Pho­to Source: Essence Mag­a­zine

By Jc of The Nat­u­ral Haven

The love­ly Jad­ed remarks, ‘I find it so odd that african amer­i­cans just in gen­er­al have such a hard time *relaxed or nat­u­ral* grow­ing our hair.’ Well, the truth is that African hair is very dif­fer­ent from Asian or Cau­casian hair. Here are some more details:

Slow growth rate?

It has been sug­gest­ed that African hair grows much slow­er than Cau­casian hair ( Br J Der­ma­tol, pg 294–7, 2001.). African hair was mea­sured at between 3.7 to 4.3 inch­es per year while Cau­casian hair was mea­sured at 5.7 to 6.3 inch­es per year. This study unfor­tu­nate­ly is too small in my view to be rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the entire African pop­u­la­tion but it is nonethe­less a valid study.

Shape of the hair?

– Asian and Cau­casian hair is more round in shape com­pared to African hair which is more oval/elliptical (see the dia­gram!). Some sci­en­tists sug­gest that this can make the hair weak but stud­ies in 4 dif­fer­ent labs pro­duced con­trast­ing results (J Am Acad Dermatol,pg S106–S114, 2003). Two of them showed no dif­fer­ence while two found African hair to be weak­er — so there real­ly isn’t a con­clu­sion as to whether the ellipse shape affects strength.

Breakage

– This one is a bit of a duh moment. The curlier the hair the more like­ly it is to break. African hair has more kinks and curls. Each of the­se turns rep­re­sents a weak point which can be test­ed by wash­ing, con­di­tion­ing, tow­el dry­ing, comb­ing, braid­ing (every­thing basi­cal­ly!).

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211 Comments on "Is Black Hair Harder to Grow?"

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Nia

It’s not the hair growth rate that is the issue. It’s the abil­i­ty to retain that growth.

K

that’s very true…in terms of the oth­er eth­nic­i­ties length ret­nen­tion is not as much of an issue for them com­pared to us…we have to be so much more del­ci­ate and pro­tec­tive of our strands than any oth­er group and some­times I’ll admit I’m a bit envi­ous as I wish I could walk around with­out a care in the world as well! lol

SHAY

I don’t know. I’m approach­ing my BC anniver­sary. I just mea­sured my hair and it has grown 5 inch­es in almost 12 months. I think cat­e­go­riz­ing hair as African and Cau­casian is a bit mis­lead­ing. Where does Ethiopi­an hair fall in this cat­e­go­riza­tion? Arab hair? What about Por­tugue­se hair. The world is full of mix­ture and I think there are a lot of “Cau­casians” with “African” hair and vice ver­sa.

peggy

Ok are pic­ture up here to make me sick. I am feel­ing and turn­ing green due to hair envy. lol I love hair. My hair is pret­ty full and got a nice length. The ground is the lim­it I want my hair to grow haha!

deena
Dont want to hear it. Anoth­er side of this slow growth is our diet, lifestyle and not know­ing how to care for our hair. Who’s most­ly at the gym? who’s at the farm­ers mar­kets? who’s at the whole foods and trader joes? how many of us are over­weight? This is why a lot of us have to rely on iron pills, mul­ti­vi­t­a­mins, and even lax­a­tives to see growth. Because we are not eat­ing the foods (or at least not enough) that encour­age growth. And we’re not even going to talk about how our stress lev­els also throw a wrench in… Read more »
brunettefury

“Anoth­er side of this slow growth is our diet, lifestyle and not know­ing how to care for our hair. Who’s most­ly at the gym? who’s at the farm­ers mar­kets? who’s at the whole foods and trader joes?”

Rich white peo­ple who have those mar­kets read­i­ly avail­able to them?

Carla

Excuse me, but I’m not rich nor white and I do all of the­se things, and have for years. I think its a mat­ter of geog­ra­phy and pri­or­i­ties.

anastasia

+1

Carla

As some­one who haven’t seen fast food in over 12 years, eat huge serv­ings of organ­ic veg­gies dai­ly, work out most days of the week, take sup­ple­ments, drinks lots of water, don’t eat sug­ar, etc, etc, I can tell you my hair doesn’t grow any faster than less than .5″ a mon­th. Less. I think I have genet­ics to blame. LOL

June

I do a bit of both. Eat well and eat bad­ly. I need to be more con­cerned with what I con­sume.

June

I need to hear more about this lax­a­tives for growth. Hehe­he

Monique, Sofull Sista

I know peo­ple always talk about health affect­ing hair growth, but I don’t believe it plays a sig­nif­i­cant role, unless you’re talk­ing about EXTREME sit­u­a­tions.

