side per night: Too much brushing is the surest way to damage, in my opinion. Some may argue that brushing will help distribute the natural oils throughout your hair, but I find it's not vital or even half necessary-- I would spend that money on pretty bobbles for your hair. I brush and style my hair only on special occasions, and you can probably guess that I rarely brush it for the photos I shoot for my blog (although I felt like making a tad of an effort for this post). Normally I do a quick once over with my handy dandy hands and off I go! If I do brush my hair, I use either my wide tooth comb or a basic brush... both from the dollar store.
So to clarify, you don't need these as a part of a growth regime... however, if you want to use them just bear in mind that they're not going to change anything-- perhaps create more shine to give you the appearance of healthy hair, and protect from further damage but that's about all the plus I think you'll get.

I took a one month introductory class into hair styling and care once upon a time; it opened my eyes to many bad habits that I committed daily in the past before the class. These are lesser know culprits of damage which can be remedied by a simple change in your primping habits. I can almost guarantee that you'll shave time off your daily routine just by these easily adaptable changes, and that's already better is it not? Save time instead of adding it:
  • Brushing or combing your hair after a shower/bath will damage it: This is absolutely 100% true. I normally won't be so adamant about enforcing a habit upon someone else, but don't, don't, DON'T comb or brush your hair while it's wet unless you absolutely need to. If that need does arise then use a wide tooth comb and a light detangler (if knots are present) to help prevent extensive damage. Your hair is very susceptible to damage while it is wet; it's stretched as far as it can be by the weight of the water-- this is why your hair will appear longer when wet. So brushing/combing it after every shower will make it stretch beyond that limit encouraging breakage and split ends, which in turn dulls shine. Don't get me wrong though, I understand that it also doesn't need to be handled like a baby duck. Making sure you let it dry a bit before you brush or comb it, and don't yank at it while doing so is enough. And it's ok if you slip up once in a blue moon; your hair won't fall off in chunks just because you needed to rush that one time!
  • Rubbing your hair dry at the scalp after a shower/bath will damage it: This goes hand in hand with the above. Rubbing it dry creates knots, which in turn creates the need for combing/untangling. A better alternative is stroking; drying it in this manner will gently untangle most knots, with the added effect of not needing to comb afterwards! Time well spent is time saved smartly. Simply grab your towel and gently stroke and squeeze (now, now, no snickering!) the hair till most of the water is dried up, and then let the air do the rest-- once again being careful not to pull and yank. Easy peasy.
  • Showering frequently will damage your hair: Showering too frequently removes the natural oils your hair produces, so you're essentially taking away the nutrients it needs to stabilize and strengthen the locks. However, if you're like me and you hate going too long without a shower (I usually take one every day), simply use a shower cap! They're cheap, and funny looking, but you can shower till your heart's content... which you'll also notice won't take very long either since you only need to wash your body and whatever else you do after shampooing. Giving your hair time to produce the oils and letting distribution happen naturally is actually very good for it in the long term. If you're trying to wean your hair, you'll find that it's over producing oils because it was so used to being stripped; it'll be very icky for a couple months, but after that withdrawal period it'll be normal. I wash my hair every 2-3 days-- some people go even longer! I recommend making it a gradual process to lessen the flaking/build up that might occur during the hair withdrawal. Washing once every other day for one month, then increase to once every two days for the next month, and so on. Shower caps are also super cheap-- I bought a 3 pack at the dollar store.
  • Too many products create build up, which can often be confused with dandruff: This is one problem that I often see confused with one another because the symptoms of both are nearly identical. Both dandruff and product build up create a dry, itchy, and flaky head. The difference between the two is that one is an actual skin condition that you must get medication for, and the other is simply from too much product use with little to no cleansing intervals. Dandruff is a skin condition where dead skin coming from your scalp peels in large flakes-- there's usually little to large rashes around your scalp. Build up flakes are small, and almost sticky; your hair gets oily quickly, and isn't accompanied by the peeling rashes. You'll end up wasting your money on those dandruff shampoos if build up is the ailment. Cleansing the hair at least once every other week is a good place to start if you want to know if you just have product build up. Increase to once a week once you've figured out that you do, and especially if you're really fond of styling and hair products: i.e. moisturizing shampoos/conditioners, heat protectant spray, and leave-ins, etc...  if you use any product more than 3 times a week, they all count towards product build up in your hair. If you use nothing at all, then you can skip cleansing altogether, but usually that's not the case. You can cleanse hair during your spare time or while you're cooking dinner right before your shower. No time need be wasted.
I am amazed by the quality of my hair these itty bitty changes yielded when I adopted them into my daily regime; you might be too.

