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… 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… 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,… 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!… 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 =… 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… 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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