Basic haircare tips for long hair

By Candice Zen

This week’s blog post is all about how to take care of long hair effectively.  The condition of long hair can vary enormously from person to person and depends on factors like:

•    How wavy/curly or straight your hair is – wavy and curly hair tends to be drier on the ends because less of the natural oils produced by the scalp get distributed to the ends
•    How often you use irons/straighteners or tongs on the hair – straightening or tonging very regularly knackers the hair, especially if you don’t use heat protection spray. Blow-drying is less damaging (and good for the scalp), although if you use a round brush to smooth the ends, you should also use heat protection spray.
•    How long the hair is – Hair grows on average around 1cm per month or 12cm per year. Hair at the ends of long hair can be 3-4 years old+ so it will be more weathered.
•    How long between haircuts you leave it – if you leave it 6 months to 1 year between haircuts, your hair ends are probably going to be split and frayed.
•    How tight you tie it up – if you wear your hair tied back tightly with an elastic all day every day, you may be causing it mechanical damage/stress, as well as potentially pulling the roots out and thinning the hair (traction alopecia).
•    How lucky you are! – some people have naturally strong and dense hair. If your hair is fine or naturally dry/brittle, you should perhaps give up on trying to grow it much past your shoulders. Treat it with care and with a nice haircut, it’ll look good.

So here are some basic haircare tips for people with long hair:

1.    Wash your hair every 1-3 days
Regular washing shifts scalp sebum (natural oil) and all the dirt and pollution particles stuck to it. 

2.    Dry your hair (roots at least) with the hairdryer.
Drying your hair with a hairdryer is a good idea in winter, enough said. At other times, at least dry your roots next to the scalp even if you leave the ends to dry naturally. This helps to prevent fungal yeast growth (and dandruff) on the scalp. Use your fingers to lift the hair next to the scalp when drying and circulate the air.

3.    Always use conditioner
It helps to reduce static so the hair lays better, as well as reducing brittleness and breakage. You don’t need to put it on the roots – concentrate it on mid-lengths and ends. To get your conditioner to work harder, comb the hair through with a wide-tooth comb while in the shower and leave on the hair for a few minutes. Don't bother with those 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioners. Just run some conditioner through after shampooing and rinse well - an extra 45 seconds.

4.    If your hair is tangled when wet, use a Tangle Teezer
You can buy these from most chain pharmacies – they’re about £10. Cheaper versions that are similar can be found in Poundland. The soft plastic bristles gently detangle without ripping the hair. Remember – hair is more delicate when wet.

For those people with hair in poor condition, first of all get a trim, then reduce usage of heated tools/straighteners. Finally consider investing in a leave-in conditioner, or a hair mask (concentrated conditioner) twice a month. At the Totem Hair pop-up, we use Davines Dede Leave-in Hair Mist which is light and non-greasy. For a more heavy duty effect, Aveda’s Damage Remedy Daily Hair Repair is lovely or Redken’s Extreme Anti-snap treatment is light-weight and non-greasy.

Masks are a whole other topic, which I will blog about more soon. But for a natural mask, start with a mixture of coconut and olive oil on the freshly washed hair ends for 1-2 hours (then a light shampoo to remove).

More on that soon. Any more questions, mail in at the address above!

Basic hair care for men

By Candice Zen (email:

This blog post is aimed at guys (sorry to genderise here – it may be useful to a few women too) and is basically answers to a lot of questions I get asked by customers. Hope it is helpful – please send in any comments or further questions you have.

1.     It's best to wash your hair every 1-3 days

Everyday hair washing is fine, especially if you do sports/gym. It does not damage it too much, even if you dry it with a hairdryer after (which is a good idea). London has a lot of pollution and dirt particles in the atmosphere and those get stuck to the natural oils (sebum) and sweat produced on the skin and scalp. Just like you would wash your skin frequently, it’s not a bad idea to do your hair too. If your hair gets fluffy or uncontrollable after washing, you need to use conditioner, and wash at least every 3rd day.

2.       If your hair is longer than 4cm (2in) in places, consider using conditioner

Conditioner isn’t just for women! If you have longish or very thick or curly hair, conditioner will help your hair to be less fluffy and wild after washing. It will lay better. Buy a normal conditioner (if you’re new to this, don’t go for a heavy moisturising one, and don’t go too cheap: Tesco’s Value or any similar supermarket economy range)

3.       If your hair takes longer than 5 min to dry naturally, use a hairdryer

Another thing that’s not just for women. Think of it like drying between your toes to prevent stuff growing there. The scalp has a natural yeast/fungus there called Malassezia which can get out of control for various reasons and cause dandruff. A nice damp environment can favour it, so definitely use a hair-dryer if you are prone to scalp skin issues.

