I’m sure you’ve heard some of the lingo thrown around by naturals and trust me, it can get downright confusing at times! As I’ve come to learn a bit more, I realized that quite a few natural hair acronyms are length related. From TWAs (teeny weeny afros) to BSL (bra strap length) and beyond, there's a serious focus on length, especially among types 3 and 4 curlies. So are you hair length obsessed? Should you even be concerned? Let’s talk it out!
Hair Growth Cycles
First, let’s just be honest, hair only grows so fast. Your hair goes through 3 cycles: anagen, catagen, and telogen. How long your hair stays in these cycles will ultimately determine not only how quickly, but the length at which your hair grows.
The first stage, anagen, is the growth phase and typically lasts anywhere from 2 to 6 years. Next is the shortest phase, catagen, which is a brief 1 to 2 week transitioning period. Last is the telogen phase, the 5 to 6 week resting period when you may notice your hair begin to shed.
Now that we’ve covered your hair cycle, let’s discuss how quickly hair actually grows. For the average person, your hair will grow about 1/2 an inch in a month or about 6 inches a year. Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, a lot of people still fall into the thought process that their hair isn’t growing. Barring a serious medical condition, your hair is indeed growing, but you may not be retaining length. This is where a good regimen, the right products and conscious styling come into play.
Since there’s not much magic to it, the key to growing healthy hair will be length retention. Your ends are the oldest hair on your head so they must be treated with care if you want to achieve a certain hair length. I’ve spoken with so many ladies who either swear their hair isn’t growing at all or they are stuck in the perpetual “shoulder length” stage. In most cases this can primarily be contributed to hair breakage! Protecting your ends, keeping them moisturized, and keeping up with regular trims should allow you to see more of that growth.
So what would be considered setting realistic growth and length goals? Keeping in mind the average speed of growth, and accounting for small, regular trims, it’s safe to say you may see between 4 to 5 inches of growth in a year. Some will see more, others maybe not so much, but it really depends on your genetics, hormones and your own hair growth cycle. As an example, many pregnant women report increased thickness and hair growth during their pregnancy, but suffer considerable hair shedding postpartum. Hormones play a significant role in the hair growth cycles, so if you’re experiencing excessive shedding, I would recommend seeking a professional evaluation.
Long Hair vs. Healthy Hair
I’ve been part of a few conversations that touched on sacrificing length over health. Silly as it may sound, there are some people who just want to be at their target length, even if it means having scraggly hair. Most hair styles will look better when your hair is healthier. Even if you’re aiming for WL (waist length hair) you can still get there with regular trims, so don’t neglect those ends!
Equally as important is to make sure your scalp is clean so the follicles can breathe; clogged follicles can hinder effective hair growth.
When it comes to natural hair, it’s very easy to get swept up in the hair length debate. Don’t put the emphasis so much on length; rather, make the condition and strength of your hair a priority. Especially if you’ve done the big chop, it’s pretty obvious that your hair can grow back, and pretty quickly too. Rock your TWA to the best of your ability! Embrace your curls and watch them flourish when you give them the proper love and attention.
What's an easy way to help retain length? Avoid cotton!
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to reach a certain length, but I think a more important focus should be healthy hair. There may always be someone out there with longer hair, that’s just the way it goes. Keeping up with a regimen that includes a focus on overall healthy hair will help you attain not only long, but strong hair. That’s something anyone can appreciate! Happy styling!
Do you have a hair length obsession? What’s your length goal?