coarse hair = length retention

i have come to the conclusion that the texture of one's hair (fine, medium, or coarse) is the primary factor affecting length retention. not low manipulation, not protein/moisture balance, not regular trimming, not protective styling.

i've been natural for over six years and reached APL by year two. i've been there ever since! it's so frustrating. my hair grows at a normal speed but it's so fine that it just can't withstand even normal amounts of manipulation without the ends breaking off.

my little sister has hair down to her booty. you could use her hair to play tug of war if you wanted to. my older sister and i literally take strands of her hair and try our hardest to pull them apart, and they won't budge! now her hair is also dry as all get out, and doesn't have much shine at all, and she's 16 so she doesn't DC or really do anything to take of her hair, so it's definitely not getting the moisture it needs. but it grows anyway! because each individual strand is thiiiick and can withstand anything.

every person i know with (natural) coarse hair - no matter if it's 3b or 4c - has no problems with length retention. the people that do have problems all have fine hair. it's not a coincidence!
Natural since '03
Well I've seen fine hair retain length well in many cases. Members of my family have fine hair and retain length.. I am talking mid back or longer. But I noticed they treat their hair with kid gloves. Like my cousin has very long fine hair and she treats her hair like it's a newborn. No heat, no blow dryer, no harsh manipulation, and no chemicals...except for a reddish hair tint.

But I will say as a person with coarse hair..my hair is pretty damn durable. I take care of my hair very well and really work hard to not damage it..but back years ago when I didn't.. I used to punish the HELL out of my hair.. and it would still retain length for a long time. It would even get longer.

And my mom always said that it was because my hair was so coarse and that it could really take the beating I would give it.. LOL! Eventually, that ends though if you punish the hair long enough and consistently enough. The hair will still grow of course but the length retention will be shorter lived.

Now I wouldn't dream of doing the things to my hair that I used to...but I see my fellow coarsies burning the HELL out of their hair with flat irons, curling irons, etc..and their hair is still long and actually looks pretty decent. I really do think the coarser the hair the more it can withstand...but I wouldn't recommened pressing any luck. LOL!
people with fine hair certainly can retain length, but it's so much harder! like your cousin, fine hair has a much lower tolerance for heat, harsh manipulation, and chemicals.

literally the only time i've noticed substantial length retention was when i wore wash n gos all last summer - i wasn't using heat, wasn't manipulating it (except in the shower), nothing. anytime i add anything to the routine, there goes my retention. i love doing dry twistouts, but i hate having to sacrifice retention for it. i don't want to have to choose!
Natural since '03
asian hair tends to be very coarse and grows hella long. there's a girl on the curl junkie website with very long, coarse hair. coarse hair can take more of a beating so to speak therefore doesn't get damaged as fast or much compared to fine hair.

but then again, i've seen some baby fine, cornsilk feeling hair that was long long long.

so it boils down to how you care for your hair.
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[/B]

people with fine hair certainly can retain length, but it's so much harder! like your cousin, fine hair has a much lower tolerance for heat, harsh manipulation, and chemicals.

literally the only time i've noticed substantial length retention was when i wore wash n gos all last summer - i wasn't using heat, wasn't manipulating it (except in the shower), nothing. anytime i add anything to the routine, there goes my retention. i love doing dry twistouts, but i hate having to sacrifice retention for it. i don't want to have to choose!
Originally Posted by curlsugar
Yep... when we were kids... my gosh... a curling iron that was even a little to hot would JACK HER HAIR UP! She was scared to death to lighten her hair..she would say she knows it would break off. Even to this day..she's never used any "real hair dye". She's always done tints. And she's 30! My cousin seems to retain her length by moisturizing a lot and VERY low manipulation. She doesn't do a lot to her hair besides keep it super moisturized... she's fanatical about satin or silk pillowcases. Plus she's like the queen of up do hair styles which I think protect her ends really well.
as a fellow fined haired curly, i totally get what youre saying but i see it just as one piece of the puzzle.

for me, having fine hair means that i need to leave it alone (actually trying to put my hair in protective styles does more harm than good because my hair is so fragile), maintain the proper moisture/protein balance, and get trims regularly. im going to have fine hair regardless, but if i slack in any of those areas my hair suffers tremendously.

interestingly enough, my hair can take alot of chemicals and heat. i flip flop between hair colors every so im definitely no stranger to ammonia, peroxide, bleach, etc.

