How to grow your natural hair may seem like a huge puzzle or dilemma that you cannot seem to crack. You have been trying so many things for months however you are barely seeing any progress.
I cannot tell you how many times I heard the following statements (and their variants):
- My natural hair does (or will) not grow
- It is hard to grow my type of natural hair
- I cannot get my natural hair to grow as fast as I would like
- My hair stopped growing when I went natural
- I do not have that good hair that grows long
Have you found yourself saying any of these same statements? If so, it is okay. We have been there. All you need is a mindset shift about how growing natural hair works.
Then you can implement some simple hair practices starting today to achieve longer natural hair in a month from now.
Are you ready???
But first, let’s get some things straight…
When you are faced with the same length for months at a time, it is time for a serious and hard reflection of the situation.
Oftentimes, we put hair growth (or lack of) as one of the top issues why we are not meeting our hair length goals.
However, 9 times out of ten, is NOT your hair growth that is lacking but rather your length retention.
Defining How To Grow Natural Hair
There is lots of science behind hair growth but we are not going to get into all of that. However, I do want to leave you with a brief background about how our natural hair grows.
The main concept you need to know is that for most women (excluding those who have alopecia, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or some other underlying medical issue), hair growth is contingent upon a consistent hair cycle.
What Is A Hair Cycle
The normal hair cycle contains 3 phases:
- Anagen phase: This is the growth phase and lasts between 3 to 5 years. Genetics plays a role in how long hair remains in this active phase of the cycle. 85-90% of your hair is found in this stage at a given time.
- Catagen phase: This is the transitional phase which lasts about two weeks. Here, the follicle (the hair’s nourishing blood supply) begins to shrink. This causes the hair strand to detach and be pushed slightly forward. This shrunken follicle (aka tiny white bulb) is the defining characteristic of a normal shed hair. Approximately 1% of your hair is in this stage at a given time.
- Telogen phase: This final stage is the resting (aka shedding) phase and lasts up to 4 months. The follicle is dormant during this time. Eventually, the follicle begins to renew and grow in preparation for a new strand of hair to replace the older one. This follicle growth is what pushes out the older strand of hair. This natural hair loss is called shedding. Anywhere between 10-15% of your hair is found in this phase at one time.
Within two weeks following the telogen phase, the presence of a new strand of hair (aka baby hair) appears. This triggers the hair growth cycle to reset once again to the anagen phase.
At any given time, each of hair (on our entire body) is going through its own stage of development. That is a great thing! Or else, you would have a head full of hair one day and be completely bald the next from shedding.
Hair Growth Rate
The average hair growth rate is approximately 1.25 cm (0.5 inches) per month, give or take.
So how long can your natural hair grow in a year?
You can expect about 15 cm (6 inches) in a year’s worth of time.
From personal experience, my natural hair growth falls right along the average rate.
Six inches of hair is a pretty significant amount of hair to gain! It can drastically change the appearance of your hair in just one year.
Here is an old before and after picture of a one-year protective challenge I did following my postpartum shedding phase. My hair was rough. However, you can see the impact one year of growth makes on the hair:
Even my daughter’s hair sprouted quite a bit during the year which spearheaded my inspiration to create Beautifully Curled. 🙂 That picture is so old but it is so nostalgic. It was at that instance I finally got an understanding of what it takes to properly maintain my natural hair.
Ok, back to reality…
How Much Natural Hair Can You Potentially Grow Period
According to the average time our hair is in the active phase, we could potentially grow 18 to 30 inches of hair from our scalp before the hair eventually falls out naturally.
I am at 18.5 inches of hair and the thought of 30 inches of natural hair just made me tired!
So What’s The Real Issue On How To Grow Natural Hair
This above information has been all laid out just to say, growing your natural hair is technically the easy part!
Natural hair growth is pretty much an involuntary process. It requires no special work on your behalf (although external factors you do could impact growth such as vitamin and water intake, physical activity, stress levels, sleep, and wholesome nutrition).
