No matter your hair type, length is something we tend to focus (even obsess) on, whether a person’s hair grows faster than they can find time to cut it, or if it has little visible signs of growth.
Curly hair in particular tends to coil up or exhibit length in its volume, without noticeable length on the ends. Many women, especially those of us with denser hair, experience frustration when trying to grow hair longer, and many even feel that they hit a limit with their growth potential. This common concern has lead to the myth that there is a definite limit to how long a person’s hair will grow, also known as a "terminal length." While each individual has a different rate of hair growth, there are many factors affecting the actual length of hair, and terminal length may play a smaller role than most people believe.
The rate of hair growth (often measured in months) can depend on genetics, as well as environmental and health factors. Many people refer to the terminal length of hair, as if there is a defined growth limit. The terminal length is the maximum length hair could possibly reach without being cut or damaged. Each strand of hair completes an individual growth cycle, shedding when the cycle is complete, and it is then replaced with newly growing hair. Since each hair completes the cycle at different points, this explains why a person has multiple lengths within their head of hair at all times. When hair sheds, it may have reached its full length potential, or breakage could be the cause.
While genetics factors on some level, helping to dictate the length of time it takes for hair to grow, hair would have to be kept in pristine condition to truly judge how long it could grow based on inherited traits alone. Many people believe that their hair has trouble growing because of family traits, but it may be the habits of relatives that are actually to blame. Dying, bleaching, perming, relaxing, heat styling, and using drying products all contribute to hair damage and breakage. Weak and unhealthy hair will not show growth, even if the roots are still producing new hair.
Many people believe that African American hair is genetically predisposed to minimal growth, but this does not necessarily have to be the case. Types 3C and 4 hair tend to be denser and coarser, making it impossible to see the full length unless it is stretched out. African American hair care companies have promoted relaxing and other chemical processes for years, and heat styling and chemical processes cause breakage and can dramatically stunt hair growth. The process of adding and removing extensions also creates weak and fragile strands. This ideal of smooth and straight hair is a challenge that all curlies have had to overcome at some point in their natural hair journey. While there may be some racial and ethnic differences regarding terminal length, the average person is still capable of growing hair between one and three feet long, if it is cared for under ideal circumstances.
When making an effort to grow your hair out, it can be frustrating not to see immediate results. Each strand has a different age, and inconsistent hair maintenance can slow the process. Try some of our tips for maximizing your hair growth potential!
These hair-loving precautions may prove to be a transition, but stick with it. Remember that hair occasionally goes through resting phases of slower growth, which can be reparative and helpful in the long run.
While drastic cuts and over-trimming will absolutely slow down growth visibility, “dusting” the ends will maintain healthy hair. Hair growth really takes place at the root; however, this process removes dry or split ends, improving the overall appearance of hair.
April is NaturallyCurly's month of Curly Myth Busters. Don't be April fooled by these common curly hair myths!