4 Mistakes that Will Keep Your Hair Stuck at the Same Length

By Geniece of Beautifully Made

When I made the decision to go natural in 2004 I was under the impression that my hair would grow long and thick with little effort. My relaxed hair grew past shoulder length with relative ease, so I naturally assumed that with the elimination of harsh chemicals my hair would be stronger and longer. Now you think I was naïve but in my defense I didn’t have Youtube videos and natural hair blogs at my disposal. Armed with my non-sulfate shampoo, wide tooth comb and 5lb tub of shea butter I was ready for my hair to grow lusciously long. Well, that isn’t exactly what happened. My TWA grew out quickly enough but my hair seemed to reach a plateau once I reached shoulder length. I was stumped but not discouraged. I enjoyed my puffs and mini twists even after 2 ½ years with only about 3-6 inches of retention I wasn’t dismayed. In retrospect there are several mistakes I made over those years to which some of you may be able to relate. In ascending order here are my top four hair mistakes.

4. No regular moisturizing of my hair

The shea butter was fine to use but it didn’t add moisture to my hair. My hair was dry in between washes and remained so until I figured out that my hair needed to be moisturized in between washes and that moisture meant a water based product or just plain old water. Duh!

3. Hair Washing

I washed my hair like I was one of those models on a shampoo commercial. I lathered the shampoo by rubbing it throughout my hair and scalp without sectioning. Can you say tangles? I would then rip through my hair when detangling further ensuring that my hair never passed a certain length.

2. Dry Combing

I would almost daily rake a comb through my hair with no moisturizing product. I think this was one of my most damaging practices. The regular manipulation of my hair ensured that the tangled ends were constantly being ripped out, hence the lack of retention.

And, the top hair mistake of my natural hair journey (drum roll please):

1. Abuse of Heat

I did the occasional blow out without using heat protectant but my hair never seemed to suffer any visible damage. I even went to the salon twice to get a press and curl and my hair seemed to bounce right back. It took a really negative experience with heat for me to truly get the message that my hair care practices were nothing short of a hot mess.

The Great Heat Fiasco of 2007

In July of 2007, the most humid month of the year, I got the bright idea to flat iron my hair. I bought a ceramic iron, some anti-frizz lotion and after about 2 hours, using a heat setting of 450 degrees, I had a head of straight hair. I was rather proud of my results and wanted to maintain the look for the next two weeks. Because it was July I needed to touch up the hair daily, sometimes multiple times a day, with my flat iron set on 450 degrees. When I washed my hair two weeks later I was shocked to find straightened, limp hair rather than the fluffy shrunken fro to which I had grown accustomed. My hair was severely heat damaged. The damage was so severe that when I went to a hair stylist she questioned if I was growing out my relaxer before I could even explain my heat damage. To deal with the two textures I decided to disguise the damage by wearing updos. I slowly trimmed off the ends and by mid 2008 I was damage free and at about the same length I was prior to my heat fiasco. Although the experience was unfortunate it was a wake up call. I learned that my hair was not invincible. I also gained a newfound appreciation for my natural hair texture. I vowed not to do anything to compromise my texture from then on out.

This is a picture of my heat damaged hair. If I’d known the hair wouldn’t revert I probably wouldn’t be cheesing so hard.

After my heat damage experience I began to think more seriously about hair care. In the beginning of 2009 I thought about charting my length retention. I never followed through because I was so fed up with my hair. It wasn’t until November of 2009 when I decided actively change my practices that I started to document my hair journey regularly on my youtube channel and in photos.

Pressed hair in January 2009 (I don’t know if you can tell but those ends are raggedy.)

I look back on these pictures and realize that I’m glad I made these mistakes sooner than later. I didn’t like having to trim away 3-8 inches of heat damage but if I made this mistake now it’s possible I’d have to trim away upwards of 17 inches of damage. Ouch!

If you’ve been discouraged over a hair set back that you’ve experienced during your hair journey then take heart, you’re in good company. You now know what NOT to do and how to better care for your natural tresses. If you haven’t experienced the kind of setbacks that I have described then please, PLEASE, learn from my errors. Wishing you all a happy hair journey!