I know I per­son­al­ly have a very healthy, active lifestyle, and I eat very well. Yet, I have slow­er hair growth. I know plen­ty of peo­ple with long, healthy hair with poor eat­ing habits, and inac­tive lifestyles. I just don’t see a *sig­nif­i­cant* cor­re­la­tion there.

NappyRina
Ok so if it had to do with poor diet, what explains the long lengths of hair on peo­ple liv­ing in squalor with no access to “farmer’s mar­kets” or “nour­ish­ing” foods or “sul­fate-free” sham­poos who don’t even have gyms to go to in extremem­ly poor areas of North­ern Africa, Asia, South­east Asia, Lat­in Amer­i­ca just to name a few? The sim­i­lar­i­ty I see with the­se extremem­ly poor peo­ple who can man­age to grow their hair very long and effort­less­ly at that, is tex­ture! The hair ranges from straight, to loose waves, to curly/coily not usu­al­ly tight­ly coiled/kinky. I think there is… Read more »
Ellie
If you go to some of those coun­tries the pover­ty and ghet­tos are unlike Amer­i­ca. They are not eat­ing off the dol­lar menu and eat­ing a bunch of junked processed foods because they can’t afford fresh foods . That does make a big dif­fer­ence but in many coun­tries you named they have no choice to eat fresh foods. When they are able to eat it is nat­u­ral foods veg­gies rice and fish that usu­al­ly are free of pes­ti­cides and chem­i­cals, its not like they can go to the gro­cery store. This is how so many peo­ple who live in pover­ty… Read more »
NappyRina
You make a great point but then again, there are many peo­ple in African coun­tries liv­ing in the same kind of impov­er­ished con­di­tions and still eat­ing what they have access to which would nat­u­ral­ly be more fresh & not processed food, etc but their hair is NOT as long as their coun­ter­parts in oth­er impov­er­ished parts of the world. The dif­fer­ence is TEXTURE.  Alot of the times, if you see images of those with tight­ly coiled/kinky hair with long lengths, the hair is in some form of pro­tec­tive style (locs, wrapped in mud, braids, etc) which proves my point that… Read more »
Jo Somebody
Yes, and the dif­fer­ence in tex­ture means that it’s eas­ier for very poor Africans to keep their cut hair low. Not that because they’re poor/malnourished their hair doesn’t grow. (may be true in the devel­op­ing child though…) Erm, yes we need to take more effort in pro­tect­ing our hair, I would be sur­prised if any­one real­ly dis­put­ed that (the more tex­tured the hair, the more pro­tec­tion it needs), I have no idea why you think peo­ple see this as a sign of infe­ri­or­i­ty though. I have nev­er come across that think­ing. Need­ing more pre­cious care makes some­thing spe­cial not infe­ri­or!… Read more »
June
You seem to con­flat­ing retain­ing with grow­ing. Ear­lier you argued about growth and here you are argu­ing reten­tion. I don’t think most peo­ple would dis­agree with you on the reten­tion angle. My hair is not del­i­cate or frag­ile (thick, coarse strands), but it requires more pro­tec­tion because it coils. I think most agree with that. As for the infe­ri­or­i­ty angle, I don’t view the fact that we need to do more to retain as evi­dence we are infe­ri­or. I think the­se issues are often framed, sub­con­scious­ly, to imply there is some­thing wrong with what­ev­er side we are on. I just googled… Read more »
Ellie

Oh and many Thai sarin/Cambodian which are most­ly orig­i­nat­ed from India have long thick coily hair and dark­er skin. In fact my moth­er is often mis­tak­en for black or mixed race all the time. Her hair even wet feels like thick straw. The lighter skinned cam­bo­di­ans are usal­ly descen­dants of north­ern Asia ( Korea Chi­na Viet­nam) and have thick straight strands. With.that I do not believe tex­ture is so much of a deter­ance of long healthy hair in pover­ty strick­en coun­tries.

Earth Angel

I wouldn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly say that I didn’t want to hear that our hair grows slow­er. I real­ly don’t think so, but who knows it might. But you are right in that diet and stress lev­el def­i­nite­ly have an impact on our hair. AND we def­i­nite­ly are just start­ing to learn about our nat­u­ral texture—and by we and mean com­pa­nies etc. too! Nat­u­ral hair is new to most of us and we just have to find what works. Even if our hair does grow more slow­ly, we have to focus on the fac­tors we can influ­ence.

jasmine harvey

so true! i take biot­in pills and my nails are grow­ing like crazy! when i eat healthy and drink lots of water my face clears up, so why would­nt the­se things also impact my hair growth? i think it makes a big dif­fer­ence.

