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.