Is Black Hair Harder to Grow?

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.


– 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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  • Kech421

    Am I the only one trippin’ about the fact that we have so many technological advances and have so many incredible discoveries about all kinds of major and minor things in the world but there has YET to be someone to take the time to study African hair and distribute that information world wide? Yeah I’ve found info on our hair through my own research because I’m 6 months into my natural journey- had to figure out how to keep it healthy for length retention- but most info is either personal experience based, not scientific fact based. Which is fine- it’s just strange that so much of this article includes the words, “it hasn’t been proven” or “it is unclear.” I know we didn’t always matter in America but we’re the only ones in the world with hair like this! This should be fascinating to scientists! Lol

    • Optimist Prime

      You’re so right! But, I guess with any kind of research concerning the body, it just takes lots of time to study. Especially since their are SO many varying factors when it comes to African Americans and hair. Like all hair, African American hair growth can depend on many many things such as (1.) type: 4b, 4c, etc. (2.) genetic influences (3.) care (4.) exposure to the elements (5.) hereditary or contracted diseases (4.) health of individual (6.) virginity of hair (7.) condition of hair after use of chemicals or relaxers (.7) history of possible weave or wig usage(8.) condition of scalp (9.) health of hair….on and on and on. And since the African American identity varies so much, you really cannot generalize their hair without considering ALL the factors and exceptions. In other words, it would just be a lot of work to study and get the facts on every single African American hair type. Not impossible, but very hard.

    • Kesha

      To be honest the way I see it is, it has been proven that the human body is the most complicated thing to understand. Not only is it complex but you cannot generally say the body acts in a certain for everyone. I am mean everything. No one hair, skin, heart, brain, and etc reacts the same way as another person. You could have the same reaction or two totally different reactions. Plus I find it to be a unique or special thing that hair is different from one person to the next because it helps people appreciate themselves more. By this article stating information is unclear or uncertain, it’s the best thing someone is going to get because the human body is too complicate to understand. And like I said not everyone is the same.

  • Lucky

    I’m just throwing mine out there. Hell yeah, growing our hair is no joke. It takes everything just to get that yearly quota. But no other race of women can claim that super fluffy, extra curly goodness. We have that gravity defying hair that spirals, curls and coils like it’s nobody’s business!

    It’s not easy but I’m trying my best to see the hair growth issue in a more positive light by focusing on hair health instead of length and seeing it as part of my natural hair journey. I’m doing all I can to have fun with my journey, but I’m not even going to lie, sometimes when I see some of those naturals with gorgeous super long hair on pinterest, my patience leaves my mind, jumps out of my body and walks out the door. :(

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  • imani

    I know for a fact my hair grows at a good rate.I don’t believe our hair grows slower.I belive the fragility of our starnds makes retention of that growth much more difficult. Over 2 years ago I gave myself some highlights, coloring random chunks from root to tip all over my head. But I also shed hair daily like crazy! I’m constantly surprised I’m not bald at the rate I shed hair! Anyway,just this year,I noticed the color wasn’t really faded ,it was just much rfurther down my hair stands.I finally realized my hair has grown almost 8inches in the last 2 yrs..yet my hair remains just at shoulder length & I colored it when it was shoulder lenght! What gives! Retention,retention,retention! I have to do all manner of things to keep the hair moisturized from root to tip& to counter the shed & breakage that happens daily. I was soooo sad when I saw id achieved 8 inches of growth but had nothing to show for it! It all ended up in my trash can over the last 2 yrs! I’m motivated by this new knowledge to learn retention. I’m not buying the bs that our hair doesn’t grow.caucasian & asian hair can’t be as diverse as ours.I love my vertility but it comes with a cost. We just have to learn how to combat the fragility. Its not saying every black person will have tailbone hair BUT I hate when I hear us say we can’t grow hair

  • Lol whether our hair grows more or less or stronger or weaker. our hair is high like a crow and there is no denying that. According to science; our hair is beautiful. That is science because it is. Do not question the science. I am a scientist now shhhhh let me continue my experiments >:) muahahaha

  • Aliyah Morrison

    Well the front and sides of my hair grows fast the middle and back grows slow but I am happy with the middle and back of my hair because I past my first hair goal months ago and on my way to my second hair goal .

