by Sabrina Perkins of SeriouslyNatural.org
Many in the natural hair community are consumed with hair growth, but the greatest concern should be hair retention. Your hair IS growing; there are four stages of hair growth, and while not all of them are growing phases, they continue throughout our lives.
While hair growth does slow down as we age, hair growth can be hindered by things like manipulation, weather, hormones, illness and medications too. Despite all of that, hair growth continues through the four stages mentioned above.
So why is your hair staying at only one length? Your hair is not retaining length; it’s breaking off as fast as it’s growing in. Length retention is holding onto your hair longer, and that requires keeping the oldest hairs (the ends) healthy and in good condition. If you are struggling with this, the five things below may help you understand why.
We love our hair and we love how much versatility it gives us in styling, but many of those styles require a lot of manipulation, which can cause damage. The more textured the hair, the less the manipulation it can handle, which is why many naturals (especially women with 4c hair) opt for protective styling.
Straight styles and wash-and-go’s are often considered styles that have a lot of manipulation. But, honestly, just keeping your hands out of your hair (hands-in-hair syndrome) and being gentle with your strands can keep damage to a minimum. The bottom line is that even washing our hair (a true necessary evil) is damaging to our delicate strands. Just use as little manipulation as possible when caring for your tresses.
Not Maintaining Balance
Moisture vs. Protein balance is crucial to healthy hair. Natural hair needs moisture to stay elastic and hydrated, and to minimize damage. Hair is made up of a hard protein called Keratin, and protein helps to strengthen our strands. There is a fine balance between the two. Too much moisture, and hair becomes limp and can suffer from hygral fatigue (strands weaken and eventually break). Too much protein, and you can make hair brittle and cause breakage.
Maintaining moisturized and strong hair takes listening to your hair so you know what it needs and when it needs it. Either extreme can cause breakage, so keep that balance equal and you will likely find your length retaining.
Heat-styling is one of the quickest ways to damage natural hair. Because it cannot be reversed, the best way to fight heat-related damage is to limit your heat-styling (using a flat iron, blow-drying without a diffuser, or using a hot comb).
The dryness that heat-styling creates can cause hair to pop or break, as the heat whisks away moisture and elasticity. Also, there is no such thing as heat-training. If your hair will not revert to it’s regular texture, it is heat-damaged. If you must use direct heat, make sure to use a good hair-protectant and use the lowest setting possible.
Not Getting Trims
Trims are a necessary component of healthy hair care maintenance. Some see them as a nuisance or counterproductive to long hair, but trims can keep hair from splitting and becoming severely damaged. They also help with raggedy ends that can cause tangles and knots. I opt for two trims a year, and my hair is growing steadily. The more chemicals or manipulation you apply to your hair, the more trims you’ll need, but we do not need to trim our hair as often as we did when we were relaxed.
Neglecting Your Ends
As I mentioned earlier, our ends are the oldest hair, making them the weakest part and the most vulnerable to damage. Seal them, be gentle with them, and protect them at all costs, as they are the troopers that keep length-retention possible.
Once hair is moisturized (including your ends), you need to retain it. So concentrate your efforts heavily on your ends and begin to notice how they stay healthy and remain on your head and not in your shower, sink or floor.
What are your tips for retaining length, Naturals?