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Is It Possible to Have Long Hair If I’ve Never Had It?

Avatar • Sep 8, 2009

Question for J from Tasha:
Hello ladies, I just want to say that I am in love with the blog. As a new natural of three months, the site gives me hope and inspiration. I am curious about something, and I’m not sure if it has been answered on your blog in the past. I have been getting relaxers since I was seven years old and I am now 29. Before receiving a relaxer, I remember not having long hair as a child. My mom kept my hair in small braids with hair grease and pressed what hair that I had every morning. Even though I was a small child, I remember how I felt having friends with long hair and mine not even reaching my ear. I would feel ashamed like there was something wrong with me. My mom tried everything she could to help my hair grow, including keeping it in braids. I did, eventually, obtained more length just past my ear. Once older, I cut my hair. I wore it short for years with growth here and there, then I would cut it again. Although I always had short hair, I do come from a family of women with long thick hair. Now that my hair is natural, I would love to see its length possibilities. Is it possible for someone who never had a load of hair growing up to obtain long hair in its natural state?

-Tasha from Atlanta

Tasha with short relaxed hair

Tasha (right) at 1 years of age

J’s response:
The short answer is: YES!

The long answer is:
Being that this blog is entitled Black Girl with Long Hair, it is inevitable that we will receive many questions on how to obtain such a perceived feat. Tasha, your question by far gets right to the issue! It is a very common question.

Some of you may be familiar with the concept of terminal length. Some interpret this to mean that the majority of hair on an individual’s head reaches a certain length and then that’s it. I don’t personally believe in a limit to hair growth. Furthermore, all of the hair cannot reach a terminal length at the same time, because they weren’t “born” at the same time. Besides, hair is always growing. But it is also always falling. It is believed that the life cycle of growing hair is anywhere from 2–7 years before the hair falls out. So faster growing hair can accomplish more in this time. This is where genetics factors in to determine the length of the growing phase and how quickly the hair grows during this time. Keep in mind that the rate of hair growth also slows with age. Some women on the hair forums describe their hair reaching a terminal length of shoulder length or arm-pit length(apl), because it always breaks off at this particular length. I believe this limitation is due to poor care practices (or in extreme cases fragile hair types that are more susceptible to damage). These include the use of chemicals, rough handling of hair, inadequate moisture and not using protective styles (although not everyone needs to use protective styles to achieve long hair). Tasha’s childhood experience with pressed hair is an example of this. I discussed these ideas fully in the tough love haircare series.

Many factors come into play in determining hair length. One factor that I will not include singularly is hair type. I mention this because many black women believe to achieve long hair they must relax/straighten the hair or that they must have a looser hair texture. Yes, looser/straighter hair is usually easier to detangle and tends to knot up less (less damage=more retention), but it does not grow faster. The average rate of growth is 1/2 inch a month with some individuals averaging more or less. Because of the fragile nature of kinky hair, issues often arise with how to detangle and care for the hair properly. This leads to most never achieving their possible length potential. There is also a theory that coily hair growth may be slowed down upon exit out of a curved follicle (the follicle shape determines the strand texture). In curly-headed individuals, the hair follicle below the scalp has a hooked end. More hooks produces even curlier hair. Genetics determines the rate of hair growth, so it is sometimes helpful to look at family members experiences with hair length, but not always. For more on terminal length and genetics, check out this informative article on Terminal Length and the Role of Genetics in Black Hair Care by Audrey Sivothosy. 

My hair was long as a child and long when it was relaxed. Being natural now for several years, my hair length now is longer than both of those periods. My hair has grown healthier and longer because the ends are healthier and better taken care of. In contrast, I also know of many naturals who have never had long hair as a child, but have long hair as an adult because they have learned the techniques to keep their hair healthy, preventing breakage so that they achieve full length potential.

Enjoy the short natural Tasha, it looks gorgeous on you! Give your hair time and plenty of good care and you will see your hair surpass what you never dreamed! Thanks for submitting your question and these lovely pics!

What about you guys? Is your hair longer now natural than relaxed/pressed? What are some of your experiences with “terminal length”? (I would especially like to hear from some of you who had short hair as a child/all your life and now have long natural hair.)

~j~

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About jenteel

haitian-naturalist-lover-idealist-health-conscious-spiritualist-yogi-new yorker

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Olivia
Olivia
11 years ago

Great information, thank you.

