For the first time since the age of tie-dye and bell-bottoms, women are growing their hair really long. Fashion magazines may declare that short cuts are in vogue, but one glance around any shopping mall will prove otherwise. Most long-haired women prefer the Candice Bergen or Andie McDowell look--full manes that reach to the middle of the back. And then there are women like Crystal Gale, Sofia Coppola and my sister.
At 24, Becky has the longest hair I've ever seen. Sixty inches of it. Thick, Rapunzel-like locks fall like Niagara over her shoulders, tumble past her waist, cascade below her knees and hang an inch above the floor. "It's become like an arm or a leg. It's an important part of me. It's hair with history," she says.
Wherever Becky goes, people notice her hair. Wide-eyed children point at it. Grandmothers express their desire to brush it. Tourists want to be photographed with it. Becky gets a kick out of all the attention, of course, but she also pays a price. Her admirers don't know how much time and energy goes into keeping long, long hair well groomed.
Shampooing alone, for example, takes Becky an hour--with periodic breaks to rest her arms. She once washed her hair in sections: head to shoulders, shoulders to waist, waist to knees, knees to ankles. To save time, she now parts her hair down the middle, lathering first one side, then the other.
Conditioning and drying add six more hours to her thrice-weekly routine. After rinsing, Becky wrings her hair like a wet shirt, towel-dries it, then applies a generous amount of "leave in" conditioner. While her hair is still damp, she glides a comb through it--from the bottom up to prevent breakage. Over the next five hours, her hair dries naturally to a silky finish.
The extra care is necessary, experts agree, because long hair is abused hair. Steve Lococo, manager of Borrelli Salon in West Hollywood, says long hair suffers from the friction of brushing, the tension of its own weight, pollutants in the air and heat from blow-dryers. (Becky's hair has been stepped on, caught in car doors, even tangled in a fan.) But women can fight back with nutrient-filled shampoos, conditioners and oil treatments.
Among the products Lococo recommends are Rene Furterer shampoo, followed by Karite moisturizer, an almond paste that he says detangles hair and "holds down the frizzies." Laurent Dufourge, co-owner of the Jose Eber salons, suggests using Jose Eber's Clarifying Shampoo and Conditioner to remove buildup or Replenishing Shampoo and Conditioner to add moisture. Oil treatments by Rene Furterer, Carthame and Redken are popular for restoring protein and keratin.
The finishing touch for just-washed hair is a polisher massaged from scalp to ends for brilliance. Dina Yanee Chaiprasert, owner of Vous Hair on Melrose Avenue, urges her clients to use either Shine wax by Aveda or Laminate drops by Sebastian. "Long hair needs to be pampered," Chaiprasert says.
No one knows this better than my sister. "It's my trademark," Becky says. "You may not remember my name, but you will remember my hair.'