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By Jc of The Natural Haven Bloom

It is a sad fact that there is an inherent fear among many women that their hair simply cannot get past a certain length. Many fear their hair may never get past chin or shoulder length. This fear is reinforced in part because natural hair can easily get stuck at this length due to constant breakage.  This article is all about getting clear knowledge about terminal length.

Does a terminal length exist?

Yes terminal length exists and we have all seen the proof in the form of shed hair. This hair would not be falling out of the scalp naturally unless it had come to the end of its growth cycle. There is no doubt about the existence of a terminal length, hair does stop gaining length at a point and will then shed.

Is there a way to determine how long hair will keep growing?

No there is no proven way to determine this. Some blogs and forums do have calculated numbers based on shed hair but this is not scientific in any way. The truth is even in science, it is not clear what is an average amount of daily shed hair for a human being. Some say 100 a day but some tests have shown daily shedding rates as low as 30.

How long will hair keep growing and how long will it grow?

Many people will quote hair as having a 3-5 year growth phase. This is actually a scientific guess and not a fact, some other studies suggest hair could keep growing for over a decade.  For growth rate, the lowest estimate of hair growth rate is around 4 inches per year. Putting the lowest figures together, the shortest hair length is 12 inches in 3 years.

So is 12 inches the maximum possible length?

No, it is the lowest possible guess that your hair can grow up to.  12 inches of hair is not short at all though, as Loo said in her previous article, this can be APL or BSL for some women. I would suggest claiming those 12 inches and then seeing what more you can gain. Clearly if your hair gains even half an inch over those 12 inches, the fact is that your hair has not reached its terminal length. Many naturals will already see that their hair gains more than 4 inches during the first year after transitioning which is something that should not be disregarded in future years when growth will be affected by possible breakage of older hair.

What if no one in my family has ever had long hair?

Genetics do play a role in how long your hair will grow but curly and kinky natural hair is unique in the fact that hair breakage is a prevalent issue. If poor techniques are used within a family to maintain this type of hair, the real length of hair may never be showcased. It is a very common quote to hear naturals say, ‘This is the longest my hair has ever been.’  This is a testament to the fact that once they hit the right techniques, routine and product combinations, hair can gain and maintain length as it has never done before.

What if my hair has been stuck at neck length for over 6 months?

I suggest reading this previous article on hair plateaus to know how to deal with that.

Ladies, have you exceeded your expectation of how long your hair could grow? How did you do it?

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69 Comments on "Understanding Terminal Length and Predicting Hair Growth"

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Shannon Dominique Bax
Shannon Dominique Bax
When I was little the longest my hair was down to the middle of my back. Which I guess is considered Bra Strap Length. Now genetically, on my dad’s side of the family I have an aunt and a cousin that used to have wear hair naturally all the way down to a little passed their butts. Which was either, “Classic Length.” Or, “Thigh Length,” and that is my goal nowadays every single day with my relaxed hair, and it’s really in it’s best health!!! What I do on a daily basis is I co-wash with only a cheap conditioner,… Read more »
Leah

I’m at a full shoulder length when stretched . I’m a year and a half natural . My goal is armpit length . My grandma has bra strap length hair . My other cousin is between arm pit and bra strap . Also my hair grew 7 to 8 inches when stretched in a year so I know I can achieve arm pit length by my 2nd year natural . I protective style 90 percent of the time . I wear braided updos .

mymy
I’m no hair expert but I do know that terminal hair length is the length of healthy hair your body will naturally grow not to be confused with the length of healthy hair your body can substain. Meaning that even if your hair stays at certain length for a long period of time you still may not have reached your terminal length you may have just reached the limit of healthy hair that your body can substain. Hair growth is influenced by a number factors ranging from care to genetics all the way to what you eat. And many of… Read more »
Kashmere
We know terminal length by shed hair apparently. But after I BCd I had 1 & 2 inch shed hairs that had reached the end of their cycle then. Now my hair is probably somewhere between 12 & 14 inches (In some places) I have 12-14 inch shed hairs that have reached the end of their cycle now. So I couldn’t very well predict my terminal length just by the length of my shed hairs. If I ever reach 16 inches I’ll have 16 inch shed hairs reaching the end of growth at a much longer length than a couple… Read more »
veronika
So… im half black half white and my hair used to be a couple inches past my armpit stretched when i was little. But in 6th grade i started to flat iron it, usually without heat protectant ( my mom didnt tell me. Now in august i will be a junior… also, in 8 th grade i went through this weird phase of getting my hair, biting a little piece off, and spitting it out.. i did thsr in the front of my hair, mostly , for about 5 months. In those five months i probably lost 4 inches of… Read more »
Perla Gisselle

My hair is the longest it’s ever been. I’m guessing 2 more years and I’ll be at mbl.

