Confession: Several years ago, I promised a post on long hair care for Mennonite women. Yes, I did say several years ago. The person who requested it probably no longer reads this blog, but let it never be said that Shari Zook did not keep her promises.
The mills of God grind slow, but they grind exceeding small.
One may wonder if this qualifies as “keeping.”
Confession: Being an Anabaptist woman, while fulfilling and delightful, presents certain unique challenges, such as where to buy good fabric, how to scrub blackened tomato sauce off the bottom of a stock pot, and what to do with your long hair.
I am not mocking. I love being what I am.
Once in my life, I grew a hair that touched the floor. I was about 14 years old. A single hair. My mother saw it shining all alone, draping from my hem in the sunlight, and reached to pull it off but found it was attached.
In today’s world, many women love to wear their hair long, and there are plenty of helpful guides on how to care for it, but women of my Christian stripe face an additional challenge or two. Many of us are talking “long” hair as in “to-the-knees” long. And for much of the day, we wear it pinned up, leading to other difficulties. Sometimes we’re good at growing our hair out, but not that good at taking care of it; and we sort of feel we can get away with this because no one sees it most of the time. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.
Here are a few tips for taking care of extraordinarily long hair.
Clean thoroughly but infrequently.
I wash mine every three days. I wouldn’t recommend more often than that. Hair likes having a little gloss to it, and if you wash the good oils out of there all the time, your scalp will compensate by producing more, until you feel you have to wash it every day.
For the same reason, I don’t recommend the Mennonite cheat of “washing the front,” which I did for years. Besides stripping the oils, it also stresses the hair by scrubbing it piecemeal and pell-mell. Wash it well, but not that often.
Air-dry to start, blow-dry to finish, if you want it super smooth.
Allowing your hair to air dry is kinder to the hair and skin, but also tends to frizz-dry instead of smooth-dry. Brushing semi-damp hair while blow-drying can lead to a glorious finish – smooth, fine-textured, amazing.
So far, I have been unable to perfectly mimic this salon feeling at home. It’s called a blowout, and involves the magical combination of a round brush, a hair dryer, incredible patience, and more hands than I have. Look it up on YouTube. I’m not going to link it here because don’t want you honking at me about immodesty or language, for which I cannot preview thoroughly at the moment.
Find the right supplies and tools.
I need a wide-tooth comb for gently managing the tangles after washing, a round brush (already mentioned – this is what I use for all my hair brushing, wet or dry, after using the wide comb), and a fine comb (for smoothing arranged hair).
I also like a good shampoo with conditioner, plus a leave-in conditioner after washing. An upper end brand of shampoo I like is Sudzz; a cheap brand I like is Pert Plus; then I follow up with some variant of an oil cream conditioner (coconut/ olive/ argan).
When washing, don’t use your nails to scrub your scalp, only your fingertips to massage. Focus shampoo on the roots of your hair and conditioner on the tails. Never rough your hair with a towel (wringing or shuffling), just squeeze gently to dry.
When you brush out tangles, particularly with wet hair, start by wide-combing (or brushing) only the tips. Then move up a couple of inches and work down from there, over what you already combed smooth. Then up another couple of inches. This reduces strain on the hair, and prevents the massive snarls you may accrue if you brush from the top down.
If you pin your hair up for the day, don’t go too tightly. Use a net and some kind pins – as few as you can get away with while keeping the hair decently anchored. Less is more. You want to walk the line between using so few that the weight of the hair hangs on one place, or using so many that metal is adding to the weight, or chafing the head.
(This section edited in response to Sheryl’s comment below, which added a key piece I needed!)
Trim or thin your hair if allowable.
I say if allowable because I know that many conservative churches feel “long” hair as specified in 1 Corinthians 11 means “as long as possible.” I have respect for this position, though honestly it’s not where I’m at personally. Paul said that a woman’s hair is “her glory,” and to me that gives some permission for tending the hair, making it lovely and manageable while keeping it long and glorious as intended. I trim mine to a manageably long length, and use thinning shears like these to help with too much body.
Knee-length hair is really difficult. When it’s thick, it’s even more difficult. Do what you need to do, but remember to honor the One who made it for your joy, and His, and your husband’s.
Take your hair down when you can.
Conservative Mennonite women cover our heads as a sign of our willingness to lay down power – not to use our beauty as leverage to gain control over men and deities. (I Corinthians 11 again)
I’m solidly on board with this practice. But pinning the hair up causes stress, to both hair and scalp. Please take it down every night. Give it a rest. Enjoy it. Braid it loosely, or find some fun accessories you like to wear in it.