  • Originalnaturalsista

    Almost every Caucasian person I know has long hair and doesn’t struggle to maintain length so I agree that black hair is harder to grow. It requires knowing your hair, moisturizing, gently de tangling etc for many of us to grow long hair.

    • more

      I agree it’s more complex to grow

  • Yeno

    finger comb natural hair… and work with the kinks and curls, not designed for it to be combed until it is straight. it is the yanking with combs that break the strands and keep it natural

  • Is black hair harder to grow? It depends on who you ask. I was surprised to see that many black women over receive between 3.7-4.3 inches of growth a year. I was wondering if this study even took into account that hair can break off and seem like it hasn’t grown much. What were the women doing to care for their hair during this study? My hair grows much faster than the rates in the study. For me, 8 inches of hair growth is a very very slow growing year. I normally average 12 inches per year. People ask me how and I have no answer. My hair just grows fast. All i do is shampoo and condition and do oil treatments some times. No gimmicks, gadgets or rigmarole. I cut my hair down to 8 inches at the beginning of the year, normally in February, and by the next year it is 18 inches (I actually trim 2 inches a few times a year). And I do mean inches. Black hair can grow and it isn’t rocket science.

    • »-(¯`v´¯)-»Belladonnia

      What shampoo and conditioner do you use? And how often do you wash your hair? What oil do you use?

      • Hi Belladonnia,

        I am so sorry for the late reply. I could have sworn that I replied to this last year. I wash my hair every 3-5 days. I have a bit of an oily scalp. I guess my hair type is like 4a/b. I’m not sure. The shampoo that I am currently using is Nature’s Gate and Dessert Essence Apple Ginger shampoo. I dilute them in a lot of water and pour it onto my hair when it’s soaking wet.

        I have also been oiling my hair with a mix of olive, coconut, vitamin e, rosemary and castor oil. It soaks right into my hair so I don’t have to worry about the oil dripping everywhere. But sometimes I just do a hot oil treatment. I don’t use conditioner all the time either. I know it sounds crazy but sometimes I just shampoo my scalp, braid my hair and just let it dry.

        So wash day looks like this:
        +oil my hair the night before or even a few days before
        +rinse my hair very well with water and detangle with a Denman brush while the oil is still on my strands (it makes detangling easier)
        +(opt.)add conditioner
        +shampoo scalp only
        +braid my hair under running water

        This hair regimen is making it easier to retain length and my hair looks and feels so much healthier. My hair has even grown some more. I’m sitting at about hip length in the back. I have really large breasts so my hair is only about 3 inches below my breasts in the front.

        Note: I find that the less chemicals products have the better they work on my hair. Before using chemical-free products, my hair would not take water or oil. Now oil soaks into my hair and water saturates it very easily. It makes me wonder if somehow using completely natural products has changed my hair texture or something. Hmmm…

        If you have any other questions I will gladly answer them for you.

  • They definitely need a larger group to study. My hair is naturally thinning in some areas because of genetics, but coupled with my healthy habits, my hair grows like crazy. I have to cut it close(about a centimeter) about every other day or else it gets too thick and feels like a wool blanket in this California sun. .

  • yes

    Black hair isn’t harder to grow. It’s harder or more complex to RETAIN length. People say natural hair is becoming more bigger than relaxed hair, nope. Relaxed and weave is a bigger that natural hair and we more are women with short damage hair under weaves being more common and the media pushing it, people still believe we can’t grow hair long, even Alot of black people think that way. I retained 5 inches in 10 months, which means I grew 1/2inch of hair every month. Which is normal growth. Something I though I didn’t have because of being taught our hair doesn’t grow.
    We have to stop followinghair care rules from straight hair people and people who relax and use weaves cause those are unhealthy hair practices that hinder length retention. I had to relearn my hair. Our hair can grow. Don’t be brainwashed to believe the negative lies white supremacy has taught us to believe!!! Stay woke.

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  • Anonyme

    I have been growing my hair without using weaves and chemical straightening for years before it became a bit of a movement among younger women in particular in recent years with blogs, videos, etc. I am quite a bit older than the young women who are interested in these things and promote it via the internet and social media. I believe that the regimes work for some, but others, who are quite new to natural hair, are living on the feeling of pride about the decision to embrace their natural hair which is all good, natural high expectation and belief in what one can achieve, which you see often in younger people, who believe they can single-handedly change the way the world is and sheer, innocent hope. In fact, it has been more like 20 years if I add the times when I had dreadlocks.

