When you're enthusiastic about hair care and dedicated to a healthy hair journey it can be difficult to be objective about your hair. It's easy to talk about things that keep the hair healthy like gentle handling, good conditioners, and low manipulation, but if those were the only things that mattered, everyone's hair would be doing great. In reality, despite meticulous efforts to grow a long, thick head of hair, many women still struggle to maintain length and reach their other hair goals. To get past a length hurdle or stop persistent breakage you have to realize one important thing: Damage is unavoidable. If your hair isn't making progress that means it's being damaged faster than it can recover. Many natural women already steer clear of heat and chemical treatments, but mechanical damage is still an issue and it can be difficult to recognize.
Handle with care
Every time you move or touch your hair, the cuticle layers of each strand rub up against each other and cause tiny abrasions, similar to light scratches. Those little abrasions may not affect how your hair looks or feels but they're always there. If you rub and pull your hair and then follow up with a comb or a brush, you've inflicted a lot of stress on your hair at one time. Yes, there are some women who can comb and brush their hair all day without a problem, but those women usually have thick strands and very few (if any) kinks or coils. Finer strands break more easily than thicker strands, and it seems that many African American women have fine hair. In addition to that, kinky hair is inherently porous which means that kinky hair is automatically more fragile than other types. "Damage prone" is really an understatement when describing African American hair.
The longer the hair, the worse the damage
No matter what your hair type, the longer your hair gets, the more demanding it will be. Shoulder length hair is already about 2 years old so any weaknesses in your hair care routine will begin to show, just like bad eating habits start to catch up with you as you get older. If you hit a plateau in your healthy hair journey, get at least ½ inch cut off by a professional, stop brushing your hair (if you've been doing that), and apply a reconstructing treatment every week or two. Whatever you do, just don't make the mistake of thinking you've avoided damaging your hair. The only way to avoid damage is not to touch your hair as it grows out of your scalp, and we all know that's impossible. If you love your hair, you want to style it and show off its beauty. There's nothing wrong with that. You wouldn't buy a beautiful new sweater and leave it on the shelf all the time. What fun would that be? Instead, you have to wear it lightly, wash it gently, and get small holes mended as soon as they appear.
How do you retain length?