“The day you decide to grow out your hair, you have to really start taking care of it,” says hairstylist Mark Townsend. “To get the length, there are sacrifices.” This is what Townsend told longtime client Ashley Olsen when she set her sights on a chest-grazing mane, inspired by supermodel Kristen McMenamy’s silvery Rapunzel cascade. Whether a celebrity or mere mortal, the reality is there’s no shortcut to an endless, luxurious mane—it’s a months-long, methodical process. From the right conditioning treatments to a healthy diet, here, Townsend and other sought-after pros weigh in on six ways to maximize your length to transformative effect.
Commit to Regular Micro-Trims
When you go for a “dusting”—taking off just an eighth of an inch—versus a standard trim, you barely see hair on the floor, says Townsend. A carefully calibrated shearing preserves length while getting rid of split ends caused by environmental damage, such as physical stress or hot tools. “If left to their own devices, those split ends can work their way higher up the hair’s shaft,” explains hairstylist Vernon François. “If you wait too long in between trims, you’ll end up having to take off more length in the end.” In order to keep hair healthy, most pros recommend at least three dustings a year.
Do a Weekly Conditioning Treatment
Stylists unanimously agree, a weekly deep-conditioning treatment, such as Vernon François’s Whipped Deep Conditioner or Townsend’s go-to Iles Formula Haute Performance Conditioner, is nonnegotiable for all hair types, but especially if hair is fine, curly, or color-treated. As far as application goes, François advises his A-list clientele, including Solange, Kerry Washington, and Tracee Ellis Ross, to pay special attention to the tips. “They’re the oldest and driest part of your strands,” he explains. “They’re thinner and brittle, so giving them extra TLC will minimize breakage.” Incorporating treatments into your day-to-day styling routine is another stealth way to work magic. During fashion month, hairstylist Rodney Cutler has models hydrate their hair between shows by slicking it back with a cocktail of Redken’s Velvet Gelatine 07 and the company’s All Soft Argan-6 Multi-Care Oil to create a fresh, slightly wet texture that isn’t greasy.
Cleansing is the foundation of any hair-care regimen—and it should start before you even set foot in the shower, by soaking strands for 10 minutes with a protective pre-washing tonic, like Oribe’s Gold Lust Pre-Shampoo Intensive Treatment. “It’s going to leave a little bit of film so the shampoo won’t strip the moisture,” explains Townsend. When it comes to choosing a shampoo and conditioner, or co-washing, look to sulfate-free formulas that aren’t as drying to preserve moisture. François advises massaging the scalp while lathering to increase blood flow and stimulate the hair follicles, which promotes growth.
Recalibrate Your Diet
“The healthiest diet for your hair is the healthiest diet in general—one that is based on real, whole foods and is mostly plant-based,” explains Manhattan-based nutritionist Maria Marlowe, adding that foods rich in iron, zinc, vitamin C, B vitamins, and omega-3 are most commonly linked to stronger and longer hair. Marlowe’s short list of recommended foods includes oysters, clams, beans, and eggs for protein (the “building block” of hair); bell peppers, and dark, leafy greens for vitamin C; and hemp seeds and wild salmon for omega-3 fats.
Try a Supplement
“Biotin is the go-to when thinking about hair supplements, but most people already get enough biotin in their diet,” says Marlowe. Instead, she recommends BioSil, which contains ch-OSA, a trademarked combination of essential nutrients and minerals that’s clinically shown to increase hair thickness, making it more resilient and shiny. And more than a few beauty insiders swear by Grown Alchemist’s Hair Complex, an organic hair-growth supplement that also contains follicle-feeding silica, along with repairing riboflavin and vitamin B2.
Sleep on a Silk Pillowcase
“Cotton is going to suck all the moisture out of the hair overnight,” says Townsend. Instead, sleep on a silk pillowcase, which retains moisture and reduces friction, thus reducing damage. Slip’s model is made from a high grade, gentle mulberry silk, comes in a slew of lovely pastels, and has hairstylist (and Kardashian family go-to) Jen Atkin’s stamp of approval as their brand ambassador.