Natural Long Hair Care: Melissa’s Routine & Products

One of the questions I’m asked most often is “What’s your long hair care routine?” It’s a practical enough question; when someone sees hair they admire they want to emulate that. I want to caution you, however, that establishing your own long hair care routine is the goal. By all means, draw inspiration from my routine and products, but listen to how your own hair responds and don’t be afraid to deviate if something else works better for you.

This is article is how I keep my hair in its current state, but if you’re interested in how I salvaged my chemically-damaged and mechanically-ruined hair, you can read that journey here in Destroyed & Reborn: Melissa’s Hair History.

All that said, this is the comprehensive run down of what I do, what I don’t do, what products I use, and what styling tools I employ.

My Hair Type

I’m a 2a/M/ii. If you’re not familiar with hair typing codes, that’s not very helpful, but let’s break down each part. You can also use this guide (that I am following) to determine your hair type. If your hair type is similar to mine, you’ll have the best start with my routine, but many of the things I do are broadly applicable to everyone who wants to establish a long hair care routine.

2a: The first signifier is texture. 1s are straight, 2s are wavy, 3s are curly, and 4s are kinky/zig-zaggy. The 2a means my hair is lightly wavy, with long pulled out S-shapes. I actually used to be a 2b, however, henna can reduce your wave and curl pattern and that happened to me. 

M: The second signifier is the thickness of each individual strand. F (fine) indicates each strand is hard to see on its own and difficult to feel if you roll it between your fingertips.  M (medium) hairs aren’t hard to see against most backgrounds, and are about the thickness of a cotton thread. C (coarse) strands are easy to see and may feel stiff or wiry when rolled between the fingertips. While I do have some M and some C strands, the majority are M.

ii: The third and final signifier is the overall thickness of the hair found by measuring the circumference of the ponytail. My ponytail has a circumference of about 2.75 inches, making me a ii.

Three strands of my hair lightly damp and stuck to tile. All are stained with Fire Genasi. Top: White hair: While it looks fine, it actually has the same thickness and texture as the bottom hair. Middle: These medium strands make up the majority of my hair.  Bottom: A coarse strand that is also darker than most my hair. And although we’re going to talk about Fire Genasi later, this is a great time to appreciate how herbal hair colors work. They stain the outside of the hair shaft, almost like coloring on it with an orange marker. It becomes most vivid on the white hair, makes a light brown hair copper, and has only a more subtle, warming effect on the darker hair. 

The Philosophy Behind my Long Hair Care Routine

First, do no harm–long, healthy hair is an exercise in gentle patience. My longest hairs are about 7 years old (I average about half an inch of growth a month). This means to have a nice hemline (the cumulative ends of my hair) I have to treat them in such a way that they are still healthy and strong for 7+ years–not breaking, not damaging the protein structure, keeping them hydrated, etc.

While there are are a million things that will work for one person and not for another, here are the underpinnings of my philosophy behind a good long hair care routine, in which what you don’t do is just as important as what you do:

The holy grail

Things I always try to do:

  • Gentle handling. I think of my hair like my grandmother’s lace tablecloth and treat it just as carefully. No washing with vigorous scrubbing, no aggressive styling or rough handling.
  •  Eating rightIn this post about how I recovered from a horrible shed, I talk about broadly about the importance of diet and hydration. Supplements cannot make up for a garbage diet; so I eat what my body needs to construct healthy hair (and skin!)

The third rail

Things I never, ever do.

  • Heat styling: No flat irons, curling irons, etc. You do not take a hot iron to grandma’s lace tablecloth, so I don’t do it to my hair. 
  • Permanent, chemical retexturing: No perms, relaxants, or chemical rebonding.
  • Alkaline products: Including soap, baking soda, and more.

All the detail

There so much I could go on about all the things to do, and all the things  not to do, some of which have good intentions, or are commonly recommended on natural living blogs, but are actually very damaging. There’s so many that I wrote a 44 page comprehensive guide that covers things I learned the hard way (or that I’ve seen my customers learn the hard way).

  • Stretching washes too far
  • Never (or at least not often enough) washing out oils, deep treatments & leave-ins
  • Using products that don’t actually cleanse your hair and scalp
  • Washing your hair and scalp with soap, baking soda, or other alkaline methods
  • Thinking oils are moisturizing
  • Trimming too often, or not often enough
  • Overprotecting your hair
  • Using essential oils neat / without proper dilution
  • Megadosing on supplements
  • Falling for greenwashing

It’s for subscribers only, so sign up for the password (it’ll be instantly delivered to your inbox). 

Subscribed already and can’t find the password? Just ask and I’ll send it along!

