Since I have been involved in hair care, I have been very interested in hair growth, particularly fast hair growth*(affiliate link) and judging by black women’s obsession with hair growth aids, so are many of you.
Of course I’m sure that the biggest reason we love hair growth aids is because we find it easier to believe that a product is actually responsible for hair growth rather than anything as boring as a regimen.
So we continue to be taken in by marketing ploys with actions terms like ‘super growth’ or ‘crazy growth’ to encourage us to purchase products pertaining to make our hair grow faster, thicker or longer.
When it comes to length retention, majority of black women’s problems are caused by inadequate hair care techniques that encourage breakage instead or encouraging length.
But why, even after we have adopted healthy hair techniques, do some of us continue to have slow growth and again have to turn to hair growth boosting products? Is it impatience or is there something to the slow growth argument?
Recently I had a discussion with a hair stylist of note about hair growth rate in general. She stated that healthy hair grows at a rate of ½ an inch per month and any less indicated hormonal problems in the individual. Naturally I vehemently disagreed with that statement and here I would like to show you why.
Lets Talk About Average Height
Yes, I would like to start off by talking about average height in humans, it may seem unrelated but stay with me… Average height has been a moving target since the beginning of recorded history.
In Auxology (the study’s height) you learn that height is a measure of the health of populations, where the average is measured in those who share a genetic background and environmental factors.
In essence, even though the quality of nutrition that you get will affect your height, other factors like genetics and environment also come into play in determining the height of an individual.
For example, the Nilotic people of Sudan are described as some of the tallest in the world which is an adaptation to their environment. However when these individuals go through warfare where malnutrition is rife, their offspring will suffer from stunted growth and be unable to grow as tall as their ancestors.
The pygmies of Central Africa on the other hand are unusually short with male height being below 4 feet 11 inches. While various theories have been proposed to explain their short stature, it appears that it is a combination of genetics and an adaptation to their environment that causes this phenomenon as there is not much evidence to suggest that malnutrition applies to them.
The point that I am trying to make is that even though height can be a measure of health across populations, it is probably best judged in people of a similar genetic background and environment in the absence of malnutrition.
As it relates to black hair growth
When it comes to hair growth in people of African descent, you may be surprised to learn that very little has actually been studied or published. The British Journal of Dermatology 2001; 145: 294±297. African hair growth parameters states in a study it conducted:
Hair growth parameters have been studied mostly in Caucasian hair, whereas few data on African hair have been reported in the literature.
Valerie Johnson says
My natural hair is very similar to the second pic in the top row…my hair is currently just past my shoulder blades and still growing…one reason is I condition my hair daily…another is I am extremely gentle with it…another is I stopped flat ironing…I keep it relaxed…about every 6 to 8 weeks and it is thick…I can change the texture to a more African look by not blow drying it straight and using a comb instead of the attachment…I don’t do braids or weaves…my hairline is the same as when I was a child…this pic is just before I got a retouch…
It baffles me that you choose to represent blacks but despise the Africans. Nutrition is better of in Africa and not in the diaspora. Most Africans have long healthy hair until they relocate then the hair problems come. If you choose to represent blacks then make an effort to understand Africa and the African.
Alma Ruddock says
At what point exactly did you decide that I despise Africans?
I consider myself African so don’t judge my intentions when you don’t even know me.
Nutrition may be better for some of the well off Africans because they don’t eat as much junk food but by and large nutrition in Africa on average is not always the best. Life expectancy even after factoring in child mortality and HIV is still lower in African countries which is a combination of poorer nutrition and not having access to medication. Both of these affect hair growth.
Im Ghanaian living in Ghana. My hair grows faster than the average 1/2 inch per month. Ive cut all my hair off before high school and it grew almost waist length relaxed hair my mum is almost 60 years and she has MBL natural hair. Im going natural and im going to cut it again and I know it will grow back long. Im from a middle class family you dont have to be rich to be getting good nutrition.
