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Genetics: Do They Determine Your Hair Length? Part 2

Avatar • Nov 9, 2011


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The Dreadlocks Question

In discussions about length potential, you often hear folks bring up the fact that dreadlocks grow so long that they must be a testament to the great lengths that we can achieve. I believe in the potential of every black woman to grow their hair to amazing lengths, but dreadlocks are not a good example in this case. While it is true that dreadlocks can and do reach great lengths, there is also a catch. Dreadlocks are unique in that they do not represent true “root to ends” length. They are the accumulation of shed, broken, and growing hairs matted together. Imagine if all of the shed or broken hair you ever had in the span of a year or in a lifetime were woven together! You too would have hair well down your back. This is the science behind loc’ing. Those hairs that are dropped are “locked” into your locs.

Interestingly, there is a process by which locs can successfully be undone or unloc’d, preserving quite a bit of the natural length. But much of the hair is still lost to the process at the end of the day, and waist length or floor length locs simply do not translate into waist length of floor length loose hair.

Optimistic, yet Realistic

Some of us do have it easier than others it seems, and genetics may be at play– but I have yet to see a strong, focused regimen fail to deliver on its promises over time. If years of healthy hair care have not produced hair growth beyond a certain point or healthier hair in general, before you chalk it up to genetics, a regimen re-evaluation may also be in order. What works with your shoulder-length hair, may not work for your brastrap or longer length hair etc. Also, look at your overall health— are you getting the nutrients you need? Are you drinking enough water and exercising? Are your nails healthy? (Our nails can give us a clue about the actual scalp nutrition our hair is receiving from our blood supply that feeds the roots. )At the end of the day, you must evaluate your long term hair care methods to see if they are conducive to growing and maintaining YOUR own hair.

Unfortunately, the chances of you growing your hair out to floor-length are slim to none- and Slim just walked out the door. Hair this length has been growing for more than 6 years in its growth cycle; and though it can be done (I’ve seen it!), it is difficult for most people to grow their hair to this length. Since the hair is older, it will take lots of time and amazing dedication to perfect a regimen that will sustain hair at this length. While lengths like tailbone, knee, or thigh length may be ambitious for many of us (and definitely require a bit more optimism), brastrap length and waist length hair are not that long for us and are certainly within our reach! These lengths are not some unobtainable dream! Do not be discouraged ladies, we can do it. As more of us learn the proper hair care methods for our hair, we will begin to see more and more of our sistas sporting lengthy tresses- natural and relaxed.

Audrey Sivasothy is a Houston-based freelance writer, health scientist and author of The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care (available on Amazon.com & Barnes&Noble.com).

For more insight from The Science of Black Hair— relaxed, natural or in between, visit us on the web atwww.blackhairscience.com and on facebook & twitter.

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Amayou
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Great and informative article, keep them coming BGLH.

cassieo
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cassieo

Love the positivity of this article! 🙂

EG
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EG

I agree with this article 110%. This is the first time that many of us have ever taken such good care of our hair! so how can we say that shoulder length is our terminal length? How would you know that if you just started your regimen, or.….or, you just started the regimen that is right for your hair? I’ve been natural for about 5 years now, but only learned how to properly take care of my hair for the past 9 months! I have no idea what my hair’s potential is, I simply know that for the first time… Read more »

Whitney
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Whitney

Thank you so much, Audrey, for the information. 🙂 It has been so helpful! I’ll take waist length hair! I think knee, thigh, and floor length hair will be too much for me…

Bridget
Guest
Bridget

Great article. Very informative and encouraging. I am currently trying to grow my hair to bra strap length with an ultimate goal of waist length. It is currently a little past armpit when stretched. I am keeping hope alive. LOL.

Lyn W.
Guest
Lyn W.