Find a hair advisor.
I’m partly laughing, but only partly. If you know someone who’s good at hair, ask them for tips. If you’re struggling with putting your hair up well, or finding a good veil pattern, tap someone who looks like they know what they’re doing. We’re better at this than we think we are.
What am I missing? How do you manage extra-long hair?
This post contains affiliate links to products I’ve found helpful.
Yay!! I was one who requested it and yes, I still read your blog and thank you for keeping your promise :).
Maybe this is not kosher, but I love to use a flat iron on my hair occasionally. With some heat-protecting serum to add gloss, the iron makes my hair luxuriously smooth and silky and I find I don’t need to wash it as often. A good shampoo and conditioner helps a lot, too! I like the Clear brand–it comes in a big lavender bottle and I get it by the case from Amazon.
Every few months I go to a salon and my hairdresser friend and I talk about foster care while she trims and washes and irons my hair and I go home feeling refreshed in body and spirit.
Absolutely beautiful!! I love hair, all the glory that goes with it… as well as a strong belief in the head covering. You’ve worded everything so wonderfully– I’m so grateful for my long hair and beauty. Way to go enabling all of us beautiful Mennonite women. 🙂
This is a timely post. Maybe someone would have some suggestions for me. I have thick long hair. Ankle length at least. Floor length at times. I am now 25 years old (expecting our third child) and over the past 5 years have developed a large, very thin/bald patch on the back of my head. It is not noticeable to others because my thick hair and bun keep it hidden. What are your thoughts? Is this problem because I have such a large amount of hair? Do I have a deficiency? Do you have any recommendations for regrowing hair? If you want to reply to me personally at sheilayoder93 [at] gmail.com you may do so.
I too have long hair that is below my knees (there was a time it reached the floor). My thin spot started when I had a bout of fungus on my scalp. After a long struggle I got the fungus to clear up but the thin/bald spot remained. I personally know of no way to make it regrow… what I did was experiment with several bun types until I found one that puts no stress on that part of my scalp. I wear a net covering so I had to change patterns a bit as the bun is quite different but I’m super happy with the results. It will be interesting to hear if others have this problem.
On another note. There were many tips I enjoyed reading in this post, though, no thank you, I won’t quit washing my hair every day :). I may try some different shampoos and conditioners though.
One thing I have never understood and probably never will understand about Mennonite ladies is how they can apply a clipping shears to their hair and still call it un-shorn? Seems so simple to me, apply a shears of any kind and the hair has been shorn. The Bible verse says neither shorn nor shaven. The same excuses people use to cut the hair are the same excuses I’ve heard for removing the covering, dropping modesty, and cutting out nonresistance… seems if you are going to cover your hair anyway, why not go the whole way and leave it un-shorn? I know, 99% of readers here won’t agree, but I will always wonder…
Thanks for your good comment, Sherilyn, and your words for Sheila! I don’t have experience there, and I’m sorry I can’t be helpful. 🙁
In my understanding, shorn is the past tense of shear, which means to cut off, as the wool of a sheep: clearly and understandably shameful in Paul’s writing. Others’ definitions mean to cut with a sharp instrument, at all. We Anabaptists have always been a black-and-white people: everything or nothing. If a lot is bad, a little probably is too (cf. wine, despite Scripture to the contrary – haha). Personally, I believe there is nuance here. But people much smarter than I (including many who read Greek) have argued unendingly about this issue, from both sides. For this place and time I would prefer to respect differing positions, and leave it at that.
I truly believe that since the whole discussion is in the context of authority, we should ask our husbands and joyfully do what they prefer. 🙂
And to those of us who don’t have husbands? ????
Lol. Surely there is a trusted authority figure?
Yes, thankfully! Thank you!
I, too, have a bald patch like that. ???? I thought it maybe came from sleeping without taking my hair down in my younger years. I do take my hair down now to sleep & I anchor my bun lower, but the bald spot remains.
I’d like to hear any ideas that have helped others eith thid issue.
Enjoyed this post very much!
Personally, I only shampoo every 5 to 7 days, love letting it down every night, and brushing it every morning.
I read somewhere long ago, that massaging your scalp promotes good circulation and healthy hair growth- that your skin should move around and not be tight. I’ve not had issues with thin hair, but that weekly massage feels good. I also believe that our diet may or may not nourish our hair and scalp.
