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Cracking the code of length retention; sometimes it takes time!

Avatar • May 18, 2011

Reader Kayana (not pictured above) says;

I know that many naturals figure out their hair pretty quickly, and have grown out full, long, healthy heads of hair in no time. But I’m in a different group of naturals; those of us you struggle for years to figure out how to properly retain length. I’ve been tweaking my protective strategy for 5 (count’em… FIVE) years, and now — at age 26 — I’m FINALLY seeing results. Just yesterday I was watching TV and felt something weird brushing the base of my neck and, who’d a thunk, it was MY HAIR. That was definitely new. For me, the issue is that my hair is very, very fine, very thin (as in, not dense), and highly textured. And, while I love my hair and wouldn’t trade it for anyone else’s, figuring out how to keep length in the unforgiving terrain that is my hair, has been difficult.

I guess the purpose of this post is two-fold — to make the natural hair world AWARE that we exist! I sometimes feel that people take for granted that every natural will have a nice, big, healthy, fluffy afro in 2 years. That’s not the case! Mastery of one’s hair is sometimes very difficult. It used to bum me out, but now I affectionately refer to myself as a ‘late bloomer’. This experience has taught me patience, and once my hair hits 12 inches, I plan on starting a YouTube channel to encourage and inspire women who are struggling, like I was.

I also gain inspiration from hair gurus like Teri of Tightly Curly and Kim Love of KimmayTube who are open and up-front about the fact that it took them more than a decade to figure out how to grow out their hair.

Also, I was just curious to see if there was any one else out there like me. Did it take you years to figure out how to retain length? Is it TAKING you years? And what are some things you’ve learned about your hair along the way?

Great questions! And for those of you who had a fairly quick journey, length-retention-wise, do you have friends or family who struggle a bit more than you did?

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Aivlys
Aivlys
9 years ago

Yes! I have been without a relaxer for about 2 1/2 years. I JUST figured out a good regimen that actually makes my hair soft. And though I was retaining some length, I am now see my hair thriving. I found out my hair LOVES oil! Thus I do a hot oil treatment, oil rinse on wash days.

Tia
Tia
9 years ago

This is so funny, I recently did a blog post about the commonalities among long haired naturals. It took me about 3 yrs to figure out that the hair growth I was seeking was connected to length retention. It’s all about how you care for your hair and the techniques used. I noticed that a lot of the longer haired naturals have similar simple regimens but different products. I truly believe that if you use the products that your hair likes and utilize the proper techniques to retain length that long hair is possible. It does bother me when some… Read more »

Aivlys
Aivlys
9 years ago
Reply to  Tia

Proper technique is so important.Before I could not understand why oils and shea butter wasn’t working for me until I used a different technique. I have to be heavy handed with my hair, I mean slather on the stuff then BOOM found out my hair loves oil and shea butter all along! A small but crucial detail of my proper hair technique…I have to slather on everything my hair is greedy lol!

Elle
9 years ago
Reply to  Aivlys

Exactly! Mine too! My hair is DRY AND THICK! I can’t afford to be shy with the goods… I slather mine from root to tip!

nubia
9 years ago
Reply to  Tia

I agree with the fact that there are a few Gurus on YT that once there hair hit about 9″ they started marketing products for rapid hair growth. Tutorial stopped and rapid marketing began. They forgot the reason why they actually had subbies.. for the $$$ signs. For people that who are new to the natural hair enviroment or some not so new.. they would jump on this band wagon(hope in a bottle).. thinking these ladies have the cure. But, the reality is they had reached the 2–2.5 year mark and the hair started to retain and have length..no MASTER… Read more »

crimsonpeach
crimsonpeach
9 years ago

Thank you for this! Sometimes I feel like everyone else BC’ed, mastered their hair, and had this glorious crown of hair in two years.

I am still taking baby steps with my hair and I’m almost always frustrated with one step or another. I really needed this post because my hair is also fine and thin. Although I love my natural hair I totally feel like I am ‘effing this ‘ish up! I’m determined thoughout it all. I know I won’t reach great lengths/totally healthy hair anytime soon but I will.

