By Audrey Siva­sothy, author of The Sci­ence of Black Hair: A Com­pre­hen­sive Guide to Tex­tured Hair Care

“How long will it take me to grow out my hair and reach my hair length goals?”

This ques­tion, and the many vari­a­tions of it, is one of the most fre­quent­ly asked hair ques­tions I get. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it is also one of the tough­est ques­tions to answer. Many fac­tors deter­mine the length of time it takes for a per­son to grow out their hair and reach cer­tain hair lengths. This arti­cle will try to offer some guid­ance for length plan­ning. As you read, bear in mind that the time esti­mates list­ed for grow­ing out the hair in this arti­cle are just that-esti­mates. You’ll see that by the num­ber of “typ­i­callys and gen­er­allys” sprin­kled through­out the arti­cle. There are just so many fac­tors that influ­ence when hair length goals are met includ­ing genet­ics, your anatom­i­cal struc­ture, and the lev­el of care and atten­tion you give your hair. Grow­ing out the hair takes years of con­sis­tent, dili­gent care. Though many folks are inter­est­ed in achiev­ing longer hair lengths, they do not real­ize the sig­nif­i­cant time invest­ment that is involved in grow­ing hair. Unre­al­is­tic goals and mag­i­cal creams and potions that promise faster growth results but fall short on the promis­es make it easy to become dis­cour­aged. The only tried and true method for grow­ing out the hair is good old fash­ioned time. Nev­er fails!

General Considerations

Hair grows approx­i­mate­ly ½ inch per mon­th, for a total of six inch­es in one year. This rate is an aver­age across races. Asian hair grows slight­ly faster than this aver­age, Cau­casian hair grows near the average,and black hair trends to grow at or just below this aver­age each mon­th. Genet­ics will also influ­ence how close to the aver­age ½ inch you get each mon­th. Ulti­mate­ly, the esti­mat­ed time length for grow­ing out the hair and reach­ing any hair length goal depends on two main fac­tors: each indi­vid­u­al person’s hair growth rate and their reten­tion abil­i­ty. A faster hair grow­er will always reach their goals soon­er than a slow­er grow­er if the reten­tion rates are the same. A slow­er grow­er will reach their goals con­sis­tent­ly over a faster grow­er who poor­ly retains their length. Two indi­vid­u­als may grow their hair at the same exact rate while only one reach­es her hair goals con­sis­tent­ly, this is an instance of an ends reten­tion prob­lem for one of the grow­ers. I often hear ladies say, “My hair is not grow­ing, no mat­ter what I do”-and for chem­i­cal­ly relaxed ladies in par­tic­u­lar we see that this is not true every 8–10 weeks when they are going in to have their relax­er retouched! Your hair is ALWAYS grow­ing, reten­tion may be the issue.

The Typical Process

Grow­ing out the hair tends to fol­low a cer­tain path. Gen­er­al­ly changes in the look, thick­ness, and feel of the hair come first. Usu­al­ly it is with­in the first 3–4 months of your hair jour­ney that you’ll notice the­se improve­ments in thick­ness, and this tends to hap­pen before you ever see any addi­tion­al length. The big dif­fer­ence in length usu­al­ly hap­pens around 6–8 months into the jour­ney pro­vid­ed you have been dili­gent with your hair care. For me, I start­ed my jour­ney in about June/July of a year, and noticed my hair get­ting thick­er around Octo­ber of the year. By Decem­ber and Jan­u­ary, I could see the length start­ing to come as well.

The timetable below is one that is sug­gest­ed by the lit­er­a­ture, but my per­son­al hair grow­ing expe­ri­ence has been dif­fer­ent with per­son­al set­backs, style changes, and trims all through­out my jour­ney. Be fore­warned, it is a very gen­er­al­ized timetable and not some­thing you should feel com­pelled to fol­low to the let­ter. I cer­tain­ly have strayed from the mark! Please note that this timetable is so open to inter­pre­ta­tion that I almost hes­i­tate to post it here, but some may find it use­ful!

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Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noel­lis­te, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop cul­ture and black beau­ty enthu­si­ast. bell hooks’ hair twin…

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155 Comments on "How Long Does It Take to Grow Out Natural Hair?"

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Monisola
It is real­ly impor­tant to enjoy your hair jour­ney every step of the way. Why waste so much time in your life being unhap­py with X or Y? I want mid-back length hair..but am only near­ing armpit length. It has been a long jour­ney with a plen­ty of mis­takes etc, but I made it a point of enjoy­ing my hair at every step–from TWA to full on dian­na ross hair. Each stage has its advan­tages! my twa was aodrable and soooo easy…my hair now is love­ly and full and jusssst about to flop down, so it looks awk­ward sometimes..my solu­tion?… Read more »
EG

