How to Grow Hip Length Hair | Historical, Natural Routine (Loads More Tips!)
Updated: Dec 8, 2022
Wow. So it turns out that a LOT of you are interested in historical, natural hair care, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. In this article, I will be sharing all the things you need to know when starting this routine, especially if you have a different hair type than mine, or are transitioning over from conventional shampoos and other products. For the full historical, natural hair care routine, be sure it to read it here.
For the list of hair products I recommend, check it out here.
If you are new here, hi! I’m Katherine, I have been running this historical and vintage sewing and shoe-making blog since early 2020. During that time, I have been quietly embarked on my own hair growth journey. 6 years ago, I cut off all my hair to chin length, and now it is hip length after a lifetime of never being able to grow long or healthy hair, and having hair that remained stuck at the same length. In my first article, I shared how turning to historical, traditional, and natural means of caring for my hair has made a world of difference. Surprise, it turns out, tons of you are just as interested in this topic as I am! So here I am, making a follow up article.
This article will cover several topics, including:
The main historical hair care tool I think everyone should have in their arsenal
My tips for those with finer or straighter hair types who would like to implement this routine
What you need to know about hair growth vs hair length retention
The importance of a specific type of hair rinse
Finally, keep reading until the end when I will share the one supplement I have been personally using for four years, that has seriously increased my rate of hair growth. Hint: it has to do with your body's keratin production.
This is going to be another longer article, because there is just so much traditional, natural hair care information that I think many of you will find helpful as you embark on your own natural hair care journeys. Feel free to jump around to whatever interests you. Going forward, I will be writing more hair care articles, alternated with my sewing and shoemaking content, and those hair care articles will be shorter and more topical, with each one focussed on a specific topic and technique that relates to historical and natural hair care. So there will be something for everyone!
If you missed my last blog post, first of all, check it out! But a quick recap: I have had curly, dry hair my entire life that I struggled to grow long, despite desperately wanting to. Finally, I reached a 'breaking point' (no pun intended!) with my hair where I had lost several inches of length to breakage, had very unhealthy ends and uneven length, and finally decided to chop off my hair to chin length. Then, after doing a ton of research, trial and error, I decided to drastically change my hair routine to a natural, historically inspired routine that women all over the world have been using variations of for centuries to grow long healthy hair.
Read about that full routine here. Now, after 6 years, my hair has grown from chin length to HIP length, which is longer than it has ever been, and the ends have never been more even and healthy. To put this in perspective, prior to using this routine, I had gone through a period of never even trimming my hair for about 5 years, in which time my length maybe gained an inch or two, which then broke off even shorter later.
Even though many of the the hair care techniques that have helped grow my hair have been used by women of all ethnicities and cultural traditions throughout history, in varying ways, I have learned a lot from a couple specific groups and ethnicities who are still using many of these techniques to this day, and are very generous with their knowledge.
A Nod to the Natural Kinky Hair Community
I would like to give a nod to the natural kinky hair community, especially those on YouTube, because that is how I initially learned a lot of the practical elements of my current hair care routine, especially the finger detangling, and the clay washes. I will link a few channels in the description that I have watched the most. They are one of the only communities still practicing natural gentle hair care methods that allow the hair to grow - especially more dry curly hair types like mine.
Why is this? While straighter haired people have largely been able to get away with using modern bottled commercial products that strip hair oils, natural kinky hair dries out much more easily, breaks more easily, and requires drastically different care than those with straight hair.
My own sister Ellie, who is an amazing singer (check out her YouTube channel) has 4C hair and I have helped care for it, so I know! My own hair doesn’t fit into either the kinky or straight haired demographic, but is closer to the natural kinky hair end of the spectrum, which is probably why I have gravitated towards this community on Youtube for my own learning. But the beautiful thing about these hair care methods are that with a couple alterations, they can work wonders for straight hair as well, because if these techniques can grow 4C hair, they can grow straight hair too! I will speak more later in this video to the question of how my natural historical hair care routine can be altered for different hair and scalp types.
