In-depth Long Hair Tutorial for Men
The following long hair guide is a blend between a long hair tutorial and practical advice on growing your mane, looking after it (i.e. hair care) and even styling it! The information and advice in this long hair guide for men is taken from direct experience, other fellow long hair discussions, reading and chatting with other long hair men. There is also advice from The Men’s Hair Book which is a book that I (and the forum staff) recommend to all men with long hair and those wanting to grow their hair long. I hope this guide is useful to you and to our growing community of long hair guys.
Here are the topics covered in this long hair guide:
- Hair typing
- Washing your long hair
- Methods of washing
- Long hair products for men
- Long hairstyles for men
It really, really matters what kind of hair you have. There’s how thick or thin (how much hair you have), coarse or fine (how big around each strand is) and how curly or straight it is. Then there’s oily, dry flaky (not the same as dry), and what you’ve done to it. Color treatments, layers, heat and everything else cruel and unusual that people do to their tresses makes a big different in what kind of products you use. What works for my hair won’t work for someone else with a different hair type. Also, the longer your hair is, the more careful you need to be with what you do to it.
When you have hair shorter than about mid-back, it doesn’t really matter what you do to it, because you’re going to cut the ends off before you really do any damage to them, so you can color and curl and dry and do whatever. But hair grows about half an inch a month, so six inches in a year. The difference in waiting time between mid-back length hair and longer can become eternal depending on your hair genetics and what is your genetic hair lifespan.
For actual hair typing I would recommend the whole first chapter in The Men’s Hair Book. Otherwise you have an excellent hair typing guide in the link from this forum which is taken from the book too. At least you should know your hair type and shape to grow your hair long.
Washing your long hair
There are four different components to washing your hair. What you use to shampoo, what you use to condition, how you use both those things, and what you need to wash out.
Believe it or not, there are more and better ways to wash your hair besides lather, rinse, repeat, condition. There’s water-only (good for short hair or hair that is very dry and flaky), conditioner-only (good for in-between shampoo-washes), and my personal favorite, condition-wash-condition or CWC. The methods are pretty self-explanatory (I’ll go into about how and why CWC works better because it’s a little more complicated), but WHAT you use to wash and condition makes a world of difference.
There are two important ingredients in shampoo and conditioner. For shampoo, you want to look out for sulfates. There are four main kinds of sulfates- aluminum and sodium, lauryl and laureth. If you ask some people, sulfates are wrong with the environment for everything under the sun. I think they’re fine. But whatever.
Aluminum is the harshest. Lauryl is harsher than laureth. So there is Al. lauryl sulfate (ALS), Al. laureth sulfate (ALES), sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), and sodium laureth sulfate (ALES). Trying to find a shampoo that doesn’t have sulfates in it is an exercise in futility, unless you want to spend like nine bucks a bottle. Even the finest, most delicate hair can withstand SLES *IF* you use it properly. If you’re trying to grow your hair out, stay away from the Al. sulfates. Look for a shampoo that has ONLY SLES. I use Tressemme. White Rain used to make one, but now they all have ALS. I also REALLY love La Bella shampoo, but that can be hard to find. There are other kinds of sulfates, but generally, those will all be milder than even SLES. And they’re usually hard to find.
You might think that baby shampoo is good to use, but it’s not. Baby shampoo is made to be alkaline, because your eyes are alkaline, which is why it doesn’t hurt them when suds get in, but your hair is acidic. Baby shampoo is VERY drying- that’s why so many babies have incurable cradle cap. They don’t make enough oil on their scalp yet to counter act the harsh, basic shampoo. A tip is to use just conditioner on the hair and scrub it with a soft nylon bristle brush. Works like a charm.