Elle
9 years ago

Wow… very insightful. Just the other day I was admiring my full and lengthy fro only to remember those painful days of broken ends and frustration. I started my natural journey in 2007 and since then have big chopped THREE times because of complete damage. I didn’t know a regimen. I didnt have access to the knowlege and products that I do now. I was trying to treat my natural hair with producs only meant for relaxers. And I can honestly say, in one year my hair has grown DOUBLE the length than ever before forthe simple fact that now… Read more »

Rayna
Rayna
9 years ago

I too understand your struggle. My hair is fine, but incredibly dense. It also extremely porous, and is exceptionally difficult to keep moisturized. Although I have had ok length retention (my hair is shoulder length stretched) I think thats been sheer genetics, because my hair always hits the point its at right now and stops. or should I say the length retention decreases dramtically. I never really found a regimen. I have tried lots of different things. The only thing I know is that my hair really seems to enjoy water/glycerin mixes, so that has been a staple, and a… Read more »

Bitty Boss
9 years ago

Oooh Hunny! It took me what seemed like forever to retain and keep retaining. It hit me when my no-silicone routine was just producing sucky,dry results. I was trying to follow what everyone else was doing and my hair no likey. I finally busted out the Silicon Mix, serums, and heavy butters. My hair retained moisture better and, well, just behaved better. I started to see length (inch by inch) and I went from neck length to a full shoulder length within 6 months. Anyways, sorry for writing a book, but the moral of the story is do what feels… Read more »

Kaila
Kaila
9 years ago

Yes! another fine AND thin natural. I sometimes feel we are a rarity because most of the natural hair gurus have thick or dense hair and can afford to make mistakes, whereas us fine haired naturals have to treat our hair like the fine silk that it is.

Teesha
Teesha
9 years ago
Reply to  Kaila

Girl preach! And the thing that frustrates me — and this is NOT to hate on these gurus — but people ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over their hair, not realizing that GENETICALLY many of these women just have STRONG hair. So if you’re a natural with very fine (read=breaks at the slightest touch) hair, then these gurus might not be the best source of advice. Many of them have been able to grow long hair DESPITE their mistakes, and even while continuing to make mistakes. I need advice from someone who, like me, pays the price EVERY SINGLE TIME I make… Read more »

Jc
Jc
9 years ago
Reply to  Teesha

Teesha I agree with you although I also do think that people with thick ‘breakage resistant’ hair can suffer from failing to retain hair length.

I do think the reason why I agree with you is because you are taking charge of your own hair instead of listening to everyone elses advice.

The biggest reason why naturals have length retention problems is usually because they are religiously sticking to someone else’s regimen. Clear signs like breakage when combing or not looking out for split ends are missed.

Beth
Beth
9 years ago
Reply to  Teesha

My sentiments exactly! Having fine hair is a challenge in itself, and I don’t know if some people understand that. I too stopped looking at ‘hair porn’ for the mere fact that I know I’ll be bombarded with images of hair that just don’t speak to my experience. Heads of thick hair and coarse hair (whether separately or simultaneously) are both beautiful, but fine hair and thin hair can be beautiful too, and it would help to have more info geared to length retention when it comes to fine and/or thin hair (cuz lord knows it’s not easy). Then again,… Read more »

Carla
Carla
9 years ago
Reply to  Teesha

I totally agree! I’ve been natural for almost 9 years and I was only able to retain about “19 of hair including the much needed trimming and cutting I had to do. Though I do have a lot of hair, its fine to medium and very porous. I’m just now learning in the past year that I have to constantly moisturize, and detangle/comb very gently or it will break. There are other things I’m doing too to help with the porosity and breakage issues (protein/moisture balance, henna treatments, etc) but it took me long enough to learn!

Chimmy
Chimmy
9 years ago

Rayna, your style challenged comment totally brings a smile to my face. I never ever thought in a million years that I would ever be able to put extensions in my hair, currently now I am rocking some yarn twists that I did all by my lonesome. Honestly this was a complete surprise for me. I bc’d in december of 2010 and since then I’ve done soooo much to my hair that I’m very surprised I still have hair on my head. My retention is not that amazing,(due to doing too much) I reached shoulder length but that’s pretty bad since… Read more »

df
df
9 years ago
Reply to  Chimmy

same here i’ve messed with my hair sooo much and sooo roughly that my scalp is now super sensitive, my head is sort of sore alot now which is…pretty scary…