Last edited by subbrock; 04-08-2010 at 11:18 PM.
i have come to the conclusion that the texture of one's hair (fine, medium, or coarse) is the primary factor affecting length retention. not low manipulation, not protein/moisture balance, not regular trimming, not protective styling.

i've been natural for over six years and reached APL by year two. i've been there ever since! it's so frustrating. my hair grows at a normal speed but it's so fine that it just can't withstand even normal amounts of manipulation without the ends breaking off.

my little sister has hair down to her booty. you could use her hair to play tug of war if you wanted to. my older sister and i literally take strands of her hair and try our hardest to pull them apart, and they won't budge! now her hair is also dry as all get out, and doesn't have much shine at all, and she's 16 so she doesn't DC or really do anything to take of her hair, so it's definitely not getting the moisture it needs. but it grows anyway! because each individual strand is thiiiick and can withstand anything.

every person i know with (natural) coarse hair - no matter if it's 3b or 4c - has no problems with length retention. the people that do have problems all have fine hair. it's not a coincidence!
Originally Posted by curlsugar
I kind of feel that way too, although I hope its not true. My hair is growing, but at the slightest tug, my hair breaks off easily. So when others join "length challenges", I'm always searching for "strength" challenges. Amla has some benefit, but nothing makes my hair feel sturdy.
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I feel you. Coarse hair=more cuticle layers...that means more damage can be done before the integrity of the strand is compromised.

My hair is on the fine side...normal washing/styling causes way too much wear and tear on my hair...there's no way I can even consider some of the riskier things (cowashing everyday, using heat, etc. etc.). Such is life.

Curlsugar and Subbrock: I too experience greater rention with my wash-n-go routine or any style that leaves my hair be, as opposed to manipulation of any sort. Which sucks because I've prefered my hair twisted the few times I have done it. The tangling and breakage was just too much, however (and the dreaded ends, good lord!).

I've resigned to accept that I experience hair breakage no matter what I do to my hair. It's just a matter of picking a routine that breaks my hair less so that I can retain length. I've also accepted that I probably won't gain much length in the winter months because wash-n-gos are not options. As long as I don't loose length because of breakage, I'm cool.
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Wow.. I never thought of it that way. I'm very fine haired (I can barely see my individual strands when they come out, and some are nearly invisible at the tips) so maybe that's why it seems like my hair takes forever to grow anywhere past my nape.

I have a curly friend who has cut her hair to 1 inch long and in 18 mos./two years it grew back to BSL, and she's also got thick coarse hair (lucky bi---). lol

Springy, I may take your advice and try to wear my hair out again, as I've been protective styling for close to a year now, and I'm still having breakage and splits. I guess it just comes with the territory.

eta: That's not to say that others with fine hair can't grow very long hair, but for me in particular, it's not that easy.
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Last edited by BekkaPoo; 04-09-2010 at 01:05 PM.
Hmmm, you may be on to something. I have never had problems growing out my hair, even if I didn't trim, had some split ends (who are we kidding, a ton), dyed/relaxed my hair. I just thought it was b/c my hair was thick that you couldn't notice when it broke. Interesting...I hope it's true b/c I'm growing it out now, lol!
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Hmm. Interesting thought, OP. I have fine hair and when I did mostly protective styles for two months over the winter, mainly twists and coils, my hair broke off more, even though I always made sure to moisturize and did protein treatments every other week. For the last three weeks or so, I've been doing a lot of wash and goes and my hair is breaking off less because it's not being manipulated as much. Also, although I get a lot of shrinkage with wash and goes, I've noticed my hair doesn't get a lot of tangles either. Weird, since the back of my hair is approaching SL stretched and the rest of it is CBL stretched. I know a lot of people avoid wash and goes once they get past the TWA stage because of the tangling, but I don't have this issue so far. Since I live in the Northeast, wash and goes aren't possible over the winter, so I'll probably have to resign myself to the fact that I won't retain much length then. Bleh.
I think I agree with this. The manipulation required for protective styling destroyed my fine hair, but it grows happy and healthy with wash 'n gos.
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asian hair tends to be very coarse and grows hella long. there's a girl on the curl junkie website with very long, coarse hair. coarse hair can take more of a beating so to speak therefore doesn't get damaged as fast or much compared to fine hair.

