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11 Golden Rules Everyone with Long Hair Should Commit to Memory Right Now

Long hair? Here's why (and how) you should care.

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Long hair has different needs

Lengthy locks need more care than shorter tresses. For starters, long hair is more prone to tangles—especially if it’s fine or color treated. It’s also more apt to get involved in daily wear and tear—from getting tangled in a scarf to needing to be tied up during workouts. And the longer it gets, the more fragile it can become, so you need to be extra gentle. Simply put: Long hair is special and needs to be treated as such.

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Get regular trims

We get it, you have long hair and want to keep it that way. But snipping strands regularly can actually help. A trim gets rid of damage and split ends. Shelby Samaria, stylist at Suite Caroline Salon in New York City suggests booking salon appointments every 10 to 12 weeks if you tend to air-dry your hair (A.K.A. it’s not exposed to extreme amounts of heat), or six to eight weeks for colored and heat-styled tresses. These are the 15 hairstyle terms to know before your next salon visit.

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Detangle daily

Long hair is more susceptible to tangles. Daily brushing helps remove snarls and will help thwart the formation of larger knots. The best type of brush? Matt Swinney, L’ANZA Global Creative Director suggests a half boar bristle/half nylon brush, like Mason Pearson, to distribute hair’s natural oils. Remember, brushes are not one-strand-fits all! Here’s how to find the best brush for your hair type.

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Comb carefully

Because long hair is more prone to tangles, those with lengthy locks need to be extra careful when combing, urges Simone Bailey, lead stylist at DreamDry in Scarsdale, New York. If you’re working with wet hair, gently towel dry and then spritz in a lightweight detangling spray, like Pantene Detangler or Not Your Mother’s Knotty to Nice Conditioning Detangler. Using a large, wide-tooth comb, start from the bottom and gradually—working in sections—make your way up to the roots. This way you can ease out knots as you go, resulting in less pulling, tugging, and damage.

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Combat split ends

Those with long hair need to be particularly careful when it comes to split ends, which can cause hair to appear thinner. Did you that many common haircare mistakes contribute to split ends? Drying too roughly and heat styling are two common culprits. Bailey recommends using Space.nk.apothecary Oribe Split End Seal to help repair split ends and reduces breakage.

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Shampoo less often

One hair myth we’d like to put to rest? That you need to wash your hair every day. The truth is, you do not have to have shampoo daily. Your hair and scalp need natural oils to stay nourished and healthy. Cleansing every third day is totally fine (unless you’re doing ultra sweaty workouts in which case you’ll probably want to rinse off). When it comes time to shower, an all-too-common mistake people make when washing their hair is applying shampoo to the roots through the ends. Stylist are begging you stop! Dirt and oil tends to accumulate at the scalp, so that’s where you should concentrate. Plus, the ends are dryer, so they don’t require extra cleansing. Instead, apply shampoo to the roots, massage into a lather, and work down towards the ends. Don’t forget, what works for your curly haired pal might not work for your fine tresses.

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Don’t skip conditioner

The secret (well one of them) to keeping long hair healthy, shiny, and silky? Conditioner. Conditioning hydrates, softens, repairs damage, and helps to smooth flyaways and frizz. Apply conditioner during every shampoo regimen, concentrating on mid lengths and ends. Avoid roots which can weigh down long locks.

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Jeff Wasserman/shutterstock

Pick the right products

If you have fine hair or need to impart some nourishment without hitting the shower, Samaria suggests using a leave-in conditioner like Reverie Milk Anti-Frizz Leave-In Nourishing Treatment. Bailey is a fan of Oribe Supershine Moisturizing Cream, which is specially made for fine-to-medium and extra-long hair. Yes, long hair needs nourishment, but the last thing you want to do is weigh it down, which can make it look thinner and greasier. No thanks! Instead, opt for lightweight formulas that hydrate and protect against heat. Always use a thermal protectant spray before blow-drying or styling to create a barrier between the cuticle and damage-inducing heat,” says Sarah Potempa, celebrity hairstylist and inventor of The Beachwaver Co. Try: Eva NYC Mane Magic 10-IN-1 Primer or TRESemme Thermal Creations Heat Tamer Leave In Spray.

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Do a weekly treatment

You give your skin weekly treatments, so why not your strands? Samaria suggests weekly mask, like Christophe Robin Regenerating Mask with Rare Prickly Pear Seed Oil or It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-in Conditioner Plus Keratin. (Wondering which formula is right for you? Read up on the stylist-approved hair masks for every hair type.) A warm oil treatment with coconut or jojoba oil is great for when hair/scalp is feeling particularly parched. Apply on the ends, mids, and roots, leave on for 20 to 30 minutes, rinse with lukewarm water, and shampoo/condition normally. In the summer, Potempa likes to slather on deep conditioner before a trip to the pool or the ocean to create a barrier for your hair and salt or chlorine. “Once you swim, you come out with beautiful, soft hair!”

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Opt for looser updos

Ponytails and buns are a convenient way to keep long locks off your face—not to mention they look ultra chic—but pulling hair too tight can cause stress and strain. As a general rule: The looser the style, the less tension on the cuticle. “Braids are an amazing way to showcase long hair,” says Swinney. “A loose top knot is always classic and elegant.” Or try a trendy style, like the half-up top knot bun. All our experts agreed that an elastic cord is best for securing tresses. It holds firmly, without the aggressive effect of a more rubbery binder or metal-edged elastics, which can snag strands.

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Switch up the way you wear your hair

Pros suggest switching up you ‘do to avoid patterns of tension that could cause damage. “Instead of always wearing a bun, try a fun side pony for daytime, or a more elegant low pony for evening,” says Samaria. And, of course, let your hair down!

Lindsay Cohn
Lindsay is an avid traveler and travel writer who has visited 46 countries across six continents. For Reader's Digest, she covers both domestic and international travel, and her byline also appears in Travel + Leisure, InsideHook, Hotels Above Par, Well + Good and PureWow. When she's not writing, you can find her hanging out with her son, doing yoga and adding to her ever-growing list of future adventures.