Tools for Long Hair Care

I have an embarrassing amount of hair accessories, and most of them are wholly unnecessary. I collect handmade hair sticks, forks and combs because I am a firm believer in both loving the tools you work with and supporting artists making what are truly functional pieces of art. However I don’t need the incredible majority of these items, but I do need these critical ones.

Wooden Bristle Paddle Brush

A gift from a friend (this brush specifically, although  mine is several years old and has darker wood), this is my go-to for removing shed hairs, lint, cat hair, and stars know what else from my hair. There are a few reasons this is a great tool. Firstly, the bristles are on a flexible base, meaning they will bend and slip out of a tangle rather than snapping a hair. There are also no seams. You see these with plastic brushes where the nubs on the ends meet the bristles. These can be sharp and damaging to hair,

Verawood Hand-Carved Comb

If I had a dime for every time someone asked me where I got this comb I’d have enough money to fund my egregious hair accessory habit. Sadly, the store is long since closed, but you’ll turn up similar ones searching for “floral verawood comb.” While I have several beautiful hand carved wood combs, this one is my daily driver, I do all my dry-combing and daily styling with this. A wood comb is excellent for distributing natural oils through the hair. Plastic combs don’t do this, and often have a seam where the two halves of the mold came together–this sharp edge can damage your hair in the same way you can curl ribbon with the edge of scissors.

Waterproof “bone” Bakelie Comb

Historically many combs were made from animal bone, as they were hard, able to be sanded to a smooth finish, heat-resistant, and anti-static. Now, it’s possible to get these same traits in a resin comb with all the same properties, and they’re still referred to as “bone” or “bohn” although now they don’t contain animal products.  You can get this specific comb here. This is my shower comb and it’s withstood 15+ years of use (so far!). A seamless plastic shower comb would also work here.

Boar Bristle Brusth

Although there are many types of animal-fiber brushes, they all serve the same purpose: to move oils from the scalp down the hair shaft. There are synthetic variations, too, but for my hair natural bristles did the job better. This is more a situational tool for me, used either with a piece of cheesecloth over it to brush Moondust Dry Shampoo out of my hair, or to help evenly distribute oils, salves, and other leave-ins through my hair. 

Ice Tempered Hair Shears

Somewhat hilariously, these are scissors for dog grooming. A friend of mine was going to get into dog grooming, but injured her wrists before she could get started and sold her supplies. When looking for hair scissors, you want ice-tempering because it helps maintain a longer-lasting cutting edge. Remember how your mom would freak out if you tried to use her fabric shears on paper? Same thing here, hair shears are only to be used on hair. Using them on other materials ruins their edge.

Washing Long Hair Routine

For most of us, our hair resets after a shower, or that’s considered the start of our routine. I wash my hair about three times a week, and follow this full routine ever time.

But before I even get in the shower, there’s things to do and prepare.

Pre-Shower Prep

I start by blending up my Alluvial Chelating Crystal rinse in a plastic condiment bottle and set that inside the shower. Then I mix Hinoki Hair Growth essential oils, Monistat, and water, and set that on the sink. Finally, I take my hair down, detangle it with my fingers, and then further work through it with my wooden bristle brush until all the tangles are gone and all the shed hairs are removed. The real trick with tangles is to not let them get started in the first place, or getting to them before they’re knots. Detangling and removing shed hairs before my hair gets wet prevents a lot of tangles from forming in the shower.

Alluvial Chelating Crystal Rinse for buildup on hair NightBlooming

Alluvial

I have ungodly hard water, and Alluvial Chelating Crystal Rinse both helps remove buildup and prevents more from gathering on the ends of my hair. Before showering, I blend this up with hot water and set it inside the shower. While the water is steaming coming out of the tap, that means by the time I use it, it’s lukewarm.

While I vary which essential oils I use in it, Eventide and Bergamot Mint are my two favorites to alternate between. 

Hinoki Hair Growth + Monistat

Scalp itches are the bane of my existence in winter, and I get them where my headphones sit year-round. I have a small plastic bottle with an applicator tip, and to this I add 10 drops of Hinoki Hair Growth essential oils (the 1 dram option), a 1 inch ribbon of Monistat, and then add about an inch of water to the bottle. I shake this up and set it on the sink for post-shower. You can use the Hinoki Hair Growth Serum (which contains carrier oils) for this step if that’s what you have, but I find just the essential oils leaves zero residue. This combo stifles itches, encourages growth, and lasts 72 hours–meaning it gets me to my next shower.