Ladies, what mistakes have you made that kept your hair stuck, length-wise?

For more of Geniece’s haircare regimen, check out her YouTube channel: Beautifully Made.



Island girl raised in the most royal of NYC's boroughs. Proud nerd, social scientist, educator and recovering awkward black girl. When not listening to NPR, trying to grow spiritually, or detangling my fro, I'm searching for the best shrimp and grits in the Queen City.


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222 thoughts on “4 Mistakes that Will Keep Your Hair Stuck at the Same Length

  1. I need to figure out detangling and moisturizing my hair more….trimming helps too…..hopefully in 2013/2014 it will grow! HHJ!

    • Something I learned a while ago that TRULY works! A the peak of the NEW Moon, trim your ends, even just a light health trim, getting rid of the split ends. I have tried this and it does work. Your hair will grow in faster BUT trimming at the peak of the FULL Moon it will grow back slower, which is good for short haircuts that you want to last by not having to cut it as much.

      • I don’t know why this advice received so many negative votes. It’s true, hair grows faster during waxing moon cycles. Many women of different cultures do this.

        • It got so many negative votes because trimming your hair doesn’t make it grow. That’s been proven time and time again. Trimming your hair contributes to its health but not to how fast it grows.

      • Cutting your hair well not make it grow faster. It can grow longer with trimming WHEN NEEDED. When you get rid of the unhealthy ends your hair can grow. Plus women of other cultures that you may be talking about can have a hair texture that is different th an ours and their hair may grow according to what’s in their genetic code.

  2. I’ve been natural for about 4years and my hair hasn’t made it past my shoulders. I do believe it is my moisturizing and lack of night routine…I have to balance that out. Thanks!

  3. Another comment I’d like to add to the tips for helping natural hair growth is to protect your ends from your rubbing against your rough and/or absorbing texture materials. Wear silk scarves around the collar of your suit jacket if not silky/satiny blouses or wear your an updo to keep your ends from rubbing against your clothing.

  4. I was up until recently guilty of hair wash abuse. My hair is layered with the longest parts at collarbone length. I didn’t think with my fine textured tresses and inability to get my curls into a ponytail meant it wasn’t necessary to section while washing yet. This weekend I was going to trim my hair again (I trimmed it two months ago- end of August), and then I decided to try sectioning while washing. Revelation: I didn’t shed really any hair even with combing through my sections in the shower. I also just got my moisture routine down so that twisting/protecting at night doesn’t totally flatten my curls or maybe they’re just long enough to (does anyone know the answer to this? or is it more individual preference on looks). I am concerned that I will be in trouble when summer comes though, when it gets too hot to wear a wrap on my hair on top of sleeping on my satin pillowcase.

  5. Very interesting post. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong here. I’ve been natural for three years and have been fighting the urge to get a texturizer! I have a teeny weenie tiny, itty-bitty fro made of steel wool, lol. I’m constantly moisturizing it when I’m at home and even carry a spray bottle full of African oil/water and comb because I know in 30 min it’ll look rough, dry and hard again. I don’t apply heat or anything damaging and I use a silk scarf. Problem is, my hair constantly falls out gets super thin, then goes bald around the hairline and edges!!! Like literally it “goes back” an inch or more away from my face and is very thin to bald!!! It doesn’t grow either. It stays the same 1 to 2 inches in length for a year or more. I can’t comb it of course without drenching it with oil and water, and without a car in the winter–it’s very cold and uncomfortable. Unless I’m constantly applying water and oil to it, it looks awful. And I’m not saying this cuz I hate my hair: other friends and family, even coworkers asked me was I DEPRESSED cuz they thought I just rolled out of bed and didn’t comb my hair! They didn’t know I’d just spent plenty of time on it just 20 minutes ago. When my hair dries it literally looks like that of a homeless man.  I use natural products and hot oil as suggested but NOTHING. Any suggestions?

