Many naturals like to document the progress of their hair and confirm whether they have gained length. This is actually something perfectly reasonable to do provided the length check is happening after a sufficient time period to be able to see the growth. The best time to mark growth is after around 4–6 months but if you are not that patient, then at the very least, you should wait 2 months. Constant length checks can damage hair in three main ways:
1. Discouraging Results leading to Improper Hair Routine Changes
We generally accept that hair gains approximately half an inch a month but this is really a rough estimate. There are periods when hair grows faster and when it grows slower. The curlier and kinkier your hair is, the more difficult it will be to actually smooth out and see that half inch. Worse still if you are stretching your hair out at every weekly wash or detangling session, you are then truly unlikely to see any progress at all week to week as hair will have gained only millimetres at a time.
It can be very discouraging psychologically to think that your hair growth is stagnant. You may also improperly consider doing things that your hair does not need for example changing products, changing detangling methods, changing how you choose to protectively style your hair. You may incorrectly identify that your hair has a problem when in fact it just needs extra time to show you the length it has gained.
2. Overstretching hair
Protectively styling consistently over a period of weeks by braiding, twisting or making buns generally yields good results. Why is this? The answer is simple — people who just leave their hair alone do less damage to the hair because they are handling it less often.
If you are doing weekly length checks, this can really impact your hair. You will need to fully stretch out the hair to be able to visualise the progress. This can lead to regular over-pulling and overstretching of hair. This damages hair physically, the cuticle layers can be disrupted and internally with sufficient force you can weaken the cortex. Over time, this hair that you have been constantly length checking is more likely to break prematurely compared to hair that has been left alone.
If you were to wait for 4–6 months, it would be really easy to see the progress of 2–3 inches with a gentle stretch compared to really trying to unfurl curls after 1 month so that you can see half an inch which may be disguised in kinks and coils.
3. Over use of heat
Some people fully straighten natural hair out with a blowdryer and/or flat iron for a length check. If you do monthly length checks with heat, it is important to know that your hair will sustain some damage from each heating session. Some naturals experience less damage and will have no problems with this but others will suffer breakage (do you notice little coils on the floor when blow drying?) or eventually get split ends. For this second group, regular length checks with heat are not advisable.
In general, most naturals who want to grow their hair longer will greatly benefit from reducing or avoiding usage of heat as a general principle.
Ladies, have you ever been guilty of length checking obsessively?