Photo @myfashionbreak via @4chairchicks
I’ll tell you what — nothing teaches you more about how to be “patient with the process” quite like going through the process of growing out your hair does. For me personally, what I’ve had to really become an expert at is taking really good care of my ends because, the reality is, our hair is always growing (¼” – ½” a month at that). At the same time, the reason why some of us don’t see 4-6” of progress each year is because the ends are splitting, breaking, snapping about as quickly as the roots of our hair are growing out.
Let’s take some real steps towards nipping all of this in the bud, shall we? If you’re ready for your hair to flourish and you know that requires extending some extra TLC to the ends of your hair, here are 10 proven ways to do just that.
Deep Condition Your Ends for No Less than an Hour
If you’re someone who’s good for deep conditioning your hair — not once in a while but every time you have a wash day — I salute that. Just make sure that you don’t only focus on where your new growth lies. Your ends are the oldest (and most fragile) parts of your hair, so they need to be babied the most. And since deep conditioning helps to hydrate your strands, improve moisture retention, increase elasticity, soften your hair and also — and perhaps most importantly in this case — help you to retain length, it definitely needs to be a part of your hair care regimen. Whether you go with a deep conditioning product or you decide to make one yourself, just make sure that you get plenty of it on your ends and that you let it sit on your clean hair for no less than an hour so that the conditioner can deeply penetrate your hair’s cuticles. Then follow that up by rinsing with cold water. You’ll definitely notice a difference if you do.
Make Your Own Hair Mask
Something that is definitely an enemy of your ends are split ends. Since they typically arise from hair that has either experienced too much heat or is overly dry and brittle, that’s why I recommend a DIY hair mask, at least once a month as well. Since they’ve got a great reputation for reducing frizz, smoothing cuticles and keeping your hair from becoming dry and brittle, they can be a lifesaving treatment for the ends of your hair. Eugenia Kelcy is a YouTuber that has a mask recipe for 4C hair that you can check out below.
T-Shirt Dry Your Hair
Oftentimes, when I describe Black hair, I say that it’s a lot like silk — very strong and quite fragile at the same time. This is especially the case when it’s wet which is why you should avoid towel drying after washing and conditioning your hair. The material that most towels are made out of is too aggressive on your hair (especially your ends). Plus, rubbing your hair a lot with a towel can actually lead to frizzing. The better route is an old T-shirt. The cotton fabric that most of them are made from will be gentler on your hair while still remaining amazingly absorbent.
Use Jamaican Black Castor Oil
Although my own hair grows at a pretty impressive rate, what kept jacking me up, length-retention wise, was that I wasn’t sealing my ends. If you’re not totally familiar with what that entails, it’s a method that helps the end of your hair to retain moisture for days — even weeks — following your wash day. The details on how to do it is featured in our article, “How to Seal Your Hair for Protective Styles”. However, as far as the kind of oil that you should use in the sealing process, I’m always going to sing the praises of Jamaican black castor oil; that’s because it’s thick, a great moisturizer and it contains properties that are able to strengthen your hair from root to tip. My two cents would be to go with an extra dark brand because that kind of oil is the least refined (which means that you’ll get it in its purest state). Tropic Isle Living is one company that I can personally vouch for that has a great brand of it, for sure.
Cream-Based Thermal Heat Protectant
OK, here’s the breakdown about thermal heat protectants. If you’re like me and you prefer to blow out your hair on wash days or you flat iron more than a lil’ bit, applying thermal heat protectants will definitely help shield your hair from the damage that heat can do. At the same time, it’s important to never forget that they aren’t 100 percent effective. In fact, a lot of professional stylists say that heat protectants can only protect your hair from about 50 percent of the drama and trauma that heat can bring. Moral to the story is, when it comes to applying heat, proceed with caution, make sure your hair is at least 60 percent dry when you’re using your blow dryer and, if you’ve got thick or 4-type hair, go with a cream rather than a spray. You’ll get fair better coverage (i.e., protection) that way.
Remove Fairy Knots
Whew. Fairy knots are so freakin’ annoying! Word on the street is their technical name is “trichonodosis” and they happen mostly for those of us with curly hair because we’re much more subjective to our hair twisting and turning into little knots. If you can totally relate to this triggering reality, a preventative measure that you should do is check out our article, “How Do I Avoid Fairy Knots?”. On the other hand, if it’s too late and you’ve already got some, whatever you do, don’t try and “snap” them off by pulling and tugging with your fingers. All that does is damage your ends and definitely set you up for split ends (ones that you have to cut off to get rid of). Instead, take a sharp pair of hair shears and clip them. If it’s only a few strands at a time, it won’t be noticeable; plus, the “clean cut” will keep your ends intact.
Wait Two Weeks Between Chemical Treatments
Back in the day, when I used to relax my hair and turn it a different color, at least once a month, it was nothing for me to chemically treat my hair back-to-back. Since I would wear it pretty short, I didn’t care too much about breakage or anything. Now that I’m on the path to growing my tresses out, I wish I had been more careful because it did more of a number on some of my hair follicles than I thought. Because of that, it’s taken a while to get my hair (and scalp) back to a healthy state. That’s why I can speak from very personal experience when I say that it’s best to wait at least two weeks in between chemical treatments. Meaning, if you relax your hair, it’s best to wait at least two weeks before color-treating it. Honestly, if you can go a month, you’re even far better off if you want to keep your hair as strong and healthy as possible because you can deep condition your hair which will better prepare it for more chemicals on it; especially when it comes to your ends.
Make the Most Out of Buns, Bantu Knots and Updos
If you hop on YouTube and listen to a lot of naturalistas talk about ways that they maintain inches, something that many of them are going to say is they keep their hair up most days of the week and only wear it out on perhaps the weekends or special occasions. A big reason why is because when your hair is up in a way where your ends are tucked in, that keeps them from snagging on your clothes or getting damaged by weather elements like heat or cold wins. So, definitely make the most out of buns, Bantu knots and other looks where your ends can be protected. The styles are cute and they can keep you own the path to longer hair.
Line Your Hats
I don’t know about y’all but I’m good for rocking at hat — especially during the fall and winter seasons. When it comes to protecting my ends, though, a big mistake that I used to make was wearing wool brims and golf caps that either had no lining or torn lining (I’m a big antique shopper and thrifter, so I’ve got some used hats in my collection). That’s why it can’t be said enough that you definitely should make sure that your hats are lined. Oh, and if you wear turbans or headwraps often, they either need to be made out of silk/satin or lined with satin as well. That way, your hair won’t dry out while you have them on. For tips on how to line your own hats, check out this video here.
The Less “Manipulation”, the Better
When I first started getting serious about growing out my hair, a mistake that I would make is “over-caring” for it. What I mean by that is I would braid it every day, I would wash it (so that I could condition it) too over and I would oftentimes let my fingers play with my ends too much. Aristotle once said that the excess of a virtue is a vice and that can definitely apply to length retention. While your hair — definitely your ends — do require some consistent care, it’s important to also remember that balance is key. If it’s in a DIY protective style, try and leave it like that for a week before doing something else. Remember that Black hair leans towards being drier so washing it every other week is usually enough. And, by all means, leave those ends alone.
Low-manipulation is one of the best ways for your ends to stick around so much longer and for your hair to get significantly longer — sooner than later. Good luck!
©Shellie R. Warren/2021