I prefer shampoos without sulfates. One of my favorites is triple treat tea tree oil from Giovanni. Another is a homemade Luxurious Shampoo Bar. I would like to hear what type of hair spray others like. I love the one from Lemongrass Spa, but it is expensive….
” My brethren these things ought not so to be”…that made me chuckle????
I like Lemongrass Spa too, but the price drives me back to using cheap unhealthy ones… Your comment here made me think about it again. I have been playing around with making homemade hair spray and I just mixed up a new batch after getting online and combining a few ideas I’ve seen. Here’s what I used: 1 cup boiling water, 1 T. epsom salt, 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1 T. sugar, 1 tsp alcohol, and a splash of fragrance (essential oils would be a healthier option)
Will it work? Time will tell, but in the meantime, I’m not out $15… The thought of spraying sugar water on my clean hair gives me pause, but maybe the chemicals of cheap hairspray should horrify me even more!
Thank you for sharing this recipe! I shall give it a try!
I use sugar water for hair spray for my girls and myself and it works beautifully. And it’s so cheap and simple to make. And it doesn’t leave white residue like the other hair sprays I’ve used. Try it… You might be delightfully surprised! 🙂
If anyone is following this experiment, I’m back with a report. My recipe holds well, but stays sticky for longer than I care for. I just came across a recipe in Keepers at Home that had 1/2 c. water, 2 T. alcohol, and 2 tsp. sugar. I’m thinking that if i add more alcohol that it will dry more quickly. The alcohol also helps to preserve the spray – I’m guessing white vinegar could be a substitute. After checking out the cheap hairspray bottles that we have around here, I realized that they have more alcohol than water even! I know some people don’t like the thought of alcohol on their hair, but it doesn’t bother me as much as stuff like acrylates and polymers and other unpronounceables. I’m happy to have something for my little girl now that I can spray on generously without worrying about her health and our pocketbook. .
I’ve also seen recipes that simply involve boiling lemons with water, but I haven’t tried that.
Thank you Shari for sharing your hair tips. My hair is different being African-American. I don’t shampoo often either. My hair is long but not as long as some other the other ladies here.
I use Shea Moisture Manuka Honey and Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Shampoo and it’s matching conditioner. Once a week I use the matching hair masque.
I follow my routine with Shea Moisture Coconut Oil Spray Leave-in Conditioner. I use a wide tooth comb to detangle my hair. I use a little Carol’s Daughter Mimosa Hair Honey on my hair and scalp. I put my hair in a bun before I put on my veil.
I use to put a hairnet on my entire head before I applied my covering but it got caught on a lady’s eyeglasses as she hugged me ( I’m the only one who covers) and oh how embarrassing that was since I was still self conscious about covering in the first place.
Natalie I too prefer hair products without sulfates but they are expensive. In response to Sherilyn I think trimming off the split ends is okay because I think it keeps hair healthier but I’m only speaking from my type of hair point of view. I would imagine the same is true for for other types of hair.
Oops! I’m sorry Natalia. Auto correct insisted your name is Natalie and I didn’t catch it in time.
No offense taken. It happens all the time ????
TJ Maxx is a good place to look for shampoo….they have large bottles and a better price.
Thank you Natalia. We just happen to have one in town so I will have to check it out. I usually have to go to Sally Beauty but they are expensive. I feel awkward going in there with my plain clothes and headcovering. ☺
I wash my little girls’ hair while it’s still braided, and my own as well. Then open and brush it afterward. It really helps with detangling.
I have longish (midback/waist) length hair. Thick, but fine, and STRAIGHT, I could never keep it neat because nothing would hold it and it had NO volume. Recently a friend with curly hair was saying that porous hair needs protein and non-porous hair needs oil. You can tell by how fast your hair drys. Porous hair dries fast, non porous slow. Since I can have mine still be wet hours after I washed it, even if not up… well mine is non porous. I started to apply Argan oil (from Kroger) at the temples, base of the scalp and at the ends after I wash it (2x/week) and then brush it through. My hair has more volume and shine then ever before. Don’t know why there isn’t anything online for white ladies with straight hair using oil… but it has totally revolutionized my hair care.
I asked for this blog post, because I found myself in a very difficult situation. As a conservative Mennonite woman, I had never been permitted by my church to cut my (overwhelmingly) long hair. I obediently wore it pinned up underneath my covering and in the season of caring for my babies, I did not take it down every night. My mornings were simply too overwhelming when I started them by facing that long, long hair. Gradually, a very large patch of baldness made it impossible for me to have my hair up without suffering in pain. You cannot pin hair to baldness. Furthermore, I could not lower my hair bun because the only approved style of head covering in my church is the pleated, mesh style – one that does not allow hair to be pinned low.
