GUEST COMMENTARY | A Guide to Long Hair Maintenance at Altitude
by Bracken Raleigh
Dec 29, 2013 | 1682 views | 0 0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bracken Raleigh
Bracken Raleigh

I have lived at altitude above 8500 ft. (2822 m.) since 1971, and had long hair before then – since I was 20, so for a long time – for the last 45 years. 

This is Telluride. The weather is extreme in summer and winter, and all the seasons in between – when there are seasons in between. The dust, wind, freezing cold, sunshine with no atmosphere to dilute it, snow building up into ice, and the complete lack of moisture in the air (the average humidity for seven to nine months in winter is 4-7 percent, max) and only about 20 percent in the summer.

The first and foremost thing to remember is to love your long hair, and to treat long hair as you would your friend or lover, and love your skin, the largest organ of the body. The scalp is one of the most sensitive parts of the body. Hair is as much of an extension of you as your handshake. It is the presentation of your energy to all; it expresses your strengths and weaknesses, attitude, fears and joys. 

Love it! It is beautiful, and will help you show beauty to everyone who sees it. As the area we live in fills people with awe, so will your long beautiful hair have the same effect that mine does. Show people that beauty and you cannot help but become more beautiful in your very self and your essential effervescent energy.

For many years, many people from all over the world have regaled me about my beautiful long strawberry blond hair. Beautiful women have laid on my back to feel it against their faces in stores, others have stroked it from behind in theaters or trains or elevators and others have stopped me to ask to touch it and ask what I do to grow and maintain long luxurious hair at altitude. So here are some ideas I use to easily keep it – and a few other ideas, as well. 

When I first started to grow long hair I had a mentor named Gene Khern, a longshoreman from New York. His hair was already down to about his waist; he lived in a teepee here in 1971, down on the other side of the South Fork above Illium. I traded him some dry silver aspen for a goodly amount of Eastern split oak he had brought in a trailer from New York. The hard part was to start it, but it burned real hot and was a great relief from the coal everyone used in the area at the time; thus the aspen – easy to start. Gene wore his hair in a braid all winter as mine grew, and said that long hair when braided should have five knots on each side. His hair was black, and he was part Native American (as am I), both of us from one of the five great tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy many generations ago, which is of immense pride to me. Gene, if you see this please get hold of me. 

Long hair is like a static electromagnet, and the scalp is a moist sponge. Dust from about 10 ft. around you is attracted to your hair as you move through the day, and when it sticks to a strand of hair it becomes razor sharp sandpaper to the other strands as it rubs against them. Dust from the street or a gust of wind or soot from a campfire or a smoky room is the enemy of hair. It is important not to run your hands thru your hair too often, as the dust and sweat from fingers accumulates on the hair. Brushing the hair is fine, just not too often. 

I wash my hair every day. Even though the pollution is not too intense here any more, the streets are very dusty, and as the Telluride Town Council has decided not to allow the firemen to wash them every Sunday, as they used too, the dust hangs over the area like the pall of coal smoke used to, and this annoys your hair and scalp. I use shampoo, though not the most expensive (Pantene Classic); I've heard others without detergent and they sound great; use only a small amount about the size of a quarter, and 1/8 in. thick. When I shampoo, it’s in my hair for just 30-60 seconds before being thoroughly rinsed in luke-“cool” water, which works to close the scalp pores and hair follicles (very important). Spend more time rinsing than washing – lots of foam means clean hair, and taking time to rinse, which mostly washes out dust, but not heavy grease or mud, and, again, very gently, with mostly fingertips on the scalp. I never use conditioner, as this further acts as a magnet, and with daily washing is unnecessary. If you are in a city with other than the best water, and can afford a shower water filter, you will notice a difference after the first use. These are easy to install, and may have to be ordered from the hardware store. 

After showering, I wrap my head in a red, purple or bright yellow towel (color therapy) for 5-15 minutes to rehydrate my scalp. Drying takes about 30-45 minutes, and I use a dryer about 20 minutes after the scalp and hair are cool and set. When using the dryer, keep it at arm’ length and on the cool setting, especially at the end, as with long hair it is not the close-in heat fix that is needed (this opens the pours of the scalp and weakens hair’s attachment), but rather to cover as much hair as possible at one time. Wet hair clings together, so the object is to separate the strands as quickly as possible for quicker drying. After the hair is dry, give it a few minutes to acclimate; I then flip it over my head to brush with a boar bristle brush (not to stiff); these are often hard to find. Start gently by holding the ends with the other hand and brushing through the tip and ends, and working gently up the length of small sections, all the way across the hair. Never pull through a tangle; find it and caress it clear; this is a friend. Flip it back over and brush to fit your style. 

I rarely wear a hat, but when I do, it is clean; the band is clean, and never tight, as this again causes sweat to adhere and cling the hair in bunches or mats. Dirty ballcaps will cause baldness as the filth mixes with sweat and inundates the scalp, over time, and cannot be cleaned quickly enough. When climbing I wear a scarf, as I'm blond and do not need the sunburn. 

Clothes, especially synthetics and wool, rob hair of essential oil, as does the pillowcase, so I braid my hair every night before bed and use a grosgrain ribbon to tie it. I tried silk pillowcases, and they are fine, but I just kept slipping off, and they are hot. To verify this, just look across the case in a good light after about a week and you will see a discoloration where your head has been; this is hair oil. I wash in the morning (but evening is fine); however, dry completely, as wet hair on a pillowcase dries hair and will crease and cause waves that will have to be washed to erase. Swimming pool chemicals are killer to long hair, and I always try to swim in ponds but, after a pool, wash and rinse very thoroughly indeed. If your hair seems dry, listless or damaged, oil it up (avocado is best), braid it overnight or put it in a scarf if you don't want to wash or change the pillowcase for two days if no=one sees you. Then wash your hair and notice the difference. My hair is 32 in. to 36 in. long, and I have 1-1/2 in. trimmed every spring for split ends due to winter.

These are some ideas I have learned and wish to share with you about long hair. Longhairs (men with long hair) – Let your freak flag fly....

A tip for washing the face, applying make-up etc., any touching of the face – use an up and out motion, this from a lady who was the pre-eminent beautician in the 1950s, Eve Arden (I even shave up and out). For 35 years I have only used soap on hands, groin and feet – a washcloth or clean hands do just fine – and 18 months ago I went to a dermatologist for dry spots on my arms and she burned them off and said to start using skin lotion and it works. I recently started using Ivy’s Skin Products and they work great and she lives here, so give it a go.  It has to do with keeping the skin from sagging, and I noticed with the two dead people I saw (Mom and Dad) that their skin fell, as they lay, off to the side.  Also do not touch your face so much,

My name is Bracken Raleigh and I live and love in Telluride, Colorado.     


Copyright © Bracken Raleigh 2013    

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