I am currently testing to see if rice water affects rate. Read: Rice Water for Faster Hair Growth: A Skeptic’s Thoughts
So as you can see, the question is no longer how to grow your natural hair. It becomes how to retain your natural hair length.
But what does retaining natural hair length mean?
Let’s press the issue further…
Length Retention Is The Solution To Your “Growth” Problem
In essence, length retention refers to the upkeeping of your ends in a healthy state as long as possible to reduce premature breakage and damage. It is the breakage that affects how long your hair is. U is the culprit to why many women are stumped how to grow their natural hair.
Why Is Retaining Hair Length So Difficult
Whereas growing out your hair does not take conscious work on your behalf, length retention can be a beast of a problem for many natural hair women to adequately manage.
The reason for such difficulty is that there a slew of external factors that play key roles whether or not your hair can maintain its healthy stage or become damaged and break off prematurely.
A few examples of these external factors are:
- Weather (hot versus cold seasons)
- Humidity (dry versus wet)
- Type of hair products
- Manipulation of hair
Some of these external factors are environmental and out of your control. However, the others are more or less under your complete control. It is the balance of factors that sometimes throw women for a loop on how to get a grip on retention.
It can quickly become a complicated hair situation where you can find yourself in a continuous downward spiral of breakage, damage, and always short of your hair length goals.
How To Break The Damage Cycle And Start The Retention Cycle
When you have been in a continuous state of breakage and low to no length retention, it can seem like a hopeless and daunting situation to evolve from.
But do not despair. Unless you have any underlying medical issue mentioned earlier, you can absolutely reverse the damaging hair cycle with the following tips.
Tip 1: Lay Off On Frequent Direct Heat Applications
Heat is such a powerful tool and not surprising, a very damaging one if used improperly. If you are experiencing a lot of breakage, applying heating tools such as blow dryers, flat irons, hot combs, and etc is not doing your hair any good at all.
If you are a frequent user of direct heat, lay off of the heat for a while. A three to six-month hiatus from heat can change up your length retention game tremendously.
If you are often blow drying your hair to keep it stretched, there are many great no-heat options for stretching your natural hair:
If you find that you are having heat withdrawals and cannot cut back that long, try using direct heat at most once a month or try this gentler heat stretching method. Challenge yourself, sis! The reward is great at the end!
Need tips for how to use direct heat safely on natural hair to reduce damage? R our Ultimate Natural Hair Heat Application Guide.
Tip 2: Use More Protective Styling
Constantly handling and manipulating your natural hair adds stress, wear, and tear to your strands especially the ends. Opting to wear your hair in protective styles can help reduce the frequent stress on your hair. It also as can protect the ends from harsh environmental factors.
There is no shortage of protective styles out there from you to choose from. Some can be worn for as little as three days at a time (like buns for example). Others up to six weeks or so (like faux extensions).
But there is a caveat to protective styling though especially for styles that hide your hair away (like wigs, weaves, and extensions):
Low to no manipulation does not equate to no hair maintenance.
Your hair still requires basic routine care (such as cleansing, moisturizing, and wearing overnight head protection) to still thrive.
A few things suck worse than wearing a protective style just to take it down and your hair is still damaged. Therefore, be mindful to cover your hair’s essential needs even during periods of low manipulation.
Tip 3: Establish A Solid (Yet Simple) Weekly Hair Regimen
With so many ideas out there of what the perfect natural hair regimen should, it is no wonder we sometimes our regimens end up too involved, highly manipulative, complicated, and even perhaps unsustainable to the point we neglect it along with our hair needs.
