If you are in the process of growing long natural hair, you are likely aware of how much your hair grows each month and mindful of practices that limit length retention. If your hair is regularly retaining length then you should never be impatient about seeing the fruit of your labor, correct? Well, I can say that I was often impatient and sought ways to boost my hair growth early in my hair growth journey (shortcuts didn’t pan out, by the way). One of the reasons for this impatience is not because my hair wasn’t growing, but rather because it seemed like it took forever to see the length I had so diligently made an effort to retain. As someone with tightly coiled hair and who experiences 60%-75% shrinkage with wet hair, I will highlight the difference between how long my it took my hair to reach a certain length and how long it took for me to notice an increase in length on my natural hair.
The Big Chop
One of the good things about this stage in my hair journey was the fact that my hair was cut so short that over the course of 6 months the length I retained was quite noticeable. For example, I went from wearing a curly fro, to being able to wear flat twists and mini twists. I would go so far as to say that at no other stage in my natural hair journey has the growth I retained over the course of one year so evident to myself and to others as it was during my first year natural. When you cut your hair very short it is easier to notice the 5 or 6 inches that you retain during that first year.
While I know that my hair may have looked a bit different as it grew from about ear length to shoulder length, I honestly didn’t notice unless my hair was either straightened or in a picked out fro. In mini twists, which was one of my staple style at this length, my hair really didn’t appear that different. For many naturals this medium length stage can seem a bit frustrating because you lose the ease of a TWA but you don’t yet have the length to create styles you admire on longer lengths. Now, for women with less shrinkage it may take less time to see a noticeable difference but for me it felt like it took a good 18 months for me to grow out of the medium hair length stage. One way that I enjoyed this stage was by taking advantage of how my hair framed my face. I was able to wear a bob without cutting my hair, something that I only appreciated once my hair was longer.
Arm Pit Length
I found that I was able to more quickly see the progress of my hair over the short term, not just in terms of length but in terms of volume. My hair still had a tapered appearance but because of the length my hair appeared thicker even when I had major shrinkage. So while it took about 15 months to go from arm pit length to mid back length, I was able to notice major changes in my twist outs and what appeared to be longer blow outs every six months. This stage if often less frustrating that growing your hair to shoulder length because you now have the length to accomplish a plethora of styles.
Mid-back Length and Longer
My hair is the same length in both photographs. In the photo on the top my hair is wet and shrunken. In the photo on the bottom my hair is lightly flat ironed.
I will preface this section by saying that I have a pretty long torso so on my body mid-back length and waist length are not too far apart. It took my hair about a year to grow from mid back length to waist length. Like my experience with arm pit length, I noticed an increase in hair volume as the natural layers in my hair grew out. I would say that every 4 months I noticed a significant difference in stretched styles. Because I had to wait less time to experience the benefits of retained length, I monitored my length retention less. At this stage, I would say that for myself and many naturals I’ve followed on vlogs and blogs, the focus shifts from length to maintenance. The “Will my hair grow?” questions no longer exist because you now know the answer to that question. Once my hair reached waist length the changes from year to year became much less noticeable. Because my layers finished growing out at this length the volume of my hair remained consistent such that two or three inches in length retention didn’t seem to change the appearance of hair styles. Unless you desire tail bone length hair or longer, the surprise factor of seeing longer hair when your hair is straightened wears off at this stage.
I have found that the pursuit of longer hair is no longer a pursuit I stress over. I accept that my hair can do amazing things, which include major shrinkage. It may take longer for my hair to show length but the important thing is that it is healthy, growing and uniquely me.
I experience up to 75% shrinkage. How much shrinkage do you experience?
At what stage/hair length did it seem that your hair showed length the fastest?