Chimmy
Chimmy
9 years ago
Reply to  df

Do not get me started on the scalp issues. I become so angry when I have sores on my scalp. I was thinking the other day, when I was relaxed I never got these sores unless I just got a fresh relaxer. Then I thought further about the issue and the truth of the matter is that when I was relaxed I never even thought about my hair. I let it be wild and limp lol and never payed attention to whether my scalp was feeling bad unless I had gotten a fresh relaxer. Anyways, I noticed that I am… Read more »

Alison C
Alison C
9 years ago
Reply to  Chimmy

Omg! I never thought that doing overnight dc’s may cause fungal infections. In fact now I’m thinking about it my worst itchies came after using Ojon restorative treatment overnight. My hair would be super soft but after 2 days my scalp would be on fire 🙁

mangomadness
mangomadness
9 years ago
Reply to  Chimmy

I never thought about the hair clamps irritating the scalp. Thanks for your post!

helloELO
helloELO
9 years ago
Reply to  mangomadness

Thanks for the post,it confirm what I noticed few weeks ago about my scalp. I decided to follow the instructions on my DC jar now for safety.

Shari
9 years ago
Reply to  Chimmy

OMDZ! This is it! I have a section in the middle of my head where my scalp is very sore. Reading your reply I realise it is because I treat that area very rough. it is in the middle so I cant c what im doing and so i pull it more. Oh no 🙁

Londongrl
Londongrl
9 years ago
Reply to  Chimmy

I bc’ed almost two years ago, and wearing two stranded twists for a couple months at a time in addition to keeping my hair moisturised has worked wonders for me. right now my hair is the longest it’s ever been due to keeping it in twists (which I do myself,and have perfected the method over time :D) Yes, I’m excited to see the growth at the end of summer too!…Now I have to check out yarn twists. May be a new look me

df
df
9 years ago

I seriously thought I was failing at being natural because I hadn’t figured what worked for my hair in almost a year. Wow, I guess I can’t complain. I just started really listening to it’s likes/dislikes while consciously trying different products, different ways of applying products…even the type of water I used and now things are turning around. Yeah, I discovered a major, major problem was the hard water in my area…it has made a huge difference…

Anyway, this post is so encouraging..I love BGLH!

HomeGrownHairGirl
9 years ago

I think a BIG part of retaining length is honestly leaving your hair alone. I mean that in so far as avoiding the constant styling that some people do. I actually found protective styling to be my enemy. In the beginning, TOO MUCH protective styling and manipulation of the strands (i.e. twisting the hair all the time, etc.) led to breakage for me. Now I mess with my hair on a minimal scale. And once it’s styled (normally just out or in a puff) I leave it alone. The results of this have been phenomenal! I did have a set… Read more »

Chimmy
Chimmy
9 years ago

Good job girl! I can’t leave my hair out in a puff for too long. I learned that the hard way because although you are not manipulating it, not manipulating it by keeping it from snagging on the rest of the hair is bad. At least for me it was. I did the same thing, moisturize and seal whenever I felt I needed it, when I decided to wear a puff for 2 weeks 🙁 Come wash day, all heck broke lose and I had a matted, knotted mess. So because of that set back I’m not wearing any out… Read more »

HomeGrownHairGirl
9 years ago
Reply to  Chimmy

Wow 2 weeks straight of wearing a puff, does seem like it would cause a lot of tension on the hair. I typically alternate between wearing a wash n go for a couple of days then will wear a puff for a couple of days. I wash & detangle about every 4 days bc it looks frizzy if I wait any longer.…

LBell
LBell
9 years ago

This conversation is very eye-opening for me: After 15 years of being natural I realize that I’ve basically returned to a simplified version of my original regimen. I have fine-but-dense, coily/kinky mostly 4b hair. I can divide my natural hair life into 8 distinct periods that differ primarily according to the amount of styling and manipulation I was doing. The longest period lasted 5.5 years and consisted of me doing just about everything to my natural hair with the exception of color. In 5.5 years — during which I never took off more than an inch of hair at any given… Read more »

HomeGrownHairGirl
9 years ago
Reply to  LBell

Thanks SO much for sharing your hair story, LBell!

