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Why My Natural Hair Was Stuck at Shoulder Length for Years and How I Got Past It

Avatar • Nov 14, 2015
The author, Cassandre

The author, Cassandre

It took me 8 years to get to bra strap length and just 1 year to get to tailbone length. But before I got to my desired length, I had little clue as to what my hair needed most so I could never really retain length, though my hair looked very healthy.

My plateau began once I reached shoulder length. I was a stickler for split ends and noticed, without fail that my ends would get so tattered at that length that I felt it necessary to cut them every time. Some of my cuts were so drastic — cutting over 3 inches in length — that I refer to them as “mini-chops”. Each mini chop set me back 6 to 9 months.

I had no clue that by the time my hair grew past my ears it would need reasonably more protection and less manipulation to continue get to longer lengths. By my 3rd year through the journey, I had moved to a new area where the water was particularly harsh on my strands. I didn’t understand the impact at the time, so it took me a while to address the issue. My hair had gone from luscious, and sheeny to drab and thin.

My issue was a combination of ends breakage and slowed growth from the root. I was encountering a new level of stress through grad school, but the major issue was my desperately tattered ends that grew dreadful from not employing protective and low manipulation styles, and the use of hard water that changed my texture entirely.

And so I just kept cutting my hair. It was normal for me to come to the end of a year, notice my tattered ends and extremely dry strands from hard water and decide the best solution was a cut.

I’m not sure who made me aware, or how I became aware, but I learned that the hard water had a lot to do with how well my hair was doing. Pretty soon I was investing in distilled water to wash my hair with and then down the line, a shower filter. I also accidentally stumbled upon protective styling with extensions when I used Marley hair to create a very natural twist style.

Protective and low manipulation styles became my go-to the year that I finally reached tailbone length. Coupling that with my knowledge of how to battle against the effects of hard water, my length retention progress began to soar.

Ladies, how do you overcome length plateaus and identify the issues contributing to it?

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About Cassandre

Just another naturalista playing by my own rules! Got hair that doesn't seem to grow past your shoulders? Check out my free Grow Your Hair Faster Video Course

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TWA4now
TWA4now
5 years ago

First of all, congratulations on grad school! (She ROCKS!!!)
I LOVE my mini or.medium twist! I noticed my hair wasn’t “growing” anymore! I had to stop cutting my hair so.much. I trimmed it once more, started.more protective styles mainly french twist or flat twist with.the ends tucked in. I am.using.more.natural products and.not everything under the sun.I started watching more YouTubes on protective styles. I am.going to start washing my hair with distilled water like this article said. I can.see small wonderful changes even now! Just when I THINK I have it figured out, the natural hair.journey contunes!!! #teamnatural 🙂

Michelle Freeman
Michelle Freeman
5 years ago

Well, I’ve been natural since 2010 and my issues were the constant washing and manipulation of my hair … poor thing wasn’t getting a chance to grow past my ears. That all changed in 2013 when I started getting interview after interview which eventually led to a job, hence no time to wash my hair once a week or every fort-night and definitely no time to have my hands constantly up in my head to re-style my hair before it had a chance to ‘ketch’ itself. Sorry about the Bajan. Working taught me that my hair can be washed once a… Read more »

Claudette UK
Claudette UK
5 years ago

Love the Bajan my sister! Thanks for the idea of the oats/sago/barley in conditioner.

Carolyn
Carolyn
4 years ago

May I ask how, what is the directions for oats/sago/barley mix? Thank you

Saran
Saran
5 years ago

I don’t know for everybody but distilled water for hair, that means my pockets will suffer terribly; for it’s expensive where I live if I can find some

Claudette UK
Claudette UK
5 years ago
Reply to  Saran

Me too Saran. I live in an area with very hard water. I spritz my hair with filtered water after I invested in a water filter jug. But still wash my hair with hard water. It is too expensive to get the filter for the entire water system.

P
P
5 years ago

Great article, but could you please explain the correlation between hard water and length retention?

Free Tea
Free Tea
5 years ago
Reply to  P

For some people, hard water leaves mineral deposits on the hair, and it becomes dry and very brittle. My hair behaves this way, and incorporating an ACV rinse any time my hair is washed/cowashed has really helped.

Mackenzie Irick Milks
Mackenzie Irick Milks
5 years ago
Reply to  Free Tea

I didn’t ask the question, but thanks for the answer. I’ll try a shower filter. I just purchased a shampoo with acv as an ingredient, I believe, so we’ll see what’s what in a few months.

Lauralei99
Lauralei99
5 years ago
Reply to  P

Free Tea is correct. Hard water is so-called because it contains lime and calcium and other ‘hardening’ minerals. . Recall that our teeth and bones contain much calcium( hardness minerals) ]. That same substance can build up and harden hair as well. That hardening is what makes hair brittle and prone to breakage. Meticulous moisturizing can help, but I prefer using shampoo that removes the minerals as my second line of defense. My first line of defense is vacationing in the Caribbean and washing my hair with their salty water! Calcium builds up on our tubs, faucets and sinks too.

Lauralei99
Lauralei99
5 years ago

I live in Chicago and I use a shampoo made for hair that is exposed to hard water.

Danielle
Danielle
3 years ago
Reply to  Lauralei99

Could you share the shampoo that you use? I also live in Chicago!

Dirtybubblez
Dirtybubblez
5 years ago

Wow, this is pretty interesting. I’m newly natural, for only about 5 months, but I’m particularly fascinated on how hard water can really affect your hair. I’ve always had slow growth from the root, but this could be a major component as well.

Whitney Bianca
4 years ago
Reply to  Dirtybubblez

If your hair is growing slowly check your diet first. Do you eat processed foods? Meats? These things don’t help grow hair. Veggies and fruits and lots of water and moisture will help you grow. Your hair

Tasha
Tasha
5 years ago

I’ve been natural for 3 years and I’ve just figured out that protective styling is my best bet for retaining length. I am also a stickler for split ends. I also had kind of a set back by dyeing my hair. I didn’t keep it properly moisturized and had to keep trimming it due to splitting ends 🙁

Bemnia Lathan
Bemnia Lathan
5 years ago

I’ve been natural since 2012 when I first started my hair barely reached my chin but now it has finally gotten to the under part of my bra. I live in Oregon where the water is pretty good so I don’t have a problem with hard water. What I do to make sure my hair is doing well is keep it moisturized. I like using the LOC system after I get out the shower and I never brush my hair while it’s dry. I try to cut my split ends about every 9 months. I don’t get a lot of… Read more »

Brittaney Pleasont
Brittaney Pleasont
5 years ago

what you think about sew ins as a protective style? people look at me crazy when I mention thats what I’d like to try.….my natural hair is about shoulder length and my flat ironed hair goes a little past my arm pit. Is that too much lol

Queen Izzy
Queen Izzy
4 years ago

I think sew-ins are a
good way to protect your hair however be mindful of how long you’ve had it in. Also when you take it out make sure to give your hair all the proteins and hydration that it has missed since you put in the sew-in

Whitney Bianca
4 years ago

What products to you guys use if your located in Europe?

Judy
Judy
5 years ago

Buying distilled water (esp with low porosity hair like one, which requires a lot more water than high porosity) is too expensive for me. Buying a chelating shampoo & shampooing with that once a month (I use Paul Mitchell’s) transforms my hair, and removes the mineral build-up that hard water leaves in hair. (I usually wash my hair once a week). Of course I follow with a DC as that fairly strips the hair! Another thing I’ve done, upon discovering the fact that I have low porosity hair, is look at lo-po bloggers and see what methods work for them. (eg.… Read more »

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