A Nod to Ayurvedic Hair Traditions
I have also learned a lot about growing long hair from the Indian and Ayurvedic community. The Ayurvedic community is partially responsible for popularizing the concept of regular hair and scalp oiling, as well as using certain herbs in the hair, such as henna and amla. These are in my own hair and scalp oil blend that I use, that promote healthy long hair.
Actually, I love Ayurvedic medicine in general, and it would make a great topic for a future hair care article. Ayurveda places an emphasis on using healthy oils both internally and externally to balance different body types. They teach that different oils have different qualities which would are helpful for certain constitutions and hair types. In fact, the word in Sanskrit for oil, sneha, also means love, and I think this is a beautiful picture. Every time I spread oil on my hair ends or do a scalp oil treatment, I visualize that I am spreading a form of visceral, physical love on my hair and scalp, bringing life force and nourishment to the area.
So now let’s jump into something that is very important to know about hair . . .
Length Retention vs. Hair Growth
Okay, we need to talk about the elephant in the room. If we are simply wanting to grow longer hair, and grow it faster, and we all know that hair grows out of our scalp, why on earth are we talking so much about the ends of our hair, and about handling and detangling our hair gently? The reason is this . . .
Growing long hair is inherently intertwined with our hair length retention - ie. not just how much hair we can get to grow out of our scalp, but how well we can care for the length of hair we do have, to prevent the ends from breaking off. I have experienced in my own personal hair journey, that for many years, although my hair was consistently growing from my scalp - 99% of people’s hair is always growing to some degree - I never realized any extra length because as fast as my hair was growing from the scalp, it was breaking off at the ends due to the improper way I was caring for my hair. This included the way I detangled my hair - while soaking wet in the shower - which is how most curly haired people are instructed to detangle their hair. While this approach does have some advantages, like helping to define curls, it is generally not good for the long term health of the hair, as hair is weakened while wet and should be handled as little as possible to avoid breakage. If you are using this approach and it works for you, great! It just doesn't work for me.
In fact, throughout much of history, women mainly dry detangled their hair, mostly due to the fact that they didn’t wash their hair very often. In my opinion, wet detangling probably began being pushed in the 20th century by hair product companies, especially for curly haired people like me, in order to sell more hair products, like conditioner, which curly haired people need to use a TON of in order to properly wet detangle their hair.
There were periods of time even after I started using hair growth promoting practices, like scalp massage and oil treatments, where I knew my hair was growing from the scalp, but I wasn’t actually seeing the length of my hair increase, because I was still wet detangling my hair which was obviously continuing to cause the ends to break off. When I switched to dry detangling my hair, using only my fingers in order to promote length retention, that was when I started seeing my hair length increase dramatically.
In my previous article, I share with you how I use oil throughout the week to protect and seal my hair ends. This winter, I have been using a mixture of jojoba oil and shea butter. If you have longer hair that likely has drier more fragile ends, this is a great thing to do, especially if you are wearing your hair up in a protective style, because any potential greasiness won’t show. I keep it super simple and just keep a bottle of jojoba oil and a container of raw shea butter in my bathroom cupboard, and mix them in my hand before applying to my ends. The reason to do this when the hair is damp is that you are sealing in the moisture which keeps your ends healthy and supple. You can also do this with a light oil throughout the week, which I personally do when dry finger detangling my hair in the evenings.
Some people, when sealing their ends throughout the week, choose to lightly mist their hair with water first, and then apply the oil. I do this sometimes, but not usually because any time I wet my hair it creates new tangles. The oil itself, even though it doesn’t contain moisture, generally does a good job at keeping my ends healthy and protected, especially when my hair is tucked away in a protective style most days. If you have fine hair that is easily weighed down, you will want to stick to only very light oils, and use a very small amount for this. If your hair can’t tolerate any oil at all, you could even try some aloe vera juice in a spray bottle misted on your hair - it would be better than nothing!