I only had long hair when I was a little child and my mother took care of it, she used hair grease and always had my hair in twists. Now, I take care of it myself and I’m still trying to perfect my hair care practices.

Eurydice
Eurydice
11 years ago

my hair definitely grows a lot faster when I don’t relax it… Idk why, it just does…

Aritul
Aritul
11 years ago

Excellent question.

I never had long hair, but hopefully one day.…

?reciä
?reciä
11 years ago

I never had long hair as a child. always breaking off or whatever. but since being natural i’ve seen the difference. I just cut my hair again (tired of the color killing me) and it is about to be my second yr as a natural. This time around i know it’ll be longer then what it was way pasted shoulder length.

?reciä
?reciä
11 years ago

I never had long hair as a child. always breaking off or whatever. but since being natural i’ve seen the difference. I just cut my hair again (tired of the color killing me) and it is about to be my second yr as a natural. This time around i know it’ll be longer then what it was way pasted shoulder length.

?reciä
?reciä
11 years ago

I never had long hair as a child. always breaking off or whatever. but since being natural i’ve seen the difference. I just cut my hair again (tired of the color killing me) and it is about to be my second yr as a natural. This time around i know it’ll be longer then what it was way pasted shoulder length.

Da Jadedpoet
Da Jadedpoet
11 years ago

When i was maybe 12 *around that age somewhere* I had hair say maybe to the middle of my back or longer I just knew it was long I never payed that much attention. It was always kept in braids, my mom had no idea what to do with my hair but once I finally began to get perms consistently it broke off to my shoulders. 

Your hair will grow. 🙂 Great interview too!

Ivy
Ivy
11 years ago

This was a great question! 

Before I went natural my hair never seemed to reach my shoulders. I have a small fro now, but in the year that I’ve been natural my hair has retained more length in a year that ever before. And my hair texture is pretty coily. So good luck!

SistaOpinion
SistaOpinion
11 years ago

I have thick, fine-stranded, very nappy hair (4b/CNapp). The longest my hair ever got as a natural child was earlobe-length. The longest it ever got with a relaxer was barely brushing SL. Currently most of my natural hair is between SL and APL. My mother’s rough handling didn’t allow me to retain length as a natural child. My own lack of education didn’t allow me to retain length with a relaxer. (Note: My mother has always had short hair. Until I left her house all I knew was what she knew.) I still have the same hair texture I had back… Read more »

cbabythaboss
cbabythaboss
11 years ago

My hair is currently AT my “terminal length” that I was used to having thru middle school and high school. But I know it’s passing that length up! I had longer hair when I was younger. I can’t WAIT to see where it is when school’s out in May! EEK!

-Candyce

Alida
Alida
11 years ago

my hair was long as a little girl when my mother took care of it. She washed it once a week, gave a good scratchin’ as she called it, and then braided it up in three braids. 

I am glad to be natural again and I am excited with how much my hair has grown since March!

BrownLady
BrownLady
11 years ago

You are gorgeous either way! Enjoy the short look.

mellowyel
mellowyel
11 years ago

My natural hair has grown more in the past year than my relaxed hair ever grew in twice that time. Black girl with long hair = not a myth.

Krystal (aka Pirouette)
Krystal (aka Pirouette)
11 years ago

I have been natural for a little over a year, and the back portion of my 4a/4b hair is now the same length (stretched) as it was at my last touch-up, right at the top of my shoulders. My hair grows pretty quickly, 1/2 inch per month, but it’s not as apparent as when I was relaxing, for obvious reasons. I can’t wait to see how long it will be next year!

Krystal (aka Pirouette)
Krystal (aka Pirouette)
11 years ago

Oh, I should have added that I never really had long hair as a child. I finally achieved shoulder-length in college. The longest my hair was relaxed was just past my shoulders, which I considerd quite a feat at the time. But once it reached my shoulders it always thinned out on the ends, probably from curling iron use. So I always ended up trimming it to my chin and starting over trying to grow it back out. It was a crazy cycle.