Pam
This is all very help­ful. I KNOW my hair grows slow­er than most peo­ple I know white or black. It’s tak­en me almost two years to reach shoul­der length. I also have very fine hair, so many of the gor­geous thick afros, braid­outs and twistouts, I just can’t do. While I love my curly tex­ture, as my hair gets longer, I am start­ing to think that a TWA is over­all the best style for me. But like many oth­ers, right now I’m obsessed with length. So, I keep exper­i­ment­ing to see what I can do with the length I have… Read more »
Chic

Hmm not sure about this study. I BC in May 2011 ( last relax­er was Dec 2010). I had about 2.5–3in of hair. Now I have about 5.5in thats aver­age growth (.5/mo) for 10 months growth. Not sure where they are get­ting the 3in/yr growth num­bers from. 

I con­sid­er long hair any­thing linger than 12in/ thats about BSL :)

Lisa

This is all very depress­ing. But thanks

Jo Somebody
Don’t be depressed! Read the arti­cle. First of all, it’s ONE study. Sec­ond­ly, the hair of the African par­tic­i­pants was cut, then mea­sured over 2 days! This data was com­pared to some data on Cau­casian hair that was col­lect­ed at a pre­vi­ous time but nev­er pub­lished (why??). The paper acknowl­edges that hair may grow dif­fer­ent­ly dur­ing dif­fer­ent sea­sons, but as no data was given for when the Cau­casian peo­ple had their hair cut (or any oth­er data them, except age — there is evi­dence that the aver­age den­si­ty of dif­fer­ent Cau­casian hair is var­ied by nat­u­ral colour, may­be growth rate… Read more »
Dawn
not to men­tion, but they failed to take into account diet, sea­son­al fluc­tu­a­tions, exer­cise- inter­nal fac­tors. i know for a fact that my hair growth has peri­ods of stag­na­tion and then peri­ods of rapid growth and then more peri­ods of sim­ply aver­age growth. it usu­al­ly goes in a cycle like this- mon­th 1- .4 inch­es. mon­th 2-.5 inch­es. mon­th 3- .7 inch­es. mon­th 4- .5, mon­th 5- back to .4… so for me, growth is more of a con­tin­u­um rather than some­thing set in stone, and it’s usu­al­ly influ­enced by the fac­tors i men­tioned above. if i was drink­ing more… Read more »
JP23

HAHAHAH! Once I real­ized my nat­u­ral hair would shrink into a twa no mat­ter what I did, I moved on. This is.…WOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.

wanda

lol I know right. Like do we real­ly need anoth­er “neg­a­tive”

jasmine harvey

haha­ha thats how i feel

Erika
I think most of it is just genet­ics. Some black peo­ple have fast grow­ing hair, just like some white peo­ple have fast grow­ing hair. Not all white people’s hair grows super fast, just like with black peo­ple. I actu­al­ly nev­er real­ized that my hair grows fast until I stopped relax­ing it. I feel that the­se kinds of stud­ies are incon­clu­sive because there are too many vari­ables in the mix. No one should think just because they are black that their hair has no pos­si­b­li­ty of ever being long. Just eat right, drink plen­ty of water, take care of your hair,… Read more »
ANON
I do think we’re the only ones obsessed with long hair — how to grow it, retain it, keep it, show­case it etc ad nau­se­um. We grow as fast as any oth­er race but due to well dis­cussed fac­tors (kinks in our hair etc, we can strug­gle with reten­tion. While many black wom­en have no prob­lem grow­ing and retain­ing longer lengths, they are a drop in the ocean com­pared to those of us who do not find it so easy. It’s not such a big deal but it is when you are moored in west­ern soci­ety and cul­ture which val­ues… Read more »
June

Nope. Take a gan­der over here http://www.longhaircommunity.com/

I just think there are some wom­en of all races obsessed with long hair. Not all nat­u­rals are obsessed with long hair, not all black wom­en are obsessed with long hair as well. I am nat­u­ral and black, and not obsessed nor care for long hair beyond being able to throw it into a pony­tail on a lazy day. Ha!

EG
We are not the only ones obsessed with long hair. Check out ‘long hair care forum’ or Youtube and you will find plen­ty of non-black wom­en talk­ing about long hair. I even saw a youtube video from a white wom­an pro­moti­ing a yeast infec­tion cream for long hair. Like you said, because we have trou­ble with length reten­tion, it looks like we’re wast­ing our time, hence why some of you think we’re obsessed. The atti­tude i come across a lot is ‘ugh, give it up already, it’s not going to hap­pen for you’. But thanks to peo­ple like ‘kim­mayu­tube, Cipri­ana, Longhairdon’tcare,… Read more »
June

Plus, I can see my hair grow­ing! Peo­ple I know keep mov­ing the bar for when my hair will stop grow­ing rather than accept they don’t know what they are talk­ing about and nat­u­ral, black hair can grow.

