By Chinwe of Hair and Health
It is time for another myth‐busting session. Today, we will tackle four length retention myths:
1. Protective styling will guarantee you length retention.
Protective styling done the right way will help with length retention. Otherwise, there is such a scenario as protective styling that hurts length retention. For instance, if braid extensions (or, even, sew‐ins) are worn for too long or buns are worn too tightly, you can suffer breakage and even hair loss. Keep in mind the tension applied to your scalp (including your edges) while protective styling. Also, keep in mind how quickly your hair tends to loc or mesh. So long as you know the limits your hair can take, then protective styling can work well for you.
2. The women in your family have shoulder length hair. You can only reach shoulder length.
Yes, genetics is an indication of how long our hair will grow, but our ability to retain that length impacts how much of that growth we will see. If my hair grows six inches in one year, but I only retain two of those inches, then I only have those two inches of growth to show. The reality is that breakage (from chemicals, over‐manipulation, etc.) can keep a woman at shoulder length when she might have the potential to reach mid‐back or waist length. This very woman may be your mother, sister, aunt, and/or grandmother, but it does not have to be you. If you master length retention, you can reach your length potential.
3. Trimming will prevent length retention.
This is not always true. In most cases, severely damaged, thinning ends must be cut in order to allow for visible length retention of the healthy segment of your strands. Holding onto such ends, which may eventually break off, will just make your hair appear as though it is not growing. Additionally, severely split or thin ends can sometimes lead to damage further up the strand or pose a threat to healthier strands (e.g., by increasing tangling). The only point at which trimming can prevent length retention is when you are cutting off fairly healthy ends.
4. It is very easy to retain length in Type 3 hair.
While it is true that those of us with Type 4 hair (i.e., super coily to extra kinky) may face challenges due the nature of our pattern, or lack thereof, length retention is not necessarily “a walk in the park” for those with Type 3 hair. Texture (fine versus medium versus coarse), moisture maintenance, how you detangle, how much you manipulate your hair, the current state of your hair (healthy or damaged), and other factors play more important roles in the “ease” of length retention.
What are some myths you have heard?