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.