I too want to grow my hair (in its stretched state to WL and BSL unstretched). It’s nice to know that its possible. I really enjoyed reading this article, well written and positive! I gave myself about 7 YRS to grow it out, it’s been 10 months (lol) I’m supper optimistic. You know, just the other day, I mentioned to my mom: I love natural hair, my hair has not grown this fast when I was relaxed. I started with 2.5–3″ of hair and not I’m a little past collarbone length! Amazing. And I’m still optimistic.

luminous
Guest
luminous

I agree. I have been natural since 1995, but only really starting taking care of my hair in the past year when I discovered youtube videos. My hair, which hadn’t grown longer than APL, has now grown to BSL in the past year.

shannon
Guest
shannon

i gave myself two years of growth and if I wasn’t satisfied with the growth I’d go back to my beloved buzz cut. But I think now I’ll let it go to atleast APL unstretched. I’ve got a LONG way to go…

Sieta
Guest

I’m giving myself four years. The first year has been a bit of a challenge though and just a year for discoveries. I’ll go with another three years. I expect to be BSL and if I am and I feel like it, I may either maintain it or carry on trying to get waist length.

But at the moment, the health of my hair and myself is priority. The length will come and hopefully creep up on me.

Chantal
Guest
Chantal

Hello. Can anyone suggest to me what products to use on my natural hair? I live in Trinidad and Tobago (caribbean) and we have brand called Cher mere. I have been using it for the past 6 months and it is going ok. But I would like other suggestions please. I had cut my hair in May of this year ( i had dread locks for 7 years prior). Help please!

T.
Guest
T.

Hey Chantal, I’m in the Caribbean also and one of the staples of my regimen is good old plain coconut oil. I also use Fantasia IC Leave-in Moisturiser with Aloe and sometimes, Elasta QP Feels Like Silk Leave-in. I don’t use shampoo, I wash with baking soda and/or apple cider vinegar, and I use whatever cheap conditioner I can find. But it’s really the coconut oil that I swear by. I also use castor oil occasionally, and aloe gel (the inside of the leaf, blended up) is good too every now and then.

JJ
Guest
JJ

This article is SPOT-ON!! Thank you!

Shari
Guest

I found this post to be very encouraging to me. I was just thinking to myself after seing a lady walk past me with see-thru ends. She is probably glad that she got her relaxed hair that long, but it is not pretty to look at. There is even a lady at work who tells me she watches the videos on youtube and tries their stuff but doesn’t receive growth and so has determined that her hair cannot grow. This article has opened my eyes — the more we all start taking good care of our hairs, the more the… Read more »

luvmylocs
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luvmylocs

i personally have gone back to locs because in the nearly 5 years of loose hair since cutting my previous locs i have had a lot of breakage. i know my hair grows (a lot) but combing my kinky hair was in some ways more stressing to my hair than combing my chemically straightened hair. i got a lot of snap, crackle, pop regardless of methods and products i used. well now i’m on the road to having length again. it just works for me. long loose natural hair just wasn’t attainable for me but i know it is with… Read more »

Kesha
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Kesha

Great article! I’m 6 months in to intentionally caring for my hair. The hairs on my head have a long way to grow! Thanks for the reality check and or dispelling myths.

Annaleisha
Guest

I love this article and the previous one in this series!! Well done Audrey and BGLH! My last relaxer was Jan 2010, I have had a significant amount of breakage and I was pressured in to pressing my hair (no heat protectant was used). Bad idea, I have heat damage that is permanent, some of the ends are DEAD straight and I will have to cut it off. I wanted to BC but I am so interested in having hair that can go into a bun without pulling tightly that I may just settle for hair that has a looser… Read more »

Chante
Guest

Thank you so much for providing this information. I BC’d for the second time this past April after neglecting and poorly managing my natural hair for 6 years. I’m vowing to take better care of my hair even when I get discouraged and your article is a great motivation to keep that promise.

Petula
Guest

When my mother was young her hair grew to a little longer than waist length. At 16 she cut it into a pageboy and it hasn’t grown that long again. The longest it has been since then is a few inches or so pass her shoulders. My hair has only grown to that length with locks and out of my three daughters only one has hair to bra strap length, the oldest has only gotten to shoulder length since she’s been older and responsible for her hair (after she grew out locks) and youngest is about three inches pass shoulders.… Read more »

Cheryl Lynn
Guest

This was a fabulous article. As an older woman who just recently decided to let the “creamy crack” go for the duration of my life, I am encouraged by such an informative look at the growth patterns of our hair. I am so happy to have found this site, it is more than just informative-it is uplifting and acts as a mirror into the true testament of our hair.