Aliyah

If I can get 12 inches in 3 years I’ll be the happiest girl in the world .

lorrwill

When I was maintaining relaxed hair I calculated my hair grew about 3/8″ (1cm) per month. So I am with you, if I can get 12 inches of healthy, natural hair in 36 months, I will be stupid happy.

Aliyah

After 10 months of transitioning and after I big chopped on that 10th month when I stretched my hair I saw I gained 3 inches . I measured it . With shrinkage to people I have over an inch . Im not measuring my hair again untill February of next year . I’m hoping to get to 4 inches with shrinkage by that time and 6 inches when stretched pulled out .

Selene

I have exceeded my hair’s normal (but not my expectations). My hair was always short and no matter what I did, it would not grow. I started drinking a lot more water daily, taking a multi-vitamin and hair supplements, exercising, massaging my scalp nightly, Inversion and GHE. As a result, my hair has exceeded my normal hair length. My expectations are for my hair to grow at least 12″ per year or more. I know it sounds crazy, but at the rate that my hair is now growing, I would not be surprised at all.

Paula

Pure genetics !! Plain and simple

druidbloke

nope

Jazzmen
As a child, the longest my hair has been was to chest. Yet I could not tell if it was genetics that caused my hair not to grow past neck length before i went natural. I think since I know the longest length my hair has ever gotten I believe genetics would not prevent me from getting the length I desire. After my hair would not grow a certain length when I was still getting perms, I used Dr. Miracle to help grow past neck length. If i come across the problem again I will use that line. I also… Read more »
Yanalee
Well I am not sure but I think genetics plays a big role me n my little sister have different dads n the biggest difference between us is my hair it grows n grows no matter what I do to it grows especially if I leave it alone .. Now hers on the other hand breaks n breaks n she treats her hair better than I did ! Now I cut my hair to the Rihanna cut let’s say 6 inches I had on my head oct 2011 it’s now April 2014 n my hair is exactly 21 inches(do the… Read more »
Nikki
The longest my hair has been is at the bottom of my breasts. I cut it short (right below my ears) and it grew back. Then I cut it again below my ears when I was 19 and it grew back ever so slowly to shoulder length. I’m now 23 and it’s still shoulder length. I’ve trimmed it a few times hoping getting rid of the split ends would help it but it didn’t. I haven’t cut or trimmed in 2 years now and it hasn’t grown at all. I have untreated hypothyroidism due to financial issues. And I stopped… Read more »
Asp

try menstruation teas , tsp apple cider vinegar drank everyday with some honey in it, eggs are great too maybe a little calcium vitamins

Mary

Your hair is longer when you’re a child because your body is smaller.

Terminal length does exist: Every other creature that walks the planet. has genetic expression and so do we. Think of cats! Some are Persian longhairs, some have very short or even NO hair. It’s DNA folks. Problem is that too many companies make too much money by promising hair growth from their products. (Ahem pantene) ..

Sharn

Man, my terminal length is about halfway down my back, but I don’t ever see it changing. My family has the unfortunate circumstance of living with a werewolf, the shed hair is that bad. And the frizziness that results, ugh!
I switched from regular old supermarket shampoos to Argan Oil stuff, which has brought down the frizz and volume considerably (Ever met someone whose hair stands out so much it’ll sit naturally at 90 degrees to vertical?!). But there’s just too much of it. Too much. And it all falls out super-quick.

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[…] and money making again! They say these products will facilitate Rapunzel length while we all know terminal length is […]

Karmen

My goal is to grow mega longer hair everyday and My hair products are texturizers, super grow hair grease, shampoos, conditioners, hair growing supplements, etc. accept relaxers.

