Hair-Growing Pains

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Three years ago, I took the plunge and chopped off all my chin-length hair. Today, I've come full circle. After sportin' a funky short cut (think Halle Berry, circa 1992's Boomerang), I've decided it's time to update my look by letting my hair grow -- or should I say trying to grow it.


Making a smooth transition from short to long requires a good stylist and a lot of patience. I'm straight on the stylist tip, but after four months, my patience is dwindling with every new strand that no longer knows is place. There's just something about those awkward in-between stages that makes a sista want to become scissor-happy. So I talked to ESSENCE beauty director and cover editor Mikki Taylor who urged me to be proactive. " If we leave our hair to chance, we will surely have bad hair days," she warned.


So what's a girl to do in those sticky in-between stages -- you know, too long to be short, but too short for a ponytail? I talked tresses with some of the industry's finest hair-care specialists to find out what we can 'dos to keep their manes tight during those transitions.


Something for Everyone

The key to growing out your hair is exploring your options. "New styles can alleviate boredom and frustration," says Marvin Carrington, a licensed stylist and trichologist at New York's Jelani Hair Salon. Carrington suggests these style alternatives to spice up your 'do during that in-between time:

Layers too long: "Try wearing hair smooth and straight down," Carrington suggests. To achieve a sleek, smooth look through blow-drying or roller set, try Silken Seal by KeraCare. It protects against heat and leaves the hair smooth after it dries. "You can also try straw sets, twists or curly styles," he adds. Try QP Glaze, which adds sheen, and makes hair manageable.

Bang it: Bangs don't have to be boring -- play with them! You can comb them straight down, fan them out, wear them on one side or comb them back. Since bangs are such a prominent feature, you want to make sure they always look their best. Try KeraCare's High Sheen Glossifier it maximizes sheen and keeps hair looking and feeling great.

Relax to natural: "The most important thing is to maintain the hair -- go to the salon regularly, and have your stylist smooth out new growth with a hot comb or flat iron," Carrington advises. "Pressing must be done by a professional because the comb must be set at a certain temperature. Overlaying heat on top of a perm can be damaging if you do not do it correctly." Carrington uses Kuumba's Full of Locks Hair Oil when pressing hair because it acts as a barrier between the heat and the hair. If your roots are pressed correctly your growing-out phase won't be noticed until you're ready to debut your new 'do.


Gimme A Break

"Hair is the ultimate accessory -- only you can't take it off," says Oscar James, stylist to Halle Berry, Tyra Banks, and Vivica A. Fox, to name a few. " Too much heat and styling will ruin the hair and its health will be compromised." Simply put, sometimes your hair just needs a rest and that means sistas need to apply less heat and fewer chemicals that dry the hair and make it brittle. James recommends braids. "They give the hair a break from chemicals and heat, which will allow the hair to grow strong and healthy." He suggests Crème of Nature's Professional Detangling/Conditioning Shampoo. Also, check out Aussie's Three Minute Miracle, an inexpensive conditioner that works wonders on dry hair, as well as MOP's (Modern Organic Product). For Carrington, there's no particular method he favors. "Weaves, wigs, braids — I wouldn't choose one over the other. And definitely experiment with hair pieces," he says. "They're fun!"

Hair Décor

Jazz up your look with unique accessories. "Jeweled bobbi pins, hair clips and ponytail holders are all acceptable," Taylor says. "But stay away from [barrettes ]-- that's very girly, and we are all women here." For a more mature look, try Sephora's Crystal Hair Pins , Crystal Slides in Orange Rose or even the Diamond Hair Clip.


Damaged Goods

"You can't repair damaged hair," Carrington warns. "It's not about hair care remedies," Carrington says, "but rather what you do to keep your hair strong and healthy." He offers these five key tips to nursing your mane:

1. Keep hair clean and conditioned. He swears by KeraCare's Hydrating Detangling Shampoo and Humecto Crème Conditioner. Also try Joico's Resolve Shampoo, which is great for removing buildup from hair.

2. Let the professionals apply chemicals like relaxers and color to your hair. For a list of hair care specialists visit www.afrohair.com. To research the different kinds of relaxers, visit www.folica.com.

3. Remember to trim your hair every six to eight weeks.

4. Keep the hair and scalp moisturized. Again, try KeraCare's High Sheen Glossifier. (I'm no expert, but I love Kemi Oyl. It gives my hair shine and moisture, smells great, and is very light.)

5. The less heat the better. Sitting under a hair dryer is perfectly safe," Carrington says. "Also twist sets and braid sets can dry naturally and they allow a break from the heat."

And don't forget: "Diet plays a key role," James says. "drink lots of water because that makes the hair stronger, shinier, and healthier."


The Bottom [Hair]line

Try to be a low-maintenance sister -- the less you do to your hair, the stronger and healthier it will be. "After all, the hair is dead. When someone says their hair doesn't grow, that's not true," says Taylor. "Everyone's hair grows, but what we do to keep it on our head is an entirely different story."