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 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… Read more »

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… Read more »

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


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.


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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 »

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.


Well said Anne.




Agree w Anne


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

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.


Hi Whats the anagen phase?


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.