For conditioner, there is the great ‘cones or no ‘cones debate. Lest you end up like me and wonder what in the world orange traffic cones have to do with hair (no, really I thought this for a while before I clued in) they mean silicone and dimethicone. Some hair types love cones. My hair loves cones. Most fine/thick combos do. Coarse hair generally can’t tolerate it, and it will weigh down thin hair too much. Cones are glue, basically. They coat your hair with plastic. This can be a good thing or it can be a bad thing. It’s great to use when you’re doing a complicated up-do and you don’t want little frizzes everywhere. I also use it when I want my hair to be uber-curly – I use a serum and spray before I braid it in several braids, and it helps “shape” the hair into the braid better, so that when I take it out I have perfectly defined waves. This trick really works in case you want to have an easy way as a dude to get your straight hair into curly hair.
To give you a quick reading break (or not!), you can also check this great shampoo and conditioner discussion with lots of advice on mens shampoos and conditioners and which ones to buy. Bookmark that discussion in the link as it is one that you will be going back to several times so as to complement your reading on how to use shampoo and conditioner as a guy.
Cheap, dollar store conditioner is your friend. Buy a lot. Buy different scents. Buy different brands. Try one, use that bottle, JUST that bottle, and see how your hair feels when you get to the end of it. If you don’t like it, try something else. Open the bottles in the store and see what they feel like. If they’re thick or runny, if they’re slick or kinda sticky. Suave, VO5, White Rain- they all work just fine. You do not need fifteen dollar products. People who sell hair products want you to think you do, but it’s all in how you use them.
Whether you use cones also depends on what kinds, how much, and what you use to clarify it. For all my mamas who use cloth diapers, you know that junk like fabric softener, diaper rash cream, and the like will collect on your diapers. The same thing happens with your hair, when you use cones (and some other ingredients will do it, but mostly cones). And just like with diapers, you have to strip it. That’s what clarifying is. Just don’t use dish soap and a hot water rinse.
There are different ways to clarify your hair. If you’re like me and don’t use hardly any product, then just a regular shampoo with SLES will do the trick. If you use hairspray, serums, cremes, anything like that, you’ll probably need something else. A baking soda rinse works very well, and isn’t as harsh as the other sulfates. The point is not to scrub your head with the baking soda, but to rinse your hair in an alkaline solution (“But I thought you said alkaline was BAD for your hair!” Yes, it is, but so is buildup). After a baking soda rinse (I do one after I wear my hair up and use cones to keep the frizz down) the best thing is an apple cider vinegar rinse. It’s a very simple method that is also explained in The Men’s Hair Book.
Methods of Washing
Condition-wash-condition or CWC: The point behind this is that the length of your hair – from the nape to the ends – DOES NOT NEED SHAMPOO. Really. It doesn’t. Conditioner has surfactants in it – chemicals that break the surface tension of water – and it will get rid of oil and dirt and sweat just fine. It’s much like the oil cleansing method for your face. You need a conditioner with NO CONES, even if your hair likes cones, you don’t want it for this. And you need a shampoo that your hair likes. A shower cap is useful.
With lukewarm water, soak your hair. Completely. Stand under it for a minute. Run your hands through it. Scratch your scalp. Sing a song. A lot of people really don’t get their hair WET enough and that’s where a lot of problems come from. Then, get some conditioner. Fill your hand up. Run it from the nape of your neck down. Do this until your hair feels positively slimy. If you wear your hair in a ponytail at all, pay SPECIAL attention to the nape – the friction from the hair elastic wears it out something fierce. I have a lot of hair, so I use a lot of conditioner. One regular 16 oz bottle lasts me about five washes (The upside is that I wash my hair about once every two weeks. More on that later.)
Wrap it up and do other shower stuff. This is where the shower cap comes in handy. Get enough shampoo to get suds in your scalp-hair and NOTHING ELSE. Then wash out the shampoo and conditioner at the same time. Now, break out the conditioner, and get ALL of your hair, scalp to ends, even slimier than before. When I feel really lazy, I do the first condition and wash really quick, in cold water, and then I slather on the conditioner and run a hot bath. Cleanse around, read a book, watch TV (make sure TV is far away from bath!!), just do whatever. Then rinse it out in COLD water, as cold as you can stand. This is variable (cold feels great in the summer, or after you’ve just been steaming yourself in the tub… in the middle of winter, not so much) but basically you want colder water than you used for the first rinse. Rinse it out WELL. Remember what I said about not getting your hair wet enough.
