Embrace the awkward growth
“If you want to grow your hair, you need to grow it at least 6 months and then see how it is settling in,” says Arriola. “Then start giving it some shape. If you cut it too much at the start and worry too much about the shape, then you might get frustrated.” He warns that, yes, you might look funny for a few months. And while it’s not going to set you back too much if you clean up around the ears and neckline, you want to resist any major cuts that start to reshape and redefine your hair. Keep your eyes on the prize, which is many months down the road.
Start shaping it after 6 months
After that initial growth spurt, then you can see a stylist (not a barber) who will help layer and texture your hair in a way that flatters you while it grows. This will also give it shape for the growth ahead, as opposed to continuing growth without any redirection. (That’s what the cavemen did.)
Shampoo every other day
“I personally shampoo my hair three times a week,” says Arriola, who has long, curly hair. That amounts to an every-other-day washing. Arriola says this will keep the scalp clean and clear, and allow for healthy, strong hair growth in the meantime. You don’t want to wash every day, or you risk dehydrating the hair and getting breakage. But especially if you’re putting lots of products in there every day—or hitting the gym, or are prone to dandruff or excess oil production—then it’s good to reset the canvas a few times a week.
Carlos Arriola knows good hair!
Dial up the conditioner
“Conditioner will help you to have smooth, soft, shiny hair,” Arriola says. You can use it more liberally if you like (especially if you’re washing frequently) but Arriola chooses to use it just a few times a week as well. It’s always good to follow a shampoo with a conditioner, because it can add nutrients and moisture back into the hair (while shampoo can reduce natural moisture levels and leave hair dry and fragile). Conditioning frequently while growing will also help keep the hair from frizzing, and from splitting at the ends.
Use heat protection if you must blow dry
Air drying your hair is best, Arriola says. “If you don’t need to use a blow dryer, then don’t. The heat only damages the hair. However, if you are going to use it, you need heat protection. Arriola prefers heat protection products in spray form for his curly hair, but it always depends on your hair type. Creams, serums, and oils are effective too.
“For any type of hot tool, either curling iron, blow dryer, or hair straightener, always use protection,” Arriola stresses. He has another tip for anyone who does use a hair dryer: “Don’t use maximum heat. Use the maximum speed and medium heat. You don’t need that much heat. An excess of heat will decrease shine. On high speed with medium heat, it will still dry fast, with far less damage.” It’s worth considering getting an ionic hair dryer, too, which will safely dry the hair from the inner cuticle outward, instead of frying and damaging the outer sheath of the hair.
Supplement your diet
Arriola suggests ingesting an array of vitamins and nutrients—perhaps as supplements—in order to promote strong, quick growth. He likes hydrolyzed collagen, biotin, folic acid, and zinc for healthy hair growth.
Do a weekly hair mask
One of his favorite ultra-nourishing products to use is a weekly leave-in hair treatment (a mask or leave-in conditioner for added nourishment). “I love ones with argan oil especially,” he says. “A hair mask that you can use once a week will be really good, especially if you choose one that is for your hair type, like a curl cream for curls, or if you have dry hair, use one that targets that issue.” You can also try doing a deep treatment with your favorite hair oil.
Use elastic hair ties, and don’t pull hair back too tight
While nobody is forcing you to wear scrunchies, it’s highly suggested you steer clear from DIY hair ties, like rubber bands. “If you have long hair and are using hair ties, use the ones that are actually meant for hair,” Arriola says. “Rubber bands can tangle more easily and will damage your hair for sure.” Lastly, don’t tie your hair back too taut, or you risk what’s called “traction alopecia”, a permanent loss of hair starting at the hairline, from the stress of being pulled too tight. You’ll notice an ever-receding hairline, far faster than if you let it recede naturally with age. So, keep those man-buns loose.