Fëathelas Healing Salve

I use Fëathelas Healing Salve on both ends of my shower, pre-and post. After detangling and brushing, I add a bit of this to the ends of my hair.  One of the ingredients in Fëathelas Healing Salve is coconut oil, which has a very unique property–it prevents protein loss.

Even though I use very gentle cleansing methods, this extra protection keeps the ends of my hair soft and healthy. 

Showering, washing & Conditioning

Once in the shower I soak my hair then rub my Lassëa Solid Shampoo Bar on my scalp until it lathers. Then I set the bar aside and work the lather through my hair and down to my scalp, and finally lightly down the length. Most importantly, I do not pile my hair atop my head; I leave it down and work the shampoo down the length with my hands. Doing it this way reduces mechanical damage and tangles.  Then I rinse with a boatload of water, and follow with Lassëa Solid Conditioner Bar from the ears down. The shampoo bar is conditioning enough for my scalp, and the conditioner bar is more rich than I need there. 

Once I have my ends slathered up with conditioner, I gently comb my hair, starting from the ends up with the Bakelite comb mentioned earlier.  Once the tangles are out, I use a waterproof hair fork to put my hair up so the ends can soak up the conditioner while I clean up. When my shower is about over (i.e. when the hot water heater is about empty and there’s so much steam it’s starting to rain from the ceiling), I take my hair down and apply Alluvial, starting at the scalp and pouring it down the length of my hair. Lastly, I give the back of my neck and upper back a quick scrub as the conditioner bar is VERY rich, and it can make my skin break out if too much of it runs down my back while I have my hair up. The very last thing I do before I get out is wring out my hair, and then give a few extra light swipes of the conditioner bar to my ends.

Lassëa Solid Shampoo Bars

I started out making Lassëa Solid Shampoo Bars because I and thought I could do better than the ones I’d tried. The two things I put the most research into were the importance of pH balancing and the surfacants I chose to use. I’ve posted in the past about the importance of pH balancing in my article about how and why baking soda washes damage your hair.  It is chemically impossible to pH balance a soap-based shampoo bar to the hair, scalp, and protective acid mantle. It’s simply the nature of the beast.

 

Lassëa Solid Conditioner Bars

Most shampoo and conditioner bars are stuffed full of oils, but as we’ve discussed in the past, oils are not moisturizing. You’ll find truly moisturizing ingredients like Slippery Elm and Aloe Vera Gel.  Lassëa Solid Conditioner Bars bars also use paraben-free and formaldehyde-free preservatives and pure essential oils rather than fragrance oils.

Hair is most fragile when wet and extra care has to be taken, especially when using a non-flexible toothed comb like I am. In this interview with Enchanted Living, I explain how to detangle and comb hair without damaging it.  

Lassëa Tips & Tricks

If you’ve never used Lassëa Solid Shampoo & Conditioner bars before, I wrote an entire article about tips and tricks to get the best results from the bars, and make them last the longest.

Post-Shower

Once out of the shower, I squeeze the excess water out of my hair with a towel–no vigorous rubbing that could cause mechanical damage or cause tangles.

Then, I take up the little bottle with Hinoki Hair Growth essential oils, water, and Monistat, give that another shake, draw lines of the liquid across my scalp, and gently massage it into my scalp with my fingertips. Here I pause and put my hair up in a microfiber towel to get the rest of the excess water out of my hair while I turn my attention to skincare.

Once skincare is sorted, I take my hair down and apply a wee bit of Fëathelas Healing Salve on the ends. I do this by taking a smidge (the technical term for an amount that looks like a large grain of rice), rub it between my palms until it’s melted, and then gently pat and slide my hands over the ends of my hair.

Lastly, I put it up in a bun, still lightly damp, to protect the ends as they dry.

Henna Routine for Long Hair

My utter adoration for bright ginger hair was what ultimately led me to destroy my hair with chemical dyes, and start learning about natural hair care.

In Search of Copper Hair

I henna my roots about once a month, though as my white hairs are starting come in faster that frequency finds itself increasing. I started with pure henna, but quickly found that it was only the bright natural ginger I wanted in direct sunlight. My hair at that point was so horribly damaged that I kept doing whole-head henna applications to help hold it together. It worked, but the unintentional side effect that my hair kept getting darker and darker, until it was nearly burgundy. With my skin tone, this made me look washed out and jaundiced.

 I’ve always adored the long red hair portrayed in Pre-Raphaelite & Victorian paintings (and did an interview for Enchanted Living about historical hair dyes of that era!)