For conditioner only, the trick is to use a crap load of conditioner and let it sit there for as long as possible, and then stand in the coldest water possible for as long as possible.
The gentlest way to dry your hair is to grab it one hand, and squeegee, but NOT twist. Don’t use a towel, just squeeze the water out.
Long hair products for men
One of my very favorite things about long hair is that you don’t style it. You can do things do it, but I can wake up, brush my hair, and I’m good. It looks fine if I don’t do anything to it. When it’s long like mine, you can cut knots out and no one knows the difference, instead of trying to salvage hopelessly damaged hair so you don’t have a weird spot. But I still use products every now and then.
We already have a long hair products for men thread in the link that you can check out for some of the hair products that the long hair guys in the forum are using. This forum is by far the best place to learn about mens hair topics which also include mens long hair.
I like John Frieda’s hair stuff. Except his shampoo and conditioner, because he uses AL/ES and way too many cones and it’s terribly overpriced, but I like his serums and creams, sprays and similar. ONLY use them if your LIKES cones. If your use it and your hair feels stiff and crispy, try using less. If it still feels nasty, then your hair doesn’t like cones.
I use the Frizz-Ease Hair Serum, and the Dream Curls spray, and the Secret Weapon creme. When I detangle my hair, right when I get out of the shower and it’s sopping wet, I slather it in this stuff right away, then comb it all out. When I’m done combing, or if I’ve let my hair dry a bit before I comb it then I use the Dream Curls spray. Then I put the hair in braids. With that many cones, if I braid it tight enough, I can go three or four days in the same pigtails with no ill effects. Once I take them out, I use the Secret Weapon creme when I brush and/or comb my hair.
Your hair should never, ever be brushed when wet. Find a seamless comb. Honestly, some of the best money I’ve ever spent in my life was on a horn comb. If you have thick hair, it’s worth it. I used to break combs CONSTANTLY. And they just feel so nice. This is the one I have. The owner of the store called me and gave me a personal consultation on what I should be using it for and how to best detangle my hair and what kind of comb would work for me. I would pay $45 for this comb over and over again.
Also, horn combs don’t make your hair static. They’re also made of the same kind of thing your hair is – keratin – and it picks up gunk from your hair. This means periodically, you need to scrape it out. The stuff I’ve scraped off this thing, that used to be in my HAIR! Frightening. She says that you can’t use it on wet hair, but if you rub lanolin on it (which you should do every now and then whether it gets wet or not) and dry it well after you use it, it’s fine. Just don’t bring it in the shower with you.
For a brush, my life was changed when I discovered porcupine brushes. It’s the gentleness of a boar-bristle brush with the penetration of a nylon bristle. Boar-bristle brushes also cut down on static. The Rolls Royce of boar-bristle brushes is a Mason Pearson, a claim from other long hairs but just play around with whatever hair brush so long as it is a boar-bristle brush.
I like to use jojoba oil on my hair every once and a while. I just put it on after I wash it and put it in a bun and then let it dry before I comb it out. Pure jojoba oil is expensive, but this stuff works just fine.
Another essential item for anyone with long hair is a good pair of SHARP hair cutting scissors that you only use for hair. In a pinch, manicure scissors and even kitchen scissors work if you can’t find your hair scissors. If you have long hair, you are going to get tangles. Period. Do your best to get it out, but if it’s all snarled and bent and nasty, it’s better to cut it out of your hair.
Also, I haven’t paid for a haircut in five years and I’m better off for it. You really should not pay for any trims unless you are cutting a couple of inches and all across the hair. For tangles, knots and minor trims, buy and use a pair of good hair-cutting scissors. Not only will you save a lot of money from not visiting the hairdresser so often but you will also learn A LOT about your hair.
