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Curly hair has a mind of its own. You can use the same products in the same weather conditions and still have varying looks of our curls, coils, and waves. We know this and accept it because that is what makes our hair so beautiful. On the downside you can tire of wanting a certain look and not always being able to achieve it. With hair growth being one of the top five concern for curly girls, seeing that length retention can often become difficult because of the structure of our hair. It can be challenging to understand why it grows out before growing down, and curly girl Shaleia.McEl, inquired about why her hair is healthy but not growing in Curly Q&A

Question

Why isn't my hair growing? I love my hair and I almost have all of the damaged hair cut away from the last time I used heat (a week before Thanksgiving) but I noticed that my hair isn't really attaining any length. It's frustrating to no end and I don't know what to do! I have 3c hair in the back, 4a hair behind my ears, and 3b hair in the front. I use the curly girl method on my hair. I pre-poo before every wash then try to deep condition (always running out).

When I get out of the shower I let my hair dry for a couple minutes (it takes a lot of water to wet my hair but it dries very quickly) in a towel then put in coconut oil, leave-in conditioner, and lastly a curl enhancing cream (I go between DevaCurl SuperCream and Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie). Then I put my hair in a braid-out, put on a hair bonnet, and let it out in the morning. Now I thought that it could be my ends brushing against my shoulders so I've been using up-dos on a weekly basis and other protective styles, but it hasn't made any difference. My hair is the healthiest it has ever been and I have a lot more volume but the length is the same. I don't know what to do and I'm at my wits end. PLEASE HELP.

Answer

Your hair is growing. Hair continues to grow and often we confuse hair growth with length retention, which is retaining the oldest hair (the ends) and not losing them through breakage. Your routine sounds solid and you state your hair is healthier than it has ever been. You are doing a great job of protecting your ends as loose ends are in constant contact with clothing, purse straps, or even the outdoor elements and may fray or become damaged quicker than ends that are put away or protected. It sounds like you have high porosity hair since it dries so quickly. I would recommend switching up the order in which you apply your coconut oil and leave-in conditioner, try applying the leave-in conditioner first to moisturize your hair followed by the oil to seal it in.

Now, before we assume you are struggling with breakage let’s discuss a popular problem curly girls face with their hair, namely hair shrinkage.

What is shrinkage?

Hair shrinkage is when individual strands compress themselves into tight rotations, causing the hair to grow outward. While some believe that curly hair grows slower than straight hair, that is a myth as all hair grows around ¼ to ½ an inch per month, depending on your health and genetics. Our hair just bends and curves and the length cannot be easily seen unless straightened out. Type 4s tend to have the most shrinkage with their tighter coils and you said you had some Type 4 coils on your head so that may be giving the illusion that the hair is not growing.

Many curly girls do yearly or semi-yearly length checks to determine how much has grown. Your hair may appear to be getting "bigger" instead of longer, and a yearly length check is a great way to determine if it is retaining length that may not be showing.

Could be time for a trim

Often when we feel our hair is not retaining length it may be due to raggedy ends that need to be trimmed, which is necessary to retain length. Frayed or damaged ends can lead to damage further up the hair shaft and keep your curls from attaining their full growth potential.

Try scalp massages

You can always enlist in scalp massages with natural oils to promote blood circulation to your hair follicles and create a rich environment for hair growth. Doing this a few times a week can be relaxing and a great way to boost your hair’s growth.

Moisturize and seal

Dry and brittle hair breaks, so keeping your hairs hydrated and sealed combat that breakage and in turn gives you more length retention. Deep conditioning after every wash, hot oil treatments, and enlisting in the LOC method will aid in keeping those strands moisturized and sealed. The LOC method is a particular order in which you apply your products as I mentioned above. Start with your leave-in conditioner (L), seal in the moisture with an oil (O), followed by a cream (C).