Really long hair - How to grow,
care for, groom and style it
Practically all women, at some time
in their lives, want to grow their hair really long. Disregarding
fashion and casting aside ideas about perms and layer cuts, this
hard core likes to wear hair straight down the back, keeping it as
long as possible. Is there a secret to growing your hair long? Or
does it just depend on the kind of hair you have. We talked to
George Michael of new York, known as in the US as the 'Czar of Long
Long hair makes a woman feel
feminine, ladylike, attractive and glamorous. Even if she thinks the
rest of her face and figure is wrong, nearly every woman thinks that
long hair is the one good thing about herself- an honest-to-goodness
crowning glory. Conversely quite often the first thing a woman may
do when she's going through a fit of depression and self hate is to
have all her hair chopped off. Then, of course, there is the male
angle. Talk to any man and he'll probably say that he prefers long
hair to short every time. Thousands of women cling desperately to
rather tatty 12 inch locks, complete with split ends because 'he'
will be furious if they have it cut short. Until recently
Hairdressers hated long hair.
What hairdressers like to do most is cut hair. It gives them a very
possitive pleasure to take a head of below the shoulder length hair
and cut it all off.....not because of any innate sadism, just
because they can show how clever they are when it comes to cutting.
And cutting from long to short is a good test of their skill.
These days, hairdressers aren't
quite so scissor happy and they usually will try to give their
clients what they want. But we still hear horror stories from
long-haired ladies who went in for just a trim and came out with a
Trimming can be a bit of a dirty word, as many of our readers
letters testify. Suppose you've been growing your hair for months.
You know it needs a trim, you've even read in the Hair Book that you
must have it trimmed. So you go to the hairdressers and come out
with hair that is the same length as it was when you started growing
it six months ago. It's enough to drive you to tears! And frequently
So it's not surprising that when one hairdresser - George Micheal of
new York - set out to look after long hair only, he quickly
established a clientele of 36,000 women, including 4 Queens and 25
princesses. This year (1981) he opened several off shoots of his
George Michael Long Hair Clinics throughout Europe, including six in
House of Fraser stores in Britain. George Michael believes that long
hair is one of the most sexy and enchanting possessions you can
'Long, shiny healthy hair is the
ultimate accessory' he avows. 'It's more effective than diamonds,
furs or perfume'. And those thousands of clients have stayed loyal
through years of wedge cuts, boufants, frizzies, corn rows, plaits,
blow drying, curling tongs and many other fashions.
'It's all very well for those rich ladies who can afford to go to
expensive salons in New York - or London' we hear you mutter (George
Michaels London Long Hair Clinic is in Harrods) 'But what about us,
stuck in the sticks with no hairdresser in view? How do we grow our
A lot of George Michael
'prescriptions' for long, beautiful hair can actually be followed at
home, so read on carefully. Some of this thinking is quite at odds
with what other hairdressers will tell you. But when you consider
that 18 of his clients have floor length hair and another 4,000 wear
it to their knees, you get the feeling that he must be doing
How does hair grow
Hair grows from the follicles in
your scalp - there are about 120,000 of them altogether and,
interestingly, the colour of your hair will determine the number;
redheads have the most. Hair grows not in a continuous process but
in a random pattern. At any one time there will be hairs growing,
lying dormant and falling out. It is estimated that the average life
of a single hair is between four and ten years and it grows at the
approximate rate of half an inch a month or six inches in the year.
Going by this theory, no one should
have hair that's longer than 60 inches but, in George Michaels
'Secrets for Beautiful Hair' published by Doubleday, he cites the
case of a gynaecoloist in Tehran who has the longest documented hair
in the world at 96 inches. His theory is that the longer you grow
your hair the stronger the root will be. George Michael says that
hair that's cut in a 4 - inch style will lose 87 hairs a day, hair
in a 12- inch bob could lose 26 hairs a day, waist length hair loses
approximately 16 hairs a day. According to his theory, that rare
phenomenom floor length hair, would lose a mere two hairs a day!
How does all this help if you're
trying to coax along your rather recalcitrant mop of hair? Of
course, you have to take into account those old friends genes and
heredity. The kind of hair you are born with cannot actually be
changed. No wonder product in the world will turn wispy, fine hair
into thick, coarse hair or vice versa. Some hair roots just don't
produce long hair. Afro hair is a good example of this. It just
doesn't seem to grow very long. Of course, you get exceptions to
this rule too. So, if your long hair just doesn't seem to be getting
any longer, it could be the kind of hair you've got rather than poor
However, lots of people do mistreat their hair and there's an awful
lot you can do to ensure your hair grows as long as possible if
really long hair is what you want.
Doing the splits
All growing hair splits because the
inside of each hair, called the cortex, loses moisture and the hair
begins to unravel rather like a rope. The only cure for split ends
is to have them cut off, because otherwise they can travel up the
hair and make the damage worse. They look unsightly too, because
where the hair splits the colour looks lighter and dead looking. But
a lot of people are terrified of going to the hairdressers to have
the split ends trimmed off because they believe (and often rightly)
that they'll actually lose a lot more hair than they bargained for.
In his book, George Michael describes his special method of solving
the split ends problem. You could get a friend to help you try this
1. Take a small strand of hair,
about half an inch in diameter. The hair should be dry.
2. Twist the strand gently until
the damaged ends appear. These may be apparent along the whole
length of the strand.