Next up, I get to tell you my favorite recipes/methods for fixes and preventatives:

Cleansing solution--  You can buy yourself a nice fancy hair cleanser if you have the money, oooor you can DIY.  Sometimes the best ways are using the simpler methods: like the apple cider vinegar wash! Create a rinse of a ratio of 1:4 vinegar to water. You have to make sure your hair is untangled for this, but I'd skip that detangler and just take your time on knots; this ensures even saturation of all the strands. You're going to keep your hair wet with this solution inside of a shower cap for at least 15 mins before your shower/bath-- you may increase the time as you see fit, but try not to exceed 2 hours. Use a gentle shampoo to wash out. I prefer baby shampoos, not only because they're cheaper, but they're as gentle as you're going to find shampoo-- no particular favorite at this time, since I am trying to make the switch to something different than my regular stuff.
During the wash out you'll notice the texture of your hair will not be sleek-- this is because vinegar serves to strip the hair entirely of all the build up it has; this is why some people use vinegar to clean! Apple cider is not as abrasive as distilled or white vinegar, and still contains many of the nutrients of the apple (to help with shine), making it the best choice for hair cleansing.  Once it's out and your hair dry you'll notice the shine and relief! Some people take vinegar rinses the extra step and purchase the pure unfiltered/organic apple cider vinegar. Me? I just use Heinz, and I'm content. Also, some people (like myself) add essential oils into their mix; adding it directly into the rinse. I use lavender oil because it neutralizes much of the vinegar smell, but lavender is also known for calming redness and inflammation of the skin which on the scalp could be caused by hard brushing or excessive styling. It's been suggested that lavender oil also stimulates hair growth, but I can't confirm that. You don't need to add much, just several drops into the mix does the trick-- roughly 15 drops into 5 cups of solution, increase as needed. You may also substitute or add different essential oils.

Braiding/plaiting at night-- This is somewhat of a controversial topic; I seem to find that the long hair community are split right down the middle about this, as to whether or not this does actually prevent split ends or not (pun seriously not intended). Some believe it does prevent damage (an opinion I share), the reason behind that is that less of your hair is exposed to the ruffing up that happens at night. But really, I find it's a nice and easy way to style long hair with extremely minimal damage. It's the only method I use to accentuate the natural wave of my hair: Braid your hair and dampen it slightly; let it air dry a bit then go to bed. Take out the braid in the morning and finger comb-- presto! Symmetrical waves.

Hair Serums-- There's no need for excess, but if you've concluded that your hair needs a little extra help, then keep reading.
I'd like to make a quick note that if you already use a conditioner in the shower, there is no need for a serum. I reiterate; there's no need for excess. Okie dokie? I use serums strictly to quell fly-aways and static, and have abstained from using conditioners while I use serums.
Serums are quite heavy and they usually have a tendency to weigh down anyone's hair, no matter the type. 9 times out of 10, people misuse serums because they are under the impression they suffer from dryness. Your scalp already produces the oils it needs, and if you're applying more to it, it'll create quite a greasy mess. I found the best way to use serums so they won't grease up my hair badly is to apply it from the mid point down to the ends; the natural nutrients don't reach the ends in time before most people (including myself) wash it all off... and so that cycle comes full circle.

One store bought serum I loved for my own hair was Paul Mitchell Smoothies (a friend gave me a bottle), but as you can see it costs a pretty penny-- personally there is no way I can justify buying another bottle at this time. So another way to go is natural (aka DIY). Like I said in a previous post, essential oils offer an extensive range of customization, making it the better bang for your buck, because of course, the use doesn't just end at hair care. It probably isn't cheaper to buy the oils in the short term, but you certainly end up with a range of products, or just more of one product, for your money in the long term. I used the products I already had at hand thanks to my other oil uses to concoct a mixture of 1:5 lavender oil to grapeseed oil; it works really well for my hair type (wavy, thin). You can substitute the grapeseed oil with either jojoba, sweet almond oil, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, or even cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil-- they all have great moisturizing properties, but some are better suited for thick hair than thin.