I love my Ghanaian people!!! I have friends from Ghana and they still eat very healthy! I think Ghana has the best nutrient rich diet in the world and y’all never have a problem growing long hair. I’m very blessed to be friends with my people from Ghana I’ve learned a wealth of knowledge, and with your comment I’ve learned even more. How blessed I am to be African-American <3333. Serioulsy, this comment has enlightened people and their paradigms about Africans in general. Thank You so much for this comment.
You are soo welcome. Read a comment beneath about mixed ancestry i guess its your comment. Well its true that most western blacks have a mixed ancestry but that should’nt be the reason for having long hair. In Ghana you’ll find families especially those from the “Fante” tribe with european last names(British, Portuguese, dutch etc). My last name is British i never did understand why until i asked my Dad and upon visiting the slave castles along the coast i got to know that many slave women at the castles were raped by the white governers and soldiers and got pregnant after delivery most were put back into the slave dungeons, the children were taken from them and their last names were given to these mulatto kids and these were the first children to be educated in Ghana. I cried my eyes out hearing this and most people dont really talk about it here. My point is my Dads side of the family are from this line but the women do not really have long hair its my mums Ashanti side that does and also i have a mixed cousine whose hair isnt long she used to have long hair as a child but living with her in the UK for sometime i realised she always straightens her hair and that might be the reason she no longer has long hair. I have African American friends too. You should one day pay a visit to the motherland preferably Ghana since most of your friends are Ghanaians and visit the Capecoast and Elmina castles and see for yourself the pain our African Ancestors went through before being taken away. Much Love <3
I’ve heard stories about the dungeons and it’s painful to the bone, it’s also painful also knowing that before the trans atlantic, we had native africans living in america a looong time ago. That’s why there are pyramids in Belize and mexico underground ones off the coast of Cuba(which was an ancient empire in Central africa). The slave trade of the Americas had started on this hemisphere before the Moors had decided to bring more africans over through the Atlantic. And everybody knows the Moors were black, but were mixed and a lot of them came from western asia and the already mixed and conquered region of northern africa. My comment about mixed people was only pertaining to how White people aren’t even white themselves, they never really have been so it doesn’t make any sense to say that because you’re “mixed’ is the reason for long hair. That baffles me to hear that ignorance. I’m extremely pissed off about the Moors for being treacherous towards their African half, they were a product of foreigners raping african women a long time ago, but they just kept their melonin gift of being very brown or dark skinned since they were concentrated for centuries. So, because of them a lot of people think that European automatically means white, and no that is not the case most Moors were always apart of the royal families of Europe which led to the demise of Africans of both hemispheres. The Moors were raping African women and when those kids were born, they looked like regular African children. There was actually a few laws that had passed back then during 1400s to enslave all black people of the Americas but it wasn’t easy because we were fighting and a lot got captured. Then they had took it on to the Motherland for the second half SMH . If you have heard about Harriet Tubman people have said that she too, along with others who were slaves along with her were actually natives that’s why she knew the terrain of the US and Canada so well, which makes sense… A LOT of sense how else could they have gotten such a gigantic number of slaves from Africa if they could only fit a certain number, what 3-400 on the ships and more than half died? Come on there had to already have been a lot of black people in the Western hemisphere. Like, where are all the slave ships anyway? Shouldn’t they be at museums or something? I’m sick of white scholars hiding the truth about the slave trade. You know California was named after an African goddess queen Kalifia aka Kalafia, that should tell people something.
I’m sorry Carol,but African Americans are not Hamites we are Israelite’s,and quite frankly,African people tend to throw us in the same group as them,but culturally we are not,who we are as a people is not the same. We are like night and day,our soul is different;who we are is not the same. We have a little more oomph,we are just different,and Alma,you do not have to justified answering this woman;Africans had the nerve to let a man who wasn’t African change their continent’s name,Africa was once called Asia,and there were JEWS in Asia,which is the African Americans today.
