Growing out your hair is kind of like getting in shape. You’re bursting with enthusiasm in the beginning because you’re fantasizing about how awesome the end result will look. But once the initial excitement wears off, you start to feel discouraged and wonder why you’re doing this in the first place.
The time frames for a six-pack and luscious locks are roughly the same too, depending on your starting point. On average, the hair on your head grows half an inch per month, or six inches per year. If you have straight hair, it’ll need to be roughly 12 inches to reach your shoulders and 16 inches if you have curly hair.
According to our napkin math, that means you’re looking at six months to a year before having what most consider “long” hair (which is going to look great with that six-pack, by the way). Indeed, your patience and sanity will be tested. But like all great things in life, long hair is worth the wait.
Now that all the quitters with crew cuts have clicked away, let’s cover six rules for growing out your hair as a guy. If you follow them, you’ll be on Noah Syndergaard’s level before you know it.
1. Talk to a Barber or Hairstylist
You’ve probably heard that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We say the journey to fierce flow begins with a visit to a barber or hairstylist (or at least it should).
We polled our Instagram followers who have grown their hair out to see if they asked for professional advice or took matters into their own hands—it appears our fans are fiercely independent.
You’re probably wondering why you need to divulge your hair goals to anybody. Can’t you just let it grow wild and free? Sure, you can—and you’ll probably be fine. But if you show a barber/stylist the look you’re trying to achieve, they can help you “prep” your hair so it doesn’t look unruly as it gets longer. This usually involves a quick trim to help it lay properly as it grows.
Over the next several months, you can go back in for maintenance trims so it doesn’t look like there’s a bird’s nest on your head (more on that later).
2. Ditch Your Shampoo
If you consult Google about growing out your hair, you might see advice like “limit shampooing to 2-3 times per week.” 76% of our long-haired followers took this as gospel. But there’s a better way to wash.
The vast majority of shampoo you find at supermarkets contains harsh chemicals that strip away your hair’s natural oils and proteins. The main culprit is sodium lauryl sulfate, which makes shampoo (as well as laundry detergent and toothpaste) lather up. This stuff cleans your hair, but dries and weakens it in the process. In fact, this study found that hair treated with sulfates loses seven times more protein than treating it with water alone.
Of course, you can’t stop washing your hair for a year or more. That’s where a shampoo alternative like Modern Mammals comes in. This rinse gets rid of gunk, but it’s sulfate-free so you can maintain your hair’s natural moisture.
The more hair you have, the more noticeable it’ll be if you get brittle, frizzy, poofy “shampoo hair.” Don’t let that neon-colored goop sabotage your flow.
3. Schedule a Few Maintenance Trims
We know this sounds counterintuitive, but trust us: you’ll benefit from a few maintenance trims on your way to long hair—especially if you want to look somewhat presentable. This was the most polarizing topic for our followers, with a near 50-50 split.
We understand the hesitation here. But keep in mind you’re not getting a full-blown haircut that ruins your progress. The barber or stylist will just trim, texturize, and layer in a few key areas to make sure you don’t look like a barbarian. Instead of looking unruly, you’ll have a legitimate hairstyle to tide you over.
Depending on how fast your hair grows, consider going in every couple of months. “You only need maybe half an inch off if it’s already long or just the ends and the neck cleaned up if you’re trying to grow it even longer,” says one barber on Reddit. “Keep it in that cycle and when you’ve got it to a point that looks good you can either grow it more to see where it stops being manageable, or you can get it cut to that same length every time you go back to the salon.”
4. Endure the “Awkward Stage”
Almost every guy we talk to about growing their hair out mentions the dreaded few months where their hair was neither short nor long. This is called the “awkward stage” and it takes creativity (but mostly patience) to navigate.
When we asked the people how they coped, many said wearing a hat kept their hair out of their eyes and face. That also saved them from having to actually style their hair. Beanies work too, plus they keep your head warm in the winter months. And when you’re working out, use a headband. You can channel your inner Rafael Nadal.
Whatever you do, don’t cave and get a haircut. Once you survive the awkward stage, you start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
5. Consider Taking Biotin Supplements
It’s tempting to go down the rabbit hole of sketchy supplements, but there’s evidence that one supplement can strengthen your hair and even help it grow faster: biotin.
Also called vitamin H), biotin is part of the B complex group of vitamins and supports the health of your skin, nails, and hair. According to this study published in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, oral biotin supplementation improved hair growth after 90 and 180 days.
In addition to accelerating hair growth, biotin also helps strengthen your follicles, which is essential as the strands get longer and need more support.
Biotin isn’t a miracle potion by any means, but it won’t hurt to pop a tablet or gummy, especially if you’re not getting enough from your diet alone.
6. De-Tangle Your Hair Daily
As your hair grows, it gets more prone to knots and clumps. Obviously, you’ll want to get rid of these from an aesthetic standpoint. But there’s a more important, scientific reason to de-tangle your hair.
The sebaceous glands on your scalp produce natural oils that protect and strengthen your hair. Brushing distributes these oils evenly from the roots to the ends, giving your hair a natural shine. If you don’t have one already, get a wide-tooth comb that can tame wet or dry hair without getting caught and pulling out precious strands.
Don’t Let Anyone Talk You Out Of It
You’ll surely be tempted by naysayers who say you’ll regret growing your hair out: it’s not worth the time, you won’t pull off the look. Tune out the noise.
“My hair was getting messy…It felt and looked like I was wearing a dead animal on my head,” said one guy in r/FierceFlow. “Of course, I knew that my hair wasn’t looking good…But if other people could manage to grow long hair, why couldn’t I? So I ignored the people who questioned my decision to grow it and their suggestions that I cut it.”
Amen, anonymous Redditor. One morning you’ll wake up and see your luscious mane graze the tops of your shoulders, and you’ll thank yourself for seeing this journey through.
And if you get discouraged during the awkward phase, here’s a little motivation from some Mammals who have endured the journey:
Xander says: “Just do it. There are going to be a few distinct “bad phases,” but if you persist it will be worth it.”
Cole says: “Be PATIENT and see it through.”
Charlie says: “Life’s a garden. Dig it.”