First of all, if that was the case people wouldn’t need relaxers every two months. So yes, our hair does grow, and it can even grow long.
The problem is many people have trouble retaining length (breakage) — which is a big difference from not growing.
I’ll talk about length retention later, but let’s go back to growing black hair.
Genetics Play a Huge Role
Everyone is always searching for that miracle product that will give them the long tresses they’ve always desired. But the truth is hair growth is largely determined by genetics.
Look at the women in your family and see if you notice any kind of length pattern.
Some people simply have genes that help their hair grow faster and longer than others. That’s definitely the case in my family.
Many women on both my mom and dad’s side have longer hair, and my hair has always grown at a pretty good rate.
Now, don’t get discouraged. Genetics aren’t the end all be all. It’s just something to keep in mind when you’re comparing your hair to someone else’s.
Hair Growth Products
Most products have very little impact on hair growth. Now unless you’re talking about a prescription product like Rogaine (for thinning and balding), most products do very little. A lot of what you see is just marketing.
Now, of course everyone has an optimal growth rate, which can be inhibited by things like diet, stress, etc. and promoted by vitamins, exercise, and eating healthy.
However, there are very few products that will make your hair grow faster than your optimal rate — which varies from person to person.
If you’re looking for a natural remedy for thinning hair, try rubbing a small amount of castor oil into your scalp every night before bed. Castor oil is known to have a positive effect on thinning hair and is also used to thicken eyebrows.
Keep in mind, though that if your hair is thinning from over-processing with a relaxer or traction alopecia (wearing braids too tight), rubbing castor oil is not going to help unless you stop what’s causing the problem.
If your hair is super kinky (meaning your strands have a lot of bends/turns, draws up and tangles easily), then it can be more difficult to grow your hair longer.
This DOES NOT mean long hair is unattainable. It just means that it may require more attention than someone with a looser pattern.
Because when your hair is very kinky, oils from your scalp do not travel down the strands as easily. As a result, your hair may be dry, more brittle and prone to breakage.
Don’t get discouraged. At least you now understand why you have trouble retaining length.
I don’t want to create unnecessary division by mentioning hair texture because I know this is often a touchy subject in our community.
However, I felt it necessary to bring up here because like it or hate it, your hair’s texture and curl pattern definitely play a role in length retention because it affects your hair’s natural moisture level.
Hair that retains moisture, has more elasticity, breaks less and retains more length. Dry hair is more brittle, breaks off easily and prevents you from retaining length.
There’s a myth that kinky hair is stronger because it’s more course, but it’s actually the exact opposite. Kinky hair is more fragile than naturally straight or curly hair because of the moisture issues mentioned above.
So it’s not about trying to alter your texture or feeling discouraged because you don’t have a certain hair type. It’s about understanding your hair, embracing it and giving it what it needs so you can have the length you desire.
Diet, Exercise & Vitamins
As I mentioned, what you eat and how often you exercise have been shown to have a direct impact on your hair growth’s optimal rate.
Eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking adequate water, taking vitamins and exercising regularly have all been known to support hair growth no matter your ethnicity, genes, etc.
The opposite is also true. Eating a lot of saturated fats and sugars can also prevent your hair from growing at its optimal rate.
Protective styling does not help your hair grow any faster, but it helps you retain more length because you are not constantly manipulating your hair.
The ends of your hair are the most fragile because they are the oldest part. So after all the combing, detangling, blow drying, and flat ironing, it’s very easy for your ends to become damaged.
And if you don’t get your ends trimmed regularly, they will break off. So in order to keep your ends healthy, you have to continue to trim.
The average person’s hair grows 1/2 inch per month, so if you are losing that amount or more due to breakage then it will appear as if your hair is not growing.
Protective styles like braids, twists, up dos or any style that tucks away your ends and doesn’t require manipulation can help you retain more length.
Also, natural hair is prone to snagging on clothing (especially wool) which can cause breakage and split ends, so keep that in mind during those cold months.
Here is an example of a protective style I wore while I transitioned to natural hair.
Also remember that just because your hair is in a protective style (yes, extensions count too), don’t neglect to moisturize it. Because when you take it down, you will have a lot more breakage due to the fact your hair has dried out.
Massaging your scalp for 20-30 minutes per day is a great habit to get into. It increases blood flow to the scalp area and can stimulate growth.
This may be especially helpful if you have thinning edges from relaxers or weaves. If your hair is not permanently damaged, this could help your hair grow back.
If you cannot sit and do the scalp massage all at once, do it several times per day in smaller intervals.
I’ve also heard a lot of women claim natural hair grows faster than relaxed hair. This is not really true.
Unless you have some kind of chemical damage from relaxers, your hair will grow at the same rate no matter if it’s relaxed or natural. The reason why natural hair seems to grow longer is that a lot of naturals retain more length.
Now that I’m natural, I discovered I don’t need to trim my hair nearly as often. I don’t use any direct heat on my hair like I did when I used relaxers and I wear a lot of protective styles (two strand twists).
So it may appear that my hair is growing faster. It’s not. I’m just retaining more length.
Below is a picture of my hair 27 months after I started my natural hair journey. This is the longest my hair has ever been.
And the length is not just about being natural (of course that helps ’cause my hair is stronger), but not using heat and wearing a lot of low-manipulation styles like two-strand twists play a huge role in my length retention.
You can also see how much natural hair shrinks up. My hair is about 50% longer than it appears. That’s just something you have to deal with when you are natural.
So I hope this article dispelled a few myths and shed some light on black hair growth. While protective styles, diet and exercise can definitely play a role in your individual optimal hair growth rate, don’t underestimate the genetic factor.
This is not to say you cannot have long hair if you don’t have “the genes”, but it may require more patience and discipline (minimizing heat, eating healthy, constant moisture etc.) to achieve the length you desire.
If you need more direct assistance with growing your hair longer and healthier, you might want to check out the book Grow it Long.
It’s a 96-page book (downloadable, PDF format) with tips on how to grow longer, healthier hair by using a more effective hair care routine.
I already knew a lot of the information in the book, but my favorite part was the homemade recipes for scalp cleansing and conditioning.
I love making my own products and will definitely be trying the brown sugar scrub soon!
The author, Donna Hanover, also does a great job of explaining the different kinds of conditioners available on the market and when to use them.
If you’ve struggled with growing hair all your life, this is definitely going to be the book for you. This is the kind of information our community needs and I was happy to support Donna. You can get Grow it Long here and download it today.