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By Jc of The Natural Haven

I have previously written about the possibility of African hair actually growing at a slower rate. However it should still get you to one foot of hair. I think that there is a huge disconnect for us in the triangular relationship that is retention, breakage and mechanics (i.e Hair does not gain length because the ends broke off. The ends broke off because they were either weakened or were pulled with excessive force.)

Truth is many of us are not willing to accept that WE are the reason why hair is not growing. We want it to be genetics or a hair product. It simply cannot be our fault.

Going natural is not going to automatically help your hair get longer (especially so if your curl is tighter).
Here is what I have observed

1. Long haired naturals (with a type 4 texture) LIVE in twists or braids (especially so in the beginning 2-3 years). The basic regimen is wash, condition and twist up for 3-4 weeks (and even longer). Hair is out for a weekend or a few days and then back to to the 3-4 weeks of twists.

2. Long haired naturals with a looser texture LIVE in protective styles. They do not typically twist up for 3 weeks but would regularly do so for 1 week then bun up or wear off the shoulder styles.

3. Natural hair thrives in a heat free regimen. This is especially true for people with thin strands. People with thicker strands can get away with murder. Type 4 hair is usually assumed to be thick and this is simply not true. Some have thick strands some have thin.

4. Most long haired naturals rarely if ever use extensions.

5. Trimming is more important than people make out. The less damage you have to your hair, the less you need to trim. It is not about trimming a quarter inch every 2-3 months but rather about examining the ends of your hair and assessing how much needs to be trimmed and how often (i,e look for split ends!). Splitting and thinning hair ends will not gain length. period.

Meanwhile the most common questions that people ask when it comes to growing hair are
1. Which hair product to use
2. Which washing method is best
3. How to avoid ‘chemicals’ in hair products
4. How to style hair
5. How little should we trim (emphasis on little)
6. How should I moisturise my hair
7. How can I make my hair soft
8. What can I apply to my hair/scalp to make my hair grow faster
9. What should I eat to make my hair grow faster

In my opinion, people have used different products and methods in their hair care and still gained length. The fundamental similarities are what we should see instead of investing time on the differences.

The simple truth is that people do not want to wear 4 week old twists which have been washed weekly and are a little puffy and undefined. We listen to and do things that are not suitable for our particular texture (i.e we do not listen to our hair choosing instead to do what works for a different person).

Ladies, what are your thoughts??

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178 Comments on "5 Habits That Lead to Longer Natural Hair"

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What i’ve found to work the most for me that made a visible difference is in gentle handling. i have found that i can get away with handling my hair on the daily provided that i keep tension off my ends (manipulate roots- to mid hair only) and that i finger detangle (completely have excised the comb outta my regimen for the past month and the results are amazing!) exclusively. i’m now in the process of weaning myself slowly off of washing my hair every 2-3 days to stretching it to 5-6 if my scalp permits lol it’s used to… Read more »
I’m supposed to be taking a break from hair discussions but I HAD to come in here and throw bouquets of roses for this post…thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! 🙂 I keep thinking the disconnect you mention is resolving itself — because we’re supposedly more educated now that we have all this info online now, right? — and then someone posts about how braids/castor oil/eating raw lemon peels/having a Greek granddaddy made her hair grow faster and it’s like *face palm*… Growth rate largely isn’t in our control, but length retention absolutely is. Certain types of hair are simply… Read more »
Have to say I totally agree with you. I also suspect my growth rate is above the average especially when wearing 2 strand twists for weeks. I seem to notice more length retention when I wear them for 3 -4 weeks although I will admit that my hair actually starts locing when I take them down (there’s a trick though to taking them down that reduces breakage and tangles – water and coconut oil generously applied before pulling apart). I hate the way they look on me because I have somewhat fine strands but for me at this point I’m… Read more »

*…knowing that FOR ME fun does not equal length…

Former Dread

Also, just wanted to add: I have 12-13 inches of hair after taking down my locs. Is JC suggesting that this is virtually as long as it’s going to get for me?


I am going to take my chances and continue to rock my afro puff or twist outs. I just can’t do protective styles 24/7.

Former Dread
I am not sure about that first point. I am a type-4 natural, and wearing twists or braids without extensions for days on end results in knots and terrible tangles upon take down. Even being gentle in detangling – to the point of doing so by hand – does little to minimize this unintended side effect. I am starting to feel like point #2 is more accurate and relevant for me. Keeping my hair stretched and moisturized – perhaps set in big twists overnight or upeon washing – is essential to prevent all the knots (and SSKs). I then am… Read more »

check out my vids on dry detangling for how to detangle without breakage and tangles


you are so right hun! i tried this protective style twists one and it actually cut my hair because the shrinkage from getting wet and just humidity in general caused me to have so many single strand knots . Now,i either braid my hair at night or blowdry(once in a blue moon though) and rock it in the morning. I disagree that long haired naturals dont wear extensions cuz wearing weave actually grew my hair,i wasnt manipulating it and that led to a lot of length retention.

