Tips for long hair care

On Raglan Road of an autumn day
I saw her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare
That I might one day rue
I saw the danger and I passed
Along the enchanted way
And I said Let grief be a fallen leaf
At the dawning of the day.

–Patrick Kavanagh

Confession: I learned more than I thought and less than I expected. How’s that for noncommittal?

When I walked into the library and checked out some books on hair care, I expected to find a “right way to do it” that I had somehow been missing all this time, something revolutionary and novel. Nope. The hair care version I adopted is pretty basic, but I learned a lot along the way.

Special thanks to my friend Rach Eicher for her helpful coaching.

  • I learned to wash my hair frequently but gently.
    • “Clean” is what puts the magic in long hair. But too harsh a shampoo or too hot a water temperature will strip the good oils right out of it. I use a mild shampoo with conditioner two to four times a week, and don’t leave it on my scalp for long.
  • I learned about leave-in conditioner.
    • I love this! I use two kinds—Fructis Sleek & Shine conditioning cream, which is applied after a wash, and a spray bottle of Dove Hair Therapy– which smooths and removes tangles on a daily basis.
  • I learned about finger-brushing.
    • For some types of hair at least (very fine or very curly), brushing adds to hair stress and fragility. You can treat your locks much more gently with your own hands, running your fingers through to remove tangles.
  • I learned to give up my hair dryer.
    • It’s so handy, you know? But used on a daily basis, it will inevitably deplete my hair and its resources. As much as possible, I now let it air-dry.
  • I learned a few home remedies.
    • (These remind me of the long-ago time my brother Ben and I smeared egg yolk all over our faces to treat acne. It was fun [only because we did it together] and disgusting [as it dried] and photogenic [“sallow complexion” took on a whole new meaning]. But I digress.)
    • One home remedy for an occasional deep cleanse is to massage baking soda into your scalp, then pour apple cider vinegar over it to rinse off. It feels like a delicious dose of the bubbly, and cleans away dandruff and shampoo build-up. I loved it the first time—my hair had never felt so clean—but the second time, several weeks later, it seemed a bit abrasive. I think it’s best to dilute the vinegar with a little water.
    • Other remedies involve egg, banana, olive oil, and/or other household ingredients. Here are a few. (I wish for Ben.) Have fun trying them, especially with a daughter, sister, or friend.
  • I learned to take more enjoyment in my hair—a gift of God.
    • I can do a lot more with it than I thought, both pinned up and let down.
    • [Pinned up:] I enjoyed learning to cooperate with the way my hair wanted to go for the day or the week rather than forcing it always into the same pattern. This may be controversial if your authorities prefer a steady pattern, so be respectful. But I’m talking about minor changes in parting and direction, not dreadlocks and dip-dyes.
    • [Let down:] I never knew what to do with my hair down, but it was surprisingly rewarding to experiment with this at home in an evening. You can do some really cute things with long hair, braiding and pinning. If it’s very long, you can start twisting it into a coil, but stop halfway through and leave the remaining tail to hang down for a mock-shorter look—more spunky and less in the way. (Sorry, no pictures. I come from an extremely scrupulous old school.)
    • You may call it what you want–worship, personal enjoyment, or romance, depending on your situation and scruples–but you must learn to experience the glory, or the whole affair becomes rather pointless.

Having a sister who went through chemo has given me a whole new perspective on long hair, and the absurdity of whining about its care. It’s a gift from God, given almost solely for beauty and enjoyment. And because I am Mennonite, I will add “…in the proper places.”

Most of all, I learned that modesty assumes value.

I am not saying you must cover something up in order to value it—I haven’t yet covered my face, and I’m pretty attached to it—but I am saying that in some way, we do guard what is valuable to us: our children, our reputation, our electronics, our passwords, our privacy.

You’ve all seen a person absurdly proud of a thing, flashing it around for public inspection. It may be valuable or not: pride is no indication. My kids are often proud of dollar store items. But a person modest—of her work, her birthplace, her spouse, her accomplishments, her beauty—now there is a thing that catches the heart. She’s being modest because it’s worth something.

I think we should all definitely be more modest.


And I’m talking about way more than hair.


Did you learn some things about hair these last months? How do you care for it? How do you indicate its value?

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10 years ago

I love these thoughts on hair and glory. I just reread “A Case for Glory” and so totally loved your thoughts. “Do we know how to arrange it prettily down?” Love that. Now….a thought. Wondering what you think about snipping off those straggly ends? Seriously…only about 3 inches. I know many people who would NOT be okay if I decided to snip those straggly ends. I haven’t ever done it…but must admit it’s tempting to do it for the looks. “The looks? Who sees it but you?” they would say. I know, I know…but I love the manicured look and my hair would still be long. And then I read your post which says something like “keeping my hair covered does not give me license to laugh off the straggly ends.” Wondering if you can provide me with some feedback? And not to offend anyone, I chose to post using a number instead of my name. Thanks!

