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Is 100% Length Retention Possible?

Avatar • Jan 25, 2012


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By Jc of The Natural Haven

It is well documented that hair grows approximately half an inch per month. This would translate to 1 inch every two months , 2 inches every four months and so on and so forth. However is it really realistic to expect 100% retention of this growth? Here are some factors to consider:

1. How long/old is your hair?

Generally the easiest growth and retention phase happens at the beginning. Gaining and retaining the first 4–6 inches is fairly easy with very little extra care necessary. However, after this point, the ease with which you retain length depends on how well you protect the older hair from weathering and damage. Naturally texture and  individual strand thickness differences will influence retention ease  but regardless of hair type, the fundamental ‘be gentle with your hair’ mantra really matters for hair that is over a year old.

2. Breakage and Split Ends

Some hair breaks easily while some hair doesn’t. Some people can comb their hair with little to no breakage while others will suffer some breakage regardless of how gentle they are to the hair. In general hair that is most affected by breakage and splits tends to be fine in thickness (individual strands) and kinky. It will not be possible to retain 100% length retention if your hair naturally breaks with gentle handling but it may be possible to get quite close to it (80- 90%) utilising breakage prevention techniques such as protective styling and low manipulation.

3. How do you prefer to style your hair?

The two previous subjects namely the  age of your hair and whether you experience breakage and splits are intrinsic properties of your hair which you have limited control over.  The choice of how you style your hair especially for natural hair has a huge influence on how much hair you will retain. Once more texture differences come into play but in general the longer the duration of time (consecutive days) that you spend in low or no manipulation styles, the more length you retain.  This does not mean you cannot style your hair in an ‘out’ style  as often as you like, it just means that there is a trade off (for example, you can choose to alternate 1 week of protection with 1 week of out styles which  may give you 50–60% retention or you could choose 4 weeks of protection with 2 days of out styles which may give you 80–90% retention)

My advice is that in the first year a goal of 100% length retention is quite realistic but as the years go by, adjust this goal to suit your hair’s abilities and your lifestyle. If you are keen to grow your hair as long as possible and as quick as possible, then having a high retention rate as a goal is ideal. If you are keen to enjoy your hair as much as possible but still also gain length, reducing your expectation to a minimum of 50% retention is probably more ideal.

Ladies, how much length do you retain?

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Adeyinka
Adeyinka
8 years ago

Great article. I’m three months shy of my 1 yr anniversary. I trying to find a protective style that isn’t too much stress on my edges and doesn’t take 5–8 hrs to do( extensions, twists, braids and etc). but i might just have to suck it up though..Aha.

I eventually do want to find a balance that works for my hair and it’s time to experiment. I’m thinking winter will be more of my “hibernation” time, (no to low manipulation).

Also, anyone know of any good styles for 3–4 inches, I’m stuck in a rut!

Alexandra
Alexandra
8 years ago
Reply to  Adeyinka

Depending on how your hair is try to do braid or twist outs. That’s what I usually do. I have about 4–5 inches length. For protective styling I like to do twists pinned up “freestyle”. Check out iknowlee, SimplYounique and leeshyeternally on youtube. They helped me out a lot. Hope this helps

Adeyinka
Adeyinka
8 years ago
Reply to  Alexandra

Thanks! I’ve been doing twistouts and I was worried that the twisting every night is cancelling out my main objective.
I will check out those YTubers and try the pinned up style.

Natalie
Natalie
8 years ago
Reply to  Adeyinka

Hey Adeyinka,
Try out Chary-Jay 160days2lose2 on YouTube she has fantastic flat twist styles and you do cornrows instead. This lady on YouTube, atinawaya has short hair and does some really good styles.

Kate
Kate
8 years ago
Reply to  Adeyinka

I have not calculated how many inches my hair is but I think that you should do twists, that’s what works for me and my hair all the edges had broke off due to another hairstyle so I wear the twists very loose and big. My hair should be around my shoulders somewhere, but my hair has shrinkage.

denaturalistas
8 years ago

JC, you are always so informative! And I love how you support EVERYTHING you say with research findings.

Jc
Jc
8 years ago
Reply to  denaturalistas

Thanks, I appreciate the compliment 🙂

hyspin
hyspin
8 years ago

Have no clue on how much length I retain but if year review is correct non, but I also don’t lose any either. I think it also should be said stress, air dryness and trimming are all other factors in breakage that we don’t incorporate in daily styling that also affects retention. If your trimming how much does the stylist cut off? Are you going through body changes? And what living enviroments are you exposed to? (inside and outside) I have a question if stress like everything else in ones life is reflected in the strands a person hair what… Read more »

Amayou
Amayou
8 years ago

When I did my 6 month no heat challenge I retained 3 inches. This was after my hair was already shoulder length. I also did some protective styling during this time but not hardcore. Including trims I should be able to retain about 5 inches a year, we shall see. Great article.

