Although I have grown my hair out from 1/4 of an inch to bra strap length and beyond, I have made so many mistakes caring for my hair over the past six years or so. For starters the hair shears and I have had a very unhealthy codependent relationship. I have cut my hair so many times over the past few years. My other mistake was experimenting so much with my natural hair care routine that I have seldomly stuck to a specific hair regimen. My desire to eliminate wasteful plastic bottles as well as not experience irritating chemical sensitivity from commercial hair care led me on this chemical-free path to begin with. I was literally trying to save myself and the planet one curl at a time.
I’ve learned A LOT about my hair and healthy hair care in general over the years. Even though I completely swore off growing my hair out after last year’s mini/major chop I’m back at it again. Here are five healthy hair growth and length retention tips that I’ve observed with my own hair as well as what I’ve noticed with others.
1. Simple heat-free styling is your best friend.
One major thing in common that I have noticed with women of all textures who have extremely long healthy hair is that they do very simple styling and updos. I believe that there is a huge difference in their mentality on how they care for their hair because keeping up with hair trends and styling does not seem to be the priority. Many of these women wear their hair in a single braid, classic bun, chignon, or topknot and avoid heat styling. Wearing my hair up a majority of the time is a new goal of mine.
2. Keep the scissors at bay!
Consistently cutting, trimming, and reshaping my curls has definitely prevented me from retaining the length that I wanted over the years. I would not have been able to grow out last year’s drastic hair cut with consistent reshapings if I hadn’t decided to stop cutting my hair all together last October 2015. I did at least 3-4 major reshapings last year between the spring and fall. You can see photos of various hair styles that I have worn along with last year’s drastic hair cut here.
Now a little over a year after that initial mini chop, my hair has almost fully grown back. I’m now only cutting single strand knots. If you have damaged hair, it is important to either slowly trim out the damage while keeping your hair protected, or cut the damage off in one go. If your ends are healthy though, put those scissors down!
3. Commercial hair color, especially bleaching, weakens the hair and can cause breakage.
Luckily I have never loved commercial hair dye. Of the few times I dyed my hair, my hair was extremely dehydrated and brittle. Slowly cutting the dye out of my hair was usually the solution. Maintaining healthy chemically treated hair never worked for me unless I planned to keep my hair the exact same length.
If 1/2 inch of hair growth monthly is the norm, retaining that length each month is more challenging if you color it. I have seen so many beauties online with gorgeous hair experience serious hair breakage from hair color. Ladies with extremely long hair (waist length and beyond) usually avoid chemically coloring their hair, at least not with bleach. Henna is a much healthier alternative to chemical hair color.
4. Big curly hair is insanely beautiful, yet wearing your hair loose 24/7 can cause tangles, single strand knots, and split ends.
This concept is where I’ve been the most hard headed! I am 100% hands down a wash and go girl, and I love my natural curl pattern more than anything. I wonder if I had at least been consistent with my favorite messy top knot bun, or stuck with my original braid out updos, if I would have seen even more progress in hair length retention over the years.
Embracing my curls fully has been amazing, yet I chose to wear my hair loose rather than protect it. In the process I forgot my goals for growing it out, and created a personal identity around having big hair. Now I’m looking at this process of hair growth and length retention very differently.
5. Maintain a consistent hair care regimen with gentle detangling.
Once you have found a hair regimen that works for you, it is really important to stick with it. When you change your hair care regimen constantly, it is very hard to really know what is working for you and what is not. This not only pertains to the products that you use, but also how you handle your hair, and how you style it.
A good consistent hair care regimen will allow you to detangle your hair gently and easily which helps to retain length. A lot of length can be lost through the detangling process. Finger detangling is extremely helpful even if you do decide to follow up with a detangling brush or wide tooth comb afterwards. I have noticed less tangles and knots overall as well as easier detangling sessions after wearing updos of all kinds, and also setting my curls with braids after washing my hair.
As much fun as it is to experiment with different products and styles, I am realizing that those simple styles of single braids, classic buns, chignons, and topknots are the best way to go for me especially in the winter. Along with these simple styles, I prefer simple products such as a gentle hair cleanser, conditioner/strengthener, and an oil/butter. By wearing my hair up a majority of the time, I am hoping it will help me to reach my hair length goals without even noticing it happening at all.
What has helped you maintain maximum hair growth and length retention if you are growing your hair out?
(Image by my hubby)