Kelly Hall says
My hair is a good length. I think we put waaaay too much emphasis on hair length. I have very curly/coily hair that grows slowly. Don’t care cause what grows is beautiful! Go naturals!
Thanks for your report; it was well written. However, I don’t think that study was done in a controlled environment (monitoring them and controlling what they put in their hair) to have much weight for me to trust. I also don’t know if the individuals that conducted the study know anything about black hair. Had they taken samples from various areas in addition to doing the study on individuals they were monitoring on a long term bases using the hair care practices best for Afro textured hair, then I would support it. I don’t know what any of those women put in their hair or if they know how to take care of their hair. I also don’t know if the study was based on retention or actual hair grow. As you stated, 19 black women in Paris can hardly be considered the standard. Regardless, it’s nice to see that our hair is being considered when conducting hair studies now. That by itself is great.
Alma Ruddock says
I agree actually. I think more than anything it goes to show that cosmetology is not as all encompassing as we like to think. It would be great to see more of these studies done especially have growth measured from the root, get a larger cross section of the population etc. Time will tell I suppose.
Deondra Davis says
My hair really does grow ½in per month and 6in per year, so I guess I’m average
Jenelle B. says
I love this article Alma, you brought many of things that have me thinking about black hair care that we get misinformed of because many studies have never been done truthfully for Africans and people of African descent. With this, we can open discussion that will bring our community together and have more open discussions and even more research about our hair care practices and even our growth.
Alma Ruddock says
Thank you Jenelle 🙂
Pwincez Rosey says
Lol my hair grows.. NOWHERE
First of all thank you and bravo for such a well writtent article. I would like to bring a fact to your attention regarding health and nutrition in African countries Vs France or the USA. Indeed it is a mistake to state that people’s alimentation in african countries is the poorest and the less healthy. Actually those who live the local way(not imitating western lifestyle) eat organic food, vegetables ,, fruits, green leafs, grains in their less transformed version on a daily basis. This goes for most of the african countries.Proof is, of you go to Ghana,Ivory coast, Sénégal, Burundi , Rwanda, Gabon, for exemple, you’ll see in the villages, were they have the healthiest lifestyles, that girls and women have SBL ang longer hair in a wide proportion. They eat so well and exercise naturally everdyday, and have the natural haircare products(shea butter, cocnut oil, some plants decoctions) that their hair grow pretty fast and healthy. Also chances are, as students in western countries they will eat poorly: fast food, pizza, almost no veggies and fruits, soft drinks. Ect. I don’t blame you, the information about African countries is so transformed when it gets to the USA that even the most educated and well intentioned person ends up believing that Africa is this big poor country were people don’t have the chance and privilege to live as well as americans.
Alma Ruddock says
I completely understand what you are saying Nilae but when looking at Africa, it may not be fair but we have to look at an average nutrition for the continent rather than look at individual villages where malnutrition isn’t common.
Trust me I do get it, my grandad lived to be 113 in a village in Kenya eating organic food and living an active lifestyle and many people in Kenya live like this. But to the north of Kenya there has been poverty and malnutrition there for decades so if one was to look at the nutrition of Kenya as a whole, they would have to take those starving into account as well, you see?
Of course it makes perfect sense that whoever these Africans were in the study were unlikely to be living off organic food predominantly but it would be also be unfair to say that they were living off pizza’s and student type food because their ages ranged up to about 50 years old and we simply don’t know what they ate, just that they were free of disease.
Also I don’t want us to miss the point that nutrition is only part of the puzzle when it comes to determining hair growth rate. Genetics also play a role so without guessing too much it’s too hard to say for sure what hair growth rates are really like.
Yet if we are looking at Africa as a whole we would also have to consider North Africans like Ethiopians, Eritians, Somalians, Morrocans etc who ‘appear’ to grow their hair longer, perhaps some genetics come into play there with the Arab influence. I simply don’t know and it would be difficult to say much without too much conjecture.
