Shoulder length:In general, assuming that you are starting from a fresh, bald shave it should take you about 2 to 2 ½ years to reach shoulder length with great hair care.
Armpit Length: Between shoulder length and brastrap length lies another popular hair length in the hair forum world known as “armpit length” (APL). This is the length along the back that is defined by the imaginary line drawn across the back where the arm meets the back (armpit) and then travels across to the other side. From shoulder length, APL could be anywhere from 6–15 months away- obviously depending on individual trim rates and retention.
Brastrap Length: About 9 months to 18 months from there, you can expect to be reaching brastrap length (BSL). I’ve seen it done in both. This is the length along the back where the bottom strap of your bra rests.* This length is typically 3 years out from a clean shave.
Midback/Waist: From a clean shave, it will take you about 3–4+ years of healthy hair care to reach midback length (between brastrap and waistlength), and possibly another six months to a year to reach waist length considering the length of your torso/back and any trims you may do along the way.
This is the general schedule that I have in mind when I’m thinking about growing out hair. Keep in mind that these measurements are all mathematical and based on ½ inch a month growth and probably “average” height. If your growth rate is slightly slower than average, and you are a taller person-these estimates will be different from someone who is shorter, but has a faster than average ½ a month growth. Trimming, then takes the estimates to an entirely different dimension so there is a lot of wiggle room here. The bottom line is that it does take several years to reach many of the lengths along the back.
Growing out black hair is basically a commitment to care. You almost have look at it as an investment in your hair. Though some of the health returns are immediate (shine, thickness, strength), the length returns may be several years off. If you are aggressively trimming, experimenting with colors/styles, or have setbacks along the way, (raises hand) of course– it will take much longer for you to reach your different goals. If it is taking you longer to meet your goals, do not be too hard on yourself. Consider re-vamping your regimen or changing a few products or techniques. And don’t, don’t, don’t compare your progress to others no matter how tempting it might be. That is a surefire way to throw in the towel and give up! We are all different and our paths to whichever hair goals we have will be just as different. There is no one way there, and I’ve even had to come to grips with the fact that I am not a ½ inch a month timetable follower myself!
A word of encouragement
Finally, there are always exceptions to the rules. Some of us take longer to reach various hair milestones (raises hand), while some of us reach them in record time. In any event, be encouraged ladies! Sometimes change is hard to see. The problem is that we are faced with our hair everyday. You know how when someone has a baby and you don’t see the baby for a few months and then BAM the kid is practically graduating from college the next time you run into them?! Hair is like that too. I’ve run into many ladies that say, “I’ve been at this for a few months now- I’ve changed everything! But I don’t see very much growth. I am about to quit!” The problem with this thinking is that whether you quit or not, time is still going to continue to move right along. You are going to have to pass that time anyway! Six months, 12 months… healthy hair care or not! Wouldn’t you rather be six months down the line knowing that you’ve done all you can to address your hair with a little growth rather than be 6 months down the line with hair that is in the same condition it was before you started caring for it? So don’t give up! Be encouraged ladies.
*(Note about BSL: Others have suggested that this length be measured using an imaginary line at the height of the nipples and around across the back. Others suggest that it should be measured at the bottom of the shoulder blades on the back.)
Ladies, how long has it taken you to achieve your hair length goals?
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).