Boar Bristle Brushing
Have you ever had the experience of teaching someone else about something, and actually re-learning yourself in the process? Well, that was exactly what happened to me during the process of researching my last historical hair care article, and also communicating with many of you about how best to implement this kind of routine for your own hair. What did I re-learn the value of?
Boar bristle brushing your hair! I have been familiar with the hair care benefits of boar bristle brushing since about 6 years ago when I first cut my hair and began my historical hair care routine, but I have been quite on and off with it simply because it has been challenging to figure out how to make it work with my specific curly hair type. Right now, let’s give a quick mini crash course on boar bristle brushing.
First, what is a boar bristle brush? It is a hair brush which, instead of having plastic, nylon, or wooden bristles, has many densely spaced boar bristles - and yes, by boar bristles I mean literal pig hairs. Crazy, I know. This may obviously be a problem if you are vegan, or wish to avoid pig products. But the cool thing about boar bristles is that they are literal hairs, albeit much stiffer hairs than ours, that we can use to brush our own hair with. If we are talking about a 100% boar bristle brush, not having nylon bristles mixed with it, it is really a completely different thing than regular brushing.
Regular brushes contain relatively distantly spaced, very rigid bristles that are meant to penetrate into the hair and to remove tangles that way. A 100% boar bristle brush, on the other hand, does not penetrate into the hair, but mostly sails down the surface layer of the hair, smoothing down the individual hair cuticles, removing dust or debris from the hair. Because it works on more of a surface level, I have some important tips about how to use it properly. Keep reading for that. A boar bristle brush does one other very important thing . . .
A boar bristle brush is literally the historical equivalent of dry shampoo, in that it alleviates oiliness at the scalp, but it does so by drawing your natural scalp oils and sebum down the rest of the hair shaft. This is a super amazing benefit of boar bristle brushing, because your own natural scalp oils and sebum are the ultimate hair conditioning product for your own hair. Seriously - there is no store bought oil that can compete with your own natural scalp oils. I know that from a modern western perspective, that probably sounds gross to a lot of people, because we are trained to think that all natural skin oils are bad, and something to be removed. But actually, your own natural scalp oils are LIFE to your hair. That is why, for someone like me with curly hair, my own natural scalp oils have a harder time travelling down my hair shaft, and I need to supplement the ends of my hair with jojoba oil, which closely resembles human sebum.
Before we go any further, we need to discuss the different types of boar bristle brushes and their applications. There are two main types: 100% boar bristles, and mixed boar bristle brushes. The mixed boar bristle brushes contain evenly spaced nylon bristles mixed throughout the boar bristles. Sometimes you will see wooden bristles instead of nylon. The main point is that these nylon or wooden bristles are stiffer and probably a bit longer than the boar bristles, so they penetrate into the hair more, detangling as you get the benefits of boar bristles. Typically, these mixed brushes are recommended for someone like me with thicker hair, while the 100% boar bristle brushes are recommended for thinner, finer hair types. A well known example of a mixed boar bristle brush is the Denman brush. So, why do I choose to own and use a 100% boar bristle brush, even though I have thick hair? This is the answer . . .
I have in the past owned and used a mixed boar bristle brush, and frankly I used it until it broke. It was a close replica to the Denman brush. However, I chose to replace it with a 100% boar bristle brush because at this point I was moving more into the philosophy of gentle hair detangling, and finger detangling. And when you hear about historical women doing their proverbial “100 strokes” with a hair brush in their hair before bed, that was with a soft 100% boar bristle brush. So they were able to do many strokes of the brush in their hair, reaping the benefits of this kind of brush, without having to worry about stiffer bristles damaging their hair in the process. Historically, at least in the west, the only type of hair brush we see the women using was a 100% boar bristle brush, and it is often referenced in historical hair care manuals as being a great way to clean and stimulate the scalp, clean the hair, increase shine, and condition the hair, all without having to use water and go through bottle after bottle of hair product.
