Hair is a big topic concerning women and men of all ages, with cultural, esthetic, religious and commercial connotations and ramifications.
I want to concentrate here on one aspect of this big subject – hair and age. I find the general talk about hair and age to be fairly demoralizing, but in my personal experience many of the common beliefs on the topic are largely untrue:
Myths About Age and Hair
The hair does not grow after a certain age.
Well, all I can say regarding this myth is that my hair did grow fairly nicely, as the pictures above, taken 3 years apart, show, but also that this happened only after I stopped going to the hairdresser to get it “trimmed”. In my worldview, dentists drill too much, barbers cut too much. When I didn’t let them, my hair started to lengthen at the age of 60, following about 15 years of stall. Split ends? Well, just a bit. Not every split end should make you run to the hairdresser.
You shouldn’t have long hair after a certain age.
This is a very lamentable meme and it’s not true. Long hair is sexy and feminine. (I love long hair on men, too!!!). Short hair can, of course, be sexy and gorgeous as well, but many of us would like to have long hair but still give it up because:
- We passed 60, or even 50, and that’s what you do;
- We think it’s undignified;
- We are afraid we will look weird, ridiculous, perhaps unprofessional;
- Some are afraid that the longer hair will be more prone to falling out.
If a woman gets tired of growing her hair and taking care of it, that’s perfectly understandable; it sure takes some work, but something is lost as well as gained.
True, some of us lose our hair to some extent with age, like men do, but that’s not the majority. As long as the hair is there and growing there’s no obligation to cut it short.
If you dye your hair, it will lose its lustre and sheen, and therefore the shorter the hair the better.
First of all, if that is true, it is valid for short hair as well. But, using some of the methods described below, I found that to be only partially true. There is some hardiness inflicted on the hair as a result of dying, but you can balance it out with hair masks, oils and creams and with regular, thorough, brushing!
I use Colorwear products that supposedly do not contain ammonia, but do have peroxide. I’m not sure if it really is much healthier, and did not get into all the research and the chemistry. My guess is that it’s probably as good as any. We have to “trust” in something…
You can’t retrieve your youthful dark hair color, so dye your hair with light colors
In my humble opinion, light colors age your looks (for brunettes), and often look much worse than the actual white hair. It is a problem, true, to keep the roots dark. I dye once a month when my looks start to deteriorate noticeably. Some people do it more often, but I’m a bit apprehensive about overdosing my scalp with chemicals, even the so-called “healthy“ ones.
Since I started dying early, the lower parts of my hair never got white. I don’t know how I would even look if tomorrow I stopped coloring, but that’s my choice. Some women have long flowing white or grey hair and they look great. I simply didn’t have the courage to take that leap, even though twenty years ago I was sure I was going to go natural. It’s fine either way.
Ways to Take Care of Your Hair
Nothing I’ll say here is originally mine. I am just compiling a bunch of tips here for whoever is interested. My hair loves me for this care when I am consistent, an ideal to strive for.
Most of the advice comes from a small hippie book whose name and the author’s name I don’t recall. I found it on a library shelf at the Integral Yoga Institute in San Francisco, 1982.
In memory and gratitude for that book, I use a similar hippie font on this page!!! The book also contained some great pictures and illustrations… Alas! If anybody recongnizes this book, please let me know, so I can give the writer the deserved acknowledgement and credits!
The most important recommendations besides good vegetarian nutrition were:
A lot !!!
- Use boar-hair brushes that are softer and do not tear the hair. I use the boar-hair brush first, and once things smooth out, I do some strokes with a hard plastic one that penetrates better. When the hair is knotted, you lose a lot of it trying to untangle, so prevention is better than treatment.
- Brush from bottom to top, especially if you have knots. By undoing the knots downstairs you make it possible to unravel the knots upstairs later. If it’s really bad, use your fingers. In “total loss cases” cut the knot out with scissors rather then torture yourself. You will lose this hair anyway. Better to avoid knot formation in the first place, if possible, by keeping brushing regularly, even several times a day just a bit (not the whole ordeal, that’s once a day). Knotting worsens at certain seasons when we should keep more on top of the situation.
- Once in a while brush your hair while bending forwards with your hair hanging down in front of your face. This is good for the roots.
- This one is really important: brush different directions sideways, to prevent formation of permanent partings or “paths”. Keep changing the parting or skip having one altogether by constatntly changing how the hairs are orgnized on the scalp. The hair weakens and the blood does not flow to the roots if kept in one fixed arrangement!
