The (Mostly) Natural Treatments That Helped Me Grow Longer, Stronger Hair

After chopping off and bleaching my hair, I decided to grow it out AND get healthier.
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Tiye
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After chopping off and bleaching my hair, I decided to grow it out AND get healthier.

Much like my skin, my hair has had a complete overhaul on my journey to get healthy. Though I’ve worn it long most of my life, I’ve never been particularly kind to my hair.

Most of the time, I would pull it back into a ballet bun, sealed in a hard shell of Aquanet. When my hair was down, it was always frizzy and poofy and generally awkward-looking thanks to genetics and a long line of experimentations, including layers, bangs, Sun-In, red dye, and an endless parade of unnatural products promising to smooth, shine, and de-frizz.

Several years ago, after a combination of boredom and peer pressure resulted in me accidentally getting my hair cut into what can only be called a mullet, I decided to start over from scratch. Not only did I get the rest of my hair lopped off, I also decided that peroxide bleached-to-death blonde was the was the way to go.

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I Miley Cyrus-ed my hair before Miley. Actually, I was inspired by a Lula magazine photo editorial of Philippa Bywater, which I carried with me to every hair appointment I ever had for a year.

This. 

This. 

I had my blonde fun, and I got to be Edie Sedgwick for Halloween with the perfect amount of black roots peeking through; then I dyed it back to normal-ish.

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I moved to Paris for a year and had one Parisienne haircut at Toni & Guy in honor of my mother, who, to this day, maintains the fact that she was the first American ever to get a shag haircut while touring Paris in the '60s, initiating the entire trend stateside (or at least in New Jersey). I decided I was more of an Anna Karina than a Jean Seberg, so I started growing out my hair and moved back to NYC.

This period coincided with me finding a healthier lifestyle. I was going to be better to my hair than I was in the past. I was going to treat it with care and attempt to tame its natural awkwardness. I had really been quite a bitch to my hair, so this was my opportunity to start pampering it.

I decided to start experimenting with hair masks. My one major qualm was that my hairline is prone to breakouts, so I needed to find a balance of hair treatments that were good for my hair, but also sensitive to my temperamental skin.

While my hair was still short, I started using Burt’s Bees Avocado Butter Pre-Shampoo Hair Treatment once a week. It’s light enough that I wasn’t afraid to use it so close to my scalp.

This mask is also great because it doesn’t drip, so you can wear it while you’re doing yoga or taking a sauna or watching a House Hunters International marathon--whatever your heart desires.

Despite the name, the main ingredient in this mask is olive oil. Olive oil stops the production of a hormone called DTH, which can contribute to hair loss. Olive oil is also antifungal, antibacterial, and improves circulation, which aids in hair growth.

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Once my hair had grown past bob length, I fell into the Moroccanoil trend. I started using Moroccanoil Intense Hydrating Mask on the ends of my hair. It feels really heavy, but it does make my hair silky-smooth and detangled and shiny.

Argan oil is rich in vitamin E as well as omega 3 and 9 fatty acids. It can improve the elasticity of your hair and add shine. But while this mask is paraben-free, all-natural it is not. The main natural attraction, argan oil, is, unfortunately, low down on the ingredient list.

It worked great, but now that I’m all about a more natural approach, Josie Maran Argan Oil is on my wish list.

I discovered Shiseido Tsubaki Head Spa on a rainy day Okinawa. It was probably the name that attracted me initially; after weeks of traveling around Japan, I felt like my head really needed a spa. I’ve continued to use this mask off and on in the last year of growing out my hair.

Do you ever get the feeling that your hair is extremely dry yet oily at the same time? This mask fixes that overall grossness giving me softer more even hair. This is also a great example of me being in total denial about my beauty products because every instruction and ingredient on my bottle is written in Japanese.

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However, when I looked up the ingredients, it turned out that this is a relatively harmless product. The main natural takeaway is sage oil, which balances scalp oils and stimulates hair growth; but I would advise against going totally natural with sage oil as it can have some serious side effects in high doses.

Four years later, my hair is long and, most important, manageable. I still use olive oil masks on my hair regularly because, at this point, I have a ton of hair and the price is right. But besides that, olive oil just seems to be the most effective treatment that I’ve tried over the years.

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Along with hair masks, I air-dry my hair, use styling tools very sparingly, change up my shampoos regularly, and consume a lot of healthy fats from avocados, coconuts and chia seeds; plus, I take fish oil supplements.

I strongly believe that my diet affects the speed at which my hair grows, and all of these hair treatments have helped me manage the awkward in-between phases that come and go between any lengths.