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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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 »
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.