In the last year and a half of growing my hair out, I've noticed several things.
1) My hair stopped growing longer at some point until I improved how I took care of my hair. This is mostly due to my hair being more prone to breaking after a certain length. I had to increase the amount of oils that I use.
2/ The size and tightness of my ringlets changed as my hair got longer.
3/ There are several phases of 'this sucks' and 'this is awesome' as my hair grew through uncomfortable phases, e.g. annoying the eyes, annoying the shoulders, look really funny. Resists the temptation to cut it off!
I'll second most of what froseph has said about the process. Otherwise I would also offer that it is important to get regular trims maybe every 6-8 weeks ish. It's a matter of personal preference, however I know that the best thing for me is to pay attention to when I get those ratty ends. The best way to combat that is with somewhat regular trims every two to three months. Hope this helps!
Well, right now, my hair is past my ear, but I have a buckle that's going up, I'm trimming my hair in two weeks, so should I trim it now? And btw, right now I'm using the Hidratation brand of hari products by Pantene
Hey man, been in the grow-out phase for about seven months now (my last hair cut was almost skin late last July- I don't look good with short hair, but it was for a wedding ><- and not my own either lol).
In the back my hair goes down to between my shoulder blades when wet, and then once dry it is at my neck. In the front, depending on its mood and the weather, my hair when straightened out goes to below my mouth in some cases. It is finally getting long enough that it goes into a pony tail decently.
I decided to go water only on washing it to see whether it would allow the oils to give it more cohesiveness. Where I live it is Summer. Surprisingly, my hair doesn't hate me I have not used any product or oils on it in months and it is a bit dry, but not too bad. I can put my fingers through it to de-curl before getting in the shower, but I have to jump in pretty quick or it re-sets. I am having great success in encouraging a natural cohesiveness of the hair with only its oils.
I would lay off the product entirely and go water only routine, thereby allowing the hair to cleave to itself naturally and not strip away oils which will help care for the hair and simultaneously keep down fly-aways etc. At the point where I am, I only have the front fringe of the hair to worry about, but in another two months or so, that shouldn't be a problem either.
Do not get a trim or a cut. Push through this phase, then after you can restrain all the hair comfortably (try to keep from restraining it for as long as possible as it will probably cause some brittleness in the hair), consider getting it styled at a shop that does Ouidad's curl cutting regimen. This will make the awkward phases shorter.
I would suggest finding a natural kind of paste depending on how your hair behaves. Mine is long enough now that after mine dries, it looks like pony-tailed hair of other curlies. It kind of gets this zig-zaggy pattern to it while it is under tension. If you have a thick head of hair, natural styling products that can control volume/tame it down will probably be very useful to you.
On the taming front, though it may seem opposite to customary advice, the smallest toothed comb you can find can be your best friend. I start out with a very wide-toothed comb, and end up with one of those "rat-tailed" like combs (the ones that tend to have a metal end on them because the comb's teeth are that small that plastic and wood just will not work). If I could find a comb with even tighter teeth, I would use it. Starting wide-toothed, how widely toothed depending on the humidity level of the day and how curled the hair is even just stepping out of the shower, and working down through the teeth gives you a chance to work out the tangles in the hair and then to smooth the hair together using the natural oils.
Once the hair is smoothed and blended pretty well, it has a better chance of staying put, even if the hair in front is not really long enough to go back into a pony-tail it will usually stay due to cohesion. This is where your natural oils come into play. They are the adhesive property. As long as you are starting your shower with hot water to clean the scalp, and you give the scalp a good scrubbing on a regular basis, then end the shower with cold water to close the pores of the hair, you should be good. This will help work the oils down the hair shafts towards the tips. The combing also helps move the oils down the hair shafts towards the tips.
Be very careful the first few times you do this routine of combing. Working through tangles and straightening curls can hurt if not done gingerly. The way my curl pattern is, I don't know sometimes whether I am de-tangling or working out the curl from the hair. In either case, combing as described above gives one time to put back the hair somehow.
In the phase you are describing for yourself as being in at the moment, what I did was to use product to keep my hair back and to put as much behind my ears as possible. I also used a bandana for a while around my head kind of like a head-band and tied in the back (think pictures of American Indians wearing them minus the regalia). Other people wear them up over their head with the back open, but I didn't feel comfortable with that idea. There's nothing wrong with it per se, for me it just didn't feel right.
Enjoy your own trip to longer hair. As for my own self, it feels right.