Understanding Terminal Length and Predicting Hair Growth

Style Icon Courtney

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?

The Natural Haven

The Natural Haven

Scientist on a hairy mission!


* indicates required

69 thoughts on “Understanding Terminal Length and Predicting Hair Growth

  1. 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. :-(

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. Pingback: It’s Just Hair! | Just Think About It....

  5. 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.

  6. 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) ..

  7. 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 taking med for it at 18. That’s when it stopped growing. Is there any hope for my hair without the medication? Thank you.

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

  8. 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 math I gained 6inches a year n 3 so far for this year ) also with no trims so I was able to retain every piece of length on my head with my so so regimen ….but my sister still at chin lenght ????so I say genetics ..

  9. 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 know i need to drink more water, eat healthier and exercise to help my issue as well. I’ll just pray on it lol along with other important or more important things I pray for.

  10. 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.

  11. 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 .

    • 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.

  12. 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 my hair. My hair is ineven now.. im finally noticing that my hair flat ironed itsnt flattering really.. it has split ends and is frizzy at the ends like crazy. Now its summer and ive been wearing it curly ( even though i dont like it..) so it can grow back. Ive been doing deep treatments and protein treatments for a month evdry week.. but if i go to the same school ill haveto start wearingit flat ironed again because im insanely shy and dont like attention. Flat ironed now, the back is at the bottom of my neck, well thebottom is. The top is only half down my head. In the front, my hair is to my cheek. I look stupid, probably.. how can i recover from heat damage? Shiuld i just wear my hair curly in school? Advice??? ( ps sorry for any spelling mistaks im on an ipad…)

  13. 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 of years back lol

  14. 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 you will be surprised to find out that what you eat can actually be way more influential than genetics. Eating foods that are high in protein and contain vitamins can increase the length of healthy hair your body can substain and allow your hair to grow all the way to its terminal length if not already reached. Another factor is the way u care for your hair finding a routine that is perfect for your hair is super important what may be good for another’s hair might be detrimental to yours. So don’t be so quick to resign to the belief that your hair won’t grow long because you don’t have the genes or you have reached a terminal length because terminal length can really only be reached when you and your hair are as healthy as possible so before you give up make sure you are Eating healthy, caring for your hair type properly, drinking enough water, and moisturizing your hair regularly. You’d be surprised at the lengths your hair can grow. I recently went natural with a bc nd before that my hair grew really fast but my hair is really fragile and often broke off at shoulder length where it remained for 14years of my life but I wasn’t happy with shoulder length so for two years I researched hair growth and experimented with my hair to find out when it was the healthiest. I quickly learned that during track season my hair would grow like crazy with little breakage I also noted that during track season I was eating more protein and fruits and veggies also my hair was more moisturized due to my constant sweating and showering I also noted I had less breakage because my hair styles during track season were simple usually damp buns which I learned protected my ends so after finding out what products work best I cut my hair to about 2inches long this was when I was 16. Now keep in mind that for fourteen years my hair had been at shoulder length. So after the cut I changed my off season diet to a much more healthier one, since I have coily curly hair I try to only comb my hair when it’s wet so it’ll have more slip and tangle less, I also have been keeping my hair in simple buns and braids or when I at home I’ll just leave it where it is when I wake up and I often leave my hair wet bc I haven’t found a moisturizer I like. I am now 17 and my hair has completely grown back and then some reaching my upper back past my shoulders so not only did my hair suprise me by surpassing what I thought was my terminal length it did so in jus one year! My hair grew a total of 16inches in a year and 3months not only that but my nails have grown and my overall health has improved. So best wishes to you and your hair, hope it surprises you.

  15. 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 .

  16. 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, and I always use a heat protectant spray whether or not if I’m doing any heat-styling or not. Then also, twice a week I do deep conditioning, and I use many moisturizers on both of my hair and scalp as well. Right now, my hair length is an inch or so away from being Bra Strap Length. So, I am thinking or figuring by Christmas or at the beginning of the year 2016 my hair will be reaching either “Bra Strap Length,” or either between Bra Strap Length and Waist Length. That is my goal for the new year of 2016. I am also planning on just letting my hair grow out as long as it can grow to just see where my terminal hair length is. Because, as of right now I have no idea of where it is these days, and never have known where it is. I mean, when my mother would always take good care of my hair as a child she would often tell me, “Your hair can’t grow as long as to your butt.” “OR, all the way down to a little passed it like your aunt’s or cousin’s hair.” But I honestly don’t believe her. Because, I also honestly don’t think in my growing up days she tried hard enough to let it all grow out that long, and every 2 or 3 months whenever I would get my hair relaxed she would often call herself trimming off the dead ends or split ends, and I would also often see and watch her cut off an inch as well!!!!!!!! And to me, that really hurt my heart to see her cut off that much length so often, and I also noticed or saw the majority of the times with her taking good care of it I hardly had any dead ends or split ends. Just because she always wanted to keep my hair trimmed or maintain it at a certain length. Because, she doesn’t like extremely long hair. But I can really go on with a really long about my long hair story..:) But this is my goal in life right now is to reach either “Classic Length.” Or, “Thigh Length.” So, please say a prayer for me that I reach my goal pretty soon?! Thanks!!!

  17. Pingback: IT’S TERMINAL (1) | This gal I know...M.I.A

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *