While individual paths to ‘long hair nirvana’ vary widely, there are certain things that are common to the women who have got there. In my research, here are the top 3 that I’ve found.
1. They wear protective styles most of the time during grow out.
Natural: Long haired naturals wear twists, box braids, cornrows with or without extensions* for a few years of their hair journey to gain the length. During the grow out phase they only very occasionally wear their hair loose.
A lot of us see them style their hair in braid outs and other such loose styles on YouTube so we assume that that is how they gained their length. Not true. They have figured out the real ‘secret’ behind black hair growth. Leave it alone!
Relaxed: Long haired relaxed ladies seem to go down a different path to naturals. Some have achieved their length by wearing weaves or braids but some have also grown it with the use of weekly roller sets and protective styling like buns and updos.
Long haired relaxed ladies are masters of the roller set but here’s the kicker, during grow out, their hair is worn off the shoulders in a protective style like a bun or faux bob or very curly sets that sit above their shoulders. Their hair may be worn down for one, maybe two days in the week but usually it’s worn off the shoulders and combs are avoided until the next wash day.
2. They use low direct heat regimens.
Natural: As much as a moderate heat regimen has helped me achieve my own length, it is clear that giving direct heat the green flag just leads to abuse. Many natural ladies don’t take the time to find out how their own strands react to heat before going all in and this could lead to a major setback.
If you have very fine strands, stick with roller-sets or manual methods of hair stretching like banding. In any event, if you are following the first point above, blow dryers* and flat irons* will not be required until much later in your hair journey when you have already achieved your length!
Relaxed: Yes, if you are relaxed then direct heat is a no no. That means put away the blow dryers* and flat irons*. You can use these a couple of times per year as a treat or for a special occasion but for the most part you will be styling your hair after a wash by air drying or with roller sets.
In most cases a roller set and silk wrap is all you need to achieve straight hair without the use of direct heat.
3. They buy good quality products
Natural: Note that I did not say lots of of expensive products. On the contrary, you can get by on a good regimen armed only with a seamless detangling comb, a natural conditioner and good sealing oil!
You will find that ladies with long hair, while not being product junkies, they will spend the little bit extra needed to get good quality conditioners or sulfate free shampoos. The cheaply made, mineral oil* laden stuff that they used to purchase before just won’t do during their new HHJ.
Relaxed: As much as I’d like to tell you that you can get by as a relaxed woman trying to grow her hair long with just a comb, it just isn’t true. Long haired relaxed women tend to invest in their hair.
While you can make do with a soft bonnet dryer for your roller-sets when first starting out, eventually you will find out that you will probably want to upgrade to professional styling tools like a hood dryer for faster styling on your wash days.
Good quality shampoos, conditioners & moisturizers will also be necessary. The silver lining is that many of these styling tools will only have to be purchased once.
And there you have it. While this list may be simplistic and not by any means all encompassing, it does show that attaining length is less to do with what products you buy but how you treat your hair on a week to week basis.
They are exceptions to every rule of course and I’m sure that they are plenty of ladies who have attained length never having done a protective style in their life, they us direct heat often and use cheap products.
But it’s only right to warn you that these women are the exception not the rule and precious few of us will get anywhere with regimens like that. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. And if you are not getting results from your current regimen, then maybe it’s time to change it.