But what about deep conditioning  You may ask. I have never done it before so I can't offer my sincerest recommendations. Though I have heard many good things from several friends and family about olive oil, mashed bananas, honey, egg and milk; I found a video that has the exact recipe and includes another olive oil treatment variation, if you feel like trying it out. Heck, I may even try it at some point just to build an opinion of it; it may even change the way I think about deep conditioning, who knows! I'm quite open. Be cautious about the olive oil you purchase; cheaper brands use vegetable oil fillers despite claiming to be pure-- these will clog the hair follicles and offer no results. Just build up. One thing I would say about this is, you don't need to do this like clockwork unlike the cleansing rinse; just whenever you feel the need for a little extra moisture locking.

Here are a few links which were quickly googled that concisely cover some of the essential oils that can be used in your DIY serums and rinses:
Other recommendations:
  • Lesthis Gothworld wrote a recommendation on her blog about a soap bar called Aleppo, which she uses as her shampoo. A quick google search of Aleppo soap turned out this website: I am highly interested in this bar because of the concentrated use of olive oil-- hopefully my trial of this product will be as wonderful as Lethis seems!
  • Use scrunchies and fabric covered elastics when putting up your hair; I like Ouchless by Goody for hair elastics, but you can buy an off-brand that works just as well. I buy most of these items at the dollar store so I don't feel quite as bad that I constantly lose them.
  • I adore Napa Valley Naturals for a pure and good olive oil (which is the only kind of oil I cook with, so a good investment there). They also carry a grapeseed oil that I hear is just the bees knees, too. Since it's napa valley, I feel ok recommending their grapeseed oil.

And now we come to the best part...

Styling long hair!

This is the most frequent question I am asked: how do I style it?

I admit that there are days when it is just too tedious to muster the will to style my hair... but, the most beautiful hair styles can only be done with long hair so why not do something with all that hair?!
I went through my favorites on youtube and pulled two videos featuring a total of 6 simple, gorgeous, but most of all painless everyday hairstyles...and yes, they're both from the same youtuber-- I love her everyday look tutorials:

If you're feeling especially adventurous with your long hair, then have a look at the videos Lilith Moon has to offer. Be warned, though, the styles are not for the faint at heart... or beginner! (deja vu... I might've mentioned her before...)

I'm typically inept with creating hairstyles--which is why I took that class to begin with... but I'm afraid I didn't learn anything from that particular part of the class. Most styles are just beyond my comprehension; fumbling with long locks does actually get quite old, and very quickly at that! But it's so rewarding that I do try and make the effort every now and then-- I always aim for quick and easy!

Phew! And there you have it, my guide to long hair!
I am always open to questions and/or suggestions, so shoot away if you have them!


What I am wearing:

  • Dress: thrifted
  • Hosiery: thrifted
  • Necklace: self-made
  • Boots: k-mart


  1. I love the waves from braiding hair at night, and it seems to keep it nice longer, but I worry about it snapping off above the plaits, where it still gets rumpled at night.

    The main thing that seems to work on my hair is moroccan oil, but I can't really afford it!

    1. It is quite pricey! I have issues justifying buying one product for one use; it's the thrifty diva in me, what can I say. Have you tried a mixture of argan oil into a carrier like olive oil? It may work just as well.

  2. You have beautiful hair and the guide was extensive and helpful, but I feel that I need to add something to it nonetheless. The part where you talk about how long different people can grow their hair; some to their knees, some "only" to their butt. Let me add: Some barely to their shoulders!

    I have typical thin Scandinavian hair and it doesn't matter how well I treat my hair (or myself) - it will never grow long. People with a different nationality, or just with unusually great hair, will always get those questions you just answered, and the answers will always be a little lacking because you just don't know how the other half lives.