I believe in obedience and submission but I was in physical pain every day. What was I supposed to do with this kind of daily suffering?
Then my husband said, “You need a smaller hair bun – one that you can pin to hair instead of baldness. Let me trim it for you”.
Still, I hesitated. How could I say at Communion that ” I have peace with God and man” if I wasn’t following the church rules? How?
I do not have a good answer for this. But I allowed my husband to care for me. I chose to listen to his words and to live under his leadership.
It is a huge blessing now to live without all that pain on my bald head. It is also much easier to face my day when I can start it with a manageable amount of hair. I am glad to be a conservative Mennonite woman who is trying hard to listen to Jesus and to my husband while supporting my church as much as I possibly can.
I’m glad you allowed your husband to care you! That is Biblical! And I just want to say – Jesus loves you. He loved the woman who washed his feet with her hair and honored you. And He loves and honors you. Blessings on your journey!
I’m glad you let your husband take care of you. Before I was convicted to cover I hated the hair God gave me and my poor husband who is white patiently listened to me complain about my hair.
I love my hair now but I occasionally will long for hair like the ladies who read this blog.
As for church rules I’m not part of a church that has church standards and I’m the only one who lives Anabaptist beliefs which gets lonely to say the least.
Oh Rachel. I’m sorry. I hope you don’t feel guilty anymore for allowing your husband to care for you. I wish I could chat with you about this! 🙂
“My brethren these things ought not so to be…” =) Even though I laughed, I totally agree. It is very easy to get sloppy with proper hair care while caring for babies and having busy mornings and evenings, but it also gives such a fresh perspective to a day if my hair is properly cared for. It is our glory and I think it glorifies God when we love our hair and care for it.
I think taking your hair down every night is very important. I personally can’t imagine washing my long thick hair every day.. i have dry curlish hair and would love recommendations for natural shampoo and conditioner that doesn’t strip the oils. Every once in awhile I rub my hair down with coconut oil and then wash it like normal as it tames down the frizz.
I have a friend who has a large bald spot and puts avocado oil or castor oil on her scalp to promote regrowth. She says it came from only using a few pins and having the whole weight of her hair bun hanging on that one area. She recommends using more pins and making sure your bun is properly anchored.
Blessings to my glorious sisters!
I’ve been thinking about that thing of Anabaptists being “black and white” people. Perhaps a lot of that stems from our belief that true Christians live their faith, that sin must be repented of, that what we do or do not do really does matter. Our church leaders often look long and hard at issues, comparing scripture with scripture and drawing wisdom from the past.
Concerning “wine” my own church asks that we abstain from alcoholic drinks as a beverage, which does not exclude medicinal use. That position, I think, reflects Scriptural principles. Consider a few examples:
Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker. Strong drink is a brawler, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
Proverbs 23:31 Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup…
Romans 14:21 (thinking of alcoholics or recovered alcoholics) It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.
The line can be drawn at different places, but I truly appreciate where my own church has drawn it–thinking of my safety and that of others.
Thanks, HJoy. I am happy you are honoring the position of your authorities!
I admit as one who wants to be part of a conservative Mennonite church, I feel like I’m on the outside looking desperately in.
I blush to say I still wash my hair once a day or every other I have always had extremely oily hair and this seems to be the only way to tame it. As a teenager once I started washing my hair every day I was amazed at how beautiful it became. So I will say everyone’s hair is a little different. People keep telling me its not healthy, so I try to go longer in between washes, only to go back because of greasy dandruff. ???? My hair is to my knees and when I discovered trimming split ends and how much it helps with tangles, I was so thankful. Also I recommend a good brush. I had a Lady Catherine brush for years that I loved and still do. But recently I discovered the wet brush brand and my girls and I love it. Its designed to not pull so hard on the hair. I don’t know how it works but it does. I was amazed. Sorry this is long and I am doing it hurriedly which means I am sure a lot of typos. But great post!!
Once upon a time, I visited a classy Lancaster friend, and used her hairbrush. It was perfect for detangling my long hair, and I purchased one from an “Amish store” nearby. Years later, when I looked up the item number to replace it online, I realized it was a dog brush. It still works beautifully.
So many good words, but disappointingly, none about dandruff. I prefer sulfate-free shampoo so that rules out a lot of the classic choices. Any recommendations?
Claudia you might go to Sally Beauty for sulfate- free dandruff shampoo. I’m sure the ladies there might be able to offer some suggestions.