The very first blend I sought to develop was something that would turn my naturally light brown hair a natural ginger. So much of the “common sense” ways to make copper henna were outright wrong: chamomile tea doesn’t make henna more golden, tumeric stains your bathtub way better than your hair, and nothing removes henna except a pair of scissors.   I finally hit on the mixture I wanted and named it Fire Genasi. and that got me to the point where the first several inches of my hair were the light copper color I wanted, but the length was far too dark. It took a good while, but I managed to lighten up the length of my hair and make everything match. The things I learned underpinned the guide I wrote on how to transition from chemical dyes to henna

Blending up Fire Genasi Copper Herbal Hair Color

I henna my hair about once a month, though that frequency is steadily increasing alongside the number of whites. I tend to blend up about 100g at a time. I’ve got longer resources with all the details, but here are some key aspects to my process.

Henna & Selkie: A Heavenly Blend

One of my favorite tricks is to use Selkie Herbal Detangler as part of the liquid. This makes the henna smell amazing, and also makes it extra-hydrating for both my hair and scalp. For the rest of the liquid portion I’ll either use steaming water, or Sunlit Meadow Herbal Rinse

Crockpots & Instapots for Perfect Dye Release

Dye releasing my henna in a crock pot keeps it from drying out, and provides a safe place with a consistent temperature. Be sure to check the temp on your crock pot and be careful not to cook your henna. I allow my Fire Genasi to dye release for 4 hours.

Foolproof Braided Root Touchups

I rarely do whole-head treatments anymore, but this braided root touchup method makes these increasingly frequent roots-only applications easy. I let the Fire Genasi sit on my roots for 3.5-4 hours. Before white hair, I did 2.5-3 hours, but the whites are resistant and need longer to stain well.

How to Henna Eyebrows

Fire Genasi doesn’t have enough staining power for my eyebrows. So I lighten them a bit and then use full strength henna on them. You can read how I do eyebrows here. I tend to do these when I don’t have to go anywhere the next day because of the inevitable staining on my skin.

Rinsing Out Henna

I follow the rinsing guidelines laid out in my Quickstart Guide for Herbal Hair Colors, blasting the mud off the outside of my hair before I take it down, then rinsing as much as I can with just water, followed up by two rounds of shampoo and conditioner. I tend to use Max Green Scalp Rescue for this because it’s just easier than trying to activate the solid bars against a bunch of mud.  If I have leftover liquid conditioner base (which eventually becomes becomes Fëathelas Healing Salve) I’ll use that as the conditioner step. The final step is a rinse with Alluvial and then give a swipe with my  Lassëa Solid Conditioner Bar.

Post-Henna

This is identical to my post-shower normal routine! Monistat + Hinoki Hair Growth essential oils on the scalp, and  Fëathelas Healing Salve on the ends.  If my hair has dried out too much, I’ll give it a mist with Selkie Herbal Detangler before hitting the ends with salve. 

NightBlooming Lunar Hair Care Calendar 2024

Deep Treatments & Trims by the Moon

I am, to the surprise of nobody that’s been around here for awhile, an insanely busy person who is awful at making time for herself. To that end, I like to use my Lunar Hair Care Calendar and dates to help me mindfully pick dates to do deep treatments and trims (i.e. scheduled pampering time).

LOC (Liquid, Oil, Cream) Method

When my hair was immensely damaged I was doing endless LOC treatments to try to keep it from being what amounted to splintered orange hay. I lay out the details and options for a NightBlooming LOC treatment here, but I personally use:

Trims

In the 10 Damaging Natural Hair Care Pitfalls article, I tell the story of the last time I had my hair professionally trimmed, which was decades ago by a grumpy barber who was in no way prepared for 3 feet of red hair. There are only two people who have taken scissors to my hair in the 20-some years since then: me, and my husband, and we use the ice-tempered shears mentioned earlier.  I trim my layers myself using this method (though with much smaller layers only around my face as I do not have this woman’s enviable thickness). For the ends, I’ll either do it myself with Feye’s U-cut method, or I’ll ask my husband to neaten up my ends for me when I cut his hair. He’ll mist my hair with Selkie Herbal Detangler, comb it straight, and then take off exactly what I ask him to.

I think we need to stop here or I'll type forever...

but in the future I’d like to detail more routines

I had intended for this article to also include:

  • My Favorite Styles: the most common hair accessories I use and the styles I use them in
  • My Skincare Routine: I get asked all the time what I do for my skin, and the answer is that I use a lot of the products I use on my hair, plus a few select others
  • My Diet & Supplements: I started to include it in this post, but it was so much that I decided it’s best on its own
but these are going to have to be future, dedicated articles.

Got questions? I’ve got answers!

There’s a lot here and I didn’t want to get too out in the weeds, but if there’s something I glossed over, or something you really want the nitty-gritty on, just ask in the comments below. Don’t forget you also get Moonseeds for comments, reviews, and a bunch of other things, and you can redeem those for lots of goodies. 