    My hair is below my shoulders, if someone takes their hand and stretches it out. However, without doing so, it is still neck length as it is highly curly. As far as I am concerned, my hair is not long because without any interference, it hangs not very far from my chin as it always has. I don’t understand why people call their hair that when it is not unless something has been done to it.

    I love the thickness, texture and volume of my hair. However, I do not like the shape, style and the way in which when I have just plaited my own hair with no extensions, etc, it immediately looks messy with wispy bits sticking out of it, even if I tie it at night time. I also don’t really like plaiting in extensions. It can look very nice but it is still false, so I am not quite reconciled to that idea either, even though I have done it to avoid the messy looks and continually redoing my hair.

    I regularly ask the same question: what shall I do with my hair? I don’t do anything particularly bad to it that should make all the longer bits of hair beyond a certain length break off and fall out, leaving the rest which is chin length. I am sceptical about this idea.

    Since my hair can be shoulder length with straightening only, I do not class it as “shoulder length” as this is not what it actually, naturally is. I notice one of the young ladies who is promoting her hair products 1. has a traditional husband and does not have to work and 2. she had hair like that since her childhood. Therefore, there may be some people celebrating something which is just based on a natural tendency. I am not saying that those with long hair that looks long are born with it, but I believe there must be a tendency and some of us just don’t have it. That does not mean we should not love, enjoy and take care of our hair to the best of our ability.

    Therefore, I no longer believe that the factors which make hair grow to shoulder length are totally within our control. I decided to just face the reality of the situation! Sorry: this might just be the way the world is.

    • Eve

      Do you comb your hair or wash it with sulfate more than once or twice a month? Because I think for us black women with type 4 hair these things actually are particularly bad for our hair. The “default” hair type has been type 1 to 2c everything after that has not been properly given attention in the market until lately. I am a millenial but so long as I remember I don’t recall seeing many hair products for type 3 and especially type 4 hair that was actually good for the hair and not focused on getting it straight. Growing up there was no question about combing coily hair, using sulfate to clean it etc… Type 3 and 4 hair tends to be very dry but many products contain ingrediens that make hair dryer because type 1 and 2 hair tends to be the opposite, greasy. So for a long time type 3 and 4 hair people were just using those products and then wondering why they had massive breakage it’s like someone with oily skin using products for people with dry skin, wondering why they are breaking out more. Har care has to be tailored to the hair type.

      Like combing is not for our hair period and there is really nothing “natural” about it when you really think about it. Our fingers can detangle in a much gentler manner which reduces breakage. I mean I do realize there are challenges with coily hair textures in retaining length and moisture but I also realize that most of what I thought was “normal” and good for my hair was actually terrible for it because of the texture so now black women and other women with coils and curls just know better and are doing better for their hair.

  • Eve

    I can’t speak for all black people but I know my hair does not grow slow at all. I grow around half an inch a month I know from years of relaxing and constantly having new growth be an issue back then I would relax every 4-6 weeks and I always had a good amount of new growth. I have dense hair too very coarse, the problem is retaining the length, my hair is very dry and brittle, high porosity (though I am not sure if this is due to heat damage or if it is genetic) and 4b/4c very tight coils. So I would lose a ton of hair combing and brushing, I am talking palm size hair ball every wash. i am surprised I have any hair on my head with how much breakage I had. What I think is most important though is not treating black hair like other hair types because it isn’t.

    So now I am starting a new hair regimen and for the first time getting serious about growing my hair. No more combs, no more sulfate (cg method), regular protein treatments, and moisturize daily. I think these small changes will make a difference because this is only week 1 for me and already I have way less breakage. I tried finger detangling for the first time with coconut oil and the difference in breakage was astounding, it was quarter size compared to the palm of hair loss I had when I used a comb. After that I did a protein treatment and my hair is super soft and coils actually show a curl pattern, so I am excited my hair seems to be responding fast. Wish me luck! I do believe black hair can be long just needs the right care.