Well I have to say I have learned a lot in passed year, even though I have been “Officially natural” 2+ years and maybe actually gaining some length now even though the trims set me back by inch and half. It definitely has to do with what good for you not others. I am glad that I am starting to see some progress. I found that low manipulation (not braids) protective styles are the best for me boring as hell and not forgiving for human sleeping habits but definitely beneficial. I have started getting the time it takes to do… Read more »

whats this??? hair and skin tracker ?

never heard of this.,..


Id also love to learn more about his skin and hair tracker…i would so love one…

Joan B. in S. C.

hyspin, what type of phone and phone app tracker are you using? I’ve been looking for just that.

Sophie Ann
I agree and support most of what she said, but I have type 4 hair (A through C depending on the different areas of my head), and I do not “live” in protective styles; my hair has actually grown a great deal in the past year and couple months(7-8 inches). I personally do not like protective styles, so I don’t wear them that often.. If you have thicker hair strands like me, and want to retain length without protective styling, just twist/braid your hair at night after you lightly finger detangle with water, seal with your favorite oil/butter, and wear… Read more »
Sophie Ann

I also did a henna treatment once, and I noticed that it REALLY helped my hair be stronger and greatly reduced the amount of little wisps of hair that I get on my shirt when manipulating my hair. So that probably will also help with length retention. I now plan to continue doing those once every 1 or 2 months.

Michèle Thérèse

Yeah, henna is GREAT for our wig-looking-suoer-coarse-4c-hair lol

I totally agree Sophie Ann! I have 4a/b hair and am about 8 months post big chop; I transitioned for 10 months. My hair is about shoulder length when fully stretched so it has grown a lot! I RARELY wear protective styles, and wear my hair out 99% of the time. When I do wear updo’s, I take them down nightly, moisturize my hair with water and shea butter and put it in large twists. I cover with a satin bonnet and go to bed. In the morning, I take down the twists and create an updo. On the weekends,… Read more »
Sophie Ann
Yup! I completely agree. And like I said before, this may not work for everyone, but I have thick/coarse hair strands, and thick/dense amount of hair (people often ask me if I’m wearing a wig because I have SO Much hair per square inch..) I was just suggesting that for those who do have stronger/thicker hair, there is no need to “live” in protective styles; it’s honestly not my style either. My friends recognize me from miles away because of my iconic round fro, or my big stretched out styles. I think the lesson is, no matter what kind of… Read more »
I agree with you, Sophie Ann – and with Denise – I really believe it is all about what works for you! I wear my hair either out in curls/waves, or in a puff (which is great for summer and when I work out). I don’t like the way I look in my twists because it makes me look a tad young. 🙂 However, my hair has been growing because I take very good care of it. :-)I don’t know all of the acronyms for the growth lengths, but when stretched my hair is brushing my shoulders. I experience shrinkage,… Read more »

I would have to agree with Landry. I understand if longer hair is your absolute goal, but what fun is it to have to constantly wear your hair in protective styles? I like my hair loose and wild! I keep the curl loose by occasionally twisting, but a lot of the time I use a water-based curl cream to loosen it, and I wear it out. For me, wearing it protected all the time is like having candy and never eating it! Just my thoughts, no judgement on anyone-DO YOU LADIES!!!!


Also, I use indirect heat (hooded hair dryer) because I don’t have ALL day and night to wait for my hair to air dry, and I’m not to keen on beanies, and I’ve haven’t suffered any damage.


Landry, when I first began my journey I too wore my hair out and didn’t wear protective styles. My hair grew out tremendously but now that I am 3.5 years into my journey my hair has stopped at APL. I am a 4 b/c and believe that when you get to a certain length you will need to wear protective styles to grow it beyond that point..I do agree that the stretched method works as well because when my hair is stretched I rarely have any breakage.


I understand Shay, and honestly, I do look forward to wearing protective styles as my hair get’s longer. It is certainly less time consuming that twisting nightly.

The main reason I don’t protective style too much now is because I don’t like how mini-twists/two strand twists look at my current length, even in an up do. I look about 12-lol! It’s inspiring to hear a 3.5 year Veteran reach APL–I look forward to that!

I have thin fine hair and I protective styled with braid for my first 8 months of being natural but I noticed my edges were suffering so I stopped. I have been natural just over 1.5 years (transitioned for 2 months) and I rarely protective style and my hair is thriving and growing, it’s almost at AML. But I am starting to protective style with my own hair, I gave up on two strand twists but mine are so scalpy. Like Sophie Ann I am very gentle with my hair to the point where I only finger detangle and do… Read more »
Sophie Ann

I’m glad we’re on the same page 🙂 I don’t use heat either. I haven’t used it in 1.5 years (not even indirect heat).
A tip for the future if you do decide to go back to protective styles, try not to make them too tight because that’s probably what was hurting your edges.
Btw, sorry for asking, but what is AML?


Yeah, I’ve had APL hair or longer for probably 9 out of 11 years of being natural and until recently never lived in protective styles. I only do so now b/c of my busy work schedule. And while my hair has retained a bit more length lately while being exclusively worn in protective styles, that was never an essential component to me achieving long hair. I think protective styling can be a really important tool, but I don’t think it needs to be the exclusive (or even predominant) mode of styling to achieve long kinky hair.


