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How Long Does It Take For Natural Hair to Show Its Length?

Avatar • Aug 10, 2014

geniece1

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.

Shoulder Length

 

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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

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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

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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?

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SB
SB
6 years ago

Thank you for this article. I was happy to get the inside scoop on the hair stages that are coming soon. I am currently at apl and I can relate to all the stages above apl that you mentioned. I know that patients is the key but its nice to know what you have to look forward to.

LTD
LTD
6 years ago

Thank you. I too experience 75% shrinkage. My hair is doing it’s own thing. I just did my 3rd big chop after heat damage Feb 2014. I’m impatient but waiting on my year mark. May lightly blow my hair to see my growth

Antoinette
Antoinette
6 years ago

Thank you very much for this article, I now know and understand that patience is the key and God knows I need some. I just made 63 days since my big chop and I have noticed growth and increased thickness but I can’t help but wish it was longer so that I could do more styles such as a simple ponytail. I will try to live one day at a time because at least it is much healthier and my texture changed from hard to soft.

Jacky
Jacky
6 years ago
Reply to  Antoinette

Hi Antoinette, I read your comment and I understand what you’re going through. I remember when I had newly big chopped and I was anxiously hoping to gain some length quickly. Here are some tips that will help you to stay patient( they worked for me ): 1. Remember that your natural hair journey is just that: a journey, and you should enjoy every part/stage of it; not just the final destination. 2. Be creative with your natural hair. Try out styles and looks that you can achieve at your current hair length; including finger coils, wash-n-go’s, mini twists, different parts( side… Read more »

Kita
Kita
6 years ago

I’m currently at APL after 2yrs of growing out a pixie cut (a curly pixie is not the biz lol). I’ve always had long curly hair but cut it 3 times bc I was over it. But the most fun was seeing it go from 1″ to a bigger fro during the 1st year. I wear wash n go’s 99% of the time so I didn’t even notice my hair is APL until today lol my hair always shrinks somewhere between 3–5″ so I guess I’m somewhere in the 70% shrinkage range. I loathe long hair (why I cut it… Read more »

S.
S.
6 years ago

I was able to retain length when my hair was permed b/c I only applied heat on my days off. My hair was below BSL. It was the perfect length for me. My last keratin treatment destroyed my hair. I made the decision to transition one month after the last ‘treatment’. After several trims & 2 mini chops I’ve decided to stop cutting & see what happens. I am starting to now notice my growth. When stretched its at APL, in it’s natural state it’s a little below the shoulder. Not sure what the percentage is. My bun is getting… Read more »

LBell
LBell
6 years ago

I’ve been wearing what I call the coily ‘fro — a stretched WNG — for most of this year. Technically it’s semi-stretched…which is another way of saying it’s semi-shrunken. With summer’s humidity it often goes beyond semi- and into mostly-shrunken. A couple of weeks ago, in preparation for my monthly shampoo/DC, I put in a ton of coconut oil, finger-detangled and removed shed hair, and put it into 8 large braids. I was surprised to see how long it had gotten since the start of this year…and that’s with two significant trims and a dusting. My mostly-4b hair shrinks over… Read more »

Caray
Caray
6 years ago

I transitioned for 20 month at that point my hair had 6 inches of natural hair now, 15 months natural I have 13 inches of natural hair APL , so it grew 7 inches in 15 months.

Queen
Queen
6 years ago
Reply to  Caray

What pray tell is your regimen?

Truth Hurts
Truth Hurts
6 years ago
Reply to  Queen

Keeping it simple, I dont co wash, I use sulfate free shampoo(Creme of nature) at every wash. I really think that played a factor. Co washing left my hair dull, dirty and dry.

JazzWife
6 years ago

This is a great piece because it helps to outline what can be expected. Everyone’s experience will be tailored to their own circumstances. I remember my own frustration between years two and three. I was yanking and pulling and length checking too much for my own sanity. I knew my hair was growing I couldn’t see it or feel it. And that was frustrating. It wasn’t until my hair crossed the three year mark (and my hair was between years three and four) that I could more plainly see that, at last, my hair was long. Your article puts all of… Read more »

Carlee
Carlee
6 years ago

Great article. I’m at shoulder length hair right now. I keep cutting my back layers so that I can grow out my front layers to be even with the back, if that makes sense. I don’t like the reverse–long back layers, shorter front layers or hair that is the same length all around–which creates the appearance of an afro mullet, in my opinion. Because I keep cutting my back layers, it feels like it’s taking some time to get to APL, but I don’t mind it too much. My hair is long enough to put into two pigtail buns at… Read more »

Carlee
Carlee
6 years ago
Reply to  Carlee

I have 4c hair, and I have about 75% shrinkage.

Dananana
Dananana
6 years ago
Reply to  Carlee

I so understand that layers struggle! Cut mine back to APL because I was not feeling the long back layers look. I have length goals, but I want to like the way my hair looks at all lengths!

Aliyah Morrison
Aliyah Morrison
5 years ago

I hope it only takes me untill 2016 a year to grow out of the awkward mid stage . I hate this Stage AND honestly I’m HAPPY To STOP At armpit length BUT I’m NOT Cutting It AGAIN SO IF IT GROWS LONGER than ok .

Aliyah Morrison
Aliyah Morrison
5 years ago

Uugh i hate the awkward stage Bob and shoulder length when straightened I hope this stage only lasts untill January of 2016 about a year .

Andrea
Andrea
5 years ago

Did I misunderstand, or was 15 and 18 months backwards?

Jass
Jass
5 years ago

I must have like 80–85 percent shrinkage..I have yet to flat iron or add any heat to my hair since going natural 3 years ago but I’ll stretch pieces out and I’m at mid back length..but when I wash and let air dry my hair coils up and doesn’t even hang at all..maybe look like a good 4/5 inches shrunken lol..my braidout a are a little past shoulder length..I love my hair but sometimes the shrinkage gets to me..

more
more
5 years ago

Only thing that grows my hair is 100% human kinky bulk left in my hair for 7 monthes ! Of course I washed it but tha tsunami really the only thing that does not pull my hair out or leaves my edgless. That’s why I don’t fawk with synthetic but I might for just 3 weeks one of these days. Like I said no product really helped none at all
Hopec this helps

msbell22
msbell22
5 years ago

I’ve been natural for over ten years and my hair won’t grow past my shoulder blades. It saddens me.

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