Do you remember back in the day in school where there was always one black girl with long hair? We looked on at her mane in awe wondering how she managed to grow it that long even though her answers to our questions were vague and unsatisfactory.
We tried using the same products that she did with no positive results so we came to the conclusion that it must be her genes.
If you are a regular reader of BHI you are probably thinking ‘Seriously are people still thinking like that?’ Well the answer is a resounding YES!
On our facebook page we hear the most ludicrous of comments such as ‘black hair cannot grow long’, and ‘she must have won the genetic hair lottery’. Oh and please do not dare come from a ‘fully African heritage because then you are pretty much limited to one inch of hair for the rest of your life’.
The internet has changed our lives in that it allows us to share information pretty much instantly and effortlessly through websites like this one, youtube and hair boards. For the black community this has meant a way of sharing hair and beauty ‘secrets’ that were once held by the few but now known to many.
I’m sure my tone already tells you what I think about this ‘genetics idea’ and if this was Mythbusters I would be just about done busting this myth! Honestly though there is a lot of confusion with certain terms such as genetics, race, and culture.
There are very different definitions for each even though there are ways in which each term can be linked to each other. The important thing is that none of these terms are directly related to long hair, so lets set the record straight once and for all.
Wikipedia has a very simple definition for genetics, it is the process of inheritance from parents to offspring including molecular structure and functions of genes, gene behavior in the context of cells or an organism.
Not to get too technical because this is by no means a detailed biology lesson but your genes determine features such as your eye color, facial features, if you look like dad, or if you have the same freckles mom has. Growth of any sort starts at the cellular level, as the cells split and multiply, growth happens.
While the height of an individual can be linked directly to DNA including genetic and gender factors, how long your hair becomes actually is not linked.
The confusion happens when we think about the speed at which hair grows, our genes are what predetermine the rate at which our hair grows but it does not affect how much hair you retain on a monthly basis or the ability for your hair to grow at all.
Hair growth happens in three phases, the Anagen phase, the Catagen phase, and the Telogen phase. The Anagen Phase is known as the growth phase and it can last for as long as seven years, the longer the hair remains in this stage the more growth you are able to achieve.
The amount of time you remain in this stage is the only thing that is determined by genetics. The other hair growth phases are periods of transition and rest which make up the entire life cycle of the hair strand.
Can We Increase the Anagen Phase?
For us to conclude that hair growth is not somewhat related to hair length would not make much sense. But we must also realize that one does not determine the other, because retaining the length largely depends on environmental factors like hair care practices.
However, all things remaining equal what if there was some way for us to increase the Anagen phase of growth or rapid cell division so that we could be predisposed to longer hair?
There are many things on the market that claim to increase the Anagen phase of growth, MSM* being the most popular. But before you run to the health food store, just know that defying the laws of genetics is very tricky and there is no actual proof that growth aids actually work so before you try anything you should consult your physician. You wouldn’t want any unexpected consequences.
Focus Your Energy on Length Retention
For black women, length retention rather than growth rate is what is most important when it comes to having long hair. Your hair does not stop growing, there might be periods of slow growth or resting, but for the most part we can start to see the real length through great hair care practices.
Try to find ways to avoid breakage and setbacks because it doesn’t matter if you are Black, White, Chinese with kinky* hair or Hispanic with 3c curls, we all have to put in the work to retain the length we are achieving as our hair grows.
For many of us who now blog or vlog about our hair, we have discovered that a simple formula of care has actually led to the promised incredible gains in the length of our hair.
Honestly a good regimen is all it takes to grow your hair long and healthy. No magic formula, no fancy products and certainly no ‘hair growing genes’. As our hair became longer, in the end it became clear as day. Our genes didn’t suddenly change, we did!
The more of us who follow good regimens, achieve success and spread the message to our families and friends, the more the idea of genetics being the primary decider in hair length becomes history.
In a few short years you will be shaking your head in amusement thinking of your naivety and wishing that you could have told your younger self that it all comes good in the end. You will finally get the long hair of your own and in so doing, create a different hair length trajectory for your own children.
Yet for now we must live with the fact that when new technologies or ways of thinking come about, it takes years, sometimes even a entire generation for change to be implemented and for it to become commonplace.
In the 19th century women were dying in childbirth at alarming rates until a doctor put two and two together and realized that the people attending the women were actually spreading germs to them from their dirty hands.
This may seem ludicrous to us today but back in those days nobody knew that hand washing, particularly at a hospital, was important at all. It took years to get people to believe this but finally they believed, made the changes, and women stopped dying.
The point of this morbid story? I could sit here all day pointing you to different blogs, instagrams, youtube channels or even street addresses of women who have finally grown their hair long after years of short hair but for those who don’t want to believe, you will continue bleating the ‘genetics’ stuff.
For the rest of you who want to learn how to grow your hair long in spite of hair type, texture or genetics, go to this page:
Originally posted 2013-07-07 15:00:06.