Thembi
Thembi
8 years ago

I had an epiphany; while reading Cipriana’s article. I’ve been stuck @ collarbone length for over 1 year. Her article made me realize I was excessively trimming(my hair,) mistaking shrunken ends for damaged ends. I would trim my hair as needed ( or so I thought…) “As needed turned into 2–3xs per week. Frustrated I kept wondering how/why my hair kept splitting despite protective styling weekly dc and monthly protein dc, moisturizing/sealing my end , satin pillow cases etc. Ive incorporated Cipriana’s bObby pin technique. With my ends fully formed I can see there’s no need for a trim. Not… Read more »

Starr
8 years ago

Interesting, I love that the article offered a trade-off with percentage of length retention, sometimes all I hear is length retention requires protective styling 100% of the time (especially since my hair is fine with high shrinkage rate). But after reading this, I need to make a choice of if I want to enjoy my hair more, I would trade off length-but not a null zero, just 50–60%, which is more encouraging than protective styling or no length retention!

LiberianGirl
LiberianGirl
8 years ago
Reply to  Starr

I loved this point as well!

vero77
8 years ago
Reply to  LiberianGirl

i loved this point too! i really enjoying reading the article ‑breaking down the percentages really at last made sense! i kept hearing from all these girls on utube protective, protective styling!! and i was saying no — i’m having my hair out — everryday!!! and its growing so i dont care!! But in the last six months — its stayed at the same lenght.. and I get loads of knots — due to me leaving my hair out and its so fine. so this article has at least made me realise — i gotta think seriously of what protective… Read more »

Lisa
Lisa
8 years ago

I have my hair out 100% of the time, I am 16 months post last relaxer, I have had 2 trims, and my hair is a little more than 7.5 inches.

Michelle @Radiant Brown Beauty

My longest hair is 15 inches and the shortest is about 12. That’s due to when I used to flat iron. Last April my crown broke down to 2 inches so I’ve had 10 inches of growth in less than a year. Pretty amazing but I think because my crown is the coarsest part of my hair, it’s most resilient when not being damaged. So on average I grow about an inch a month and retain about 90% of it with protective styling 90% of the time. don’t ask me where I got these figures. I made them up LOL.… Read more »

Jc
Jc
8 years ago

My friend grew her hair from a very short 4 inch cut to long enough to sit on in just under two years. She then complained her hair was heavy and cut it all off again. I think like you she has a double digit yearly growth rate.

ghanabelle
ghanabelle
8 years ago

I used to be very concerned about my hair’s length and speed of growth, but now I’m just at a point where I’m enjoying my hair. In the beginning and even for the first few years, I had no idea what to do with my hair! BGLH and Curlynikki weren’t around/weren’t as popular at at the time, so I had to figure things out on my own. Had I known then what I know now, my hair would probably be longer, but it’s no biggie. I’ve been natural for 5 years and still have a thick, healthy head of hair.… Read more »

LiberianGirl
LiberianGirl
8 years ago

I am definitely interested in growing my natural hair long (BSL is my ultimate goal)…but at the same time, I don’t measure my hair every 2 minutes lol! I think that has helped me with the retention jitters. One of the biggest lessons I learned is that as long as I keep my hair moisturized and protected, it will grow! That being said, I’m currently in the process of getting a consistent and simple reggie down. I also incorporate braid/twist extensions in my hair styles 1–2X a year which helps me leave my hair alone. I HOPE to retain at… Read more »

India
India
8 years ago

I’m one month away from having my one year anniversary. To retain length and growth I try to keep my hairstyles simple and always moisturize my hair at night and in the morning (sometimes). I clip my ends every three months because of single strand knots and such. I try to have my hair down so I can reduce the stress other styles put on my temple and edges.

hairscapades
8 years ago

Very good point! One thing I’d like to add though is that you can enjoy your hair in protective styles too. I prefer my hair in protective styles most of the time. It keeps it out of the way and I love experimenting with different simple updos. So, length retention with protective styling does not have to mean that you aren’t having fun with your hair and loving the way it looks. I just wore Afro twists for 6 weeks and I absolutely adored the look and got so much styling versatility out of it! I also do a variety… Read more »

shannon
shannon
8 years ago
Reply to  hairscapades

your hair is amazing!!!

hairscapades
8 years ago
Reply to  shannon

Thank you Shannon!!