If you can just wrap your mind around these foundational elements, you will be well on your way to a solid (but simplified) hair regimen:
- Cleanse (important especially for scalp health and removing old product build-up)
- Deep Condition (essential for getting intensive moisture and/or protein treatment inside hair cuticles)
- Detangle (critical for removing tangles and knots in order to prevent further hair damage. Here is our Ultimate Detangling Guide for thorough tips on how to properly detangle natural hair)
- Moisturize/Seal (natural hair thrives on adequate moisture to maintain elasticity and strength)
- Style (low manipulative styles can help you reach your hair length goals sooner than wearing loose styles)
- Protect (bonnet/scarf helps keep hair protected overnight; keep ends off clothing and accessories where they can snag and break)
- Day to Day Maintenance (spritzing with a light moisturizer (or water) regularly revitalizes the hair and keeps it healthy; sealing with oils/butter help to retain that moisture longer)
As a busy work at home mom, I have mastered the art of simplifying my wash day routine to under 4 hours even with waist length long hair. That’s from dirty hair to styled for the week.
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Everything else you see such as tea and coffee rinses, pre-poos, co-washing, dry shampooing, clarifying, clay masques, henna, and etc. can have their places in your regimen. However, it is important to establish your foundation weekly regimen first before adding anything else that could eventually deter you from reaching your hair length goals.
Tip 4: It Sounds Counterintuitive But Trim Your Hair
Because of the distorted idea that our natural hair does not grow, we can find ourselves holding on to old scraggly ends for the sake of claim a few inches of length.
BUT. YOU. MUST. LET. THEM. GO.
Nothing is going to make your hair look and feel better than a good trim or dusting of your ends.
Splits and single strand (or fairy) knots create the perfect storm of other issues:
- Hair can easily tangle and knot up
- Detangling can become more difficult
- Ends are constantly dry and bushy
- Hair can loose even more length as splits travel up the hair
Therefore, it is best to nip those frayed and raggedy ends in the bud. But do not trim too much too often or you will hardly see any length progress.
The less you manipulate your hair via styling and heat and the more you nurture them with a strong moisturizing and sealing process, the less likely you will need trims.
Tip 5: Be Mindful of Your Hair Tools
These are not as obvious and can easily be overlooked. The type of hair tools you use can lead to breakage. Some common hair tools that can cause damage are:
- Rubber bands (particularly at the ends where they can easily get caught into the bands and break off upon removal)
- Broken bobby pins (at the two ends of most bobby/hair pins are bulbs to help protect the hair and scalp from the sharp edges of pins. Continuous use can eventually wear away those protective bulbs, thus leaving the sharp edges exposed and more likely to damage your hair or scrape against your scalp)
- Elastic ponytail holders (and headbands) with metal clasp (That metal clasp is a natural hair death trap. Our hair can easily get caught into those clasps and cause splits and breakage higher up along your hair strands)
- Combs with snagged teeth (cheaper combs can be manufactured with non-smooth (or jagged) plastic teeth that can eventually wear down your hair cuticles and result in damage).
- Detangling tools (never detangle hair with a comb which can cause great tension and breakage of your ends. Also, the Denman Brush is great for many women but can be rather rough on more fragile and finer hair. Check here to see how to your Denman Brush for finer hair.)
The Wrap Up
As you have read, how to grow your natural hair is not the question at stake here. For most of us, our hair growth follows along with a 3 to cyclic pattern before eventually shedding away.
So sis, if there is no medical or other underlying issue evident, I assure you that your natural hair is growing. I can assure you even more than longer natural hair can be attainable.
It all boils down to how well are you retaining your length at the opposite side of the hair (aka the ends)? The way you handle one of the most fragile parts of your hair determines the amount of length you gain in the long run.
Here’s a pinnable cheatsheet outlining even more do’s and don’t tips on how to grow your natural hair longer and retain more length:
By considering the above tips and implementing solid practices into your weekly hair care routine, you are set to maintain the health of your ends and gain about 0.5 inches of length by the end of the month.
Consistency is key to obtaining long, healthy, and strong natural hair. This is regardless of your curl pattern, hair type, hair porosity, climate, and etc. The above tips also work great for young natural children!
The takeaway is: Focus on what you can change and control, stick with your plan, and wait for the results to come in.
Repeat this pattern throughout the year and by the end of it, you can be enjoying another 6 inches of length as a reward for your labor.
Engage and Connect
Are you presently struggling with length retention? In what ways do you think you can change your current regimen to promote better retention?