By Jc of The Natural Haven

I recently  received a comment that said, ‘I am stuck at 5 inches and I really just want 12 inches of hair, is that too much to ask?’ I smiled because I could relate to that need to achieve a goal hair length except I never put a number to it, I just wanted enough to make a low pony tail. Coincidentally,  my hair is also currently 12 inches, so I was sitting here with her goal length and thinking, no it is not too much to ask.

The thing I found in my journey is that the sole factor in getting my hair to move on from a ‘stuck’ position was for me to recognise the things that I was doing that were harming my hair. You are in control of whether that hair stays or moves. Here are 5 reasons why your hair does not gain length

1. You ignore breakage.

This is the top reason and if you read no further, at least read the next two paragraphs. If you have been stuck at a particular length for a long time, the most likely reason is that you have split ends which are breaking off your hair at the same rate as it is growing. The only reasonable thing to do is to trim your hair and by trim I mean cut 2-3 inches off. I could hold your hand and say just look for splits and knots and trim them off but in reality it is very had to do a search and destroy on short hair which you cannot see properly.

The second form of breakage that is largely ignored are those short little quarter inch end segment breaks that happen  with very kinky hair.  While it is not possible to fully eliminate breakage entirely, it is possible to reduce it to a minimal level by being very gentle, choosing  gentle detangling methods and being patient when handling your hair.

2. You are over-manipulating it

I will start with the obvious – puffs and afros are addictive. They are simple and cute but they are styles that for the vast majority can cause hair to tangle, knot and break.  The not so obvious is keeping a protective style in for too long. The time and effort required to unravel the strands and remove lint can cause a lot of damage.  For those with looser curls, styles like twists which are normally regarded as protective may be terrible for you  if they unravel easily and you may be tempted to constantly use a drying gel which does not help your hair.

Your hair will complain bitterly when it is over- manipulated. The top signs are breakage, tangling and knotting.  Find a happy medium with your hair.

3. You are still hunting for that magic product

There are no magic products.  There are people who have seemingly terrible product choices but great hair and similarly people with great product choices and terrible hair.

The thing to understand about hair length retention is that it is largely mechanical damage that really does you in.  Mechanical damage meaning how you physically break your hair.  Hair products mainly mask damage, what you can do is prevent damage in the first place. You and your  hair handling methods are the most important tools, over and above  products.

4. You are following someone else’s regimen

Never ever make the mistake of not listening to your hair.  If someone swears by heat training, that does not mean it will for you. If someone swears by coconut oil, that does not mean it will work for you.

There is nothing wrong with experimenting with any method, product or routine. There is something wrong with failing to see that it is not working for your hair. Always pay attention to if your hair breaks or feels less than ideal.

5. You are still using too much heat

As I said previously, length retention has a huge mechanical component to it. Heat ultimately degrades hair. For some people, regular heat use is not a problem as their hair is able to cope with it while for others, even slight heat is an issue.

Learn how your hair behaves. Do not choose style or ease over and above hair health. It may be easier to handle your hair when its curls are not as tight but consider doing a heat free method such as curl formers, braids/twists or banding.

The finer and kinkier your hair, the less likely it is to be able to take a lot of heat.

Ladies, have you been guilty of any of these?
For more of Jc’s writings check out The Natural Haven.

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91 Comments on "5 Reasons You’re Not Gaining Length"

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Someone asked, but I didn’t see a response. What does it mean to dust hair? I’ve never heard this expression before. And thanks. I’ll google also.