There is also in the forum a Hair Products forum for all mens hair products discussions. I have seen some epic hair product advice for guys been posted and many of the barbers and hairdressers (and long hair too) in the forum are happy to help forum members with questions. You can also ask in this Long Hair forum if you want but either forum will get you useful hair product advice.
Long hairstyles for men
Once you have enough length, about shoulder length, you can get really creative with your hair styling. Or you can just wear it loose and turn heads with your wild mane! Your mind is your limit when it comes to long hairstyles for men but some of the best long hairstyles that also offer convenience are listed below.
Everyone loves a ponytail. Velvet, satin, or very soft hair elastics or cotton scrunchies work the best.
I personally enjoy braiding my hair and I also enjoy wearing braids as my hairstyle for the day. Simple and classy and keeps your hair from tangling. It will however continue to shed, so it’s a bad idea to leave it there for more than a few days, because the nape of your neck will become impossibly snarled and you WILL have tangles and matted hair that you WILL have to cut out.
When you’re first learning how to braid your own hair, put it in a ponytail first, then flip it over your shoulder and do it in a mirror. Soon enough you’ll be able to do it in the dark with one hand.
Bun or man bun
I hate pins. I don’t know anyone who likes pins. I just spiral it up like usual and use a scrunchy. If I want it to be extra secure, I put it in a ponytail, then in a bun. This kind of bun does loosen pretty fast, but it’s good for a quick out of the face sort-of-deal. I’m also fond of hair sticks.
As a hairstyle itself, a bun styled by a dude is what is informally know as a bro bun or man bun which has become a trendy hairstyle for long hair men. Another version of the man bun hairstyle is the topknot hairstyle where the bun is shorter or non-existent and the hair tied is only 1 or 2 inches long.
Figure 8 bun
This is a good deal more secure, and a little fancier of a long hairstyle for men. You make a regular bun, then flip the top coil up, and pin it in place. You can also get a hair stick, shove it through the hole of the flipped-up coil, and then down through the main bun. It might take a few tries to make it stay, but once you get the hang of it, it’ll last through anything. This is how I do my hair up when I put it under a bandanna. You can also do ponytails, twirl them together, and put them in a figure 8 shape.
Don’t event think about pigtails if you’re a dude unless it’s for a theme party of some sort. Or you feel like trolling around, but pigtails can’t be considered a serious long hair men hairstyle.
This sounds like a lot of work. It isn’t. Like I said, I wash my hair about once every week or two weeks, sometimes more frequently but it isn’t much of an issue. I can get away with this because I’ve weaned my hair off of heavy duty shampoo and conditioner washes every day, and what oil my scalp does make is easily distributed along the length of the strands (this is what the famous sebum coating method from long hair Rogelio Samson is all about).
I can brush my hair out in a manner of minutes, provided I remember to do it every day. It takes thirty seconds to braid. I mean, if you suddenly had hair as long as mine, you would have NO idea what to do with it. But I’ve been growing my hair years and years. I remember when my hair turned really long that I would look at pictures of women who had hair as long as mine is now and I would wonder how in the HELL they washed it, or braided it, or did ANYTHING with it, but at a rate of half an inch per month if your hair grows on the fast side of average hair growth, you have plenty of time to get used to it all.
I like my hair. I like how it looks, I like how it feels. I like having longer hair than 99.9% of the male population. I like having it played with. I like doing elaborate things with it. I just like walking around with it dangling on my back and shoulders. It’s part sweater, part stuffed animal, part security blanket. Even when I’ve been lazy and not brushed my hair in a week, I can get away with shoving it in a bun and it looks fine.
I sincerely hope that this guide has been helpful and of use to you. Feel free to bookmark it and return to it whenever in doubt or whenever you need to enhance your hair-growing range of methods and tricks. If you have any questions or comments, you may post them in the comments section below or post them in the corresponding long hair guide discussion in the forum.