+1

Nat
While I appre­ci­ate the gen­er­al sen­ti­ment of the arti­cle, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to grow­ing long, healthy hair. Yes, growth cycles and genet­ics play a big role, but some­times (not say­ing for every­one) its just like rolling dice. Case in point, I’ve been try­ing to get my hair to grow for about 2.5 years and just recent­ly saw a spurt in growth. I start­ed eat­ing health­ier and work­ing out, but most impor­tant, I found a very sim­ple rou­tine and basic prod­ucts that my hair loves and stick to it. Just as I lis­ten to… Read more »
Kachi
I, regret relax­ing my hair, even though I did so when I was an emo­tion­al mess! But now, even though the ladies and some­times Men “ooh & aaah” at my tress­es, I still long for my full unequalled thick Afro. I have a plan! ‘Have a half-relaxed ‘icing’ and half-afro under­neath #LAUGH#… I cant imag­ine chop­ping off my 5 year old hair :( . see a pix of my hair now, among my pics on face­book @ kachi bless­ing esther. Your hair has a way of telling you it does’nt like a pro­duct, just way your skin would react too.And genet­ics lend a help­ing… Read more »
Happy 2B Nappy

Thank you, this arti­cle was right on time for me. I bc in dec w/only a cou­ple months tran­si­tion so I have a short twa and although I’m enjoy­ing & embrac­ing this stage, I can’t help but won­der how long it will be by sum­mer… will I final­ly be able to do some of those fun styles or stuck in the wash & go pur­ga­to­ry :-) Think I’ll down­load this book as anoth­er resources in my jour­ney.

Naz
Don’t both­er buying/downloading this woman’s book all the stuff she says is free on the inter­net, I was bit­ter­ly dis­ap­point­ed when I read it. I’d been nat­u­ral for years before I found web­sites like this on how to care for nat­u­ral hair. The­se sites are all you need no expen­sive books with no colour pho­tos nec­es­sary. Last year Jan­u­ary my hair was just past the nose bridge between my eyes now it is past my bot­tom lip in the front. My back hair is like 4c and tougher to grow but it is final­ly touch­ing my shoul­der. I stick to wash­ing… Read more »
Lani

You go girl!

LOL. I am BSL. Always been nat­u­ral.
DJKSDNSD.

And I thought my hair was short.
I guess no one is real­ly sat­si­fied until they reach their hair goals!

Shug

Great job Naz! I would clar­i­fy “leave it alone”. I met a lady who left her hair alone under wigs and weave asked me why her hair won’t grow after 7 years. I told her, you have to mois­tur­ize and detan­gle your hair. I hoped she lis­tened, because it looked like she haven’t seen her hair in ages and that was just by look­ing at her edges.

Mops

hon­est­ly if you’re in it for the length, you’ll suf­fer hav­ing a twa. of course every girl wants length but they should hon­est­ly be in it for the health of their tress­es. length is a bonus to hav­ing healthy, nat­u­ral hair. not the oth­er way around.
if you treat your hair right, use pro­tec­tive styles, stick with a hair reg­i­men, cov­er it at night, and avoid heat/chemicals/coloring, you’ll see results before you know it.

Maturing Naturally

Hi Mops,

There is noth­ing wrong with desir­ing length and hav­ing that goal in mind with you start your jour­ney. Every­one has a right to make what­ev­er choic­es about their hair. If length is your goal, then fig­ure out what will it take for you to get there. Read­ing this arti­cle may be one way of doing due deli­gence. I would also like to say that this lady was very clear that she was writ­ing from her own expe­ri­ences. Every­one throw­ing “shade” is uncalled for.

merry

i’m not try­ing to throw shade at the author. i have this book (it’s a bit over­priced tho…)

i want­ed to know what her edu­ca­tion­al back­ground is. i’ve seen “health sci­en­tist” but at what lev­el of edu­ca­tion can you be con­sid­ered a health sci­en­tist — b.s., m.s., or phd?

nor­mal­ly, some­one with a mas­ters or phd will put it after their name, esp. on a book — audrey davis siva­sothy, m.s., phd, md, mph, etc…

Mai
I bought this book for a friend (long sto­ry short, I keep giv­ing her hair advice, she won’t lis­ten to me, so I fig­ure she will lis­ten if it’s in a book, lol). The book aggre­gates infor­ma­tion eas­i­ly found online and per­son­al­ly, it is great for begin­ners or those who don’t have time to spend look­ing online, and it has helped many wom­en with their hair jour­neys. I am not try­ing to throw shade either, but often have some ques­tions regard­ing her arti­cles. I’m not sure if Audrey Davis Siva­sothy is a health sci­en­tist either. I work as a nutri­tion­ist… Read more »
kim

I loved your comment…Agree 100%

EG

Out of curios­i­ty, why is it that what she writes is tak­en apart, but when JC post infor­ma­tion on this site, it is tak­en as gospel? I have found con­tra­dic­to­ry infor­ma­tion to what she post as well.
I’m not being sar­cas­tic by the way, just gen­uine­ly curi­ous as to what makes one person’s ideas more valid than the oth­er.