    • Girl, your story touched me. Here’s the thing about going natural: a lot of us do it bc we yearn to just be free and want to find the beauty in our unmanipulated hair. Thing is, how “pretty” we feel on a daily basis and how our friends and family view us are still relevant. All this to say, natural is GREAT but u need to focus on find a few go-to STYLES that work for your hair! You will be happier with your hair. I’d suggest using setting lotion (or Paul Mitchell foaming pomade!) on top of moisturized, wet hair, and doing weekly (or 2x weekly) flexi rod sets. Then seperate the curls with ur fingers & dress up your curls with a headband/scarf/flower/whatever! I also learned that cornrows (but NOT loose braids, think my hair can’t handle the weight) make my 4c fine hair grow like a weed, so Marley hair crochet braids or full head sew in weaves are a great protective style that encourages growth (just keep ur real hair well oiled under there!). I also gotta say that I think there IS such a thing as a short hair gene. Even with impeccable hair habits u may never have back length hair. Only time will tell, as u learn more about ur hair. But if u find some styles that make you feel beautiful, then the length won’t be so important to you. Good luck! You’ll get it, don’t give up.

      • One more thing. Like mine, your hair sounds highly porous. That’s why it won’t hold moisture. Look for products aimed at remedying ur porosity issues.

    • Anni B- have you tried adding conditioner of your choice to your African oil/water bottle, or some kind of styler (like Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie)? It may be just the moisture boost your hair needs- I started opposite. Couldn’t keep moisture with my conditioner/water spritz combo, but now that I have all three in my bottle I can retain moisture and I have less tangles. Also, if you can afford to, maybe try a different oil? My hair felt weird with castor oil but I love flaxseed oil in my hair (recent revelation for me so it popped into the forefront of my mind). It also sounds like you could have some underlying health issues/diet issues (possibly)- if you haven’t made sure that isn’t a problem it may be a solution. You see, my Mom has an underactive thyroid gland, which untreated can cause dry, brittle hair that easily breaks like what you’re describing. If you already have a varied, healthy diet, and are somewhat active i.e. get at least 30 mins. of activity 3 days/week min. it may be something to look into or something like that. Good Luck! HTH.

      • Lori thank you honey! I’m going to try your suggestions. And the doctor thing, yeah I’ve got to do that. I’ve been trying and actually, the last visit I had for another issue I was given a test for overactive bladder. I’m still waiting for the results. I’ll let you know what it says.

    • Hey Anni! Jamaican Black Castor Oil is a really good and inexpensive product. I also mixed it in my spray bottle with water and sometimes with olive oil all together. I been using it now since March of this year.

    • You really should see a doctor. If you’re doing all the right things and nothing is working there may be something off within you. Have your doctor do a full work up to see where you may be lacking.

      • Drea that’s not the first or second time I’ve heard that! You’re so right! I’m really concerned and I’ve actually been trying to see a doctor about this and othe issues for months now. Thanks for your concern! God bless!

        • Anni – Not sure whats been done since your post as this is old but I definitely agree. That’s how I found out I was allergic to anything with Shea in it. I have stress induced Eczema and for some reason Shea butter stresses my skin out to the point where it will break me out in the worst Eczema rash ever. My dermatologist was able to help me figure that out and monitor more closely what I was using on both my skin and my hair. Good luck!

    • Try adding glycerin to the water mixture. I have 4c hair . And wAter and oil alone doesn’t help. After i discovered vegetable glycerin my hair actually feels nice and soft. I spritz my hair with the mixture every other day. I even added glycerin to my other hair creams and it works wonders. Try it!!

    • Are you wearing puffs? or your hair out? You might want to keep it in protective styles like french braids, twist conrows etc. At least with those styles your hair won’t look like it hadn’t been combed.

      • It’s VERY short. Like an inch off my head. I can’t do anything with it cuz it hasn’t grown in 3 years. I’d. LOVE to wear it in those styles, actually. I can’t because my hair is too short to grip and my edges are too thin. *sigh*. I guess it’s back to wigs for a while.

      • The LOC method has really worked well for me. You can look it up on YouTube but you just use a liquid to dampen your hair, oil on top, then a cream product. Don’t lose hope, but don’t lose your mind over it either. Wigs might allow your hair to rest but be careful with your edges.