Kam

We are def­i­nite­ly not the only ones obsessed with long hair, as I dis­cov­ered when I stum­bled upon a thread from the Long Hair Com­mu­ni­ty, which is a main­ly white mes­sage­board.

Sue
Yeah, this obses­sion with length is coun­ter pro­duc­tive some­times. The west­ern ide­al is indeed long flowy hair but even amongst cau­casian wom­en, most don’t do much with it. They just let it hang. Our hair tex­ture allows exper­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent styles and looks. Why don’t we appre­ci­ate that? I have looked through many nat­u­ral hair blogs and videos and I think one can still achieve cre­ative styles with hair that isn’t very long. I can under­stand frus­tra­tion if you are at TWA stage and not budg­ing. But if you are at shoul­der length and still com­plain­ing, it’s not worth it! Work… Read more »
Nicky W.

Some­times I feel like my hair will nev­er get pass ear length :(

binks

Me and you both! I feel like my hair is con­stant­ly at ear length…like move already to the chin at least…lol

Aisa
Aw. Don’t wor­ry. It will grow. I felt that way when I had relaxed hair. It was always ear length and short­er. I couldn’t get no length to save my life but my nat­u­ral hair is doing much bet­ter for me. I was so hap­py when I got about 3 inch­es of hair. Lol. I start­ed hav­ing break­age and thought OH No. Not again! I nipped it in the bud with learn­ing about mois­ture. It helped so much with help­ing me retain and then pro­tec­tive styling took me far­ther. You will make it and you will be so hap­py to… Read more »
anastasia

It will Nicky W…It will =)

TaNeika
I agree with the rate. When I went nat­u­ral and I heard that hair grows about a half inch a mon­th, I was elat­ed! I thought in 2 years I will have a foot of hair! Ummm… not the case! While I am not upset, it will just take more time. But I have learned by mon­i­tor­ing my hair that my hair grows about 1/3 of an inch a mon­th, which means it will take 3 months to grow 1 inch! Which makes sense because 25 months post my last relax­er I have 8.5 inch­es of hair today.  .333*25 = 8.32. So… Read more »
karlyne

I agree with your for­mu­la 100% because it mea­sures my growth to a tee. 29 months and I am a lit­tle of 9″ on point of .33X29=9.5 so I fig­ure 12″ will be about my 38th mon­th or so. Thanks for the cal­cu­la­tions .. I am not .50 per mon­th more like .33!! Now I dont feel so bad :)

Kai
Well since race(physically at least) is just the appear­ance left over from when humans were still liv­ing out­side and adap­tat­ing to their envi­ron­ments to sur­vive better(for exam­ple light skin = more vit­a­m­in D, long, high-bridged noses warm the cold air more than a broad nose, etc. for north­ern Euro­peans) couldn’t it be pos­si­ble that peo­ple with short hair were bet­ter equipped for sur­vival in hot equa­to­ri­al envorn­ments? Fast growing/long hair might have got­ten in the way and make a per­son sweat too much then at night time they’d be cold and more like­ly to get sick. May­be there’s a gene… Read more »
keke

My aun­ty used to tell us kids when we were young that our hair doesn’t hang down but curls up so that it can be closer to god, that’s why he made is that way… how sweet (still nat­u­ral and always have been)

LBell
Glad you said it…and it’s always inter­est­ing how some folks IRL get upset when I bring up evo­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry, lol… Objec­tive­ly speak­ing, hair exists for a rea­son and it’s not to make you look cute. The coils and kinks of Afro-tex­tured hair were designed to keep heat off the skull while at the same time allow­ing air to get in. Past a cer­tain length it’s hard­er for air to get in (because the hair will mat into a cap) so it makes sense that it would be hard­er for length to stay, so to speak. (Of course, dif­fer­ent eth­nic groups in… Read more »
Sue

I think evo­lu­tion­ary the­o­ry might explain some of this. I have also thought that the kinks and curls in African hair kept the hair off the shoul­ders hence less heat. The wool­ly and dense nature of the kinks could also be a canopy from the sun i.e. less of the scalp is exposed.

renee

you ladies raise great points. In warm cli­mates, you dont need as much hair (on head or body). Anoth­er side of the coin is that my hair flour­ish­es (length and thick­ness) in warmer tem­per­a­tures. Dont we all already agree that we REALLY have to be care­ful with our tress­es in the win­ter? We were not made for the cold. It is not our opti­mal cli­mate.