merry
for me, the nat­u­ral hair gurus, be they on blogs or on youtube have start­ed to annoy me a bit. the faux pro­duct reviews and mis­in­for­ma­tion about the sim­plest things is annoy­ing and some­times dis­hon­est. i’ve just noticed late­ly that there are so many self-appoint­ed experts on youtube for ex, who just because they have sub­scribers just talk about what­ev­er and give advice which is some­times just plain stu­pid, and of course unin­formed. hon­est­ly, i’ve got a few issues with jc, but i think she’s a bit more clear about her cre­den­tials. although i do some­times find her con­fu­sion. but i… Read more »
EG

I cosign on the pro­duct reviews. I hate that they get the prod­ucts for free and spend very lit­tle time actu­al­ly test­ing it before they pimp it out to their view­ers. The only one who I respect and trust when it comes to pro­duct reviews is Nap­tural85. She will take a year try­ing some­thing before she talks about it.

naturally matted hair
naturally matted hair

I too co-sign on Napp­tural85.

KWL0711

Agreed. She’s awe­some.

Mai
Per­son­al­ly, when­ev­er I read any beau­ty advice, I look at it under a micro­scope just because it may work for me and it may not (when­ev­er I see a youtu­ber use gel or heat, I keep mov­ing, that stuff is just no go for my hair regard­less of the sci­ence). I will admit a bias to Jc because I have been read­ing her blog since I went nat­u­ral almost 3 years ago. I don’t believe every­thing she writes, but when I start­ed out a lot of her infor­ma­tion helped me.  I have no prob­lem with Audrey either, if I were… Read more »
Munna

(1 comments)This is int­ntes­rieg.. I always have a prob­lem with my hair.. I always suf­fer from hair fall and no mat­ter what pro­duct of sham­poo and con­di­tion­er I will use to con­trol my hair fall prob­lem but noth­ing hap­pened.. So I must as well try this rec­om­mend­ed prod­ucts that you sug­gest­ed.. Thanks for this!

BrinkyDinks

I once said that on a nat­u­ral hair Face­book page and got slammed for it!! When I went to a hair fair back in Lon­don a cou­ple years ago, this famous tri­chol­o­gist said that as long as you are breath­ing, your hair will grow!!! I used to be obsessed with the­se forums and YT but not any­more. I think a lot of them make nat­u­ral hair more com­pli­cat­ed than it needs to be, and they aren’t always hon­est.

EG

That’s fair. Why don’t you con­tact the own­er of this site and post why you think we should not be so quick to cre­ate a cause and effect rela­tion­ship between nutri­tion and hair health? It sounds like you know what you’re talk­ing about and it would be inter­est­ing to see the feed­back.

hyspin

Oh and before I for­get also because the­se num­bers pro­vid­ed are based on math, one must take the total esti­mat­ed growth of the year and sub­tract the aver­age trim mul­ti­plied by fre­quen­cy year­ly. Of course this is under the assump­tion, that the hair com­plete­ly healthy and doesn’t suf­fer from break­age and sin­gle strand knots.

hyspin

Year­ly growth rate — (aver­age trim length x fre­quen­cy per year) = Real­is­tic Year­ly Length Reten­tion
:)

* Dis­claimer: this doesn’t take in account , changes or health or stress, break­age (result­ing from phys­i­cal manip­u­la­tion, dry­ness, hot tools, and chem­i­cals), your hair ten­den­cy tan­gle, Sin­gle strand knots, clogged pores, on set of hair loss, thin­ning hair (do to pony­tails, buns, tight corn­rows, weaves, exten­sions), dis­ease and ACTS OF GOD. :P

Thin and Natural

er…the arti­cle to did infer to take the info with a grain of salt as results were not guar­an­teed. Did you not read the arti­cle in full?

hyspin
Very infor­ma­tive (I already knew most of this). This arti­cle came just in time for me to bleach test few strands of hair in the back area of my head. “Why?” you might ask because the best way to know your actu­al growth is the mea­sure from the root, a fel­low BGLH fol­low­er gave me the idea. Once I know what my actu­al rate of growth ver­sus my reten­tion rate I can see how good or bad or speci­fic my sit­u­a­tion is when it comes to retain­ing length and rate of break­age. The begin­ning of the mon­th is a per­fect… Read more »
vero77

Bi

feel­ing real­ly mis­er­able 19 months ofgrowth — 2 years will be this May but con­vinced for the last six months my hair has NOT been grow­ing.

I have tried dying the back a lite brown colour so that i will be able to tell — But it was dark enough so con­se­quent­ly I could­nt see. i’m afraid of bleach — nev­er bleached before — as I always felt it would break the hair! Did u find the bleached hair dry and wispy? did u do it your­self?

Janelle Winkler

I total­ly agree about the bleach method. When I went nat­u­ral the first time in 2009, I had col­ored my hair not for growth rea­sons though. Over time, I real­ized the sep­a­ra­tion between the my nat­u­ral col­or and col­or treat­ed hair was sig­nif­i­cant. That ulti­mate­ly let me know, my hair was grow­ing.

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