My grandmother (who also lived village life) had shoulder to arm pit length hair all her life which for a black person was considered long *wink* but I can’t really attest that to fast growth because she kept her hair in a single braid under a scarf daily for as long as I knew her so it’s also likely that low manipulation had something to do with it.
Nilae I agree with you 100%. Most people in Ghana especially those that live in the village eat very healthy unprocessed foods. I live in the city and its here that you see some people eating junk food.
Taneisha Mckenzie says
If I condition my hair daily, would it fall out? Need answers plz.
Elizabeth Valerie Sowell says
Taneisha Mckenzie: I’m not sure if it would fall out but it may cause your hair to be overly moisturized without a good protein balance; however, it may dry out if you don’t seal the moisture in. You don’t have to condition it daily, maybe every few days is okay, but be careful and do a little more research. Especially with the ingredients in your conditioner (some people don’t mind what’s in it and if that’s you, it’s all good).
Tamika Clark says
Can anyone tell me a good protein conditioner and a good leave in conditioner?
Kee Kee D says
Moisture MAX by Lustrasilk has a really nice protein conditioner. They have a leave-in too. Find them at your local BSS and some Walmarts.
Andrea Edmondson says
I have the same hair as the second pic in the second row. Very thick shrinks a lot. 4c can be a pain. Only been natural 4 months but I think it’s growing half an inch a month.
Blessedfrom Above says
My hair is growing very very good…done my extensive research…come across msm, dht and hair oils…of course doing what it takes to maintain growth..it stop breaking , its stronger..I even use some of the oils on my face…
This quote made people a bit uneasy, “many black people in Western countries may have mixed heritages in their ancestry and that combined with being nutritionally better off I’m sure that if this study was conducted in people born and raised in the US, the greater majority would likely have faster hair growth rates.”
I’d have to say it made me uneasy too. I mean for one thing, white people have a lot of African ancestry that started long before they even came to the Western world, so they are mixed too. And they just kept going back and forth once they came to the Western world. My friend Meaghan knows she has African in her family really close even though she’d be considered white. Her hair was down to her butt, but both of her sisters hair doesn’t even come close and all three of their diet is TERRIBLE lol they are allergic to a lot of stuff. I had great grandmother’s who had hair past their knees one was born during slavey and her pops was her slave owner. Even though he had Black Moorish descent so if that even counts to call him white smh, reall embaracing and a disgrace. But back to the subject NOBODY in his family had hair even near that length at all. So, she and her daughter were considered odd in New Orleans at that time because of that. They passed down in the family that their hair was from the African side and after seeing these photos of these African women
I can definitely see what they mean! I like this article though I think it’s a door opener to stuff even deeper. It’s no wonder them psycho slave owners made slaves cut off their hair SMH. But I’ve seen growing up around every “ethnicity” eveyone’s hair grows from 1/4-1/2 or a full inch in a month of no matter what they claim to be ethnicity wise. My friend Meaghan grew about 1/2 of an inch, but her texture isn’t dry so she has no problems retaining the length even though she has horrific nutrition.
Alma Ruddock says
Oh dear, I wasn’t able to see your images, you may have linked to an email attachment 🙁 but I get you, after all we all come from Africa ultimately.
Oh man 🙁 my fault for pistingnmy email attachment. I don’t know how to post regular images on this comment section. And yes Africa is the main one blood line, but so many people were trying to pretend that blood line wasn’t in them SMH.
Typo lol I meant posting* I hate spell check lol.
I have a question, I like what my hair looks like when I have egg on my hair,while conditioning;Is there a product for natural
hair that gives your hair a great definition the way eggs do?
Alma Ruddock says
Sounds like your hair is reacting to the protein the egg and making your curls more pronounced. Have you tried a protein gel like eco styler?
No I haven’t,would it give me the same definition as if I had egg in my hair? I’ve heard that you have to put water on your hair first because the gel alone gets hard?Also,my hair is low porosity,how long do I have to deep condition to get out of this phrase
O btw,I cant use creme products,do you have any suggestions? It takes my hair out,anything creamy or heavy takes it out,I can only use oils but I need to have a leave in thats not creamy,can you help me,thanks
Alma,sweetie are you there? Lol!
