4 Myths about Retaining Length in Natural Hair

By Chinwe of Hair and Health

It is time for another myth-busting session.  Today, we will tackle four length retention myths:

1. Protective styling will guarantee you length retention.

Protective styling done the right way will help with length retention.  Otherwise, there is such a scenario as protective styling that hurts length retention.  For instance, if braid extensions (or, even, sew-ins) are worn for too long or buns are worn too tightly, you can suffer breakage and even hair loss.  Keep in mind the tension applied to your scalp (including your edges) while protective styling.  Also, keep in mind how quickly your hair tends to loc or mesh.  So long as you know the limits your hair can take, then protective styling can work well for you.

2. The women in your family have shoulder length hair.  You can only reach shoulder length.

Yes, genetics is an indication of how long our hair will grow, but our ability to retain that length impacts how much of that growth we will see.  If my hair grows six inches in one year, but I only retain two of those inches, then I only have those two inches of growth to show.  The reality is that breakage (from chemicals, over-manipulation, etc.) can keep a woman at shoulder length when she might have the potential to reach mid-back or waist length.  This very woman may be your mother, sister, aunt, and/or grandmother, but it does not have to be you. If you master length retention, you can reach your length potential.

3. Trimming will prevent length retention.

This is not always true.  In most cases, severely damaged, thinning ends must be cut in order to allow for visible length retention of the healthy segment of your strands.  Holding onto such ends, which may eventually break off, will just make your hair appear as though it is not growing.  Additionally, severely split or thin ends can sometimes lead to damage further up the strand or pose a threat to healthier strands (e.g., by increasing tangling).  The only point at which trimming can prevent length retention is when you are cutting off fairly healthy ends.

4. It is very easy to retain length in Type 3 hair.

While it is true that those of us with Type 4 hair (i.e., super coily to extra kinky) may face challenges due the nature of our pattern, or lack thereof, length retention is not necessarily “a walk in the park” for those with Type 3 hair.  Texture (fine versus medium versus coarse), moisture maintenance, how you detangle, how much you manipulate your hair, the current state of your hair (healthy or damaged), and other factors play more important roles in the “ease” of length retention.

What are some myths you have heard?



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40 thoughts on “4 Myths about Retaining Length in Natural Hair

  1. The problem with protective styling is that it does not work on my hair. I have never seen so much breakage in my life, and I never wore extensions or tight braids, most of the time I only wore four braids to dry my hair or even just two. Some people’s hair is too fine to braid and for me the only thing I really need to prevent split ends is to moisturize and avoid oils as much as possible which contribute to more hair breakage for my low po hair. I mostly just use oils for hot oil treatments. My hair is hip length, trust me, extensions and stuff are not necessary. Leave your hair alone, I mean keep it moisturized and gently detangle with your hands every day, if your hair cannot handle braiding. I protect when necessary and for that a loose bun will do. I don’t think wearing a bun all the time is necessarily good. If your hair is that dry it might need deep conditioning, but choose according to your porosity level.

  2. number #2 is wrong, many BW dont know how long their hair can grow because of generations of mishandling. A lot of times the hair doesnt make it past shoulder length, women shouldn’t be discouraged.

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