If you’re like me, you probably like setting a goal, creating a road map of accomplishment and measuring how well you’ve advanced towards that goal. This type of mindset is often necessary to attain any goal ranging from winning an Olympic medal to earning a degree. However, there are times when our fixation on certain goals can be counterproductive. Hair growth, for me at least, became a source of frustration. This was not because my hair wasn’t making progress but because I had less control than I initially wanted to believe. Has your hair journey been marked by practices born out of your impatience with your hair? If so, then I have advice that may go against conventional wisdom but it may also help keep you from giving up on your hair journey.
The Waiting Game
I’ve had friends with naturally straight hair cut off several inches and within what seems like a very short while, their hair returned to its previous length. If you compare your hair progress to those with other hair textures, you are setting yourself up for frustration. Hair progress isn’t only measured in terms of length retention. I think it’s worth repeating: HAIR PROGRESS ISN’T ONLY MEASURED BY LENGTH RETENTION!
Instead of measuring success based on the length of your braid out, how about using other metrics of hair progress. One of the ways I knew my hair was experiencing less breakage and retaining more length was the amount of time it took me to detangle my hair. It may not seem like something to be happy about initially; but I recall being excited that it took me an hour instead of 30 minutes to detangle my hair. I could see the change in my routine even if I couldn’t immediately see the change in my hair’s length. Your hair is unique and complicated. Why limit yourself in how you measure your progress? Results don’t have to be based solely on one standard of progress, but rather measures that make sense for your type of hair.
It’s Growing, Now What?
You’ve been diligent and consistent and finally you’re reaping the fruits of your labor. After successfully retaining length, I mistakenly thought that I could put my hair journey on cruise control and still see the same progress from year to year. For some women this may be true, but I was surprised to learn that the surge in hair retention that occurred during my first year of healthy hair care tapered off the following year. I began to wonder if that first year was a fluke or worse; I reached the feared “terminal length”. After one year of healthy hair care, I was about armpit length (I began the year at shoulder length) and satisfied. Still I wasn’t content enough to concede that my hair had reached its limit.
After another year and only 2 inches of retention my hair began to retain in the way it did that first year. What did that teach me? Hair retention can sometimes be idiosyncratic and I didn’t need to worry about the ebbs and flows of my hair’s retention pattern. That is my advice to you. Unless you notice significant changes like hair loss or scalp issues, don’t worry if you don’t seem to retain as much as you once did. Sometimes my hair didn’t seem to grow longer overall but some layers grew longer giving the appearance of only slightly longer hair but significantly thicker hair. While that may not be the progress you’re seeking, it is progress nonetheless. Just as you didn’t choose the shape of your curls or the texture of your hair, you can’t completely control the way your hair retains length.
So, do you ever completely get the hang of it? I’ve been natural for almost 10 years and have been on a healthy hair journey since 2009. I can assure you, that while managing my hair has become easier, I still can’t set concrete expectations for hair growth. This used to annoy me but not anymore. Focusing on what I can do to ensure healthy hair, rather than how my hair responds to those practices in terms of length is a much less stressful approach. To you newbies, your hair will retain length but don’t let that be the sole measure of your satisfaction with your hair.
Have you ever been length obsessed? What were the drawbacks to length retention obsession?