That being said, if they had thicker hair they would first usually detangle their hair using a wide tooth wooden comb before moving to the brush. So it is up to you, if you are interested in boar bristle brushing, which kind you choose to get. Personally, I recommend the 100% boar bristle brush because that way you can deal with detangling the hair separately from getting the benefits of boar bristle brushing, which is more like a hair treatment than a detangling method.
So now I will be explaining how I make a 100% boar bristle brush work for my thick hair, even though it doesn’t penetrate all the way into the hair. For the full demo, watch the video. Frankly, my interest in really figuring this out became reignited after researching and making my last hair care video. Right off the bat, I will say that for my curly hair, I won’t even attempt boar bristle brushing until later in the week, when my curl definition has stretched out a bit through time and regular light oil application and finger detangling. So it is already easier to get the brush in here without causing a tangled, matted mess.
I will also make a big disclaimer. In this demo, my hair is visibly somewhat oily, not from my scalp oils, because my hair basically never becomes oily naturally, but simply through the oil I have been applying throughout the week as I finger detangle and do protective styles. This particular week I went a bit more heavy with my jojoba oil and also mixed it with shea butter, because it has been cold and windy here in Canada, and I have been wearing my hair up in protective styles every day so a little oil doesn’t show. This is also a great demo of how boar bristle brushing can help those with more oily hair and scalp, and help you widen the gap between wash days. I will say that as there is literal shea butter in my hair in the following clips, the boar bristle brush would actually do a much more effective job at reducing visible greasiness if all you are dealing with is your natural scalp oils, which are much lighter than shea butter.
I do not use a wooden comb beforehand like straight haired historical women did, but rather I first finger-detangle my hair while dry, and then move into boar bristle brushing my hair in small sections, making sure to brush from my scalp down to the ends. Because the 100% boar bristle brush doesn’t penetrate into the hair to remove tangles, if there are any significant tangles in the hair when you go in with the brush, you will probably matt it up more. So if at any point I feel a tangle, I put down the brush, get the tangle out with my fingers, and then brush again.
The great thing about boar bristle brushing for my hair type is that I have different textures of hair on my head. I like to think of this as a visual reminder of the different genetics of my ancestors. The hair in the front is straighter and any oil I do get at my scalp tends to be in this area. The hair in the back is more dry, prone to breakage, and curlier, so once I have brushed the front section and the brush has picked up the scalp oils from that area, I then move into brushing the drier sections, which brings the oils to this area and conditions it. That’s it! I usually do this in the evening before braiding my hair for the night, but another great application of a boar bristle brush is if you are putting your hair into any updo or even ponytail, you can use the brush to “sleek up” your edges and get the hairs all going in the direction you want.
Now let's discuss the importance of apple cider vinegar hair rinses . . .
The Importance of Apple Cider Vinegar
Do you smell that? Oh yeah, it’s just my vinegar hair rinse. Just kidding! That is one main misconception of apple cider vinegar rinses, that they will make your hair smell like vinegar. In my experience, that is definitely not the case, so no fear! Let’s talk about the importance of using the apple cider vinegar rinse, especially if you are switching from conventional shampoos to using a clay wash or other no-poo method. The thing about conventional shampoos, is that even though they can often contain harsh chemicals, and strip our hair oils, they are a convenient, all in one product, that can leave your hair feeling soft, at least for a time. If you are switching to the rhassoul clay hair wash that I outlined in my first hair care video, I want to stress to you the importance of using an ACV rinse at the end of your wash routine.
For me, I apply it to my scalp and hair using a hair squeeze bottle with applicator tip after having rinsed out my natural hair conditioner. I let it sit for a minute, and then I rinse it out. I can speak first-hand to the benefits of using this, because I am just recently coming out of a phase of having "lazed out" on the ACV rinse, and only used the clay wash. Coming back to using the ACV rinse at the end of my routine has re-shown me the benefits of this - less tangles, more shine, etc. How does apple cider vinegar have these benefits for the hair?
