I had a friend of mine come to me recently to discuss some of her hair woes. She was doing all the “right” things with her health and hair, yet she was seeing zero growth factor and feeling very discouraged.
Relaxed, natural or transitioning, there are practices that you may partake in that can contribute to length retention. As I have previously stated, hair grows. In fact, hair grows between 4-6 inches every year, typically growing a half an inch per month (while growth may be slower at the temples). *source
So, don’t be discouraged! Your hair does grow!! The real question is: How do you retain your length?
Ask yourself the following:
1. Do I apply heat to my hair regularly? This is normally the largest culprit to length retention. Taking the proper precautions when using heat on your hair will help ensure that your strands stay healthy. Applying heat can be risky in itself as it can cause major damage if the styling tool is too hot for our strands or if we use heat too often.
I remember while I was transitioning, my line sister (turned stylist) would tell me not to use my flatiron after she initially flat ironed my hair. Easier said than done when you have two textures and you’re trying to make them match, right? I thought that was right, but looking back I would have put that flat iron down and done more styles that required less heat – bantu knots, flat twist sets, roller sets, etc. After transitioning and doing my big chop (BC), I still ended up cutting some more straight ends off later down the road because they were permanently damaged.
Likewise, for my relaxed sisters, I have found the practices of ulovemegz, a YouTuber, to be quite inspiring. She is documenting her hair journey and does a great job with styling with less heat for minimum damage.
Do you like blown out styles? Are you doing them once a week? Are you skipping out on using an effective heat protectant? Are you using high settings on your blow dryer? Does your flat iron or heat styling tool have one setting for heat control? If not, are you using the maximum setting?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, look over your practices with heat styling and make sure you are taking the proper steps to protect your strands.
2. Do you moisturize regularly? I’m not talking about once a week after you washed your hair, either. Moisturizing should occur OFTEN, whether it comes in the form of spiriting your hair with water and sealing it with your favorite oil (my favorite thing to do – twice a day, typically) or using an actual product for moisture. Oil does not, I repeat: OIL DOES NOT MOISTURIZE YOUR HAIR. Only water and water based products can do that. Skipping out on moisturizing leaves you hair dry and susceptible to breakage and damage.
3. How are you washing your hair? Are your piling it all on top and just going to work on your scalp? Talk about a tangled, hot mess when you try to detangle! Washing should occur at the scalp, with little to no disturbance of the hair strands. Shampooing is used to clarify your scalp, primarily. Once rinsing occurs, the suds will cling to the hair strand and remove any excess dirt, so although you may think you are doing your hair a favor by vigorously “going for broke” on your strands, you are making more of a mess (and creating more damage).
4. Do you use protective styling? Everyone doesn’t love protective styling, and that’s okay! But let’s be real: it is a tried and true way to retain length for your hair. It’s very low manipulation of your strands and since you aren’t constantly touching your hair, you give it a chance to do it’s growing thing. Protective styling can go wrong when you are always renewing your style (i.e. retwisting your twists too often). If you are going to redo your protective style everyday, what’s the point of protective styling? Additionally, ridding the hair of shed hairs and detangling after protective styling is important for the health of your hair the retention of length, because if you have excessive tangles and knots, you can cause ripping and tearing when trying to remove them.