Anna

No if your hair was longer and thicker before it can be long ever longer then ever . Long story short you may not be handling your hair with proper care. I would look on youtube and learn on protective styling conditioners and moistuirizer your oils… Go on long hair care jounery….. curly nikki there is a lot on the internet to find why your hair is growing

Rell

This may be a silly question, but does your terminal length ever change? My hair when I was younger was super long and thick and now it’s stuck at my shoulders. 🙁

Claudia

Terminal lenght never change pretty 😀

Katrina

I did the big chop and only had about an inch of hair. I am at 2 & 1/2 years natural and my hair is already to my collard bone. That’s the longest my hair had ever gotten when it was relaxed. I have no doubt it will continue to grow longer because I know how to take care of it now. Relaxed or natural you just gotta know what your hair needs to grow.

T.K.

Terminal length is yet another myth. Hair grows constantly. Even after you die your hair and nails still grow. The problem is improper hair care and even more importantly lack of hydration and nutrition.

Alanna

Hair and nails growing after death is also myth. The allusion of “growing” is actually due to the skin shrinking and retracting as the body behind to decay.

imani
Right now I’m trying to NOT ACCEPT that my hair won’t grow past neck length. I’m in a holding pattern bc the back of my hair is more coarse& it appears really dry & I have breakage. Sometimes I could just be doing nothing a random curl will fall right in front or me. You can see lots of little coils of hair in my carpet bc they fall often & randomly so I vacumm often! I’m trying to give my hair more attention TLC like mositurizing daily,finger combing, deep condish& knowing what products my hair likes (glycerin,shea,etc) & its… Read more »
Lorraine
I don’t know what your hair type is but believe it or not I think a lot of naturals have issues with the carpet or “kitchen” area breaking. Try applying coconut oil, avocado oil, or extra virgin olive oil there daily – perhaps twice daily. I read those are the only oils that penetrate inside the hair shaft. Also make sure you are not pulling your hair too tightly back there when you are doing ponytails, buns, etc. Check the back of your hair in a hand mirror with the large mirror behind you. Or take a photo of the… Read more »
vero77
God i loved buns! it was my first class protective style! Then six months ago i saw a bald patch in the top right side of my head… it was just that area.. then i read it could be the buns and pulling my hair too tight! and i was pulling it too tight – because i liked it that way! i would never have guessed it was this that was causing the breakage, in that section! I now have a weave – it looks like its growing back now! but what a learning curve! When i take the weave… Read more »
imani
Thanks for all the suggestions and tips. I will definitely keep in mind. I will say that I almost never ever put my hair in a ponytail. I committed to minimize the strain on my hair by not pulling on it too much.I only tuck the front of my hair with sidecombs on most days.I’ve tried nonprotein regimes and then tried protein treatments.That area of hair is tough. Even when I had a perm it was the shortest part of my hair with the front & sides outpacing the back in growth. My stylists always wanted 2 even me out… Read more »
Lorraine

That’s good that you don’t do the ponytails. You are very welcome and good luck to you.

Lorraine
A few years ago, I watched three Youtube vloggers, Longhairdontcare2011, Kimmaytube and Sera2544, and told my husband that my goal is to grow hair as long as theirs for myself and my daughters. He told me that he didn’t think that was possible and that I should just focus on keeping the girls’ hair and my hair healthy. My husband’s mother is “mixed” and has long loosely waved hair. He’s accustomed to primarily seeing women who look like her with long hair. Also, I used to have locs and my hair was waist-length then but has been short since I… Read more »
N Francis

My hair is currently the longest it has ever been. I moisturize more, wash while twisted and wear more protective styles. I have no idea what my terminal length is b/c in the past I’ve gotten bored and cut my hair. It’s now just past my clavicle and April will be two years since a big chop. I’m excited to see where I end up, early summer.