Well, if you are cleaning your hair with rhassoul clay like me, or really any no-poo method, even a natural soap, the ACV rinse is essential to completing the washing of your hair. First of all, it is a pH balancer - the pH that your hair needs to seal off the cuticle is naturally mildly acidic, which is why vinegar works so well for this. Balancing the pH means that the cuticle is closed, so the hair becomes more shiny. ACV also softens the hair, which can be an especially important step to pair with the rhassoul clay, which is so nourishing to the hair, and defining to my curls specifically, that it could potentially leave the hair feeling a little too stiff - albeit in a healthy moisturized way. Still, the ACV is amazing at softening the hair, as well as completing the washing process.
For example, I do a pre-wash treatment of relatively heavy oils in my hair before doing my rhassoul clay wash. Although the rhassoul clay cleans these oils like a champ, the ACV rinse is a good insurance policy to make sure any residual oil is likewise cleaned from my hair, since vinegar gently de-greases. Also, sometimes the rhassoul clay itself needs to be cleansed a little bit more from off the hair. When I went through my phase of skipping the ACV rinse, I found that after my hair had dried I would sometimes notice a little bit of powdery residue left over from the clay. The ACV rinse prevents this from happening, as its acidic nature works wonders at cleansing out the mineral rich clay.
ACV hair rinses are also great for scalp health - personally, one of my scalp issues that I deal with is dandruff, which can be caused by a number of factors, but the ACV is amazing at preventing and gently treating dandruff, especially if you mix in several drops of an essential oil like lavender, tea tree, or peppermint. It also promotes hair growth by stimulating blood circulation to the scalp, and cleansing away any debris or build up that could be impeding the full functioning of your hair follicles.
The Dreaded Transition Period
So many of you have reached out to tell me that you are switching over to the rhassoul clay wash, and the other historical hair care tenets that I talked about on my previous article! This is wonderful! However, I have a word of light warning for you. . .
If you are switching over from conventional shampoos and hair products, you may experience something we talk about in the no-poo community, which is the dreaded "transition period". Basically, the principle of this is that for some people, not everyone, on removing these chemically based products, and switching to a nourishing, natural hair care routine, something may initially occur. Your hair may feel worse before it feels better. I hate to say it, but I would rather be able to say that I warned you. Don’t worry! It is temporary. This can happen for a number of reasons.
The main possible reason for a transition period is that your hair and especially your scalp may be literally detoxing. Especially if you have been using straight-up conventional products with sulfates and silicones, and then you stop using those, your hair and scalp will be relieved, and they will say, “ah! we can finally start releasing all of this gunk out of here!”
In the process of that detox, your hair and scalp may feel temporarily worse. Another reason for this is that if you have been using conventional shampoos with sulfates, your scalp will have been working hard to acclimate to this by producing extra oil. During the transition period, your scalp needs to adjust to the fact that you are no longer stripping away its natural oils so harshly or often, and therefore you may deal with an overproduction of oil for a time. You could simply use the clay wash more often than once a week during this time, be sure to use your ACV rinse, and be sure to use your boar bristle brush to soak up any extra oils. You could also opt for a more gradual approach of phasing out your conventional shampoo.
If you have curly, dry hair like mine and you have been relying on conventional conditioners and styling products, especially those that contain silicones, you may likewise experience a transitional period, not just as your hair adjusts, but as you adjust to learning what kind of care your hair needs to stay healthy and manageable while eliminating these styling products or silicone containing products that coat the hair. You could also opt for a gradual process of removing these products to ease this transition. To learn about my own hair transition experience after removing my curly hair styling products, watch the previous hair care video. But don’t worry, your experience hopefully shouldn’t lead to a chin length hair cut like mine did, since I can now share what I learned with you all about hair care!
