Since the widespread popularity of youtube and the natural hair community, a lot of women have quite rightly put away that the old notion ‘black hair does not grow’ as a myth.
Even so, slow growing hair may in fact be more common amongst black people than you may think. The “average” rate of 6 inches a year will usually be more a dream than a guarantee.
Our analysis of a study on hair growth rates in black people, demonstrates this very phenomenon that many people of African descent average only about 4 inches of hair growth per year.
Although not a conclusive voice on the subject, I have also seen this slow growth phenomenon in my own hair. I too only get 4 inches per year which is slower than the “agreed average”.
You see, at the beginning of my natural hair journey I colored my hair yearly, usually it was just golden brown highlights or a block of color at the top only. With this routine, I was always able to see how much growth I got in a year by measuring the black hair that had grown in at the roots. I can’t think of a more accurate way of measuring your growth rate where breakages does not play much of a factor.
Anyway after determining my slow growth, this translated to being perfectly aware of how careful I had to be in my regimen in order to retain every millimeter I could. Trust me, when you have slow hair growth, every millimetre counts!
Of course I don’t claim to have the perfect regimen but there are a few things that I have learned as a slow grower that I would like to share with you. Here they are in no particular order.
1. Don’t blindly follow other people’s trimming schedules
I saw a video once where a lady with long thick hair was doling out hair advice. Among other things, one of her points was to trim about 3/4 of an inch of hair every other month.
While that advice was clearly working wonders for her and her thick hair, if I was to adopt that part of her regimen, it would equate to me trimming 4.5 inches off every year. I would literally end the year ½ inch shorter than where I began! Nope.
My advice is to dust your ends from time to time, if you don’t know, dusting your ends means just micro trimming the very ends of your hair, this will largely remove most split and damaged ends. Leave any major trims for when you are reviewing your growth (once or twice a year) but even then only when necessary.
Remember that the point of trimming is to get rid of damaged ends, but if you are not causing much damage to your hair, then the need for trims reduces too. Which brings me nicely to my next tip.
2. Protective style like crazy
I can’t overstate this enough. MANIPULATION, not heat, not chemicals, sulfates or silicones will the the death of your hair growth dreams. I would love to tell you that you can grow it long while enjoying playing in your hair throughout your journey but that would be disingenuous of me. I once heard it said that you should not try to be extra cute during the length retention phase.
Many of us have neither the time nor the energy to devote hours at the weekend to detangling errant strands in small sections. And even if you are extra careful, some degree of breakage will still occur with weekly detangling.
The only way to ensure that you are retaining more than you grow is to reduce the number of times you manipulate your hair. This means long term protective styling, until you reach your goal length.
And since these days many like to describe any random updo as a protective style, I would like to be clear that I mean LONG TERM protective styles. This is a style that does not require you to comb, brush or manipulate your hair in any way for weeks or months on end. So box braids, cornrows, sew ins, twists and other such styles qualify as long term protective. Wigs* themselves do not really qualify as long term protective, neither do updos, ponytails, puffs or twist outs.