    In my opinion, genes account for almost everything when it comes to hair. My partner treats his hair like shit and yet is is three times thicker than mine and grows like weeds. He could probably have hair as long as yours, and we have to cut it constantly.

    Realizing that it takes 10 years for someone with good hair to grow it that long is one thing, but all those other tips (that I pretty much follow to a t) will unfortunately not help many, many women who will NEVER come anywhere close to your hair, and that's the (sad) truth.

    1. Oh I agree, genes are everything when it comes to the overall length and body of the hair. My own hair is a peculiar mixture of dominant Hispanic roots (most of my mothers side), and Spanish and Japanese (my dad's side). You can also thank those genes for my barely 5ft stature! Haha.

      I formulated these tips so that the use of them isn't strictly for those wishing for long hair, but also for those just wishing for healthy and cooperative hair altogether. The only thing I can guarantee is how fast your hair will grow, not how long, sadly =/
      But even as you mentioned, that can also depend on genes.

  3. I haven't cut my hair in two years. I wore it no longer than nose length for over a decade before I decided I wanted to grow it out. It's now halfway between my shoulders and elbows. It's been frustrating growing it out, but nothing was worse than the first few months when it wasn't even long enough to French braid or put in a ponytail.

    These days, I do braid my braid before I go to sleep, and I have a sleeping cap I wear. Otherwise, it will be a tangled mess in the morning.

    1. Oh yes, I remember those days when absolutely nothing could be done with it lol
      Those months really were such a pain in the butt!

      A sleeping cap is a sound idea! I never really thought about using one. Thanks for the idea =)

  4. Thanks for giving some advice on styling! My hair is as long as Yours, and normally I wear an english or a rope braid, a ponytail or an "artistic mess" bun ;p I would LOVE to style it in a more sophisticated way, but I just can't do it on my own hair - I can't see the back of my head, and the hair is so long that it's very difficult to do anything more complicated with it without tangling it...

    1. Oh yes, I just get so frustrated for the same reasons as you! Heh.
      I hope these tidbits help!

  5. I think this was a very interesting post, I have always been sort of bad at taking cair of my hair (until now, I'm really trying my best to take care of it this time xD) so new advices are always welcome!
    Your hair is superpretty!

    1. Healthy hair is super easy! It actually takes very little effort to get it to cooperate.
      I'm glad you found my post interesting =D
      And thank you!

  6. This is a great post! I always had a hard time styling my hair when it was long, which is probably why by the end of it I wore it clipped up everyday. There are a lot of nice tutorials out there, but most of them seemed to work best for shoulder length or slightly longer hair.
    I've decided to grow mine out again (although not as long) and I really should start doing some of these things . . . I'm terribly guilty of combing it when wet and all sorts of other hair crimes, haha.

    1. Thank you =)
      Yes, many hair styles especially the pretty Victorian ones work really well with long hair.
      Well the nice thing about all this is that all it takes is eating a little better, which affects everything else better-- not just your hair!

  7. You have such beautiful hair, Madame MM!

    I'm just like Aristocratic Elegance - I'm always in a rush when I jump out of the shower, so I towel-dry the heck out of it then brush it when it's still wet! Since I'm now trying to grow it out so that by the time it turns all grey I can rock that Heidi look with braids wrapped around my head, maybe it's time to start taking some of your advice and stop doing all those nasty things to it! ;o)

    1. Thank you =D

      I used to do that too! I didn't think it was that big of a deal, but after the first month of fixing those habits-- I mean wow! What a difference.
      I LOVE that look; I only hope for the same when I start greying up too! There's something about long silver hair that's just enchanting!

  8. I am jealous of your long hair! I am growing mine out currently. My short hairstyle that I have now I have had for about 2 years and you can kind of only do one or two styles with it so I am bored. Prior to my short hairstyle, I had hair as long as yours so it was a lot to cut off! However, it was very damaged at the ends as I did not cut it in the whole time it took to grow that long. I am making sure that I trim the ends regularly as I grow it out now. It takes longer but I think my ends will look a lot nicer. Also, when I had long hair before, I had bleached part of it several times. Now that I have had all the damaged hair cut off and do not bleach it any more I think it will make a big difference!


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