but then again, i've seen some baby fine, cornsilk feeling hair that was long long long.

so it boils down to how you care for your hair.
Originally Posted by empressri
ITA.
Currently:Alaffia Shea & Coconut Enriching Shampoo, Alaffia Virgin Coconut & Shea Enriching Hair Lotion, Qhemet Amla Olive Heavy Cream, Qhemet Honeybush Tea Gel.

Last Texturizer: March 12, 2008
BC: July 21, 2008
Hair: Coarse, low porosity, iii.

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"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different outcome". ~ Albert Einstein
i agree that in the end, your hair care practices will make a difference. but i feel like when you have fine hair, you have no choice but to do the other stuff (protective styling, trims, moisture/protein balance, low manipulation) if you hope to retain your length. whereas if your hair is coarse, you can probably get away with doing less or none of these things, and still see growth.

that's why i say the primary factor is really your texture. it's what determines what else (if anything) you need to do to retain length.
Natural since '03
i have come to the conclusion that the texture of one's hair (fine, medium, or coarse) is the primary factor affecting length retention. not low manipulation, not protein/moisture balance, not regular trimming, not protective styling.

i've been natural for over six years and reached APL by year two. i've been there ever since! it's so frustrating. my hair grows at a normal speed but it's so fine that it just can't withstand even normal amounts of manipulation without the ends breaking off.

my little sister has hair down to her booty. you could use her hair to play tug of war if you wanted to. my older sister and i literally take strands of her hair and try our hardest to pull them apart, and they won't budge! now her hair is also dry as all get out, and doesn't have much shine at all, and she's 16 so she doesn't DC or really do anything to take of her hair, so it's definitely not getting the moisture it needs. but it grows anyway! because each individual strand is thiiiick and can withstand anything.

every person i know with (natural) coarse hair - no matter if it's 3b or 4c - has no problems with length retention. the people that do have problems all have fine hair. it's not a coincidence!
Originally Posted by curlsugar
You've made some valid points/observations. But to play the devil's advocate, could it be that your hair is genetically meant to grow to that length? Some folks have a maximum length of healthy length they can attain, whereas others can grow it much longer. Not saying that's the case with your(concerning it's maximum length), but it's also a possibility.

I have a mixture of fine and medium textured strands, not coarse, and I've reached waist-length(and if I left it alone, could probably reach longer lengths). I've had more issues with my wiry/thicker strands retaining length than my fine/normal strands. I think it has more to do with what you DO to your hair, rather than the type per se. I also know of women who have fine/normal strands, who grow their hair to tail-bone length(and longer). But they also utilize low manipulation.

I think it's mostly a genetics crapshot, and how you treat it(and your body) factors in down the line.
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i agree that in the end, your hair care practices will make a difference. but i feel like when you have fine hair, you have no choice but to do the other stuff (protective styling, trims, moisture/protein balance, low manipulation) if you hope to retain your length. whereas if your hair is coarse, you can probably get away with doing less or none of these things, and still see growth.

that's why i say the primary factor is really your texture. it's what determines what else (if anything) you need to do to retain length.
Originally Posted by curlsugar
I hear you. You know, I don't have fine hair, so I honestly don't know what that's like. I can tell you that I do lurk on the Long hair community forum and some of those ladies with even bone straight hair complain about how easily their hair is damaged or breaks because it is so fine. The thing is, they seem to find alternative things to do or ways to work with their hair, and a lot of them say they have been able to push past that "It'll never grow longer than this mark". I think a lot of them use protein treatments and some use henna.

For me - too much protein makes my hair like straw. I've been able to do a henna gloss here and there, but full henna makes my hair crazy for a while. In essense, I don't have to do those types of things to make my hair stronger because it is so coarse.