These tips are on point. When it comes to my hair, I so want to be the woman who can wear her hair out 24/7 and it retains all its length but b/c I have fine strands, I need more of a balance between wearing it out and wearing it up. I’ve taken to wearin my hair up or in protective styles during the week and wear it out on the weekends. This rhythm works for me. It’s about listening to your hair and not just doing what you want. That’s how you get to retain the length that you… Read more »
I know a lot of naturals consider a twist-out, braid-out, or twists to be low manipulation, but my hair begs to differ. Although I like all of those looks, my hair prefers a good old wash n’ go. I notice very little hair shedding when I do wash ‘n gos, compared to the other styles. Even if I wet my hair on a daily basis. In addition, my hair tends to stay more moisturized throughout the week. So, I had to listen to my hair, instead of other naturals, who do not have a positive experience with wash ‘n gos.… Read more »
Aisha Soleil
I’m also team wash-n-go. I BC’d in ’09 and as soon as I got a little length I started doing twists and twist-outs or braid-outs because that’s what I thought I was *supposed* to do. Most of my natural hair idols were doing it and they had long hair so I was going to do what they did. It took me almost a year and a half to figure out that my hair does not like those types of styles. Actually, my hair doesn’t like to be stretched for long periods of time. I find that if I keep my… Read more »

Yeah glad that you’re able to do the wash n gos with no problem. I can’t do that because my hair will knot the f.. up like nobodys business. lol….lol….. Now I will spritz my hair every other day with my water/glyercin/oil mixture and this give a nice moisture factor for my hair. I’m actually thinking about buying Jane Carter Nourish & Shine product, saw the good reviews on it but $21.99 for 4oz is alot… hum maybe a christmas present to myself later this…


the best thing about the nourish and shine is that i only have to buy it about every 8 months or so and i use it daily. my hair is thick and about 10 inches right now. so to me its worth it because it lasts so long

Awesome post! I was gulity of #1 and #4 in the past. I used to detangle my soaking wet cnditioner-soaked super coily hair with a wide-toohed comb floowed by a modified Denman brush because I saw someone else with super long hair (and a significantly different hair texture) do it. Needless to say, that tore up my hair and created excessive breakage. Eventually, I wised up and looked for a better (read: less breakage promoting) detangling method for my hair. Now, I finger-detangle sectioned, stretched, dampened and oiled hair before washing. Detangling has never been easier and I have little… Read more »
No one manipulates their hair more than me, and I can honestly tell you that it hasn’t done anything to my hair. In fact my hair has thrived. It is now pushing 13 inches. I cut off 1 inch last month. I think each person’s hair is different, and each person has to know their hair and act accordingly. My hair has a tendency of working itself loose no matter what style it’s in and then getting intertwined with other hair. After one day my hair starts to lock, and you know how some people can leave their hair in… Read more »

I confess — I’ve been guilty of over-manipulating my hair. I’ve noticed more itty-bitty pieces of broken hair. I am taking that as a sign to leave my hair alone for a while. My daughter’s helping me with braids as I type this, and I hope to keep the style for a month. This way, I hope to save time on styling, $$ on products, and, ultimately, my hair strands. This is a very informative article. I appreciate it greatly!

Great article, Jc. How long do you think is too long to leave in protective styles, since you mentioned that as a possible factor? For the past several months, par your influence, I’ve been wearing medium-sized box braids (well, top half of strands = box braids, bottom half = rope twists…so that they’re easier to take out come that time). I leave them in anywhere between 4 and 7 weeks. The thing is, when my hair is twisted/braided up, it’s harder for me to tell the condition of my hair. I can barely feel if it’s dry or not, let… Read more »
The Natural Haven

Sorry for the late reply Courtney, I have been away for the past week!

I think you can keep braided or twisted styles in for as long as the hair is not getting matted. For most people this is between 2-4 weeks and less for those with looser curls. I am also a 4abcxyz and I can go for much longer (upto 8 weeks) but I do know the back and middle of my hair requires redoing every 2 weeks.

