Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 1/10/2022
Long hair on a man can be a beautiful thing. From the Fabio era to the musicians of the last 70 years, all the way up to Jason Momoa and other notable modern movie stars, there have been many examples of how to rock long locks on a higher level.
But keeping your hair longer takes more than just a guitar to pull off — longer locks require more and more love, and the longer it gets, the less room there is for error.
We applaud the guys who can really rock a man bun, or elegantly flowing locks reaching down over their shoulders. But to prevent those long locks from looking limp and languid, you need to stick with a healthy hair care routine.
Otherwise, a handful of crispy, broken hair can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back between a pop look and a sickly one.
Regardless of whether your hair is buzzed or back length, you have some things in common with everyone with hair. We all have approximately 100,000 hairs on our heads, and lose dozens a day as a normal part of healthy scalp function.
Your hair does this as the final phase of a three-phase hair growth cycle, including the anagen phase, the catagen phase and the telogen phase.
Hair grows in the anagen phase, prepares for the end of its cycle like a leaf in autumn in the catagen phase and in the telogen phase, it falls out, letting the follicle rest until it’s time to get back to work in the anagen phase again.
This very normal system is interrupted or permanently halted by hair loss, which can come from any number of external or internal risk factors.
Having long hair doesn’t change the hair growth cycle. What makes long hair different, simply, is the amount of follicles that you’re trying to protect.
Your hair’s health and longevity can be reduced down to the health of one crucial element of the follicle: the cuticle. The cuticle is the outermost layer of the hair follicle, and it’s built like armor to protect the inner, more fragile parts of the hair fiber.
The longer hair type has simply had more of its cuticle exposed to the elements, and for longer. That means that it has been weathered for longer, exposed to sun for longer and damaged more extensively in most cases.
Research has shown that when viewed under a microscope, hair damage is progressive and less apparent closer to the root where the follicle is newer. Meanwhile the cuticle is more damaged and ineffective the farther you go toward the end of the follicle.
Regardless of whether you have straight hair, curly hair or wavy hair, cuticle damage and long hair are simply variables in an equation, and the longer the follicle gets, the more damage it will have to contend with.
So what does that mean for your daily hair care? Well, nothing and everything. You don’t have to do anything differently — you just have to do it more diligently, for longer.
While long hair may be susceptible to more damage risks and sources of damage over time, taking care of it is actually no different from caring for hair of other lengths. A long hair shaft simply has more length to care for.
Your hair care is a mixture of preventative and responsive maintenance. Things like thin hair and low volume can be addressed with simple over-the-counter tools like hair thickening shampoo).
Since your hair is growing every day, there’s always an opportunity to make the next inch stronger. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), you can prevent hair damage and strengthen your hair in any of the following ways:
Washing your hair frequently may keep it clean, but the AAD says that cleanliness could be coming at the expense of natural oils your hair needs to stay strong.
When you do use regular shampoo, the AAD says to wash your scalp and let the soapy water run down the length of your hair, because it’s easier on your strands.
Damaged hair can be prevented with hair products like a good conditioner that will moisturize your hair and replenish the hair oil you washed away.
Towel rubbing wet hair can cause damage to your follicles, and the more aggressive you are, the more likely you are to cause friction and splitting. Letting your hair dry is the best option, but if you do use a towel, use it gently and squeeze, rather than buff.
Style long hair at your own risk. Any chemical or heat source that heats, burns, stretches or otherwise harms your hair can cause damage that will make it more brittle and lower your hair’s moisture.
Brushing it can also do this, as can tight man buns — a condition called traction alopecia. So, resist the urge for that two-foot mohawk if you can help it.
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Heating in any way is bad for your hair. Styling, straightening or even using a hair dryer can cause damage to the cuticle, leading to more brittle hair strands that aren’t going to reach your shoulders without breaking.
Hair loss, thinning hair and receding hairlines are all a signal that you might have bigger issues, and they might go beyond a damaged cuticle or dry hair.
Vitamins might also help, but contact your healthcare professional for guidance — different problems require different solutions.
Long hair may not present any unique problems in terms of hair care, but one of the things we can confirm is that, like any other asset you have, it needs to be cared for, with the long haul in mind.
Those long locks require the same upkeep as shorter hair, but with an increasing amount on the line as every month (and inch) passes, you have to take care of it.
Whether you’re just looking for some extra tips, or confirming what you already know, hopefully you found something helpful here.
If your problems seem bigger than a few split ends and damaged cuticles, though, you may want to take caring for your mane to the next level, and consult a healthcare professional with any lingering questions or concerns.
If you’re seeing signs of hair thinning or hair loss, they may tell you to back off on the tight ponytails, hair ties and hair bands. This will ensure that your hair is healthy in the moment, and with the future in mind.
Talking to a healthcare provider can also mean the difference between stopping hair loss in its tracks, or having to take those elven locks down to a combo skull up top, party in the back half-bald mullet.
If you’re the least bit worried about those issues, talk to someone today, so that your time with long, healthy locks isn’t cut short.