Most of the questions I get asked about hair length retention are not from those with very short hair. In fact, those who recently big chopped are often excited as they learn about their hair texture and explore new styles. This was also my experience. Although I looked at natural hair albums (this was before the era of Youtube hair vlogs) I never sighed wistfully as I compared by TWA to the long twists or braid outs of others. It wasn’t until my hair grew to around shoulder length and stayed there for years that I began to look at my hair with more frustration and delight. The medium length blues are not uncommon as I learned from speaking to friends. Some have cut their hair off returning to shorter hair, others come to the conclusion that the only way to get their hair past shoulder length is to install locs (I’m speaking specifically of individuals who previously wanted to grow out their loose natural hair, not those who already desired to wear locs) and some choose to wear their hair straightened regularly, even if it means inevitable heat damage. I personally considered keeping my hair flat ironed because I felt that if my hair wasn’t going to grow beyond shoulder length then I might as well relieve myself of tangles and knots on a daily basis.
If you’ve had similar experiences or are presently at a crossroads in your hair journey then here are a few things that might be keeping you at medium length.
1. Your hair practices were unhealthy all along but you are only now seeing the results of those practices
You may think that if you managed to grow your hair from a TWA to shoulder length that your hair practices were good up until then. Not necessarily. I easily managed to retain length until shoulder length even though my practices in retrospect were not the best for my hair. Once the ends of your hair get old they are more fragile and prone to breakage. So after 1 to 2 years (about the time it takes to get to neck length or shoulder length) those bad practices become apparent in your inability to retain length.
2. You have implemented practices that result in hair damage
Have you started to use a blow dryer more often to display your length? Do you notice knots from wash and gos that didn’t exist when you had a TWA? Do you experiment often with hair color? If you have changed up your routine in the last year, I recommend taking a four month hiatus from any of those practices. If you notice length retention then you will have diagnosed the cause of your hair woes
3. Not Practicing the Basics
Moisturizing: keeping your hair, especially your ends moisturized
Gentle Detangling: detangling your hair when moisturized with either a conditioner or a leave in
Protect: wearing styles that are protective if you happen to be prone to knotting and tangles from “out” styles.
I discovered what was keeping me at medium length by making sure I was doing everything mentioned in this article. Within four months I assessed if the practices worked or if I still needed to change something. In my case four months of changing my routine allowed me to see visible length retention. It helped me to know that I can change up my routine and try different styles but if I ever encountered a dry spell of length retention I could simply return to this list in order to see the results I desired.
If you’ve ever been stuck at medium length how did you get past that stage?