Sirrena
I am new to this site but have been reading all the comments. I am going to try my very own mtg without mineral oil. I have ordered all the other ingredients and have replaced the mineral oil with a mixture of almond, coconut and a little castor oil. My hair is very thick and curly and I will be putting up pictures soon. I have never been able to get past my shoulders but I realize that was partly my fault in the care of my hair. I am overseas right now but will be home soon so i… Read more »
LisaP

This article is nonsense. There is a limit for how long hair can grow– for some people very long for others short. Of course, if you do some things it may not break off but it still will not grow down your back if genetically it is only programmed for 8 to 10 inches like many but certainly not all black women.

goyta

did you read the article at all? quit being negative and stop to read before commenting, please.

themanecaptain

I like many black women use to believe my hair couldn’t grow past a certain length. It wasn’t until I discovered the many forums and saw progress pictures of women who took their hair from a retarded length to a healthy long hair. Then I started applying basic principles such as moisturizing and self-styling (stylist abuse my hair) and my hair took off. Though it’s a slow growth now, but my hair has grown well past the length it has ever been.

themanecaptain.blogspot.com

AC
I cut my very curly hair shoulder length 4 years ago. It’s taking a very long time, and I can’t wear it straight very often, but it is now down to my waist. Growing hair takes patience! I haven’t had hair this long since elementary school. I do not have a relaxer, I make sure to condition it with a mixture of castor and jojoba oils every week, and tend to wear it in a french braid. During this 4 year grow out period, I also was bleaching blonde! I just took very very good care of it, including my… Read more »
Dana

This is a great article. Props to all the ladies who keep sticking it out and making sure their hair is healthy above all, no matter the length. We’re beautiful!

Cay James
To answer the article’s last question, I did exceed my expectations of how long my hair could grow. I didn’t think that my hair would grow past my shoulders but now my hair is armpit length and I’m now working on growing itto armpit length. This is much different from what I expected when I was growing up. Back then I was in a family of naturals (all of their hair was cut short) and grew up in a neighborhood where girls acted as though it was a fact that we just couldn’t grow hair. It wasn’t until I was… Read more »
Alanna

Thank you for a truly inspiring story. I love your honesty!

Lorraine

Very thoughtful and honest post. I enjoyed it.

J2daO

This is a very well written article.

My longest layers will be BSB soon and its just patience,technique and being flexible.

As far as i know fears are unproven and here’s a great acronym for it:

False
Evidence
Appearing
Real

One thing I know is that the world is filled with ladies who CAN retain length so lets not believe the lies our hair cannot grow long if that is your goal. 🙂

vanessa197676

I wish my hair would grow. It’s been the same length for literally 5 years. The only time it seems to grow is if I have it braided, and I get too tired to braid it myself anymore. My hair is too short to do any proper protective styles without adding in fake hair.

merry

you have actually answered your own question.

you said your hair grows when in braids. that probably means you benefit from protective styling and should do it to RETAIN length while it grows.

DJ J

Sometimes, when you see that your hair is not growing after you have done everything you possibly can, you need to change your regimen if you are not seeing results.

Lauramae
DJ J you are correct. I have seen people with dreadlocks all the way down to their lower back, to their buttocks and longer. This tells me that there is no terminal length. I say there is only terminal care. When my (relaxed) hair reached my shoulders, I could not figure out why it stopped there. Every 8 weeks, I had another 1/2 or so of new growth. So where was it? I began to focus hard on everything that I was and was not doing. I realised that my purse strap, high back chairs, car seat shoulder straps and… Read more »
Sue

there is noooooo way you can judge terminal length by dreadlocks! dreadlocks is just dead hair that remains attached to growing hair through periodic “locking.”

People just need to realize that just as we all were not born with good skin we were not all born with strong hair. Therefore, some people’s hair would break faster than other before it can get to a certain length.

Lauramae
Actually, ALL hair is dead. And it doesn’t matter what protective method is used to retain the strands / length, it still means retention is achieved. But if by the term ‘dead hair’ that you referred to,you mean ‘hair that is not attached to the root’,I do not know how we can know that for sure that it is not attached. Do you? It sounds like supposition to me. I can only say that The loc’d Ladies retention method is that is of minimal handling, and this is why it is long. Sue,I know very well that not all hair… Read more »
Kay

I agree with you except dreadlocks also become longer because it consist of dead hair matted together and they don’t have to brush or come the dead hair out which contributes to the length as well.

Chanel

I use Redken products( interlock protein network) and my hair grew about 3 inches in two month.

Stace

I used to use Redken the so soft line….and it did wonders from my hair but i stopped using it in place of nexxus …I always planned to go back..but ended up with Biolage strengthening line….I may revisit Redken now that you reminded me.