Anonymous
Anonymous
11 years ago

I disagree with the statement that looser textured hair doesn’t grow faster. I am a cosmetologist and have biracial children. I also have custody of my niece and she has two black parents. I take excellent care of her hair. I gave her tha BC a year ago. At the same time I cut my daughter’s hair to shoulder length. My daughter’s hair is now at the top of her butt and my niece’s hair is 4 inches long. She has worn mostly gentle protective styles and we keep it well-conditioned and moisturized. I also witness this with my own… Read more »

Urban Fashionista
Urban Fashionista
11 years ago

I’d first like to say your hair is very cute short!

I had the healthiest relaxed hair in the world. I and I do believe hair stops growing at a certain point. My longest length was an inch or two above my elbows. Any longer than that would become stringy and I would be forced to cut it off. 

I definitely agree most black women’s hair doesn’t reach their full potential because of poor hair practices but now that your hair is natural and you are in control (no offense to your mother) you’ll definitely see a positive change.

Liza
Liza
11 years ago

Can I have her cheekbones? :o) I know she’s inquiring about long hair, but that short hair looks fierce on her! Long hair will just distract from her beautiful face. I agree with others who said to enjoy the short hair b/c is looks GOOD on you!

Danielle
Danielle
11 years ago

my hair definitely grows and retain more hair now that i’m natural than when i was a permie. 

I have had about 10 inches of hair growth and retention since January 2008. And This is after some serious “trims”.

The Fashionstar
The Fashionstar
11 years ago

I first just want to say that Tasha looks so fabulous with her fro! But to answer J’s question, I always had shoulder length thick hair when I relaxed, but I would either cut it off, or it would break off before it got any further than that. I did my bc in 11/07 and I didnt have a twa I cut it bald. I recently flat ironed my hair to see the true length — & the back sections are a little past my shoulders, the front sections are past my chin, which is basically the length my relaxed hair… Read more »

thelady
thelady
11 years ago

I’ve seen many examples of type 4 textured women who were able to grow their natural hair longer than it was when they were relaxed or pressed. They were able to do this by avoiding heat styling, using gentle sulfate free shampoos, no petroleum, no mineral oil, and no hair gels. They also use gentle detangling techniques (wide tooth comb, hair full of conditioner). Just try to be patient and give it a good 2 years to grow out before you give up.

Lina40
Lina40
11 years ago

The anonymous post is interesting.. Both childrens’s hair were cut to different lengths, and the niece’s hair was not stretched to view the true length.. I think you might be comparing apples to oranges there… 

Just wanted to chime in that my hair is longer now as a natural (BSL) than it has ever been relaxed (collarbone length)and I thought I took pretty good care of my relaxed hair, but those perms just burned the mess out of my scalp!

Lita
Lita
11 years ago

very interesting, glad you brought this up 🙂

babydolltash
babydolltash
11 years ago

I just want to say thanks to Jenteel for here wonderful response to my question! It’s good to know that Im not the only one who had to deal with this issue. I also want to say that I do love my twa, not dissing it at all…lol.

Stay beautiful ladies :0)

Lita
Lita
11 years ago

@ anonymous- i’d assume that the only way you could test the growth of the hair is to dye it or something. i figure the length won’t tell you about the growth rate so much as growth retention. that being said, some people’s hair definitiely grows quicker than others (heck, i’d shave my legs twice a day if my dry skin could handle it)

Jc
Jc
11 years ago

Ok maybe I’m being silly here but don’t you think midback length hair on a 6 year old is only about 10 inches on a 20 year old. You know your body does catch up with the size of your head (which is enormous really on a human child).  However to answer the question, I have the longest hair I have ever had now — my hair fluctuated as a kid but was mostly short (neck length). Why has it grown now- same reasons others have given — low manipulation, stopped combing (See Lisa Akbari’s detangling method), loved my shrinkage, stopped being… Read more »

luvmylocs
luvmylocs
11 years ago

i had my longest hair ever with locs. it was almost to my waist in some places. now i’m loose again. i never straighten with heat (i.e. flat iron or pressing). my hair doesn’t look that long but if i stretch it i can see how long it really is. if i roller set it looks longer. i just accept it for where it is, try to do better with detangling it and all the other good stuff. black hair can grow long for sure it just doesn’t always look as long as it really is. other hair textures might… Read more »

