| Written by Ursula (reposted by Arctic)
A (very long) summation of the advice I've been giving for years about how to get started with LHC-style hair care, along with explanation of why I consider each part of this advice helpful.
|For a while now, Iíve been giving the same basic advice to people new to LHC, when they are overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information here, and not sure where to start or what to do, or when theyíve tried a lot of things at once, and find themselves frustrated and confused.
This advice is tailored to the specific needs of someone who wants to change their routine, but who is not sure about how to change their routine, or who is confused about where to start. If you are happy with your current routine, or not stressed by the ways in which your experiments are combining, then you may not find this quite as helpful. But if you feel lost and need a roadmap, you might find this one helpful.
The basic principle is to work slowly, making only one change at a time, give plenty of time between experiments so you know the results of one change before trying the next, and keeping good records of what you are doing so you can look back at what youíve done and decide what is or isnít working.
This article is divided into four main sections:
1. Getting started
2. Establishing a baseline
3. Reading and learning
4. Wise and careful experiments
If youíre new here, it is likely that you arenít quite sure what to try first. Odds are, your routine has been the standard one recommended by shampoo companies: lather, rinse, repeat with shampoo, then follow with a conditioner.
If thatís what you have been doing, I recommend, for your first experiment, that you try doing CWC washes with your old shampoo and conditioner. Do this for an entire month, while you read and learn and figure out what to do next.
What is CWC? Condition-Wash-Condition. It is a simple wash method, that can be done with any shampoo or conditioner you have in the shower right now. The purpose is to increase the effect of conditioner on the length of your hair, while continuing to keep your scalp nice and clean.
To CWC, what you want to do is, as the first step of your bath/shower, apply conditioner to your hair from the ears down. Then, without rinsing, use a little bit of shampoo and clean your head/scalp. Donít pile your hair on your head, just clean your head while the rest of your hair hangs out of the way. Rinse the whole thing. Then condition your entire head of hair, from root to ends. Twist your hair up out of the way, and finish your showerly duties. At the end, rinse well, perhaps combing with a wide-tooth comb as you rinse to detangle while your hair is well lubricated with conditioner.
Why do I suggest this as a first experiment?
First, it is a change that can have a dramatic difference in the feel of your hair. The length of your hair is generally not affected by the oils and sebum that your scalp produces, and it can wind up dry and rough when treated with shampoo in the same way that youíd clean your scalp. The first conditioning of a CWC wash helps keep the shampoo off the length of your hair, so it doesnít dry out, while the second ensures that all of your hair is well conditioned. The result can often be hair that is softer and shinier, and less prone to tangles.
Second, because this is an experiment that involves buying nothing new, relying on what is in your bath already. Odds are, youíve used your current products for a while, and are tolerably happy with them. Iím not comfortable recommending a particular product as a first experiment, or recommending that you buy any one thing. After all, I donít know your hair, your scalp, your budget, or what you have tried in the past. So a first experiment that focuses on a new method with familiar products lets both of us relax. If this happens not to work out for you, it has cost you nothing.
Third, because this helps break the mindset that the solution to any problem is to go out and buy something. If youíve read the various fashion/beauty magazines, or almost any mainstream hair care advice, it tends to focus on finding the right product. But that ignores half the equation. Technique matters. And a full month of paying attention to a new technique will get you in the habit of considering both product and technique. A lot of the discussion around here has to do with changing technique, as much or more than changing products. This is a change of mindset that is part of the larger LHC culture, and will help you see what is going on with the entire discussion here, rather than focusing on products alone, as is often the habit of someone new here.
What if your old routine is not plain shampoo followed by conditioner? Or what if your hair is too short to CWC? Then I suggest that you stick with your old routine for a month, proceeding with the rest of this plan. Iím not competent for the task of sorting out every possible staring point, and I consider taking time to read and learn, and then experimenting slowly and carefully to be more important than making any particular change right away.
Establishing a Baseline
The second part of my advice is that you start keeping records, to track how your hair is doing, and what youíve been trying. To do this, I recommend that you keep a hair journal. There are a lot of things to try here. Knowing what youíve tried, how your hair and scalp reacted, and what else you want to try, can be hard to keep track of. The best way to manage this large amount of information is to organize it in writing.