Pull and Massage –
Pulling (gently!) means taking hanks of hair in your hand that are thick enough, and pulling on them slightly several times to increase blood flow. You can do this sitting at your desk or while watching TV. The hanks must be thick enough of course, or it will be painful and you might pull the hairs out of their moorings. Variation: pull and shake.
Massage the scalp to finish the brushing cycle. Enjoyable and useful to keep hairs and scalp happy.
I used to do upside down yoga postures, like shoulder stand and head stand, which are incredibly good for the hair as well as for other things like facial complexion, but I cannot perform those anymore for other reasons. A similar effect can be achieved by simply lying down with the legs up – the blood flows to the roots. I put my calves or ankles on a Pilates ball, but a wall is just as good.
More advice from various sources:
Keep it Loose
- Keep hair down and loose as much as possible, then it grows better. I tie it slightly because it bothers me, but try to keep it relatively free. I found clips to be less abusive on my hair than scrunchies.
T-shirts and Pillows
- Some claim it is not good to use towels after a hair wash. I started folding the hair in a t-shirt instead. It is soft and keeps hair from tearing. Feels nice too. Another advice is to use silk pillow cases. I haven’t gotten to do that yet, but it sounds reasonable and pleasant.
- Braiding the hair at night after a good brushing session prevents tangling during sleep. The braid/s should be loose. This is a good opportunity to change the hair parting as explained above.
A few more tips
Shampoo the dye into the hair.
The following advice I got from a Russian health store owner in Jerusalem. I asked her how she got her hair to be so homogenously colored. She said she just “shampooed” the dye into the hair.
Using that advice saved me a lot of money even though, admittedly, I don’t do the job quite as good as her… I spread the color the best I can with gloved hands and the specialized paint brush, but to make sure I reached everywhere I simply shampoo it all in. When it seems like some parts were not well covered, especially hard-to-reach areas in the back, or before a special event, I go to the hairdresser to get fixed, twice or three times a year. There’s something to miss about old days or tribal women’s cultures, when we routinely used to comb, braid and take care of each other’s hair, no money transferred.
Air dry when possible
Even the hairdressers now believe in air drying.
I rarely dry with a fan. I think it is not that good for the hair. When possible I wash my hair earlier in the day to give it ample time to dry naturally. Sometimes I use the fan just to start the hair drying. Once it is not soaking and does not get my clothes wet, I leave it to air-dry.
For shampoo and conditioner I use ordinary inexpensive ones from the regular stores, like Careline or Hawaii. With hair masks, though, I spend a bit more and buy them at health food stores, alternating between Shia, carrots and other formulas for experimentation. Sometimes I do hair mask alone and at other times shampoo and conditioner. Often I use all three, and sometimes I use pure oil instead.
Hair cream is more problematic. The not too good brands are simply not too good. There’s a wonderful one by Marc Anthony’s I bought on my Canadian trip – Coconut Oil Curl Cream – but they don’t deliver to Israel. Alas!
I wash my hair twice a week. More than that is not necessary and takes off the nautral lustre. Predictably, shampoo manufacturers will try to convince you that these are old wives tales and that you need to wash daily. I ignore the noise.
Apology to Hairdressers
Sorry, hairdressers, if I took some of your income away, but…most of us, women, are not rich. Not only do we not get equal pay for the same work, but most of us work in lower paying “female” jobs to start with. Furthermore, unlike men, we are still expected to spend tons of money on clothes, beauty products and cosmetics. We often also also pay the child care and cleaner since these are supposed to be our natural jobs…
My motto is that what you can do yourself to your own satisfaction is empowering and helps you feel good about yourself. Here is the link to my sola camping trip.
Besides, hairdressers, in my experience, have a way of making you feel small and inadequate. I usually get out of the saloon feeling lousy… Read A.S. Byatt’s “Medusa’s Ankles”, and you can easily identify with the poor woman on the hairdresser’s seat!
Part of the professionals’ strategy world-wide is to criticize how you take care/do not take care of your hair according to their standards, and then to sell you something that presumably “only they” can get a hold on. They push for short haircuts to give themselves secure, ongoing incomes. Long hair is a lot of work, with less profitablity.
We don’t have to fall for their money-making tricks. Plus, I’m tired of all the gossip and small talk that goes on in these saloons. Some of the guys running them are just too full of themselves. They build their clientele and egos on women’s insecurities. Besides, neighborhood gossip adds nothing to my life.
It is essential to shop for a hairdresser that makes you feel good about yourself and happy about how you look when you get out their door. If you don’t feel like having them experiment on your head, tell them, though once in a while it is nice to try something new.
Love to you all and great, long hair to those who wish for it. Good luck!