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?
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.)