10 years ago
Reply to  28

Oh dear. I was hoping to sweep this aspect under the carpet, since public lynching is not my dream way to go out. 🙂 Teasing you. You framed the question very well. And yes, my “straggly ends” comments had some personal context.

At the risk of writing another blog post in the comment section, I’ll start by saying I grew up thinking that trimmed hair ranked among the seven deadly sins, along with cigarettes and poker. Simultaneously, I lived for many years ashamed of my ends—six to eight inches of nothing but straggle on my knee-length hair.

Christians disagree on the issue, for sure, and read the text differently. I don’t approve of turning it into a test of holiness, but I respect those who for conscience’ sake leave it uncut.

Personally, I see trimming as one of the ways in which long hair may be cared for—healed of split ends or enhanced in beauty—and still be long, respectful, veiled, and glorious. But I did not go there until I felt permission from my authorities. It would be a little silly, wouldn’t it, to trim my hair in rebellion and then veil it as a sign of submission? Make sure to stay in conversation with your husband/father/pastor/whoever your authority may be, and remember that the beauty Paul was highlighting was one of order and submission—a value that always trumps physical appearance (and enhances, and completes, and redeems it).

Good question.

10 years ago
Reply to  Shari

Thanks! Good stuff to process!

10 years ago

Any tips for the guys?

Mama Zook
10 years ago
Reply to  Alvin

I wouldn’t recommend braiding or loosely held ponytails for the guys! But then I come from the old school where men looked like men…so, my guy has a beautiful head of hair, kept trim around his ears and off the collar. =)

10 years ago
Reply to  Alvin

Um, no. Wrong blog.

Oh wait—a message from the Lord just came in. Wear a beard if at all possible.

10 years ago
Reply to  Shari

Amen! You might want to check out Not By the Hair of My Chinny Chin Chin at

10 years ago
Reply to  Coonskin Merle

I already had, Merle. Where do you think the word from the Lord came from??

🙂 Fortunately, it coincided with my own views on the subject. Good stuff.

10 years ago
Reply to  Alvin

Yes, but probably not the sort of tip you were looking for….
Affirm the ladies in your life who wear their hair long and cover it consistently! When we are discouraged about our hair, few things boost us more than hearing encouragement and compliments from the men for whom we reserve our ‘glorious nuisance’.
And I wish you practical tips from more knowledgeable persons. 🙂

10 years ago

I finally trimmed my hair just a bit a couple months ago. It still comes down to my knees, so it still is very long. But trimming off those straggly ends made it much more manageable and beautiful. I also wash my hair frequently. It goes so much better that way, and again I think it more beautiful. I have always been thankful for my long hair. But since I’m a mom of four little ones, I sometimes have wished it didn’t take quite as much work. Especially pinning it up. More often than not when I’m at home I tie it in knots at the bottom of my neck and wrap a scrunchy about it. I also have used vinegar occasionally on my hair. Love what it does to it. I’ve never tried the baking soda and vinegar combo I’ll have to try that. One question what do you think of dyeing ones hair, especially if one grays early. Thanks for this encouraging post to value our hair as glory and a gift from God.

10 years ago
Reply to  lonnajoy

White hair is a glory all its own. 🙂

10 years ago

I enjoyed your pointers on long hair, since I’ve struggled with mine all my life. I have finally decided it is what it is and I will never have every hair in place, esp since I can’t stand hair spray. Curly hair is NOT what it is cracked up to be, but can be very unmanageable. If you have straight hair, THANK GOD! I’ve discovered that opposite of you, my hair is better with less washing since it always tends to be on the dry side, and washing takes out the natural oils. Just before I wash it, it finally starts behaving! Going with the flow definately helps. Yeah! finally someone who doesn’t look at me strangely when i say I never use a brush or hairdryer. Both turn it into a very unmanageable bush! Running a comb through wet, just washed hair is definately the best way for me to get out tangles. I use lots of conditioner, and will check out the Dove hair therapy. God made each person and their hair for a reason! It’s our job to keep it presentable (and covered) to glorify Him! Thanks for the tips!

10 years ago
Reply to  Beth

I’m with you on the curls/bush! I wash my hair about every 2 weeks since it gets too dry and frizzy otherwise. Tons of conditioner, no brushing, and occasionally gel if I hope to wear it down for a while.

10 years ago

I just love hair…long, short, curly, straight. Always have. When I was little I wanted to grow up and be a hairdresser. 🙂

Fun post!