3. Holding a pair of sharp scissors
perpendicular to the strand, snip off the split ends and damaged
parts, using only the tips of the scissors.
4. Continue to move down the strand
in small sections, following this method. You are not trimming
length, merely split ends.
5. Go all round the head in this
way. It will take between 10 and 45 minutes. Cut off only the
damaged ends, nothing else.
Don't take steps
One of the cardinal rules Goerge
Michael lays down for long hair is that it must all be one length.
No fringes, layers, graduations or steps are allowed to be cut into
it. He believes in what he terms the 'equalisation' process - that
if you cut a layer into one side of the hair, the hair on the other
side of the head will shorten in sympathy. So he makes all his
clients grow out their fringes and will not allow centre partings
under any circumstances.
'But supposing it doesn't suit me like that', we said rather feebly
and received a scornful glance in reply. 'Long hair will suit
everybody, even older ladies', he said. 'There are so many ways of
draping it, dressing it and wearing it.' George also believes that
to cut hair into layers is a little like shattering a mirror because
long, perfectly cut hair shines all down its line if its looked
after properly. So with this rather strict rule in mind, it isn't
surpising to find out that not only does the George Michael method
not invulve layering, there is also a very special cutting process
unlike anything you will find normally in a salon. Before it's cut,
the hair is shampooed and dried. Every stylist works on clean, dry
hair. Wet hair is hair that's already been stretched to one eighth
of it's length and it's extremely fragile and breaks easily because
its elasticity is at a minimum. So the Michael cutting method is
done only on dry hair because the results can be seen instantly and
it's kinder to the hair.
How long is Long??
George Michael believes that a good
hair style must be perfectly proportioned to your body and that the
decision that is made about its length should be based on the
texture of the hair itself and the shape of that head and body,
never on the face. So there are seven 'Michael' lengths that he
advises: 'Flip length', just above the shoulders; 'Bra' length,
which speaks for itself; 'Waist length'; 'Bottom length'; 'Knee
length'; 'Calf length' and 'Floor length'. Few of us will attain any
but the first three.
Wash with care
Blow driers aren't used in any of
the Long Hair Clinics. Instead, the hair is set on non-metal rollers
and the hair is gently dried under a constant-temperature hood dryer
at 40C. Sometimes, hair that's very long is wrapped around the head
to tame it, and dried the same way. The hair is washed with a
special massage movement, using a shampoo that George Michael
formulated himself. He always advocates using a mild shampoo, hates
'gimicky' shampoos and doesn't believe they need to be expensive.
When washing your hair, you should treat it with the utmost care,
particularly if its long. Over enthusiastic rubbing, scrubbing and
pulling can lead to quite a lot of damage and hair loss. Hair is
rinsed very, very thoroughly. If you can stand it, George Michael
advises that the last hair rinse be a cold one. This shrinks the
molecules of the hair and gets rid of superfluous coatings, making
hair much more manageable. Conditioning is essential too, of course,
plus a cream rinse after the conditioner to ensure those delicate
ends of the hair are well protected. If you use a good cream rinse,
you may need to give yourself a conditioning treatment only about
once a fortnight. Over-conditioning can happen, and it results in a
build up of residue that makes hair look dull rather than shiny.
Never brush hair when its wet. When
you've finished the washing/conditioning/cream rinse process, mop up
excess water with a towel wrapped around your head for a few
minutes. Then de-tangle as much of your hair as you can with your
fingers. Finally, use a wide-spaced comb to smooth and untangle your
hair gently. Begin to comb from the bottom, working slowly up the
strands. Never start at the top and tug downwards as this can do a
lot of damage.
A hundred strokes
The kinds of implements you use on
long hair can effect its growth and shine far more than you would
imagine. Hot tongs, curlers, blow driers and styling wands are
absolutely out if you want your hair to be in its best possible
state. If you find that the dryness is uneven, that is the ends get
dry while the hair is greasy at the roots, you'll either have to
find a method of washing your scalp only (it really is possible on
long hair if you get someone to hold the ends away from the water)
or to be extremely rigorous when it comes to conditioning. And you
must brush it carefully every day. The George Michael method
advocates those 100 brush strokes, standing with head bent forward,
bending your torso from the waist to achieve maximum amount of blood
circulation to the hair roots. You should choose a natural boar
bristle brush - Kent of London has actually produced a brush
especially for George Michael - and, if your hair is over ten inches
long, it should have a flat or elongated base, held firmly at the
base, so that it doesn't flip over and get tangled in your hair. You
should begin brushing with 20 strokes and gradually build up to 100,
adding ten strokes a day till you reach your goal. If for any
reason, you miss a days proper brushing, decrease the total by 20
strokes and build up again.
Brush hair carefully and evenly to the point on the crown or the
nape of the neck where you want the chignon to rest. Secure into a
pony tail using a coated elstic band or a piece of thin ribbon.
2. Twist the pony tail into a
spiral, using both your hands.
3. Coil the pony tail down around
the base, making it as large or as small as your hair length
dictates. Tuck the loose ends into the outside edge of the chignon
and pin carefully, using fine hairpins.
1. Part the hair into three
sections and secure with ribbon a few inches from the ends so that
you've got good control over each section. Twist the first side
section over your hand into a sausage shape and secure along its
length with fine pins.
2. Sweep the second side section
over the first and secure.
3. Arrange top hair so it sweeps
over the crown, ends secured into the original pleat.