Lint and Long Hair
Shed Hairs and Lint
One of the greatest hazards to long hair is also the hardest to see. It
is lint. Lint from clothing and other textiles can settle in the hair,
causing tangles. Properly caring for long hair requires having an
effective means of removing lint.
Clothing, bedding, upholstery, bath towels, and carpeting are all
sources of lint. Direct contact with the hair is not necessary because
lint readily becomes airborne. Airborne lint settles in the hair just
like it settles on household surfaces.
The two main types of lint are cotton and polyester.
Cotton lint is extremely strong and will break hair if pulled. Cotton
lint becomes wrapped around one or more hair strands during washing.
Polyester lint is very fine. Polyester degrades over time, eventually
turning into near-microscopic fibers. Polyester lint sticks to hair.
Finding lint on one's comb and shed hair strands is an obvious sign of
lint. However, this may not indicate the presence of lint already in
the hair. Lint can remain in the hair for longer than an individual
hair's growth cycle. Symptoms of accumulated lint include:
- Persistent tangles or matting - tangles that survive repeated
washing/detangling cycles because they are being held together by lint
- A stubborn wave or fold that cannot be combed out - it is most
likely being held together by lint
- Knotting - the knot formed around a piece of lint
- Breakage - the hair lost a tug-of-war with a piece of lint
In my experience, lint is most likely to accumulate near the scalp,
especially at the nape and around the ears. These locations may not be
reached by the comb tines, or had been combed in one direction only.
Addressing the above problems requires removal of the underlying lint.
Lint can be removed mechanically by combing. I use a wide-tooth wooden
comb and my fingers.
The first step is to dampen the hair with a small amount of distilled
water. The water provides lubrication.
The hair is then combed thoroughly. The comb tines should cover the
hair's length and every square centimeter of the scalp.
Combing should be done from multiple directions, i.e. top-to-bottom,
left-to-right, right-to-left, and underneath. This is because tangles
are directional and can rotate to pass through the tines of a comb. Use
the tines to get underneath tangles and pull them in a perpendicular
direction away from the scalp. Always comb from root to tip.
The comb should be cleaned frequently with a damp washcloth.
Lint that took a long time to accumulate will also take a long time to
The best way to keep lint out of the hair is to keep the hair free from
tangles. The old adage about long hair requiring 100 strokes a day is
The body's natural conditioner (sebum) makes an effective lint remover
because its waxiness causes lint to stick to the comb. I recommend
diluting shampoo or using water-only washing to avoid washing out all
Wearing hair contained in buns or braids reduces the tendency for
airborne lint to settle in the hair.
Finally, discard any old clothing or bedding that is visibly shedding