There are so many myths that surround Black women’s hair. While there’s no time to get into all of them today, if there is one that definitely tops the list, it’s that we can’t grow long hair. Lies, lies, lies. The reality is, if you see hair on your head, your hair is growing. Some people’s tresses grow faster than others (some see a half inch of growth a month while others see bit less) and genetics certainly do play a part, but there are plenty of Black women who rock super long locks. Some examples are YouTube naturalistas like Naturally High, What Lies Beneath the Weave, NaturalNeiicey, Obaa Yaa Jones and raven.
So, why is it that some of us can’t seem to get past ear or even shoulder-length, no matter how hard we try? A lot of that has little to do with what is coming out of our scalp so much as how we treat it once we see it. In other words, length retention is the biggest challenge that a lot of Black women have. Well, that and the fact that a lot of us forget that, in our hair’s natural state (especially if you have type 4 hair), it can shrink up to a whopping 90 percent! This means that unless you stretch your hair, you might not even notice how long it is.
And what if you just read all of this and said, “I hear you, but I feel like I am being super intentional about caring for my hair and I’m still not seeing the best results.” I’ve been there. I’ve totally been there. And, while we are all different, I will share with you the five things that I recognized was hindering my own progress. Could these be what’s keeping you from gaining some serious inches too?
1. You’re not caring for your scalp
How can you know that your scalp needs some extra special attention? If it’s itching, flaking, feels tight, super dry or tender—all of these point to signs that your scalp could stand to be pampered a bit. One way to treat it is to use apply a few drops of oil to your fingertips and massage your scalp for 10 minutes or so daily. Not only does it feel great, but it helps encourage hair growth. Another tip is to give your scalp a hot oil treatment. If you sense that your scalp has a lot of build-up, applying a clarifying treatment with the help of apple cider vinegar (mix two cups of water with three tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, pour it onto your scalp, let it sit for five minutes and rinse) or baking soda can do the trick. Remember, healthy hair begins with a healthy scalp, so it’s very important that you give your scalp the TLC that it deserves.
2. You have a vitamin deficiency
There have been some studies that suggest an iron deficiency can lead to hair loss, and that low levels of iron contribute to brittle and dry hair (which we know leads to breakage). According to the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology the jury is still out in regards to this link, but Cleveland Clinic dermatologists Leonid Benjamin Trost, MD; Bergfeld, MD; and Ellen Calogeras, RD, MPH wrote in the Journal that they “believe that treatment for hair loss is enhanced when iron deficiency, with or without anemia, is treated.” George Cotsarelis, director of the University of Pennsylvania Hair and Scalp Clinic also told WebMD that "from our clinic's experience, it is clear to me that if you replenish hair-loss patients' iron stores with iron supplements, they are more likely to regrow hair, or at least stop hair shedding." Iron deficiency is common worldwide, the World Health Organization reports that “one third of all women of reproductive age are anaemic,” so it is worth talking to your doctor about whether you fall into this group.
3. You’re obsessed with evenness
Back when I was in college, I taught myself how to cut hair. So well, in fact, that the stylist that I grew up having would sometimes refer people with natural hair to me. The extra money that I made on the side was great. But something that I still struggle with to this day is being so obsessed with my hair looking perfect that, the side that grows faster (my left), I will oftentimes cut it so that it is symmetrical with my right. The reality is that most of us have one side of hair that grows faster than the other, but if you keep cutting that side all of the time, it could keep you from making any real progress. If you’re rocking a shorter do, that’s one thing. But if you’re trying to grow your hair all the way out, sticking to a trim every 2-3 months and just leaving your hair alone otherwise is probably best. If the thought of lopsidedness stresses you out, put your hair into a protective style, wrap it up in a scarf or pull it up into a ponytail. Sometimes, all the shorter/thinner/weaker side of our hair needs is a little time to get stronger. If you put your hair into a style where you don’t really notice the difference between both sides, that can help you to gain a few inches before you know it.
4. Your ends are not properly sealed
Now we all know that hair growth happens at the roots, but it's worth your energy to pay attention to the ends. Your ends are the oldest parts of your hair; this means they require the most care. Something that you can do to keep your hair from getting split ends or breaking off is to properly seal them (which is basically about locking moisture into your hair’s follicles with the help of a hair oil or butter). The article on our site “3 Products to Seal Your Dry, Porous Ends” can provide you with info on how to do it. Or, if you want to learn how to seal your hair from root to tip, I semi-recently wrote an ode to old-fashioned hair grease which is an unsung hero hair sealant—"The Return of Hair Grease and How It Could Be the Secret to Major Hair Growth”. This, along with deep conditioning your hair on each and every wash day, can help your ends to remain just as strong and healthy as your roots.
5. You’re not drinking enough (infused) water.
No matter what products you place on your hair or scalp, no amount of conditioner can make up for your body's dehydration. Guess how many Americans are dehydrated? A whopping 75 percent! Matter of fact, a lot of health professionals will tell you that, by the time you are ready to get something to drink, you are already in need of more water in your system than you probably realize. When we don’t have enough water it can lead to headaches, fatigue, muscle cramps, blurry vision, blemished skin—and yes, dry and brittle hair. So yes, definitely make sure to get no less than 8-10 glasses of water—not juice, soda or coffee…water—into your body on a daily basis. If you want to add a bit of taste to it and also get a boost of vitamins and minerals, make yourself some infused water. It’s simply water that has fruit or veggie slices in it. This one tip alone can help your hair to flourish in ways (and lengths) that you might not have seen thus far. Plus, the rest of your body will thank you too!
Have some tips of your own to share? Drop them in the comments!