10 years ago
Reply to  Renee Shafer

I’m not still little (supposedly I’ve grown up 😉 ), but I’d still LOVE to be a hairdresser. 🙂

10 years ago

I’m loving the Giovanni “Smooth as Silk” Deep Moisture Shampoo that I found through our co-op! It’s done a ton to tame my frizzy hair that has been with me for years and years and years.

10 years ago

Yes, what a fun post! I’ve always loved hair, too, but the last 2 years have been completely tired of mine. I’m going to the cabin with a bunch of my girlfriends in a few weeks…think I might have to take some home remedies along. 🙂 And about trimming the straggly ends–I never understood why we were allowed to shave our legs or clip our nails but not trim our hair. Unless I’m mistaken, Paul says “long” not “uncut.” However, as you said, it would be ridiculous to trim in rebellion and then cover in “submission.”

10 years ago

Aussie has an awesome leave-in conditioner. I haven’t used it for a while since my supply ran out….maybe that’s why my hair is having such issues these days.

Blow dryers. I hate them. Haven’t used one in years.

I would love to try your baking soda/vinegar treatment. Do you just shake dry baking soda on your head or what??!!!

Thanks for sharing from your storehouse of wisdom!

10 years ago
Reply to  Shaunda

Hey now. No mocking. If I found a storehouse of wisdom it would probably be on your property, not mine.

Do the soda in the shower. Wet your hair well, then get a small handful of dry soda and work it into the roots.

10 years ago
Reply to  Shari

Hey. I wasn’t mocking.

The whole treatment experience was fairly traumatic for me. Especially when I got baking soda in my mouth!!!! I think I totally missed the ‘small handful’ part of your instructions.

Anyway. Currently my hair feels great. I just treated it about a half hour ago so I’m not sure what the long term affects will be for me.

Sheila G.
10 years ago

I’ve been ‘no ‘poo’ as they call it for about two years now. I wash twice a week with baking soda and vinegar mixed with water and applied separately with thorough rinsing between. If you don’t have soft water I don’t think it works so well. I had some weird postpartum hair issues and this is what finally cleared them up.

10 years ago
Reply to  Sheila G.

I too skipped shampoo for about 2 years. I loved it. But then we moved, and we now have hard water with no softener. For some reason that is a nasty combination. So now I’m back to shampooing.

Rach Eicher
10 years ago

Glad you found some good tips to use and enjoy!

10 years ago

I really like the idea of finger brushing.

About long hair in general, I sometimes wonder if beauty is ever actually practical, as in easy to use and handy? Like, a sunset or a rose–can we USE them? Beauty is valuable for its own sake, not just for how useful/practical/beneficial it is to us. I’m not verbalizing it well here, but this is a favorite hobbyhorse to ride. =)

10 years ago

Your journey of exploration has been rewarding. I find even more delight in your presence when you know how to experience and share the beauty/glory of your long hair.

10 years ago

The chemicals in most shampoo’s strip hair of its natural oils, therefore your scalp goes into high gear to produce more oils and it becomes a vicious cycle of oily hair that you wash often to get rid of the oily look but you’re only causing more oil to be produced than should be. I use baking soda and vinegar mixtures (1 TBLSP baking soda to 1 cup water for shampoo, 1 TBLSP vinegar to 1 cup water for conditioner) and it works well. This can be mixed and stored in old shampoo bottles or other convenient containers. You won’t need a whole cup for one wash. I normally only wash twice a week. Occasionally I will use regular shampoo/conditioner just to give my hair a break from the normal. Now I do agree with a previous post about the baking soda/vinegar not working well in area’s that have hard water! I experienced that the hard way when I was at someone else’s house! So it may not work for some people.
Also, a good way to brush long hair is to start at the bottom. This will avoid brushing tangles upon tangles.
Enjoyed this article and the comments!

10 years ago

I use a comb with very large, thick teeth that are set far apart, to brush out my hair. Kind of the same idea as finger-combing. These are easily found and it’s the only thing I have used for years. I started because it gets out the tangles so much easier, but found that it is also less stressful on my my strands!

I loved this post. Caring for hair can be overwhelming, and hearing someone who has clarified her thoughts and condensed them into an article is helpful!

10 years ago

Help! Any tips for when your glory decides to leave you in alarming handfuls?
I’ve been using sulfate-free shampoo for nearly six months now, and I actually think it’s gotten worse instead of better. I feel like I’m on the fast track to being bald at thirty, and that’s an unsettling thought for a (admittedly vain) teenager.

10 years ago
Reply to  19

Aw, I’m sorry! I’m not an expert here and don’t know what to say.

Here are some posts I found that might be helpful. If you can pinpoint what’s causing the loss (hormones, stress, some kind of deficiency?) it may give you a plan for moving forward.

Wishing you the best!

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