And a friendly reminder that I do moderate comments, so if you don’t see your comment right away, don’t fret–I’ll come along and approve it and answer any questions you’ve left shortly. 

12 thoughts on “Natural Long Hair Care: Melissa’s Routine & Products”

  1. sherryminter79@gmail.com

    Awesome amount of helpful information about hair care and your products. I was excited to see the lunar calendar for hair care but when I printed it I found it was for 2023 – do you have an updated calendar somewhere I’m missing? Thanks.

    1. Monistat like the female anti-fungal gel 🙂 It has a ton of sulfur in it, so it both knocks down any scalp fungus and also the sulfur promotes growth. There’s other ways to get sulfur to the scalp like onion rinses, but I can’t stand the smell of them!

  2. Brianna Niklaus

    Hi! I love your products!!! They have helped my hair tremendously from chemical dyes. I was wondering what you do for skin care and hairstyles 😊

    1. I’m so glad to hear you’re getting great results from NightBlooming products! I do sincerely need full posts for skincare and hair care, but the tl:dr for them both would be:

      Skincare: Vitamin C + SPF in the morning, wash my face after the sun goes down and do Azelaic acid, and then later in the evening before bed do retinol + Hyaluronic acid + moisturizer. I also make my own toner ( https://www.nightblooming.com/2020/02/01/nympheas-toning-mist/ ) and face food ( https://www.nightblooming.com/2019/11/06/diy-mermaid-face-mask-with-selkie-green-clay-kelp/ ). For a cleanser, I just use my Lassea Shampoo Bar XD

      Go to styles: Gibraltar Bun, Lazy Wrap Bun, and a twisted updo that I don’t have a name for, but it’s similar to a peacock flip with a Ficcare

  3. Great info! Can’t wait for the hair styles drop 🙂 It tempts me to henna my hair again… I’m taking a break because I don’t have time to do my roots every month like I used to. Something about red hair is just magical!

  4. I absolutely adore you, your products and your routines Melissa 🧝‍♀️ I have been growing out the “salt and pepper” for 11 months after using henna for 3 decades, the last 5 years was a dark burgundy that I absolutely loved and had tons of compliments on! I’m hoping I can rock the tarnished silver now that I have entered my 6th decade on this planet 🌎 The tones are now a bit brassy so my daughter professionally dyes the ends purple 💜 and it works for now. I haven’t tried the Sedr/Zyziphus yet because I want to test my virgin hair to compare it and it needs to be a bit longer first. My hair rituals are shifting and I do miss henna sometimes 💖 Thank you TONS for sharing, I love your process 🏵️🌸🌺

    1. Aw you are so sweet! Thank you for the kind words 💚 I think tarnished silver sounds wonderful, and even better with purple ends! I do think Sedr is worth a go, and I have blue butterfly pea flowers on hand if you wanted to try making a tisane of those for the liquid portion–it’s blue, though very weak, so it acts as a mild toner 🙂

  5. I loved getting a peek into your routine. I always find how we each learn to care for our hair to be fascinating. I find my routine shifts with the seasons. My hair is more textured in the spring/summer so it requires different care than in the winter. I find that henna has helped keep my hair strong and more manageable, and despite most people having issues with it loosening their curls, it makes mine more curly. Enyo has been a staple for me this past year and each root touch up I am thankful for you and your shop!

  6. Thank you for sharing your hair routine!

    I think we have very similar hair types: I did your Clarifying & Diagnostic Test & learned I actually have 2A hair?! (After a lifetime of thinking it was stick-straight!) I think it’s on the finer side & medium density, but the “needs protein or needs moisture?” & porosity tests were inconclusive as my hair is very long & was still damp a day later (& the bowl wasn’t large enough for the strand to float unobstructed, oops).

    I’ve found my hair loves Lassëa shampoo & conditioner bars, Selkie detangler, & Alluvial rinse! I ordered a few sample oils & the Miruvor tea that I still need to try.

    I want to look for some wood hair accessories now! My hair’s usually too tangled for a brush so I just use combs (usually a pick, but I’d like to try long combs), but maybe eventually?

    (I wish I’d found NightBlooming *before* I ordered a 1-pound bag of hair soap from another company. I really do like their body soaps, but their ACV rinse & detangler tea did not work for my hair at all & their hair soap leaves my hair pretty unmanageable without conditioner—even the one that works “best” for me. I have so much hair soap left & it feels wasteful to not use it … so I’ve been using Alluvial & Lassëa conditioner afterward.)

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