AdriBaksh
AdriBaksh
11 years ago

I think Sikhs can prove that there does exist a “terminal” length. For religious reasons, they do not cut their hair and most Sikh women’s hair stops somewhere along their lower back. And this is over up to 60/70 years without a single trim!! Even the men’s facial hair is the same. Their beards don’t just continue growing forever. There are definitely exceptions. But overall…it is true.  I think the trick to acheiving long hair for yourself is health. And less trims. When I had a perm I would go to the salon every 6 weeks where the beautician would chop… Read more »

. .:T.I.P:. .
. .:T.I.P:. .
11 years ago

I was thinking the same thing. I thought hair was like height; once you reach a certain height, you don’t grow anymore. Now reading this post, I see that is false. I never wanted real long as a black girl, probably because I didn’t think this goal could be achieve, however, I hope my hair grows healthy and long. But we’ll see. Thanks for helping 2 dispel the myth.

The Notorious Z.A.G.
The Notorious Z.A.G.
11 years ago

LOL@ Jc.. Yea, the human child’s head is 1/4 the size of the body, as opposed to adults whose heads are 1/8.
Your ‘fro is hotness.. You are very pretty and that’s a cute picture. Good luck on growth! Try not to think too much about it; its like tryna watch a pot of water boil!

thelady
thelady
11 years ago

if you avoid heat, and chemicals you do not have to trim your hair

when I had a relaxer I had to trim every 2 months or I’d get bad split ends, now I trim 1x a year and my ends are fine, I just use shea butter or coconut oil to keep my ends moisturized.

BeautyHealthZoneBlog.com Editor
BeautyHealthZoneBlog.com Editor
11 years ago

Long hair is possible, whatever your hair type. It just depends on what you eat and how you take care of the hair. the main reaosn why a lot of Black women feel that their hair is not growing is because it is breaking off just as quickly. The most important things are diet and nutrition, and how you manage or take care of the hair, the tools you use, combs, brushes and the types of products you use in the hair, which should be specific to your hair type. These are a few things that will help you to… Read more »

Brandy B. Wine
Brandy B. Wine
11 years ago

For the first time in my life I am having a hard time growing my hair.

I had long hair as a child and never had hair shorter than shoulder length unless I cut it. I was first relaxed at the age of 10 I think. I cut all my hair off about 6 yrs ago and began growing it back last September. This my 2nd time being natural.

Anonymous
Anonymous
11 years ago

Love this blog. I had the same hair issue growing up. My hair was always a twa as a child. It was super thin but I received a relaxer at the age of seven. Of course my hair suffered and i ended up wearing braids until high school. Still i saw no growth. By the way, i continued to relax my hair whenever i needed to redo the braids. Finally in college my hair and scalp just had enough and i decided to go natural. I didn’t expect my hair to grow because it was always short. I was surprised… Read more »

jenteel
jenteel
11 years ago

@anonymous September 8, 2009 10:47 AMi believe that it’s not about texture; it’s about genetics, but we can agree to disagree 🙂 besides, there are so many more variables that would need to be considered between these two girls that point more towards length retention rather than growth…  yes, there are some studies that show that asian hair averages out to be the fastest growing group, followed by whites, followed by those of african descent. but remember these are averages. even among individuals of same race, dna profiles can be so varied (different genetic makeup). however, i have met people… Read more »

Black girl with long hair
Black girl with long hair
11 years ago

she has beautiful skin

SistaOpinion
SistaOpinion
11 years ago

Re anonymous@10:47: Looser textures show length faster and more easily than tighter textures. That does not translate to their growing faster. As for length retention, it’s likely that the two girls probably aren’t using the same products or tools, or wearing their hair in the same way. I’m convinced the reason why my hair is as long and healthy as it is is because I quit taking the word of cosmetologists as gospel.  (As I said in my previous post, most of my hair is between SL and APL. It’s been just over two years after my BC, and in those… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
11 years ago

Hey guys, I wanted to clarify that I was speaking of both girl’s in the natural state, unstretched. My niece’s hair is about 7 inches stretched and my daughter’s hair is about 22 inches stretched. My niece’s hair grew 5 inches in a year while my daughter’s hair grew about 14 inches in the same time period. My caucasian husband and I also had the same length hair when I did the bc and his hair also doubled mine in growth. My best friend is Asian and her hair is past her butt. She also regularly cuts her hair and… Read more »

Black girl with long hair
Black girl with long hair
11 years ago

@ anonymous 10:11… i would actually agree that genetics plays a role in hair growth. and that other “races” (though race is a socially constructed category and has little biological basis) have faster-growing hair. but honestly — to me — the overriding factor is not RACE but CULTURE. I think that black women have developed a TERRIBLE hair care culture, and I agree with a previous commenter that this is fairly recent. in a perfect world — if black women stopped using so much heat and chemicals, and stopped manipulating their hair so much, and made sure to moisturize and… Read more »

The Star
The Star
11 years ago

This is the story of my life. But, I’ve learned that if I’m going to have short hair forever, it looks good on me so I’m going to rock it and love it.

