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?


Empow­er­ing wom­en of col­or to break bar­ri­ers. Cherish.Thy.Melanin.

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40 Comments on "4 Myths about Retaining Length in Natural Hair"

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Adriannan Nonyo

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.

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.… Read more »

Agree with every­thing u just said!!! Many u tubers won’t admit To always hav­ing long hair Often times I take their advise with a grain of salt. From my obser­va­tions it’s rare to see some­one start From Nev­er Hav­ing long hair to Grow­ing it long. Espe­cial­ly if u have 4c hair

She She

I agree with every­thing in the post! and good post! The wom­an in my fam­i­ly have fab­u­lous tex­ture hair, but due to ill car­ing and relax­ers etc, no wom­an in my fam­i­ly I have ever seen with long hair length. Although I know they could reach it! Now due to the car­ing of my hair I have reached BSL, a length that I have nev­er obtained in my whole life, in fact I didn’t even think it could grow that long! My goal is now waist length and I think I can reach that goal.

Wow, inter­est­ing dis­cus­sion. Eng­lish is not my first lan­guage! What I am say­ing is not­di­rect­ed towards any­one per­son­al­ly. I am con­vinced that genet­ics play a great role in hair length, because of ana­gen phase and growth rate. Just like genet­ics deter­mine hair texture,hair col­or, eye col­or, etc. Stat­ing that genes have noth­ing to do with it, does not make it “go away”. Now, I did not say that some­one who takes care of their hair won’t grow long(er) hair. The genes have always been there, you just weren’t help­ing them. I real­ly admire the­se girls for their work on youtube,… Read more »
In ref­er­ence to num­ber 4, while it’s true that one has to learn how to take care of their speci­fic hair type, hair type does help things along or make length reten­tion more chal­leng­ing in my expe­ri­ence. I didn’t want to believe this until I had three daugh­ters. All with dif­fer­ent hair types. My eldest has type 3c hair. Her hair has grown 11 inch­es in less then 2 years with­out pro­tec­tive styles. I am still amazed by that. I use the Curly Girl method on her hair. No tools, plen­ty of con­di­tion­er and olive or coconut oil. No but­ters,… Read more »

i am 16 years old and although con­tent with my hair want­ed to see how long it could grow. i watched some of those youtube videos and i have changed my diet (im thin but it was awful!) drink lots of water and take a-z vit­a­mins as well as wet­ting my hair every cou­ple of hours to retain mois­ture and oil­ing it at night. i can tell that in the­se two weeks my hair has already grown from just above my shoul­der to just past it! i can’t wait to see where this jour­ney takes me.


YouTube is the proof that Afro hair can grow as long as you do your part.We have infor­ma­tion 24/7 at our fingertips,so no excuses,I learned all my hair­care from the Inter­net.


YouTube is the proof that Afro hair can grow as long as you do your part.We have infor­ma­tion 24/7 at our fingertips,so no excus­es as one one always has an answer or tip that can help.


@Creatividual: Well said:)

Hmm. I think genet­ics and fam­i­ly his­to­ry do play a part but I also think what you do can coun­ter bal­ance some of them. Exam­ple: I have a fam­i­ly his­to­ry of high blood pres­sure, glau­co­ma and dia­betes. I know if I keep my weight with­in a healthy range, eat healthy and exer­cise reg­u­lar­ly, my chances of expe­ri­enc­ing those con­di­tions is very low. It’s all in what you do some­times that will aggre­vate or alle­vi­ate genet­ics. I feel it can be the same way with hair. My hair is coily all over, medi­um den­si­ty and the strands them­selves are fine. I… Read more »

I am strug­gling with trim­ming and my ends are giv­ing itself a hair­cut! O_0 I need to go to a pro­fes­sion­al or dust very soon before I get more break­age.

I know under­stand the impor­tance of trim­ming as I am watch­ing my ends tan­gle again­st one anoth­er and incite a full blown rebel­lion on my head. :(

Michelle @Radiant Brown Beauty

I think that looser curl pat­terns CAN retain length a lit­tle eas­ier but it’s cer­tain­ly not easy. You still need to engage in good healthy hair prac­tices regard­less of hair type.

I’ve found late­ly that Wash n Gos actu­al­ly provide me with a faster rate of growth (all that mois­ture being con­stant­ly applied). And as long as my hair is rub­bing (got­ta get that suck­er to shrink up at least 50%), it retains length no prob. How­ev­er, pro­tec­tive styling (gen­tly) helps retain some of that length.


I agree. Is that chin length with or with­out shrink­age?

I per­son­al­ly believe that it is main­ly down to genet­ics whether your hair retains length/grows long. My par­ents are from Ghana my sis­ter and I were brought up togeth­er etc. My sis­ter has always had long hair past her shoul­ders mine has nev­er got that far. Since Jan 2011 I have been imple­ment­ing length reten­tion meth­ods (my sis­ter canerows my hair or I keep it in the tuck and pin style) but my hair is still only chin length. My moth­er has nev­er had long hair either. Also, my sis­ter has 4 girls. Two of them have her amaz­ing abil­i­ty… Read more »


Ugonna Wosu
if you give the details of your reg­i­men, we might find out there’s some­thing in your prod­ucts, or some tech­nique you are using that still isn’t quite work­ing out for you. I see it all the time in the Long­hair­care­fo­rum. Your hair can cer­tain­ly grow longer than chin length. I do believe genet­ics deter­mine max­i­mum length, but I also don’t believe any­one is “meant” to be chin length. Black wom­en in gen­er­al have spent so many years not know­ing what their hair needs, that they resigned them­selves to think­ing it is meant to be short. Your hair has a lim­it… Read more »

I agree. Is that chin length with or with­out shrink­age? I am 4b and I start­ed retain­ing much more length after pro­tec­tive styling for at least 1.5 years. I stag­nat­ed at neck length and now I’m at BSL after 2 years.


