What is the Maximum Length Your Hair Will Grow?

Style Icon Aevin Dugas

By Jc of The Natural Haven Bloom

The scientific answer – or is it?

Many women will by now know that hair will on average grow for between 2 to 6 years. This figure is widely quoted as the average length of the anagen phase (when hair is actively growing during its growth cycle). This would therefore translate to a maximum hair length from anywhere between 8-12 inches (shoulder to armpit length) at the low end to 24 to 36 inches (waist length to tailbone length) at the higher end  This all assuming a yearly average growth rate of between 4 and 6 inches.

However what many people do not know is that the widely quoted scientific figure is in fact based on 2-3 small scale studies which account for as few as 2 individuals. There are in fact no studies which actually track a reasonable group of individuals over a period of years to firmly determine how long the hair growth cycle actually is.

Furthermore there is evidence that this 2-6 year widely accepted length could be considerably wrong. One interesting study which measured hair length of visitors to US theme parks and hair lengths recorded online on long hair sites, came to the conclusion that the average normal length of the anagen phase could be as long as 12 to 14 years. This translates to 48-72 inches at the low end and  56-84 inches at the high end. Both of these figures translate to a maximum hair length of below tailbone to ankle length and beyond. To be clear, this means that the average person can grow hair to well below tailbone even with a 4 inch per year hair growth phase.

The scientific truth is that the maximum hair length that a human being can achieve is not well established and human hair may keep growing for 6 years or longer.

The hair care factor

Hair length is linked to genetics but this only determines how fast and how long your hair will grow. It does not account for how well you handle it. Sometimes women look at other family members to determine how long their hair will grow but this can be hugely erroneous. If the vast majority of women in your family have very short hair without intentionally cutting it, it does not mean that their hair is incapable of achieving longer lengths. It may in fact indicate that the methods that they use to care for their hair cause it to break.

In addition, if you happen to be the only one in your family whose hair appears not to be able to achieve a longer length, the fact is that your hair texture is probably quite different from your other family members. It may be the case that the standard routine used by the rest of your family does not apply to you. This is especially true if your family is of mixed heritage.

Once hair is outside of the follicle, the onus is on the owner to maintain it. The less damage it sustains, the more likely it is to be able to achieve its maximum length (i.e still be present 6 or 12 years after emerging.) If you find that your hair keeps breaking at a certain length, you need to change what you are doing at that length in order to help it overcome the breakage.

Ladies, what is the maximum length your hair has grown?

J Cosmet Sci, pp 367-378, 2003
Journal of Investigative Dermatology , pp 65–81, 1970

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The Natural Haven

The Natural Haven

Scientist on a hairy mission!

  • Beth

    I would love to grow my hair long but I feel like because I have fine and thin hair that it’s not possible. Most of the naturals online who have grown their hair past bra strap length or even to waist length have very thick and/or coarse hair. I don’t know. It’s not a huge deal to me if my hair makes it past bra strap length (I’m a couple inches past APL) but I would love to know if it’s possible for my hair to get that long! :/

    • Cacey

      it is but some people have to resort to more confined styles in order to see those lengths. like, i won’t say i can’t grow long hair when my hair’s not loose, but it’s very hard for me to. i’ve seen the most progress in my lifetime, as in BSL and MBL hair, when my hair was kept primarily in braids and twist type styles without manipulation for weeks at a time. so you might be the same. I’m experimenting with this idea now to see if my hunch is right, but if it is, then this will certainly be a good technique for others to follow.

    • audrey

      Use henne neutre (sorry dont know the name in english) its a natural plant (in a poudre) its works very well and will make your hair thicker and stronger. I use it once every 2 weeks and my hair are growing way faster and I have so much hair now its crazy.

  • zyaran

    Well my hair has always grown real quick and such, but I have to be real careful of my side edges. Esp. after having my locs taken down, and they weren’t in good shape, after the stylist did her locs on me to tight. I will be back in the BSL after probably by the end of this year again. I was at MBL to BSL in 09, then I cut off my locs to 2inches, and now when stretched my hair is almost BSL. But I think it has alot to do with your genetics and such, to see if you are more than likely going to have alot of long hair or not, but then this is just my humble opinion.

