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There are a lot of myths that continue to fall around about Black women and their hair. If there’s a top one that irks me, to no end, it’s hearing that we don’t grow long hair as much as other ethnicities do. Yeah, that’s a flat-out lie. While genetics definitely play a part and shrinkage (the fact that a lot of us have a tighter curl pattern than other women) have to be taken into account, the reality is we can grown a long, full and healthy head of hair, just like anyone else (shoot, just go to YouTube and put “4c women with long hair” and have your mind blown!). The key is making sure that we do all that we can to retain our hair length once we get it. And just how can that goal be properly and fully achieved. I’d say start with the suggestions that I’ve got for you below.

1. Understand your hair texture.

While your hair grows, on average, somewhere between one-fourth and one-half an inch a month, that doesn’t mean that all hair types and textures are created equal. Matter of fact, if someone were to ask me what the top reason is for why a lot of naturalistas struggle with gaining inches, I would have to say that it’s because either they don’t know what their hair texture/type is or they don’t create a consistent hair regimen that complements it once they figure that all out. If you’re looking at your monitor with a slightly embarrassed look on your face because you can totally relate, no worries. We’ve got articles on our site that can help you to discover more about your specific type/texture. You can click here to learn more about different hair types and here to take a quiz about your hair texture. If you are more of a visual learner, some videos that can offer up some helpful tips are located here, here and here.

2. Stop being a product junkie.

There are literally thousands of hair products out here that promise to give us the kind of healthy hair that we’re after. Problem is, 1) who’s got a ton of cash to throw around?; 2) you don’t have enough time, in this lifetime, to try them all; and 3) based on what your hair needs, certain products can do your own hair more harm than good. That’s why it’s important to resist the temptation to become an all-out product junkie. How do you avoid that? Lean towards products that complement your own hair type (if you need a little help with this, there are YouTube channels that can assist. Go to the site and put your own hair type in, along with the word “product reviews”). Once you decide to give a certain product a shot, unless your hair immediately “rejects it” (like your hair becomes extra dry or unmanageable), try and give the product a good month to see if it compliments your hair. Also, once you find what does work well for your hair, stick with that. After about six months of a little bit of trial and error myself, I have finally found what works for me and mine and it’s super basic. A shampoo bar, a conditioner with some added Chebe powder, a leave-in conditioner and some Jamaican black castor oil. That’s pretty much it. For me, I’ve learned that less is actually more. My wallet is thrilled about it too.

3. Deep condition on every wash day.

For a long time, I used to see deep conditioning as a luxury more than a necessity. Oh, but not anymore! My hair has become so much softer and manageable since I’ve made sure to incorporate this step into my regular hair routine. There are so many reasons why deep conditioning your hair is beneficial when it comes to maintaining hair health and encouraging growth. Deep conditioning is what can keep your hair extra moisturized in between wash days. Not only that but it can also give your locks more elasticity (which reduces breakage) while adding sheen and providing a protective “coat” to keep your hair from being vulnerable to outer elements (like extreme heat or cold) that could also result in dryness and potential breakage. For tips on how to properly deep condition your hair, check out our article, “The Dos & Don'ts of Deep Conditioning”.

4. Protect your ends.

When I think of Black women who’ve got inches for days, someone who immediately comes to mind is Seun Okimi (who has a great YouTube channel). If there’s one thing that she and so many long-haired naturalistas have in common, it’s the fact that they don’t wear their tresses out all of the time; oftentimes, their hair is in some sort of protective style and then maybe on the weekend, they wear it all out. For years, I used to “whatever” this length retention rule of thumb and I’ll be honest—it wasn’t until I took it seriously that my hair started to make some real progress. The reality is that no matter how much you may want to show all of your hair off, your ends are the oldest part of your hair and the more it’s manipulated with constantly styling, handling and even tugging (due to your strands “catching” on clothes), it can cause your ends to become split or even to break. When that happens, you will have to keep cutting your ends so that the damage doesn’t affect your entire hair shaft which prevents you from seeing any real growth. So yeah, finding protective styles that you adore is another way to help your hair to continue to grow with a relative amount of ease.

5. Trim your ends.

It’s one thing to have to put shears to your hair due to damage. It’s something else to do it as a form of maintenance. Trimming your ends is simply a way to make sure that the ends of your hair remains as strong and healthy as the rest of your tresses. How can you know if a trim is exactly what your hair is in need of? If you run your hands up and down your hair and the ends feel rough. If your hair is super frizzy. If your hair can’t hold a style to save its life. If you notice a significant amount of split ends. If your ends are straggly; you know, if they look thinner than the rest of your hair does. If any of this is the case, it’s important to remember that healthy hair should be a bigger goal than having long hair. Clipping an inch or so, even six weeks (or so) can ultimately result in ending up with several inches that are long, strong and beautiful.

6. Eat foods that nourish your hair.

Gaining and retaining hair length isn’t just about what you do to the hair that’s already on your head; you also need to take care of your tresses from the inside out. One way to do that is by eating foods that will help to keep your hair good and moisturized. How exactly does foods moisturize hair? For one thing, some foods have more water in them. Also, the foods that are high in vitamins A and C, they play a significant role in your scalp and hair being able to get the sebum that they need. So which foods top this list? When it comes to foods that contain mostly water—cucumbers, celery, watermelon, zucchini and lettuce. Vitamin A? Eggs, yellow and orange veggies, fortified cereals, spinach and sweet potatoes. Foods that are rich in Vitamin C include citrus fruits, Brussel sprouts, tomatoes, kiwis and thyme.

7. Massage your scalp.

By the mere fact that they can help to immediately relieve stress and tension, it’s a good idea to give yourself a scalp massage, no less than once a week. But when it comes to encouraging hair growth, there are several other benefits that scalp massages provide. They help to increase blood circulation to your hair follicles (which gives them more nutrients). They stimulate the production of sebum to your scalp. They help to strengthen the roots of your hair. They make it easier for your hair’s natural oils to be evenly distributed. Scalp massages can also make your hair more resilient. All you need to do is warm up a favorite carrier oil (coconut, avocado, grapeseed, jojoba and sweet almond oil are all really good), one that has a couple of drops of eucalyptus (the menthol will stimulate hair growth), lavender (nourishes and literally fights against hair loss) or rosemary (it’ll help to make your hair thicker) in it. Then, with your fingertips or a portable scalp massager, gently massage your scalp for 10-15 minutes. Again, if you do this once a week, you should notice real improvement in the quality of your hair within 4-6 weeks.

8. LEAVE YOUR HAIR ALONE.

This final tip will be my shortest, even though I know that it will probably be the most difficult. The more you put your hands or even styling tools in your hair, the weaker that it will become over time. So, unless you are styling your hair for the day or prepping it for the night, please leave it alone. Just simply letting your hair be, as much as possible, can be just what it needs to flourish—so that you can end up with the long and beautiful hair that you’ve always dreamed of!

What are your tips and tricks for natural hair growth? Share them with us in the comments!