Alexis
Alexis
11 years ago

I never had long hair as a child. Never more than 2″-3″. My mother braided my hair until I was about 10 years old. Then she pressed and curled it until I decided to get a perm at the age of 15. I relaxed my hair for the next 29 years, never reaching a length more than 5″ with lots of breakage along the way. It has been 4 years since I last relaxed my hair. My hair is healthy and about 10″ long and growing. So yes it is possible. Eating well, developing a good haircare routine and little… Read more »

Melinda
Melinda
11 years ago

Ok, this is probably an old post but here is my 2 cents worth. I believe that even with the very best handling and products and education and whatever else we as African American woman can do to retain length, other european and asian races of people are able to grow their hair at a much faster rate than that of our hair. Sorry ladies but it is just a fact, sorry, nobody said that life was fair!!!

?reciä
?reciä
11 years ago

I never had long hair as a child. always breaking off or whatever. but since being natural i’ve seen the difference. I just cut my hair again (tired of the color killing me) and it is about to be my second yr as a natural. This time around i know it’ll be longer then what it was way pasted shoulder length.

?reciä
?reciä
11 years ago

I never had long hair as a child. always breaking off or whatever. but since being natural i’ve seen the difference. I just cut my hair again (tired of the color killing me) and it is about to be my second yr as a natural. This time around i know it’ll be longer then what it was way pasted shoulder length.

?reciä
?reciä
11 years ago

I never had long hair as a child. always breaking off or whatever. but since being natural i’ve seen the difference. I just cut my hair again (tired of the color killing me) and it is about to be my second yr as a natural. This time around i know it’ll be longer then what it was way pasted shoulder length.

?reciä
?reciä
11 years ago

I never had long hair as a child. always breaking off or whatever. but since being natural i’ve seen the difference. I just cut my hair again (tired of the color killing me) and it is about to be my second yr as a natural. This time around i know it’ll be longer then what it was way pasted shoulder length.

?reciä
?reciä
11 years ago

I never had long hair as a child. always breaking off or whatever. but since being natural i’ve seen the difference. I just cut my hair again (tired of the color killing me) and it is about to be my second yr as a natural. This time around i know it’ll be longer then what it was way pasted shoulder length.

?reciä
?reciä
11 years ago

I never had long hair as a child. always breaking off or whatever. but since being natural i’ve seen the difference. I just cut my hair again (tired of the color killing me) and it is about to be my second yr as a natural. This time around i know it’ll be longer then what it was way pasted shoulder length.

antava
antava
10 years ago

i agree with melinda. generally speaking, whites, asians and hispanics have faster hair growth than people of african descent, but it is possible for people of color to have long hair. hair length is determined by the length of one’s hair growth cycle, rate of growth of hair, outside factors (ie. health and environment) and hair care. Black hair needs moisture and should not be manipulated a lot. Why do we need to compare our hair to other people. I accept that my hair will never be down to my waist no matter how well i take care of my… Read more »

Layla
Layla
10 years ago

I disagree with Melinda and Antava. I know plently of black women with hair down their backs. And I do believe that Black Hair grows just as fast as other races. It is just not apparent because it is not retained. It is not retained because of chemicals, hot combs, flat irons, perms, ect. I have two black roomates both perm free, both with beautiful hair down to their mid-back. They take care of it and keep chemicals out of their hair.  I feel liberated now, I believe that my hair will do just the same, when I simply leave it… Read more »

IBE LOVE
IBE LOVE
8 years ago

HI THERE SWEETIE …I WOULD LOVE TO SEE WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE NOW(HAIR)…ANY NEW PICS?
[img]https://bglh-marketplace.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/FIRSTINLOGANSQUARETHENATTHEY078.jpg[/img]

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