4.       If your hair is thinning, there are various ways of cutting the hair to disguise/minimise it.

Short buzz cuts can look good but you don’t necessarily have to go for that if your hair is thinning or receding a bit. A natural, textured crop which is about 2-3cm in length on top will usually do the trick of hiding thinner areas and look nice/be easy to maintain. Stay away from parted styles! They have the visual effect of emphasising thin areas, and are going out of fashion now anyway. If you get to the point where clipping it very short is the best option, a beard or thick-rimmed glasses will improve the look. In any case, if it’s worrying you, drop by for a 15 min complimentary consultation at the Totem Hair pop-up where you can get advice on the best look.

5.       Skin and scalp problems are very common

A lot of us have got those: hairdressers and barbers are well used to seeing dandruff, eczema etc and zits, believe me. For dandruff and scalp issues, please see the earlier blog post here. For zits, I personally use PanOxyl with 10% benzoyl peroxide or even better, Duac with benzoyl peroxide and 1% clindamycin is highly effective (available from an online pharmacy e.g. pharmacy2U or via your GP).

6.       Cleaning and maintaining your beard

You can clean your beard the same way you would do head hair. Just shampoo it when you wash your hair, and use a bit of conditioner. No need for fancy beard shampoos or conditioners. Beard hair is much coarser than head hair, so it does benefit from a bit of softening/conditioning. In addition, beard oils or lotions help soften your beard and skin even more. At the Totem Hair pop-up, I currently use Beardsley’s Beard Lotion (£14.95) which is fairly light, non-greasy and smells nicely of spicy cloves.

Always feel free to ask questions at the Totem Hair pop-up. Book a free 15 min consultation or just ask away while you’re getting a haircut. If I don’t know the answer, I will certainly find out for you!

Dealing with a sensitive, flaky or itchy scalp

Probably around 20% of my customers, both male and female, have an itchy and/or flaky scalp. As I section through the hair, I can see the irritated scalp: red, blotchy and flaky. Sometimes this is all over the head, sometimes just in places. Common underlying causes include: eczema, psoriasis, seborhoerric dermatitis and folliculitis. At the recent Introduction to Trichology day at the Salon International trade exhibition, I had a chance to ask some trichologists (scalp specialists) where the best place to start is when dealing with this type of thing.

1.       First-line anti-microbial shampoos: dandruff is often caused by a naturally-occurring yeast, Malassezia getting out of control. Shampoos containing anti-yeast compounds are often effective (, 1). Well-known brands include Head and Shoulders. Capasal Therepeutic shampoo was mentioned as useful as a first-line approach.

2.       Consider an antimicrobial and anti-irritant shampoo: the next line of shampoos contain both anti-yeast ingredients, detergents that are not too stripping of natural oils and ingredients which calm the irritated skin. Two shampoos were mentioned: Philip Kingsley’s ‘Flaky and Itchy scalp shampoo’ and Tony Maleedy’s Juniper scalp therapy shampoo and conditioner. Both Philip Kingsley (late as of Oct 2016) and Tony Maleedy are registered trichologists (scalp specialists).  The Philip Kingsley range is widely available in department stores and Tony Maleedy’s range is at the Lloyds pharmacy in Selfridges in London and online (

3.       Avoid sodium laureth/lauryl sulphate (SLS) shampoos: SLS is the primary detergent in most shampoos, shower gels and soaps. It’s usually the second ingredient in the list after water. SLS effectively strips the skin of sebum/oil and the dirt/dust/skin particles which adher to the oils. While being effective at cleaning, this ingredient is too effective, in that it also removes too much oil and can be very drying. A better detergent is ammonium laureth sulphate, or even better, sodium isothionate.

4.       Use a hairdryer! Unless your hair dries naturally in 5 mins or less, prevent the prolonged damp environment which encourages yeast/fungus growth (It’s the same with your feet!). Use a hairdryer and give the roots a dry-off, even if you leave the ends of the hair damper. Especially important in winter J

5.       Consider a GP or trichologist visit. If you’ve done all that and are still suffering, try a visit to your GP or a certified trichologist ( Trichologist visits involve a cost of course, but an itchy sore scalp is also not good to live with. GPs vary in their knowledge of skin and scalp conditions – consider printing off this info and going through what your actions so far have been.

Feel free to ask me more questions. I’ve included most of what I know here, but will always try to point you in the right direction.

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