    • Charlene

      I used to think it was all about genetics also. Wrong – I come from a family of (7)….5 are females and each of us has hair that grows differently i.e. 1-very very long & thick, 2-very long & thin, 3-short & super-thick, 4- medium & medium & 5-short & thin. My two brothers’ hair is totally different (1 being very thick but grows slowly and the other being very thin but grows fast!) Genetics may play a part, but I don’t think it’s the final answer. Think about it, if your hair is ear length and you retain the length while it grows at an average of 6″ per year – your hair would have to get 6″ longer as you retain it and so on. My biggest problem was that I didn’t retain any length due to it being so damage so it never “seemed” to grow. Oh it was growing, but it just broke off faster than it grew! As you can see – I love talking about hair growth. And I’m more than happy to compare any ideas! Overall I’ve learned to see my hair as a Plant…..it needs nourishment/water/sunlight. How much it needs depends on the needs of the person. It’s finally working for me. I just have a long ways to go to reach my LHG. Good luck to you!

  • Monisola

    my hair grows slowly..and it is really fragile. I certainly hope my growth phase is as long as six year! cuz I want my hair to be twice as long as it is now: just reached armpit length :)

  • zyaran

    Just saw that fellow youtuber “Naptural85” is 15weeks pregnant, congratulations on the baby..

  • Cacey

    longest mine’s ever been was mid back length. I’m on a hair growth journey now to see if it can grow longer.

    • Charlene

      Hi Casey! You mean that you’re on a hair growth journey to see “when it grows longer.” l0l :)

  • Mimi

    This was a great article. I’m not natural but I like reading the article on this site. I agree that it is total BS that black people can’t grow long hair. Being from the Caribbean and seeing Rastafarians with dreadlocks that drag on the floor behind them as they walk (true story, I swear!) it would shut some of those hater up quick lol.

    • LisaP

      Obviously, the answer is some Black people can grow long hair and some can’t. It’s just that simple. I went to an all girl school that was all Black. There was a huge variation in length of hair.

      • Suri

        it has to do with treatment… not genetics….. i live in the caribbean where blacks r the majority so i can see it… y so negative?

        • Charlene

          @Suri – I agree with you totally. It’s my understanding that it has to do with the Anagen (growing), Catagen (resting) and Telogen (shedding) stages. The longer the Anagen stage, the longer the hair. For example if your Anagen stage is 4 years and mine is 2 years, then you’ll automatically have longer hair since mine would begin resting after 2 years while yours is still growing for a total of 4 years and then go into the Catagen (resting) stage, etc. I have since discovered that by taking MSM, it lengthens your Anagen stage. That’s why I’m taking it now. Hairfinity also sells hair vitamins that includes MSM in them for the same reason. Since I just started taking them, I cannot give any results yet, but I’m going to give it at least 3 months before deciding whether to continue or try something else. :) Good luck to you!

          • Suri

            you too! i wish u all the best! we r all doing this together so we will make it :)

  • Charlene

    Hey! Why don’t we tell each other what we do to try and increase our hair length and give each other constructive feedback!

  • Amber

    Well growing up my hair was always short above my shoulders….Now its reach brastrap length in 2 yrs n change.

    • Charlene

      Way to go!!! Good luck to you Amber!

  • Benita

    Hi Guys!!! Guess what??? Today’s my 1 year natural mark!!! I am glad and excited to say that my hair touched my collarbone after i did the bc on july 31, 2011! who knows how long my hair will be next year? SL, APL, OR BSL?

  • Jamila

    I don’t think hair just stops growing but it does go through cycles. Also our hair texture has a lot of shrinkage. The first pic is of me with my straight and was taken in April 2011. The second pic was taken in January 2012 with my hair natural. I have a lot of shrinkage. I haven’t straighten my hair since the holidays last year so I’m anxious to know how much it has grown.

    • Jamila

      Apparently they reversed the pictures lol…the first pic is in January of this year and the second pic is from April last year.

  • Lakeisha

    Just love this forum and happy to be on it… looking forward to learning about what everyone is doing to grow healthy hair. My hair is getting longer BUT thinner at the same time… I do not use heat in my hair, no chemicals. thick at the roots but thin at the ends .. any suggestions ? thank you !