  6. The last time I relaxed my hair was in May of 2013. I’ve had two sets of braids since June. I just took the second ones out this week, and now I’m kind of stuck on what to do with it. I don’t want to relax it anymore because it’s damaged and fragile enough already, though it seems like its grown a little longer and thicker since it was in braids. I just want it to keep growing and I’m completely clueless as to what kind of products or routines I need :/

  7. I stopped relaxing in November & it’s been the struggle ever since. I’m 16 & have nice natural hair. I’m just still trying to figure out the moisture part because my scalp seems to ALWAYS be dry and itchy after about 2 days. Idk if I’m using enough oil as a sealant and I’m still struggling to find the right hair products for my hair. I’m using Africa’s best organics products but I don’t think their shampoo is helping me since it has sulfates. I just brought Ors hair repair sulfate free shampoo & their conditioner. Hopefully it’ll work for me. My hair is past my shoulders, but continues to break. My natural hair is still growing out fine though (weirdly enough. I can’t wait to be past this transitioning stage & have a huge afro of curls!!

  8. [img]http://blackgirllonghair.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/1380739_10153312885430315_1339081399_n-1.jpg[/img]
    How do I get pass this lenth? It keeps breaking.

  9. Hey Anni, Idk if you are still around, but did you go to the doctor? My hair was breaking off last year and I was doing all the right things, I even only used heat once and my hair was breaking, I have a couple of health issues, so maybe we are on the same boat, beginning of this year I increased my protein intake, I found out that when your body lacks protein it rations proteins and so your hair can be weak and break off, I have also added henna treatments and by far the best thing I have done to my hair, so far this year I have done 8 treatments and also keep a diary to note my health and hair changes.

    I have had a lot dissapointments with my hair and length, I mean I do everything right but I get no results :'( , anyway my new regimen and diet changes have helped my hair and health, I am still a bit sick, so far my shedding & breakage has reduced, I am afraid of keeping my hopes us but so far so good, please I hope you check with a doctor, sometimes it feel like I am figthing a losing battle but dont give up.

  10. I can talk about this now, almost two years into my own journey. I decided I would no longer put chemicals in my hair and started my transition to grow out both my last relaxer and permanent hair color. I had noticed that it was so damaged it just wouldn’t budge. It had hit a standstill at my chin when curly and stretched out shoulder length. I was determined to get it past my shoulders. So now, it is finally, right at my shoulders curly and when stretched out at the top of my breasts. And it seems like the more it grows the more it will shrink. My curl pattern has changed significantly and I know this is due to how healthy it is now. When it was dry and damaged my curls were more in the 3b range and weren’t “tight” at all. My curls can now be classified as 3c. So now, the shrinkage is real but the strands look healthy and moisturized. Anyway, I stopped by to thank you for writing this and posting it. It helped me a lot back when I was irritated at not seeing any length. Trying to figure out why how I would normally care for it wasn’t working. I found through trial and error that I can use certain oils, others I can’t. It hates anything with Shea butter in it. I have been through just about every sulfate free shampoo on the market just to find out that it likes 100% organic shampoo only. I must lock in the moisture daily by using something like Aloe Vera Gel or a liquid based sealant. It loves that. Overall, I have to use a variety of various moisturizers to keep it happy. I also have to switch my shampoos and conditioners about every two to three months. So I have two to three that I alternate back and forth between. It seems that my hair and I have finally fallen back in love with each other. I stopped worrying about what everyone else was doing and experimented until I found what works for my unique hair. My hair went from shedding excessively to minimally within a few months and I haven’t had to get a trim since last year. No split ends and no new damage. Thank you!

  11. For me the only one I am guilty of is not moisturising as often as I should. I do it daily but I’m meant to do it twice a day morning and night because I live in the UK and the climate here is very up and down. Also one missing from the list is irregular trimming. I trimmed maybe once a year and I did it myself – big mistake! I also trimmed while my hair was natural and it is always better to go to a stylist and have it pressed and then trimmed so they can see. I am now making sure I do that every 3 months at least.

  12. I used to cost my hair with vaseline and use the hot comb. Daily. One day I set the stove top hot and as I straightened my bangs it turned to ash. I gave the comb back to my mother and never used it again!!! I was in high school.

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