Is Terminal Hair Length a Thing? Have I Reached A Point I Can Not Grow Past?

smiling woman with hat
smiling woman with hat
Photo Credit: Charles Postiaux/Unsplahs

Short answer: NO.
‘Terminal length’ is a concept I did not understand until very recently. When I began growing my hair out in college, it started breaking when it reached a comfortable length; just a little below the shoulder. Then, it was relaxed. I went natural and things were all good for the first 2 years, but since my hair reached that BTS length again sometime before my 2nd natural hair anniversary, it appears to have stopped growing, again. Has it really, though?
No.  Your present hair length is not your last bus stop even if you’ve been stuck here forever! It is NOT your terminal length.
How do I know you haven’t reached your terminal length? What am I even saying?
Think about this. After my last 4 trims, my hair was always at the same length. With each trim, I lost 2-3 inches of hair. If I lost hair and my hair was still the same length after this loss, clearly, it had been growing. This does not even take into account the “minor breakage” I deal with every time I handle my hair. 
What IS terminal length?
Simply put, it is the longest any hair on your head can grow. It’s the length your hair would be if you never cut it, if it never broke.
Hmm. So, what is this like?
Science says that the growing phase for hair is anywhere between 1 and 7 years. For most people, the average growing phase is between 4-6 years, and this probably includes you. Science also tells us that hair grows at 1/4 to 1/2 an inch every month on average.
Stay with me now.
So, let’s imagine your hair is pretty average, capable of growing 1/4 inch a month. 1/4 inch a month x 12 months leaves you with 3 inches a year- in theory. After 4 years, in a perfect world at the slowest rate, where your strands are Spartans and retain every bit of keratin, you should expect to have 12 inches, easily below the shoulder at full stretch. Not bad, eh?
I may not know you, or your (hair)story, but, I’m willing to bet that you aren’t at your terminal length.
From my own experience, I think I grew about 4-6 inches of hair during my 8 month transition to natural. I retained all my length because I still had relaxed ends to chop off. 6 inches in 8 months. Clearly, at one point in time, my growth rate was above average.
If you are a relaxed girl or used to be one, think about it. In 2 weeks, your hair is “due” again. That undergrowth is new hair. It is GROWTH. Imagine if you retained ALL that, for the length of your growth cycle (which is probably 4-6 years), where would you be? THAT, my friend, is your terminal length.
Our hair growth is affected by so many factors, some we can control, like nutrition, blood circulation, and stress levels. Others are beyond us, like genetics, hormones, and certain health conditions. Length retention is a different piece of cake entirely, and that is entirely on us.
So, sista-girl, can you really say you’ve reached your terminal length? The point you absolutely cannot grow past? I doubt it.
Terminal length is the longest any hair on your head can grow.
If like me, you have been needing motivation to grow your hair or move past a length plateau, I hope this is it! You can totally figure this hair thing out! Retaining length is another discussion which we will have but till then, let’s keep hope alive, okay?