Liana
Liana
8 years ago
Reply to  hairscapades

OMG I’m so happy to see that someone else is loving their updos as much as I am. I always wondered why ppl automatically assumed that protective styling is boring or not cute/sexy. My hair is about 2″ shy of waist length now but I have been so used to wearing it up that I will continue to style it in updos until I reach/pass WL hair. I loved your point about how the styles just get bigger with the longer your hair grows. I love your creativity of your styles. I always try to do something unique/special and I… Read more »

hairscapades
8 years ago
Reply to  Liana

Awww, thank you so much Liana!! Sorry, I’m just seeing this!! And yes, I’m right there with you!! I just got a haircut with lots of layers, so it’s making it easier to wear it down … but the updos will be back in effect in no time!! I was nervous since I lost a lot of length around my face. But, I think that the shorter layers around the front may let me be even more creative! And, the layers helped my curls pop again, so though I don’t have as much hair, I have more volume with my… Read more »

Yvette
Yvette
7 years ago
Reply to  hairscapades

I am with you on the protective styling is not boring point. There was a time period in history when most women primarily wore nothing but updo’s and then braided the hair at night. I bet more women of all nationalities retained more length. I think protective styles can be neat, versatile, elegant, glamorous and simple. Also, updo’s are classic, they never go out of style. Yes, it can be more exciting to wear the hair loose. I love my hair when it’s loose! And I know there are plenty of beautiful naturals that can wear their hair loose most… Read more »

LBell
LBell
8 years ago

Like others have mentioned, I don’t really obsess over numbers and rates. I have a general idea of my average growth rate but it doesn’t really matter because for me preserving the length is far more important and that’s something I have direct control over.

The only style I’ve ever worn for which I had near-100% length retention is locs. 🙂 My current regimen can best be described as “Doing the Bare Minimum Needed For The Hair to Be Healthy, Look Good, and Not Loc.” lol

Dawn
Dawn
8 years ago
Reply to  LBell

Thats exactly where i am. The only staple i have is implementation of the flat iron. 🙂 thats critical

luvmylocs
luvmylocs
8 years ago
Reply to  LBell

i agree locs are the only way for ME to retain all my length. after struggling with loose but fragile strands that didn’t get really long i’m back in locs, sisterlocks this time and i’m super happy!

ButterflySoulFire
ButterflySoulFire
8 years ago

I’ve been growing my hair out from a BC for 3 years and some change. I estimate that I retain 4 to 4.5 inches a year (for reference I retained 4–5.5 inches when I had locs). My hair ranges in length from 10 (crown) — 17 inches. I attribute this wide range in length to a bad experience with microbraids (which pulled my hair out) and chronic problems with seborrheic dermatis (SD) on my crown. Because of the SD, I have to wash and style my hair at least once a week but I try to compensate for this by… Read more »

Gia
Gia
8 years ago

CN had an article about this a day after this was posted. Weird.

Santi
Santi
8 years ago
Reply to  Gia

Honey, CurlyNikki copying BGLH has been going on since the beginning time: lipstickalley.com/f38/attn-enchanted-vs-curly-nikki-341298/

It’s becoming common knowledge…

JoyfulGirl
JoyfulGirl
7 years ago
Reply to  Santi

Thanks for sharing that link to lipstick alley, I learned a lot about Curly Nikki’s shadiness.

Serwa
Serwa
8 years ago

Hi, I’m at the point where my hair is breaking off. It wasn’t doing that over the summer or when I was younger. What can I do to prevent this? The ends are also brittle, should I trim my ends or just wait for it to grow out?

Ogo
Ogo
8 years ago
Reply to  Serwa

Hey Serwa, I don’t think anyone can be 100% certain why this is happening w/o seeing your hair, but are you sealing your ends? Sealing is a way to lock in the moisture. Your ends might be breaking b/c they are dry. You seal by wetting your hair — water is moisture — and then sealing with an oil like coconut, jojoba or castor oil. Castor oil is a favorite sealer for many naturals. Your ends won’t “grow out” because hair grows from the scalp. That means, if you do not fix the problems w/ your ends, your hair will… Read more »

lillian mae
8 years ago

I believe that proper moisturizing, sealing, and low manipulation styles have been and, will continue to be the keys for my hair to retain length. I do not normally do length checks because I believe that healthy hair will grow, so I’ve made healthy hair practices my goal and hope to be rewarded with length.

kesla
kesla
8 years ago

wow ur hair is lovely m A newbie 8months post relaxer n 5months post bc. my hair is abt 5″ long n i want to v bsl in no time thanks for the tips

BTheGem81
BTheGem81
8 years ago

I rock my hair in loose twists like hairscapades but i like to add human kinky twist hair–my hair isn’t thick at at all. I do my own twists and redo about every 4–6 wks. Then about every quarter, I leave it out to “breathe”..i get a trim and deep condition at the salon and that seems to be working well. My hair will never be as thick and voluminous as I’d like (ie hairscapades) but it grows long at a nice pace. My goal is just to retain the length. PS–if anyone know where i can get affordable human… Read more »

hairscapades
8 years ago
Reply to  BTheGem81

So, I’m just seeing this! BTheGem, I’m sorry if it wasn’t clear. Those twists are NOT my hair!!! I have extensions too, the hair is called Afro Puffy Twist hair! That’s why I called them that. I WISH my hair was that thick!! Please!! LOL!! My hair is pretty fine too and those thick, lush twists are only with the assistance of the twisting hair. Just wanted to clarify in case anyone else thought that was all my hair!