Before I was natural, I had a texturizer, plus I dyed my hair, plus I flat ironed it often, etc., and still made it to waist. Now, that I'm natural though, I'm very concerned about every little thing - so I protective style, moisturize, deep condition - the works. I don't know that all that really matters so much though. Because the diameter of each of my hair strands is so large that I just don't get as much wear and tear - whether I'm doing all these protective things or not.

I do caution those people with coarse hair though to remember that they can't expect to do just anything to their hair and not have issues. Every head of hair has it's breaking point.
Currently:Alaffia Shea & Coconut Enriching Shampoo, Alaffia Virgin Coconut & Shea Enriching Hair Lotion, Qhemet Amla Olive Heavy Cream, Qhemet Honeybush Tea Gel.

Last Texturizer: March 12, 2008
BC: July 21, 2008
Hair: Coarse, low porosity, iii.

Certified Denirophile

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different outcome". ~ Albert Einstein
i have come to the conclusion that the texture of one's hair (fine, medium, or coarse) is the primary factor affecting length retention. not low manipulation, not protein/moisture balance, not regular trimming, not protective styling.

i've been natural for over six years and reached APL by year two. i've been there ever since! it's so frustrating. my hair grows at a normal speed but it's so fine that it just can't withstand even normal amounts of manipulation without the ends breaking off.

my little sister has hair down to her booty. you could use her hair to play tug of war if you wanted to. my older sister and i literally take strands of her hair and try our hardest to pull them apart, and they won't budge! now her hair is also dry as all get out, and doesn't have much shine at all, and she's 16 so she doesn't DC or really do anything to take of her hair, so it's definitely not getting the moisture it needs. but it grows anyway! because each individual strand is thiiiick and can withstand anything.

every person i know with (natural) coarse hair - no matter if it's 3b or 4c - has no problems with length retention. the people that do have problems all have fine hair. it's not a coincidence!
Originally Posted by curlsugar
You've made some valid points/observations. But to play the devil's advocate, could it be that your hair is genetically meant to grow to that length? Some folks have a maximum length of healthy length they can attain, whereas others can grow it much longer. Not saying that's the case with your(concerning it's maximum length), but it's also a possibility.

I have a mixture of fine and medium textured strands, not coarse, and I've reached waist-length(and if I left it alone, could probably reach longer lengths). I've had more issues with my wiry/thicker strands retaining length than my fine/normal strands. I think it has more to do with what you DO to your hair, rather than the type per se. I also know of women who have fine/normal strands, who grow their hair to tail-bone length(and longer). But they also utilize low manipulation.

I think it's mostly a genetics crapshot, and how you treat it(and your body) factors in down the line.
Originally Posted by eccentric_kurlz
the "terminal length" factor is a good point, but i know it's not my issue for two reasons:

1. my understanding is that when a strand of hair reaches its terminal length, it sheds and a new hair emerges from the scalp in its place. that's not what's happening on my head. i am not seeing retention because my ends are literally just breaking off. i see them everywhere when i manipulate my hair in any way. i have way more broken hairs falling to the floor than shed hairs. i think for the vast majority of people with length retention issues, it's not that they've reached their terminal length, it's that they're having breakage issues (due to fine hair that can't withstand much of manipulation or heat).

2. i like to wear bangs so i keep the front part of my hair short. in a few months it will grow down to my nose/lips. then i will recut it back to eyebrow length and it will grow out again. so i know my hair is growing. i retain length in my bangs because i am constantly keeping the ends fresh by trimming every few months. for the rest of my hair, i see no retention because the ends are not fresh - they're older and breaking off.

i suppose this means i should give my hair a healthy cut. but i don't want to! i trim and dust often, and it doesn't seem to help. so i'm scared i'll give myself a big cut to jumpstart my growth, and my breakage issues will come back in a matter of weeks.
Natural since '03
I think I agree with this. The manipulation required for protective styling destroyed my fine hair, but it grows happy and healthy with wash 'n gos.
Originally Posted by maybejadey
ITA. My hair is super fine, but I also know that it is really strong and the more I leave it alone (and do not protective style it), the more it grows AND retains length.
I'm thinking that perhaps it has something to do with my cuticle strength/extremely low porosity.

any thoughts on if porosity/cuticle strength plays a role in determining length retention?
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How do you know whether your hair strands are fine, medium or coarse?

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