A final reason why you may experience a transition period is simply as you are learning what your own hair likes when it comes to a natural, historically inspired routine. The routine I have outlined in my videos is by no means "gospel". There are so many natural possibilities of hair care out there, different recipes, different approaches, and you really can view it as an adventure you are setting out on. Your hair type is unique, and the routine you develop will likewise be unique! So now, I would like to give a couple notes that specifically apply to the rhassoul clay wash, and the ACV rinse that should help you avoid pitfalls!
When it comes to the rhassoul clay wash, make sure it is quite watery! The recipe I started out with was 1/4 cup of clay powder to 2 cups of water or a mix of water and aloe vera juice. This still cleans the hair extremely well, but it rinses out easily, which is important. If your clay mixture is too thick, I can guarantee that you will have a hard time rinsing it out of your hair, and your hair may end up feeling crispy at the roots from the clay drying there. When I started with clay washes, I made the mistake of mixing it with a mud-like texture, and it caused build up in my hair. So make sure it is watery, and that the lumps are all taken out!
For the ACV rinse, it is a potent strengthening treatment for the hair, which means that if you don’t dilute the vinegar enough, and your hair isn’t accustomed to it, your hair may feel brittle afterward. There is definitely a sweet spot when it comes to this, and better safe than sorry! Start off with a very small amount of vinegar, so the water is just barely coloured with it. Once your hair is accustomed to it, you can build up a bit in intensity. You may also want to rinse out the ACV rinse afterward to be sure you don’t overdue it.
Technically speaking, the rhassoul clay itself is also a hair strengthener, though in a more gentle manner than most commercial hair protein treatments. As you are beginning with the clay wash, you may want to ease your hair into it by alternating a clay wash with whatever method you were using before, just to give your hair time to adjust to the extra nourishment it is getting from the clay!
Are Clay Washes and Vinegar Rinses Safe for Colour-Treated Hair?
I have been asked this a few times, and to be honest, I don't have a clear cut answer for you. Partly, this is because I myself have never dyed my hair and therefore lack experience. Secondly, it depends on what you mean by "safe" for colour treated hair. If you are asking if these natural products will suddenly change your hair to a strange colour, my answer is: almost certainly not. However, always do a strand test first.
If, on the other hand, you are asking if these products may strip away some of your dyed hair colour, the answer is: it's mildly possible. I say "mildly", because although clay and vinegar on their own can potentially strip away some colour since they are detoxifying ingredients, we are using very diluted mixtures of these ingredients so it is quite likely they will not have an effect. However, always do a strand test first to be safe!
What Natural Conditioner Do I Use?
Many of you have asked me what natural brand of conditioner I personally use. First of all, I am not sponsored by this company. I just honestly love their products, because unlike most commercial "natural" products that throw a few essential oils and herbs into an otherwise chemically-based soup, this company actually produces hair products that are truly natural, made almost entirely from natural oils and herbal extracts. Drumroll please! The company is called Calia Natural. They are Canadian, as am I, and they include different blends of essential oils in many of their hair care products to help balance different hair types.
One reason I didn’t place a big emphasis on the conditioner I use in my first hair care article though, is because I am proud to say that with my new historically inspired hair care routine, conditioner no longer holds such a vital role in my routine. In fact, for the first three years at least after cutting my hair, I didn’t buy any conditioner. Rather, I would either mix my own deep conditioning masques using ingredients from my kitchen. Often, I would not feel the need for any extra conditioning treatments since my hair often felt deeply moisturized already from the deep oil masques I used before washing. That being said, it is nice to have a commercial conditioner brand I can trust, as it conveniently adds extra moisture to my hair.
Tips for Finer, Straighter, or Oily Hair Types
What if you want to incorporate some of these natural, historical hair care tenets, but have a finer or straighter hair type than me? Here I will give a few of my own tips, but my first tip is to be flexible, and see what works for your own hair! We all have unique hair types. If you take anything away from these natural hair care ar