Kesha
Kesha
9 years ago

Getting a hair trim on a regular basis is important too. Less fragile ends mean less damage while washing and styling, etc., which leads to greater retention.

Chimmy
Chimmy
9 years ago
Reply to  Kesha

hm interesting I never knew that. Well it seems to make sense, do you have a certain time that you cut? Or is it whenever you think your ends are in need of it?

Kesha
Kesha
9 years ago
Reply to  Chimmy

HI Chimmy, I notice that my thin strands are in need of a trim every 8–10 weeks. If I go longer than that I see more breakage throughout my hair. A delicate trim of about 1/4 inch is barely noticable in terms of styling and the ‘look of length’, but it makes a world of difference in terms of the health and condition of my hair.

jaince
jaince
9 years ago

One of the things I learned is that I’m extremely heavy handed — I handle everything very rough. I didn’t have a problem with my hair growing, since it grows very fast,it was just that I’m not a patient person, WITH ANYTHING- so I learned a lot about myself and how i do things. I would tug on the hair and because I wasn’t gentle with it I would unnecessarily lose hair, even in detangling and everything else I would drag on the hair. So I’m still in the process learning to be extremely gentle with my hair, and not… Read more »

Jo Somebody
Jo Somebody
9 years ago

I have found that I do not seem to be retaining length during my transition. My hair is growing, but the length of the new growth doesn’t seem to match the length my whole hair has grown by. Unless my shrinkage is just unbelievable??

Sieta
Sieta
9 years ago

My hair started thriving and retaining length just three months ago (about 6 months since I started my healthy hair journey).

sosoulful0125
sosoulful0125
9 years ago

I must say this is one article that I truly appreciate. I have been natural for a little over 3 years, and I was always amazed how fast some people hair would grow compared to mine. I have always been a fan of using conditioner for moisture but that is far as I went for the most part. I had to learn the hard way that my hair cannot survive on condition along for moisture it requires additional moisture especially on color treated hair. Also I have just mastered detangling which is very important in retaining length.

Ambrosia
Ambrosia
9 years ago

Glad to see this article. I thought I was alone. My hair seems to be stuck at one length. Sometimes, though I am happy for others,looking at other folks progress can be a bit discouraging. I’ve been natural 2 years and I am still learning my hair. I plan to leave it be this summer. Not a lot of styling. Use the products I know keep it moisturized and hope it gets to a length that protective styling will be easier.

Nappynfree
Nappynfree
9 years ago

I am a slow grower with thin hair. It can be depressing at times because what works for others don’t work for me. I swear I can just look at my hair and sometimes some strands will break. *sigh* I am on a complete DIY mission looking for the right blend of products that work for my hair.

I would like to encourage Kayana to start a YouTube channel now to help others like her while she is still learning. Let us see your mourn struggles and celebrate in your successes! Don’t put up vids after the fact.

hyspin
hyspin
9 years ago

Well I am in that boat too but my boyfriend says he notices some length now. So I looking at what I am doing differently. Here what I discovered. Plain Jane jumbo twists. Wash with of course SLS free shampoo because my hair is extremely dry naturally and winter weather. Seal ends with silicons or heavey oils. Leave moisturizing conditioner in don’t rinse out. ACV (or cold water when ACV is not available) and Oil rinse each washing day. Fully Detangle when moist not wet and not dry crucial. Seal with oil I have notice that petroleum oil seams to… Read more »

M.J.
M.J.
9 years ago

No, it never took much effort for my hair to grow out. I used to think it was b/c my dad has very loosely curled hair. But, now that I’m well-informed, I know it has nothing to do with curl pattern, but the thickness of my strands, their porosity and elasticity. My mom’s hair has a tighter curl pattern, but more importantly it’s strands are very fine. Her hair doesn’t get past SL/APL. When we followed the same regimen, I was BSL. So, yes…I’d say those who have fine strands compounded with a tighter curl pattern may have to play… Read more »

Mikxtr
Mikxtr
9 years ago

I BC’d when my son was born. On his fourth birthday, I had 6 inches! Yah, that’s right: 4 years, 6 inches. Bummed! That was last fall. In the past 6 months, I figured out that my hair was always dry and I comb/brush it too much. So now I finger- comb, but minimally, and water touches it daily. Already, I’m seeing an improvement, but I’m still not there. I’m battling the dryness and oils are not really working for me. Yes, watching the thick-haired women got frustrating after a while. I’ve started specifically looking for those with very course hair,… Read more »

Meowmix
Meowmix
9 years ago

Thank you so much for asking this question. I am in the same boat you are. Do you know how discouraging it is to watch some who BC’d a year ago post updates with hair longer than yours??

