Have you ever experienced a hair growth plateau? It’s when your hair can’t seem to grow past a certain length: be it neck length, arm pit length, bra strap length etc. This is probably due to some practices (or lack thereof) in your natural hair care regimen. If you are currently at a growth plateau, you’ll probably find that hair growth isn’t the problem: retaining length is (your hair may be breaking off as fast as it's growing). It’s also possible that your hair isn’t growing as full or as rapidly as it could depending on how well you take care of your hair. It’s tough to come to terms with the fact that your hair isn’t prospering, but once you take steps to address the issue(s), you’ll be well on your way to longer hair at its healthiest.
Assess the problem
What is causing your hair to stay at one length? There are a number of poor hair habits that could be the culprit; here are a few to start with:
- Over-manipulation can cause dryness, shedding, and breakage
- Rough handling of the hair - combing too hard, detangling improperly etc.
- Moisture overload reduces elasticity and therefore weakens the hair
- Protein overload results in brittle hair that breaks easily
- Defective styling instead of protective styling - not properly maintaining the hair during and after installing a protective style, leaving the protective style in for too long
- Misuse/overuse of hair tools such as combs, brushes, bobby pins, etc.
- Overuse of heat styling
- Using the wrong products for your hair type
- Using harsh chemicals - coloring/dyeing the hair (almost always causes dryness/breakage to Type 4 hair, especially when it isn’t maintained properly with regular conditioning treatments)
- Not trimming often enough
- Not following healthy hair practices such as deep conditioning, detangling properly, and moisturizing and sealing
The list may not end here, but these are some of the more common ones to give you an idea of where you may be going wrong at. Once you know the problem, you can eliminate it and take steps to get your hair back on track. If the issue is heat or color, don’t be tempted to go back. Do whatever is necessary for the health of your hair, it’ll be worth it in the long run.
When you’re at a growth plateau, it’s likely that starting with a fresh trim will benefit your hair tremendously. You don’t want to try nursing damaged hair back to health. (Trust me, I’ve tried it myself). If you’re uncomfortable with losing length, you can protective style until your hair grows back or simply trim gradually. Once you have the damaged hair out of the way, you can focus on preserving and growing your healthy hair.
Now that you know the problem and have cut away any damage, you’re ready to start with a clean slate. Take pictures! I cannot stress how important this is. When you don’t have a way to document your hair growth, you will feel like it’s going nowhere. But when you have pictures to look back on every milestone, you can really tell if you’re getting it right. 6 months or a year from now, you’ll be able to see that you are finally on your way to getting past your growth plateau.
Put it away
For Type 4 hair, protective styling is almost always a bulletproof method in regards to retaining length. When long term protective styling, some things to remember are:
- Never leave the style in for longer than 4-6 weeks
- Moisturize and oil your scalp while you have the style installed
- When you take the style out, remove any shed hair before wetting the hair. If you don’t, you’ll have a knotted, tangled mess on your hands and you will lose hair.
- Give your hair a break for at least 1-2 weeks in between styles.
You can also do short term protective styles like buns or goddess braids which give you the freedom to wash your hair when desired. (When bunning, be sure not to bun too tightly and to switch up the placement of your bun every few days to keep the hair from breaking off in that area).
Go on a hair challenge
When your hair has you in a funk, one of the best things to do is to go on a hair challenge. It’ll keep you from cutting all of your hair off on a whim because of sheer frustration. And it’ll give you something to look forward to and work towards. Mentally record and/or write down your goals and strive to achieve them. For example, I am currently on a 6-month no heat/protective styling challenge with my hair. For the first month, I’ve been co-washing my hair every three days and keeping it in buns. I flat ironed prior to the challenge and took pictures and I plan on flat ironing at the end of the challenge to see my growth.
Check out other naturals whose length your aspire to have. It’s not to make you feel bad or down about your own hair, but to give you something to look forward to. Some of my personal favorites on Instagram are @hey_curlie, @chronicurls,@chigirlmakeup and @simplybiancaalexa.
Learn your hair
While you’re working on getting past your growth plateau, make sure you utilize this time to learn your hair if you haven’t already. Try new products if you need to and discover whether or not your hair likes them. I used to wear box braids all of the time and having my hair out now while wearing buns has really given me time to learn my hair. I know what areas are drier than others and what areas have tighter curls than others. I’ve found products my hair said “eh” to and products that it absolutely loved. I have a regimen that works for me and my hair and I’m sticking to it because I’ve seen prosperous results.
You can and you will get past this growth plateau. This is not the end for your hair. You may be having some trouble now, but if you follow these steps, you’ll be able to get your hair where you want it to be. Have patience, show your hair love, and watch it grow.
What do you do when you hit a plateau?