Have any of you tried Hair Essen­tials to reduce hair loss and growth shinier, faster-grow­ing hair? There seem to be some great reviews on their site ( and pics on FB.


Hmmm myth…products will grow one’s hair.

I agree with all of the­se but I want­ed to com­ment on 2 and 4. 2. With the excep­tion of when she was preg­nant (in those pic­tures her relaxed hair looked to be just below ear-length), my moth­er has ALWAYS had short and very frag­ile hair. She has been nat­u­ral for more than 20 years now but has kept it in a TWA main­ly because of my dad, who’s old-school regard­ing his wife’s hair (but not regard­ing his daugh­ters’ and granddaughter’s hair…go fig­ure). My sis­ters and I have been nat­u­ral for almost 20 years and even though we were short-haired nat­u­ral… Read more »

I agree with every­thing you said LBell, espe­cial­ly the last part.

Peo­ple are doing like all straight, wavy or looser curl haired nev­er encoun­ter growth issue ( straight haired wom­an are the biggest con­sumer of those so called vit­a­mins for “growth” ) and all of them have beau­ti­ful hair just like that.


100% spot-on “reten­tion through cus­tomized care.”


thank you. i wish peo­ple would quit think­ing that with looser tex­tures comes an eas­ier time of detan­gling because for me that’s not the case. my hair snarls like nobody’s busi­ness, when you touch it you can feel the tan­gles. but if you are just look­ing at my hair and don’t actu­al­ly touch it all you’ll see are inno­cent look­ing big ringlets. thus peo­ple go “oh your hair is so easy to deal with! wish i had hair like that!” it’s like, nooo you don’t. shoot, i don’t. back to the flat iron i go!

I fig­ure that no mat­ter the hair type, each has it’s own pro’s and cons, and gen­er­al­ly if you don’t know what to do, all of it is frus­trat­ing. I find that my sis­ter who has med. hair with high den­si­ty and in the 3’s doesn’t have to deal with detan­gling she doesn’t have a clue about about a sin­gle strand knot, unlike my fine, 4a/4b hair. Thus I though when it comes to some­things it is eas­ier to have the looser curl pat­terns. Nonethe­less, have to work with what you have. Learn­ing to love it just the way it is!

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I retain my length by keep­ing my hair mois­tur­ized! I co-wash with Gar­nier Fruc­tis argan con­di­tion­er dai­ly to keep my hair tame! Hope this method works for you, too!


#4 I am proof of…Yes its eas­ier to man­age type 3 hair, but its all about HOW you man­age it. I have been tak­ing care of my hair the right way for the past year and a half and half went from SL to BSL. This is includ­ing 4 trims. Nice one BGLH!

Employ­ee Engage­ment or rather Dis­en­gage­ment! It is such a shame that in the tough times, cme­na­pios tend to think their employ­ees will nev­er leave them, no mat­ter how bad they treat them, no mat­ter how long they go with­out a raise, etc., since the job mar­ket is bad. No mat­ter what the econ­o­my is like, all employ­ees deserve to be treat­ed with respect. Why is respect a thing of the past? I see employ­ee dis­en­gage­ment all over now, like nev­er before. Hard work­ing, ded­i­cat­ed employ­ees should be appre­ci­at­ed, given a pat on the back (it doesn’t always have to cost… Read more »

“If you mas­ter length reten­tion, you can reach your length poten­tial.”

Interesting.…What real­ly deter­mi­nes hair length GENETICS or LENGTH RETENTION?!?!?! Thsts the mil­lion dol­lar ques­tion and I guess it all comes down to what you believe and the source giv­ing the info

I real­ly think it’s a com­bi­na­tion of both. Genet­ics will say how fast ur hair grows on aver­age a month/yr, and genet­ics will say how long ur hair can actu­al­ly get because of the length of ur ana­gen phase. I don’t want to make this too com­pli­cat­ed but basi­cal­ly ur hair has three phas­es of growth and it’s only actu­al­ly grow­ing dur­ing the ana­gen phase (that can be any­where from 2 years to 10!)Genetics play a role in the length of ur ana­gen phase. The prob­lem is a lot of your fam­i­ly mem­bers may not be very suc­cess­ful in retain­ing… Read more »

Hi Whats the ana­gen phase?

Julia P

Thanks Tasha.
Please, I would like to ask a ques­tion though.
How do I know my ana­gen peri­od?
Do I stop see­ing growth?
How long does the rest peri­od last for?

Sor­ry it was more than one ques­tion.


I was­nt look­ing for an answer just stat­ing that when it comes to growth you have to take the advice, the­o­ries with a grain of salt, cause depend­ing on who or what is giv­ing the advice every ones answer is dif­fer­ent. And I think its both GENETICS AND LENGTH RETENTION but what is more impor­tant is the key and I think it varies from per­son to per­son!


She took her time to respond to you and a thank you should have been your first respon­se.


This site is full of a bunch of angry black wom­en!! Damn why does every post have to be right or wrong!!!


every post doesn’t have to be right or wrong but every post doesn“t have to be agres­sive towards the oth­ers. some here seem not to under­stand that


Agree w Anne


Well said Anne.




Anoth­er thing about #2… some wom­en prefer to keep their hair a cer­tain length. My mom nev­er wore her hair long. Most of her sis­ters keep their hair at or above shoul­der length too. So it could be more about per­son­al choice than genet­ics.