    • Chaunti

      Hi Lakeisha,

      Have you ever used heat on your hair? If so the thin ends might be heat damage from the past… it happened to me before.

  • I went to a Dominican hair salon in Sept and the hair dresser burnt my hair..now my hair is horrible. No longer do I have my coily curl pattern(really upset).I have been natural for at least 5 yrs, I have straightened my hair in the past there before and never a problem. I also colored my hair for the first time and have also experienced breakage despite keeping my hair moisturized and conditionded daily. Is there any thing that I can do to help with the heat damage the beakage and the problem spot. Currently I am going to braid my hair in the next 2 weeks. I also have a very weak spot at the nape of my neck, could be alopecia not sure, however that’s the only problem. Any help that any one could give me would be highly appreciated…. thanks in advance

    • Chaunti

      Sorry that happened to you :( our hair is sometimes easily heat damaged. the only way to completely avoid this is to not straighten your hair again. You could benefit from the Aphogee protein treatment, followed by a deep conditioner with oil in it. Try Oranic Root Stimulator mayonaise and then add your own oils. Deep condish with a processing cap under a dryer for an hr. Then follow that with a leave in treatment of your choice for damaged hair. Next apply moisturizer to all of your hair and let your hair air dry. Trim off the heat damage but leave enough hair to get your hair braided. Every time you take down your braids repeat this process, this should strengthen your hair greatly. dont forget while weareing braids to get the kind that you can wash at least once a week, and spray generously with , braid spray and leave in condish.

  • Chaunti

    My hair is combo 4a/3c kinky curly and the longest my hair ever was was waist length, colored and flatironed. It took me two years from a 1 to 2 inch TWA. I think it could grow much longer without flatironing or coloring it.
    The key to retaining that much length was keeping my hair braided most of the time during those two years, washing and conditioning my braids (only wearing them for a few weeks to a month / Crown and Glory method) taking multi vitamins daily (prenatals were good). When I did flatiron it, i made sure i did deep conditioners every 2 weeks and protein treatments, and used moisturizer on my ends (Ultra Black Hair Moisturizer).

  • Jone’t

    when I was younger I had long thick hair. It was just above my waist as I got older it has not grown but maybe an inch or two past my shoulder. It really upsets me, all of my aunts on my mother and fathers side have hair at least to the middle of their backs and longer. My moms hair goes to her waist. I take great care of my hair I have gone to barber school so I am familiar with the rates that hair grows. I keep my hair conditioned and I only heat style it maybe twice a month. I’ve had natural hair at least 17yrs, my hair is fine and I have one side that seems to only grow like 6inches and never exceeds this while the other side of my hair grows as much as three inches longer so frustrated. I recently died it a very light blonde from off black and most stylist commend me for the condition its in despite the coloring. It seems to grow fast, since I colored it I noticed it has been growing about an inch a month so I would have expected it to grow much longer. btw what is msm?

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  • cinny

    Longest my hair has ever been is arm pit length (current length) .

    Sadly I got my first relaxer at the age of 2. (yes TWO) and I never seen my natural hair until I was 15 and told my mom I didnt want them anymore.

    I am now 21 and experienced allot of breakage in my natural hair journey and my hair seemed like it wasnt growing from 2-4.5 years natural.

    I started keeping my hair in braids February of last year and learning how to moisturize correctly. And my hair went from shoulder length to arm pit length! Finally after all those years of breakage :)

    I also just stared to finger detangle :)

    The pictures I attached I was taking out my box braids but I took the photo after taking one braid out. One is stretched and the other is the same strand after I added water. Lol the shrinkage!!

    My goal length is tailbone length when stretched.

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  • Monique

    My natural hair is currently 12 inches and since I’m short that’s armpit length on me. When I had a perm , my hair broke off at my shoulders. My hair grows on average 6 inches per year. I am 2 years natural and I had big chopped 2 years ago . My next goal is to reach 18 inches by next year then after that I want to stop because anything more than that is too much hair for me . I know my hair didn’t reach its maximum length because it continues to grow but if it reaches 18 inches I hope it stops there.