When I first started my HJ, long hair was my only goal. Now that I’ve actually learned how to do my hair, I’m content with my shoulder length (after 4 years) hair.

I’ve also started watching a variety on YT. I balance the superstarts with sisters in the struggle:)

cygnet
cygnet
9 years ago

When my hair is unbound, I become its worst enemy. I don’t mean to, I just do. I Keep forgetting that I can’t get a comb through it all at once, not even when it’s optimally moisturized, and the drier it is, the harder it becomes to manage. Having these fine, variably coily strands be dense and highly porous makes for a mess of hair that may look good when I wear a fro but can’t be worn unbound for very long. I have learned that I dare not leave the ends unbound for sleeping, not even in a pineapple.… Read more »

FlowerHead
9 years ago

Amen!

I understand you so much! I actually just created a blog about my hair rentention problem. I’ve managed to grow other peoples hair, but neglect to follow the same regimen.

My hair has pretty much stayed the same length for 3 years. I’ve watched AND HELPED all my friends go natural and retain length to midback while I’m still stuck at my ear and chin..:(. It takes a while to stop experimenting and just listen to your hair!

watch my progress: texturedcaring.blogspot.com

Checia
Checia
9 years ago

WOW! That article spoke directly to me. I went natural in ’06 and am loving it. But it’s taken me FOREVER and a day to figure out how to moisturize, detangle, find and keep my curl pattern, style etc. Just recently I found out how to properly wash my hair and I have also realized I don’t really need a comb to do my hair at all. I barely need a brush. Long story short, I thought I just wasn’t gettin it seeing all these ladies on bglh and youtube who had their system down. And here I was going… Read more »

Alison C
Alison C
9 years ago
Reply to  Checia

+1!
I never could get my head around brushing my hair especially with a denman, I could imagine by hair coming out in chunks! I also never liked combing really, the snagging and snapping of my strands upset me so now I just finger comb and detangle and my hair seems happier.

Andrea
Andrea
9 years ago

Took me 8 years to figure it out…as soon as I did, I knew I was ready to LOCK IT UP. I have simlar hair to you, with the exception that it is VERY dense and fine fine fine, and nappy. 😀

Keesha
Keesha
9 years ago

I recently went to a Dominican stylist and had a deep conditioning treatment and trim. I don’t know what products she used (Dominican, I’m assuming) but three at home washes later and my hair is still silky soft and smooth. I credit both the treatment and trim for reducing the amount of combing and finger combing I need to detangle and style my hair now, which translates to less manipulation and less breakage. I have already noticed a huge difference in the amount of hair in the shower and bathroom floor. I think regular deep conditioning and trimming will play… Read more »

taurusdragonfly
taurusdragonfly
9 years ago

Absolutely with you. I started transitioning in 2007 and I’m just finding some length retention. I’ve never had long hair, so it wasn’t really a priority but since I’ve helped convince other friends to go natural and watched them grow big fluffy fros and long spirals while I’m at the same neck length, I’m getting a little jealous. My hair is fine and has always been super delicate. At the same time, I have no patience for sticking to one look or regimen. So I could never keep the hair I grew when I tried something new. I’m super quick… Read more »

Monisola
Monisola
9 years ago

fine, dense, 4b/4c hair here! it was only after i started doing protein treatments (once a month), moisturizing every OTHER day,and putting my hair in protective styles 80% of the time that i was able to retain length. I also have very sensitive skin and my scalp needs a light acv treatment every other week or else itching, sores, scabbing grossssssss. this summer my hair will be in yarn braids..maybe even though the fall and winter…I hope hope hope to get better at doing them because i can leave my hair alone for weeks at a time which is what… Read more »