CourtneyNaturalHair

Yes black hair can grow! Many factors plays a role….. However many black women do not care for their hair properly so their hair is unable to reach it’s full potential. I have been natural 4.5 years now. I did not have long hair growing up….. This is the longest my hair has ever been.

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keli gatlin
just beautiful! i have very dry curly hair no blw drying and color my hair every 6 mnths, no curling iron lots of oils esp pink in the ethnic isle! im indian and swedish=white and i just have hair that looks dry when i brush it so i never brush it and i cut it myself as u cant tell if i mess up cause so much curl, i tried 20 years ago straightening it and i loked awful! guess we huld be proud of what we have many people said they would love to have my natural curls and… Read more »
Lorraine

Very nice! I think it takes patience and discipline to adopt a regimen to retain length but if length is what you want, it’s worth it. Congratulations on reaching your hair length goal.

anita

Wow your hair looks great! What is your hair regimen? Do you wear certain natural styles most of the time or do you use heat at all? I would be totally overjoyed for my hair to just look like the second picture 🙂

ELLEN

WOW…MY HAIR IS LIKE YOUR SECOND PICTURE BUT I DO REMEMBER MY HAIR BEING MORE LIKE THE THIRD OR FOURTH PICTURE. DO YOU RELAX YOUR HAIR???????????? MINE HAVE BEEN U RELAXED OR COLORED WITH MIXED GREY IN IT FOR ALMOST 7 YEARS NOW. I WANT TO CUT IT BUT I ALSO WANT TO RELAX IT.

Naturalista+fashionista
Naturalista+fashionista

OOOOH, your hair looks gorgeous!!!

AC

Jc you hit the nail on the head!! I always remember hearing “nobody in my family has long hair etc,” I just always think “girl your family shares all of the same hair care practices,” so if one persons hair is damaged, all of y’all hair is damaged or on the way.

Marcia

I think that most don’t know what their terminal length is. My hair is almost to waist length (between 18 and 21 inches) and this is it longest it has ever been, had you asked me years ago I might have said my terminal length was something much shorter but now I know I just using too much heat, way too often. I also was coloring my hair all the time so my hair never reached its potential.

Stace

Im almost to waist length im at 16 inches in the front, 18 in the back. Im hoping to make it to 21 by end of May. I think I can do it thats about 6 months from now, so that should equeal 3 inches, but I am going in for a trim soon but Im faithful!

msboogee

Harder to retain a relaxed lenghth thenn natural

Marcia

I think it depends on the care given to relaxed hair. There are less tangles and easier detangling. I have seen many women on healthy hair journeys who have beautiful super long relaxed hair. Also, depends on the hair type. My hair is super fine so when it was relaxed it was so thin and broke easily, but then this was when I wasn’t taking good care of my hair.

TINA SMITH

RELAXED HAIR IS STRIPPED OF ITS NATURAL TEXTURE NOTHING HEALTHY ABOUT THAT

HeLowAddicted

Hair is DEAD it can only be healthy looking so relaxed hair can be healthy looking too, I guess that’s what Marcia meant 🙂
For the question, yes I exceeded the expectation of how long my hair could grow in three years but not what I want for when I’m at right now. In 3 years, I’ve been able to exceed what I had on my head for 19 years… very crazy. I realized that the proper care and patience were the key products 🙂

sara
i managed to grow from just past shoulder length to close to armpit length in about 3 months then my mom said it was split ends so she cut it 🙁 now i have to start again. but the good thing is that i spoke to her and she said “i really find it hard to believe that my hair will grow down my back. its been instilled in me since i was a child.” thats when i realised i need to start educating my family before i get out there. even my sister thinks im nuts but i want… Read more »
Nooni

Since kinky hair breaks so much is 12 inches is your terminal length, wouldn’t you be very unlikely to reach it taking into account even low manipulation styling?

The Natural Haven

I disagree that reaching 12 inches is impossible. I do agree that kinky hair is more affected by breakage but and this is a big BUT, you CAN stop or greatly minimise breakage.

Techniques like fingercombing, washing hair in braids, wearing protective styles for most of the time and for sufficiently long are must haves for people with very kinky hair that is susceptible to breakage using ‘conventional’ techniques (i.e brushing, washing hair free and wearing mostly out hair styles).

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