By Audrey Sivasothy, author of The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care
“How long will it take me to grow out my hair and reach my hair length goals?”
This question, and the many variations of it, is one of the most frequently asked hair questions I get. Unfortunately, it is also one of the toughest questions to answer. Many factors determine the length of time it takes for a person to grow out their hair and reach certain hair lengths. This article will try to offer some guidance for length planning. As you read, bear in mind that the time estimates listed for growing out the hair in this article are just that-estimates. You’ll see that by the number of “typicallys and generallys” sprinkled throughout the article. There are just so many factors that influence when hair length goals are met including genetics, your anatomical structure, and the level of care and attention you give your hair. Growing out the hair takes years of consistent, diligent care. Though many folks are interested in achieving longer hair lengths, they do not realize the significant time investment that is involved in growing hair. Unrealistic goals and magical creams and potions that promise faster growth results but fall short on the promises make it easy to become discouraged. The only tried and true method for growing out the hair is good old fashioned time. Never fails!
Hair grows approximately ½ inch per month, for a total of six inches in one year. This rate is an average across races. Asian hair grows slightly faster than this average, Caucasian hair grows near the average,and black hair trends to grow at or just below this average each month. Genetics will also influence how close to the average ½ inch you get each month. Ultimately, the estimated time length for growing out the hair and reaching any hair length goal depends on two main factors: each individual person’s hair growth rate and their retention ability. A faster hair grower will always reach their goals sooner than a slower grower if the retention rates are the same. A slower grower will reach their goals consistently over a faster grower who poorly retains their length. Two individuals may grow their hair at the same exact rate while only one reaches her hair goals consistently, this is an instance of an ends retention problem for one of the growers. I often hear ladies say, “My hair is not growing, no matter what I do”-and for chemically relaxed ladies in particular we see that this is not true every 8–10 weeks when they are going in to have their relaxer retouched! Your hair is ALWAYS growing, retention may be the issue.
The Typical Process
Growing out the hair tends to follow a certain path. Generally changes in the look, thickness, and feel of the hair come first. Usually it is within the first 3–4 months of your hair journey that you’ll notice these improvements in thickness, and this tends to happen before you ever see any additional length. The big difference in length usually happens around 6–8 months into the journey provided you have been diligent with your hair care. For me, I started my journey in about June/July of a year, and noticed my hair getting thicker around October of the year. By December and January, I could see the length starting to come as well.
The timetable below is one that is suggested by the literature, but my personal hair growing experience has been different with personal setbacks, style changes, and trims all throughout my journey. Be forewarned, it is a very generalized timetable and not something you should feel compelled to follow to the letter. I certainly have strayed from the mark! Please note that this timetable is so open to interpretation that I almost hesitate to post it here, but some may find it useful!