Shelli

Aresa Parker
Aresa Parker
8 years ago

These are all great comments, I have been doing the individual big twist, about 10 big twist for the past few weeks. But the problem is I notice a few split ends, my hair does get very dry causing me to put water on it before oil. On this Friday I want to straighten it but only in the case for trimming purposes. Is there another way of trimming without straightening it? And some daily hairstlyes I could do so I won’t have to straighten it so much?

Rekia Darby
Rekia Darby
7 years ago

I have been natural for over 8years and I can not manage to find a way to retain growth with my hair. It is very uneven, the front is about 7in, middle3‑4 and back6‑7. My hair is naturally very dry even when i do twist outs or braids outs. Would It be best for me to do a Big Chop or ??????

Cynthia
Cynthia
6 years ago
Reply to  Rekia Darby

Please try protective styles!! I’m 13 and I cut about 4 inches off my hair last year, and now a year later, I didn’t get much growth… 🙁 *Sobs* But Now I’ve just started protective styling and doing the Greenhouse Effect every night over my protective styles; I’ve been doing it for 2 weeks. I CAN SEE A DIFFERENCE!! I can even see the hair growth!! If i do this continuously, I know I’ll get a ton of growth, and you can too. Try protective styles, and if you want your hair to grow even FASTER, do the GHE as… Read more »

Odee
Odee
6 years ago
Reply to  Rekia Darby

I stopped using shampoo and started doing protective hair styles…my hair has grown 2 inches in a month.

HEAVY on the conditioner.

Bookstar
Bookstar
7 years ago

My hair is naturally curly and grows pretty fast. I have no problem growning hair–but I have trouble keeping it. For the past two summers I’ve gone through a cycle where I wear my hair out (which had grown out tremendously during the winter, thanks to primarily wearing it in updos), then as I wear it out it starts to break, because some manipulation is required if a curl looks fuzzy (detangle with my fingers, wet with water, then it goes back to perfect spiral and I can add product). When I say breakage–I mean “breakage!” I’ll watch 6, 8,… Read more »

MsSherryBlossom
7 years ago

Hey ladies, I’ve been natural almost 18 months. I’ve definitely benefited from protective styling…retaining 5.5 inches of growth the first year. I’ve done various “protective” styles. Some with extensions and some without. Check out my Instagram for pictures throughout the various stages! @MsSherryBlossom (that’s also my twitter handle!) You can learn more about my journey on my blog http://Www.sherryblossombeauty.com And even styling videos on my YouTube channel http://Www.youtube.com/SherryBlossomBeauty Facebook: Sherry Blossom I’m always open to chatting and answering questions and I love following others journeys as well. Protective styling doesn’t have to be a nuisance and trust me it definitely… Read more »

o.c
o.c
7 years ago

HELPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
so i went natural for 2 years then when i thought my hair was long enough i went back to perm and all the excessive flat- ironing. during the 2 yr period my hair was never trimmed more than 5 times and my curls were amazing. now that i am natural again, my curls are dry and limp and i don’t know what happened. i tryed twist outs but it oesn’t work and i have no extra money for extenzive hair product. my hair length now is 3–4 inches

Odee
Odee
6 years ago
Reply to  o.c

Are you taking vitamins? Sometimes your hair needs help from the inside out.

Heather
Heather
6 years ago

I love JC. Doing away with junk hair science and educating one blog post at a time

BriA
BriA
6 years ago

I think I retained most of my length this year.…I think I have about 1/2 of split ends that I’ll cut off in Sept./Nov. completely and I’ll just snip like 1/8–1/4 each month

Laini Deskins
Laini Deskins
5 years ago

Ladies don’t confuse breakage with hair shedding!! Our hair sheds naturally everyday! So naturally if ur combing or manipulating your hair rather than having it protectively styled you’re going to see some strands come out! Especially if you just took your hair out of a protective style because all the shedding that couldn’t happen while your hair was styled has to come out! If you’re experiencing breakage your hair will look broken at the ends. Plz don’t confuse the two! I see ladies posting on here about entire strands of breakage, that’s not breakage that’s shedding!

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