Thank you BGLH!

dawn
Guest
dawn

i’m interested in seeing what my terminal length is. that’s the exciting part of all this- all the dif discoveries you get to make about something so close to home. my hunch is that my terminal length is probly…waist length. i have a great great grandmother who had hair to her butt.…now granted, she WAS also like…one quarter native american so i’m not sure how much that may have played into it. but hey, we all got her famed high cheekbones!

Tiffany
Guest
Tiffany

I believe all healthy women should be able to grow their hair waist length at least, its just that we don’t want to do the work (protective styling religiously) to preserve our afro-textured hair. I really think we all could grow our hair to the floor. Our hair does not have an on/off switch. It’s just like our nails they’ll grow as long as we preserve them and don’t break them off. But as you get to longer lengths, I believe their is diminishing marginal returns on hair growth.

Logic
Guest
Logic

Sorry, but I beg to differ. The work it takes to grow hair is unarguably exercise, eating healthy, drinking plenty of water, rest, gentle handling, satin bonnet/pillowcase and patience, but protective styling is NOT necessary to retain length. i have 4b/c hair and have far better success retaining length with wash and goes, which I do twice a week, and gentle detangling, which I do one a week with a seamless comb and my modified Denman. I co-wash in 8 sections, apply product in 24 sections (shea butter and Eco Styler gel) and that’s it. I put my hair in… Read more »

Aliyah Morrison
Guest
Aliyah Morrison

I’m 3c/4a. I retain length with wash and gos low manipulation styles and protective styling but I retain the most length with protective styling with cornrow braids . I mean a lot of times I miss my hair being our and it sucks being stuck with braids the same style but I have to do what I have to do to get to my goal . I haven’t did wash and gos since last year my hair now looks terrible with wash and gos it only looked good when it was really short . I like low manipulation styles the… Read more »

hbezzy
Guest

Wow! This article is informative but I still dont know what to do about my hair. I have tried everything! Hairpills, protective hairstyles, gentle washes, natural, permed you name it! However the end result is Breakage :’(

savynaturalista
Guest

This is a great article! However I do not believe you half to cut off all your hair for it to grow are you see the actual length. My hair was badly damage and I started off with 6 inches now I am at 15 inches. I do believe in finger combing is the best way to retain length..

hair care tips
Guest

Fantastic items from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff prior to and you are simply too fantastic. I really like what you have got right here, really like what you are saying and the way in which wherein you say it. You’re making it entertaining and you continue to take care
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from you. This is really a tremendous site.

Aliyah Morrison
Guest
Aliyah Morrison

My grandma is fully black and she grew her hair past her waists but she got it cut to her mid back and wears her natural hair flat ironed . Most of the woman in my family have long hair . I would want mines to grow to at least armpit but if it grows past that I’ll be very happy . Right now I’m at collarbone length . I’m praying my terminal length lasts at least up to 5 or 6 years because if it doesn’t I’m going to be so pissed and feel like I’m doing all this… Read more »

stevievi
Guest
stevievi

I just don’t believe that everyone, regardless o genetics can grow waist length hair. I think that’s a myth. Some people eat fast food, don’t exercise, drink soda instead of water and have long hair. They are not buying speciality shampoos or using butters, co washing ect. How do you explain their ability to retain length. That’s why just like blue eyes, Brown hair is genetic, so is your terminal lenght decided. If it only took a special regimen to grow hair wouldn’t there be this hairstylists with all these clients walking around with waist length hair? I think it’s… Read more »

sin
Guest
sin

You must have nver bee to Hawaii. Lol everyone grows out their hair was it length or longer. I had an aunty tell me woke shouldn’t have hair shorter than breast length. I know girls with hair to their ankles. Back of their knees, etc. I want to just go to tail bone length and I’ll be fine.

Byrdie Gaither
Guest
Byrdie Gaither

To those who don’t believe waist length natural hair is possible…What about those with knee length dread locs?? I had locs for 10yrs and they grew too long and heavy (if I could’ve untangled it, any individual strand would’ve reached my bellybutton, easily). I cut them b/c if it was indeed possible to untangle them I’d have died before I did so. What is important to me now is protecting my hair as if it was still locked. And patience.

Cassyy
Guest
Cassyy

My great grandmother had hair up to her ankles. She was African . The only thing she used was African black soap and shea butter. She was also a herbalist so im sure that helped a lot as she ate healthy. She was 108 when she died of natural causes.

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