I don’t think it works on “normal” (medium) hair either. It may also depend on the length you are starting with. My hair can grow from 0 to 10 inches without any effort, but to get to 19 inches (where I am now) I used protective styling for 1.5 years.

Sophie Ann

19 inches! wow that is awesome! Well for now I have not reached a plateau in my hair growth yet. But if I do, I will definitely follow the advice given here. I also like the way protective styles look on long hair rather than shorter/medium hair. So I’m sure you look great with your twists/up-dos 🙂


This may work on thick hair, but it doesn’t work on thin hair 🙁


I appreciate the note that not all type 4 hair is thick. You can have a lot of strands, but they can be thin in nature.


A lot of strands by thin, that is my hair as well. Something else I notice is that doing a monthly coconut milk hair soak made my hair less breakage prone.


This is article is spot on. I saw the most length retention when I would wear two strand twist 90% of the time. It works. It just requires discipline and patience.

Joan B. in S. C.

I would like more explanation on number 4. Most long haired naturals rarely if ever use extensions.


Extensions weigh down your hair and can cause traction alopecia (hair being pulled out because of tension) if they are too tight. This can cause hairs to be pulled out, and as a result your hair will be thinner. Edges are more susceptible to this type of damage.


MBL/WL “type 4” here and I’ve worn extensions at various points during my 11 year journey. My hair actually thrives with sewn-in pieces and braided extensions. Perhaps that may not be the case for some, but I don’t feel like there was very much support offered for that particular proposition. Would need a bit more evidence…


that is, the proposition that naturals who have long hair typically don’t wear extensions…

I believe the blogger, Cipriana also credited carefully done extensions with helping her regrow her hair at one point.

Just seems like a blanket statement without much support.


I see what you are saying. Extensions can be a protective style if they are done safely. The problem is that they are often done improperly. Another issue is the take-down process, which can easily cause breakage. In addition, hair that is in extensions is often neglected.

I don’t really have a problem with the statement regarding extensions because I’m a “long haired type 4” and I don’t use extensions. But I agree, just because I don’t do it doesn’t mean that’s true for most “long haired type 4’s”.

I have to say – I have worn extensions in the past, especially when I was transitioning and since I have been completely natural, and they have not done a thing bad to my hair at all. The only problem I ran into was using the same products initially that I used on relaxed hair. When I get extensions, I moisturize and condition my hair before and while it’s being braided. I also take care of my hair while the braids are in my hair, and I don’t leave the braids in long – no more than a month. I… Read more »

Long-haired type 4 natural cosigning to this post! :o)


+1 Long haired type 4 as well. It can be done. People ask me how it I do it. I tell them that I just leave my hair alone. :o)

For me this is unfortunately true. I have thin and fine hair so my twists always look scalpy and anemic (huge spaces between twists). Extensions tend to ruin my edges so I avoid them. I keep seeing these gorgeous pics of two strand twists in lovely styles but only on thick and/or dense hair. “Out” styles just look best on me (at least in my eyes). I’m looking for some sort of happy medium. I currently wear twists for a 5-6 days and then out for 1-2. Redo on day 7 or 8. I’ve just accepted that my hair retention… Read more »
Hey ladies! look at other types of protections styles in conjunction w/ your twist outs. Like scarves, head wraps, etc. I personally don’t know about keeping a twist in for 4-6 weeks (my hair wouldn’t stay in a 2 strand twist for that long), but i can braid it, and then wrap it. To be honest.. even “wigging” it would be an option. cornrow that up & wig it to prevent constant manipulation ( just make sure to keep it clean & moisturized). Thats what i would do. so the key is find a way that will work for you… Read more »

I have the same problem with twists, and my hair doesn’t like them anyways cause it’s a nightmare to detangle when I take them down.
I’m trying a mix of 2 strands flat twists and african threading and it seems to be working well. Braids are good too, if you find the right thickness (it looks a lot less scalpy).
I’d recommend trying african threading; check out the Youtube channel GirlsLoveYourCurls for tutorials (my Mum used to use this method on my hair when I was a kid, and I had quite long hair).


Thought that will look more scalpy….not to talk of how long it takes to detangle.

And yes, my twists also come out scalpy 🙁


I agree with you. This is how I style my baby’s hair (African Threading)and she is retaining length more than I am doing. I am going to start threading my hair for the summer and see if I can retain more length. I actually tried it a bout a month ago. It was very hard to thread my own hair but I just have to practice more.
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What is African threading and can I do it myself?? Or get a pro to do it?

Joan B. in S. C.

Taji, I found a link to a couple of youtube vids on African threading. Looks easy. I just have to remember to pick up the thread.


this is gorgeous!


I am the same way. My hair is fine and not super dense so my two-strand twist look crazy scalpy. I drool over and envy those thick full twist but I know mine will never look like that. My hair is MBL now but I have to be very delicate with it and I know that retaining length is more of a challenge for me than others with thicker strands.