There are several ways to track this information. You could keep a diary or journal on paper. You could use your word processor to keep a record on your computer. You could use any of the many blogging/journaling websites. Or you could start a blog here at LHC. Whatever you choose, however, try to think of this as a journal, not a blog. Tracking your hair washes and experiments is unlikely to generate a lot of blog comments. But thatís okay, because creating a high-traffic blog is not the point. What you are doing with this is establishing a good record of what you have done, for your own private use, and, if it is online, to be a reference for others around here should you ask for help and advice in the future.
What should you track? There are two things that I consider the most useful.
First, you want to log each time you wash your hair. Write down what type of technique you used and what products you used for each step of your technique. Then, log the results of each wash, after your hair has dried, and before your next wash.
Second, use your journal or blog as a kind of personal index to LHC. Keep a record of things you want to try. Link to threads that have advice you want to find again in the future. This will help keep you from feeling overwhelmed, and help you figure out what it is you want to try in the future.
Reading and Learning
The steps above take a full month. This time was chosen deliberately. There is a lot of information here, and a lot of that information is contradictory. This month is intended to give you time to read and learn. There are various things to consider when looking at the available information.
First, you want to figure out who here has hair like yours and what works for them. If your hair is poker straight, youíre going to have very different needs from someone who has massively curly hair. If you want to increase your curl or wave, youíll have different needs than someone who wants to make their hair straighter.
Second, see who lives a similar lifestyle, with similar interests in terms of time and effort involved in hair care. This is more likely to provide you with good experimental ideas, both in terms of good results, and in terms of finding a routine that youíre happy to keep up with. If you love spending hours fussing over your appearance, youíre going to have very different needs than someone who wants to be able to manage in just a couple of minutes a day.
Third, consider other issues of lifestyle. If you live in an area where youíre using well water, you may have different needs from someone on treated municipal water. If you have small children, you may have different needs from someone who doesnít. (E.g., a baby who grabs or chews on loose hair.) If you spend a lot of time sitting, (driving your car, working in an office) you may have different issues from someone who is moving around during the day.
These arenít issues to obsess about Ė there are still a lot of common factors. But it can be worth keeping your eyes open for people with similar needs along these lines, as well as for similar hair types.
So, youíve been reading LHC for a while. You took my suggestion, and tried CWC washing with your old shampoo and conditioner as your first experiment. Itís been a month. Youíre ready to try something new. So, whatís next?
Thatís up to you.
For the third step of my advice, I donít have anything specific. Rather, what I have is a technique for experimenting, which should help you take your hair though the things that you want to try.
There is one rule: No more than one change (in product or technique), no more frequently than every two weeks.
This rule has two purposes. First, you want to fully understand the results you are getting from one change, before adding another variable. This reduces confusion. Second, this serves as a brake of sort. Trying everything here at once could get quite expensive. Experimenting slowly will reduce the number of things that you buy, and will also give you time to consider each purchase, so that youíre less likely to spend money on things that donít work.
You can take longer between experiments if you want. It can be a good idea to take longer if you find you arenít certain about what you think of a change after two weeks, or just if youíre more comfortable this way. This rule just sets an upper speed limit on experiments Ė you can go as slow as you want.
What should you do if an experiment turns out badly? I recommend that you take a step backwards. Go back to your last successful routine, and give it two weeks, or more if needed. You want to get your hair back to a status quo that you understand before piling on another change. This keeps you from being confused as to whether a result is the consequence of lingering effects from the unsuccessful experiment, or if it is from your next experiment.
What might these experiments be? You might try a new product. Perhaps you are curious about a different conditioner. Or you think youíd do better with a new shampoo. Or maybe you suspect a leave-in conditioner will help. You might try a new technique, with products already in your stash. You might try using a new tool, such as a boar bristle brush or a wider tooth comb. You might drop something from your routine, such as heat-straightening or blow drying. You might try sleeping on a satin pillowcase, instead of your old cotton ones. You might try braiding your hair at night, rather than leaving it loose. Maybe you buy a new styling tool, such as set of hair sticks, or a good clip, and try wearing your hair up with it. There are a lot of things to try that youíll read about here, and they all might be worth experimenting with. Start simple, and see where it takes you.
What does this add up to?
Growing your hair long is a long-term project. You may well take years to reach your length goal, if you have one. And that goal may well change from what you think it is now. But because it takes time to grow hair, you can take your time in finding your dream routine. And once you find it, you may well discover that after a few more monthsí growth, youíll want to change it, as the new length wants a different type of care. But however long it takes, the discovery of how your hair changes at different lengths and with different routines is far more interesting than going nuts just waiting for your final goal length.
So enjoy the process, and the learning, and see where it takes you!