For trimming – Have you seen this post on trimming without needing to see the split ends?

fluffy in flight
I understand where you’re coming from. Each person’s hair is different. I have to deal with my hair EVERY DAY or not it will start to knot and tangle. and my hair agrees with what i’m doing because my hair has grown enormously – what some people have in 2 years, i have at one year or < than one year, and i'm very scissor happpy so I'm trying to cut back on using the scissors since it's right by my side whenever i'm doing my hair. Last November i chopped off 3 inches on the spur of the moment… Read more »

I have highly textured hair as well. I can tell when I need a trim by running my fingers down the strands and you will feel the difference from the ends that need to be trimmed and what doesn’t. Mine usually kind of rough compared to the top of the strand. I trim where the roughness begins. Sometimes I trim while my hair is in twists, the ends that are stringy I cut. HTH.


Really liked number 4. That can be true there are people out there using ultra sheen or do groo and have great hair.


Great article…..ESPECIALLY #4!!!! I will be sharing this on my page!!


Very educating


After a change in my Wash/Conditioning regimen, I noticed shedding and breakage. Also, I was over manipulating my hair this past summer. I am happy to say that I am returning to my previous regimen. I’m sure the results will be very rewarding. I was wondering why I hadn’t seen any growth over the summer. Now I know better!


I KNOW I’m guilty of not trimming my hair, lol. I haven’t trimmed it since I went natural 1 year ago (exactly, that’s terrible). Other than that, I’d say I’m pretty decent about low-manipulation since I wear protective styles now.

O yea and true about buying too many products/using too many products in my hair. Just today I thought about trying a couple more stuff, and glad to say that I’ll stick by my Shea Moisture products until the end of year. That’s just what my hair loves the most.

Antother great article BGLH!!


What does it mean to “dust” your hair?

The Natural Haven

Dusting means trimming very little of your hair (say less than quarter of an inch).

I think a lot of naturals skimp on regular trims. There is a school of thought suggesting that natural hair does not need to be trimmed regularly b/c it is generally healthier than relaxed hair. But relaxed hair (or any processed hair), which certainly can be healthy, is not necessarily the best barometer. Even women with straight hair (who arguably encounter less obstacles to length retention than curly or kinky haired women) are urged to trim every 6-8 weeks. I think perhaps some of the trepidation about trimming has to do with the fact that a lot of us still… Read more »

Ok what is Dusting? Please explain. I just love how everytime I read these blogs i learn just how clueless I am when it comes to caring for this kinky curly coif that I’m ready weave. Lol. Thanks y’all =D


Trimming is definitely one of those to each his own techniques. I have known people who did not trim their hair for years, and their hair is down their butts. Then there are those who trim every 6 weeks and their hair is to their butt. Moral of the story, follow the advice of this post and learn what works for ‘your’ hair.


It also depends on how much you trim. I never trim more than 1/4″ at a time. A “trim” doesn’t mean cutting 2″ off. 😉


Exactly. If you re-read my comment you’ll notice that I was referring to my personal experience of understanding what my hair needs.

Thanks for reading.


Am I missing something? Did I not support your statement and this post by showing that the same technique yields different results?
I may be reading too much into your comment, but ‘re-read’, and ‘thanks for reading’ smells like scarcasm to me.


I think you were reading too much into it because from your statement it showed me that you were in support of both the article and the commenter, I personally didn’t perceive any sarcasm when I read her response but I guess the writer herself would be a better judge of whether or not she was being sarcastic…


oops- that should read “I dust my hair once a month or every other month.” My hair is currently BSL.


I dust my own hair btw. The method I’ve always used is pretty much identical to Rustic Beauty’s method. She also dusts frequently.

Yep I do this alot, esp. if my ends don’t look up to par. Those bad boys will get cut in a heartbeat. Now I have to make sure that my moisture level is up on my hair, because my 4b thick coars hair soaks up products. Now I just did my own mix of long aid activator gel, blue magic sheabutter/aloe grease,glycyerin (1tablespoon), 1 teaspoon of V05 moisturizing condish, and a little bit of murrays beeswax and mixed everything together,and did some twists on my hair. Wow that thing is so moisturized and the shine factor is off the… Read more »

pls list your hair grease again – sounds interesting!!