Nikki

Often I’ve con­sid­ered this the­o­ry too about the ori­gins of kinky/short hair in rela­tion to Africa. Your the­o­ry makes sense until I con­sid­er oth­er hot/humid/tropical indige­nous peo­ple with thick and long hair e.g., Indi­ans (South Asians).

Miss B

I agree with you Nikki about non-African peo­ple who also live in equal­ly hot/arid/humid con­di­tions but have thick, long and (some­times) straight hair.

anastasia
Our hair is some­thing spe­cial but there are oth­er eth­nic pop­u­la­tions who have sim­i­lar tex­tures. The evo­lu­tion­ary based the­o­ry men­tioned is some­thing I’ve always given cre­dence when it comes to afro-tex­tured hair, but I got­ta tell you ladies some­thin’ that I’m a lit­tle ashamed of: I’m glad I don’t have straight hair (didn’t always feel this way), even though the hair I have needs quite alot of TLC to thrive and retain growth. When I see straight hair, same thing with thin lips, I think of chimps. That’s absolute­ly hor­ri­ble, I know, but my hair tells me dai­ly that I… Read more »
Chic

@ Kai and Sui

Yaay to smart ladies. That is my exact line of think­ing. The issue is when we assign dif­fer­ent traits, skin, hair tex­ture , eye col­or etc. as one being more beau­ti­ful than the oth­er.. rather than embrac­ing dif­fer­ences.

fimifah

One thing to note is that cer­tain traits are pop­u­lar not just because they are/ were prac­ti­cal for the given envi­ron­ment, but also because in that par­tic­u­lar region those fea­tures are/were con­sid­ered attrac­tive. Some­thing peo­ple ought to keep in mind in rela­tion to the sub­jec­tive nature of beau­ty.

Elaine D.

Yup.…I used to think my hair grew slowly…then I real­ized it was me caus­ing the break­age. One time after I had a weave for almost 3 months due to per­son­al issues…washing my sculp and mois­tur­iz­ing… I took it out one day and my hair had grown a whop­ping 3 inch­es (big for me) lol. I was amazed!

bee.

Amaz­ing post! Very infor­ma­tive…

One ques­tion though: How do you trim all the knots out? I have so many I don’t know what to do! I usu­al­ly just trim my hair by a quar­ter of an inch when my hair is in twists after I have washed it.

Thanks in advance!

Monique, Sofull Sista

I, per­son­al­ly, have noticed slow­er growth, I mea­sured my growth at ~0.4″/month. I will note that my mom’s hair grows extreme­ly fast — she cuts it ALL THE TIME (2–3 inch­es) and will have her length back in a few months.

All of the afore­men­tioned leave me to leave grow­ing my hair extreme­ly long to oth­ers for now. I just want cute healthy hair, and that doesn’t mean it has to be long for me! :)

June

I am grow­ing out my hair, but all I need is to be able to get into a loose pony­tail. I don’t want the work that comes with very long hair. My hair grew real­ly quick­ly when I had relaxed hair and I kept cut­ting it to chin lev­el.

adamson

I hon­est­ly think that it’s a lack of effec­tive meth­ods that leads to peo­ple not being able to retain length, rather than the hair being intrin­si­cal­ly hard­er to grow.

And how long is long? When I was a lit­tle kid, peo­ple used to call my hair long, but it was real­ly at a point between sl and apl (what it would have been then). I think that the black com­mu­ni­ty typ­i­cal­ly con­sid­ers short­er lengths to be ‘long’.

adamson

Oh, what I con­sid­er now to be long is hair between bsl/mbl and longer.

Amayou

To me long hair is past bra strap length and closer to waist length and beyond. They def­i­nite­ly need to run that study again about the aver­age growth rate for the dif­fer­ent races, mine is approx­i­mate­ly 1/2 inch per mon­th, while my sister’s is amost an inch. Nei­ther of is are bira­cial, we both have the same par­ents. There is some native amer­i­can ans well as cau­ca­sion blood in us but it about 3 gen­er­a­tions back. Inter­est­ing arti­cle nonethe­less.

Porsche

I’ve nev­er had prob­lems with grow­ing my hair. I’ve always had long hair except for right now since I bc’d in feb­ru­ary but my hair is grow­ing at .5 inch­es a mon­th. When I hit the one year mark in august, I had a lit­tle over 6 inch­es of hair growth.

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