Erika
Erika
9 years ago

Great post!! My curly fro is almost 3yrs old and is 4a/b and kind of thin. In the beginning it seemed like my hair grew like crazy. But I really didn’t get that my kinky twists, extra long conditioning sessions, and protein treatments were not my friends until the last time I removed my kinky twists and wondered “why is my hair not maturing like some of my friends”. So I began researching porosity and protein issues, looking really closely at the products I have now and have used before, and keeping foremost in my mind that this is my… Read more »

Imoni
Imoni
9 years ago

Hell yea! My hair is still a piece of work that I’m trying to figure out. I was natural for 3 years (since ’08) and I’ve been struggling ever since. I always relied on my mother and sisters to help me out and advise me on what is best for my hair. Once I went off to college I managed well with my small afro and it grew…but I remember the day sooo clearly when I washed my hair and it felt like a brilo pad. After that I struggled (and still struggle to figure out what’s best for my hair).… Read more »

Bzcitybeauty
9 years ago

Hey Imoni
Don’t give up sweetie…As with everything it takes time…What you can do however, pick an hour where you can surf the net and write on a piece of paper…Cleansing/Conditioning/Moisturizing & Sealing/Styling…Then surf different suggestion that financially you can cope with…like a cheap suggestion VO5 Moisture Milks Conditioners which are like a buck or less…This is versatile for a co-wash/cleansing, add mayo and some olive oil to it and its a deep conditioner, then add the conditioner with water and its instantly a moisturizer for everyday.

Monzi
Monzi
9 years ago
Reply to  Bzcitybeauty

Thanks so much, will do!

Catherine
Catherine
9 years ago

My main goal since I decided to do my hair myself (I’ve been natural all my life but I decided to take it out of abusive hands) is to make it healthy.

Length would be nice but I think that comes with the health and you can make the decision or whether you want that or not.

I love Kim Love because she goes into the science of our hair and that’s two of my favorite things put together. Understanding it is key to a beautiful head of hair.

Natalie
Natalie
9 years ago

It took me far too many years to figure out length retention and it was only by discovering Kimmay that I finally cracked it. When I had locks I started from bald and in 2 and a half years had shoulder length hair, when I cut them off and had free hair my hair would never reach past my nose I didn’t realise it was caused by breakage, I thought it was my natural hair length even though my hair grew in locks. If nobody had explained it I would be in the same cycle now. My sister has always had… Read more »

Nic
Nic
9 years ago

So glad I found this!

Isha Misha
Isha Misha
9 years ago

I too feel like I am in the minority. I have been natural for seven years. But my hair is not long at all you would think that it would be down to my back by now. My main issue is that I am on heavy medication, which truly effects the growth of ones hair. I do get disappointed at times. But I try to keep the faith, especially now that I am the lower end of my medication doses and really feel like it’s time for me to bloom. Good luck to all the late bloomers!

ana
ana
9 years ago

okay the key to length retention is detangling and deep treatments at least twice a week. Also moisturizing with a light oil and some water is critical. Satin caps & pillowcases & don’t be afraid to put some braids in for visible retention. NOT micro braids but some kinky twists, a full weave (curly, natural of course) or some cornrows for 2 months and you’ll see results. I’ve got very thin, curly, breakable, dry hair and this works. Also simple products:olive oil, coconut oil, and pure aloe vera gel & water water water. Shampoo: shea moisture (moisture retention shampoo) &… Read more »

Stacey
Stacey
9 years ago

I have been natural for 3 years and it has been a major roller coaster for me. I just figured it would be easy…NOT! LOL I became a major product junkie, watched countless YT Vids, read every article, book, blog…and mixed every concoction known to man. You name it I did it 🙂 My hair still broke off, was dry and unmanageable. I am now on a quest to get it right. I never documented my progress nor did I keep my ends trimmed as they should be. I am learning now that int he winter my routine needs to… Read more »

linnie
linnie
8 years ago

Another fine haired natural here…I really don’t have a major regimen. I wash, condition, twist and braid my hair regularly. It has grown from @ one inch to neck length in 1 and 1/2 yrs. I’ll just keep doing this as long as it keeps growing. I use mostly EVOO/shea butter and Shea Moisture products. For me this is more fun and easier than wearing a chemical straightener.

search engine optimization delhi

Thanks for another informative website. Where else could I get that type of info written in such a perfect way? I’ve a project that I am just now working on, and I’ve been on the look out for such info.

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