Alma Ruddock says
Sorry love, I hadn’t seen your questions. Ok, the reason why you can’t use creamy products is because your hair is still low porosity, basically creams just sit on top of the hair not being absorbed. This will improve as your hair gets to normal porosity levels.
When I started caring for my sisters hair about a year ago she was in the same position as you. Her hair still felt coarse when wet because of a lack of deep conditioning. It took us about 2 months of weekly deep conditioning sessions, 1 hour each with heat under a hooded dryer, before her hair reached normal porosity and is now soft. She’s shocked that her hair has improved so much. Now we maintain by deep conditioning with heat for 1/2 hour every 2 weeks or so while we work on the length.
Most gels make your hair hard when it is dry but can easily be scrunched out to restore some degree of softness. I guess it’s the tradeoff you make for a style that lasts longer. But you can reduce the hard feeling by using a leave in underneath the gel or combining your gel with one containing glycerin.
Hi Alam,its me again Lol!
Do you have a suggestion on the leave in and the gel,because some gels and leave ins dont go well together. Also,in the meantime what hair regime should I do? I heard of the Liguid,oil,gel,oil method,or is that it? But I did not see any information on what products the woman used? And what hair products do I use in the mean time,can you suggest some cheap effective products that work? Thanks Alma
KDenise Jones says
Thank you for taking the time to clarify and share your family experience. You are a very intelligent and beautiful woman inside and out.God bless you and all your work.
Alma Ruddock says
Aww thanks girl!
Frankye Campbell says
Valerie Johnson says
Hi Marilyn…I use Organix brand…and also a leave in conditioner, creme of nature…I usually wash and condition my hair every day…but I alternate and use other products as well…
Pia Atkins says
My daughter has beautiful blonde afro type hair that is 4th picture top row in places and 2nd picture top row in others. Her hair is down to her bum but shrinks to shoulder length. As you can see from my profile pic, I am not really qualified to look after afro type hair as my own hair is fluffy and wavy at best (and my husband doesn’t have any hair at all) so the poor child lives in a two bobble plait. Please can anyone give me any advice on how to tame her hair? Esp the frizzies at the front. I would be so very, very grateful as she is 12 now and would like to have her hair down occasionally! Thanks x
Valerie Johnson says
Pia have you ever thought of sending her to a salon…she’s old enough…
Ileah Collins says
mine is actually the growth rate they say, 1/2 inch a month. which is why me and relaxers never worked. lol
Mine is about 1/4 inch per month…..I guess I have some..umm…arfff :'(
Personally my hair grows 7 to 8 inches per year, more towards the 8 inches when I eat healthier and take multivitamins. I am African American/ Black woman (not mixed) from California. I don’t use growth aids per se, But I use alot of conditioners and wear protective hairstyles to prevent breakage (natural hair bun, extension braids sometimes, sew ins (not in a while but last year I did). These studies are not representative at all of Black people. Also genetics may play a role. My mom never had long hair, but my dads side of my family does.
Anna Ogonji Smith says
So will they ever conduct a real study???
There’s no money in it for industry so probably not any time soon…
Ash Ta Ji says
The website is working fine as far as I can tell. Please clear your cache and try again
I love your article and find it very informative, but I feel it’s important to consider the fact that not all Africans from Africa are mal-nourished. (Pointing out your statement that the Africans were living in Paris and free from diseases). Maybe I misunderstood, but I feel you should be a little more sensitive when generalizing.
I understand that it is also necessary to point this out as we still have a large part of our population going through this, but it would also be nice to note that that’s not the only case. I just wish you’d be a little more sensitive to this stereotype always given to Africa (that it is pretty much composed of malnourished people, and that it is a country)! There are several completely different countries in Africa facing different problems to a larger or lesser extent, and it’s about time we become a little more specific or sensitive to it!