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Recent­ly a young wom­an approached me while I was on my way home to ask about my hair. My hair hap­pened to be blown out that day so much of her curios­i­ty was focused on the length of my hair.  The first ques­tion she asked was “What prod­ucts do you use?”  I usu­al­ly hes­i­tate when asked this ques­tion and it isn’t because I don’t have an answer.  I know that in ask­ing that ques­tion she wants to know what com­bi­na­tion of prod­ucts she can use so that her hair will grow longer. I feel that in shar­ing the prod­ucts that I use with­out pro­vid­ing the caveat that my low manip­u­la­tion reg­i­men is the most impor­tant aspect of my hair care, I am giv­ing mis­lead­ing advice. The truth is if you see some­one with hair that you admire and want to know their “secret”, begin by ask­ing them about how they care for their hair. Learn­ing how they approach wash­ing, detan­gling and styling will give much greater insight into how they retain length than the prod­ucts that they use.

When it comes to hair prod­ucts my mantra is this: Prod­ucts are help­ful but they can­not com­pen­sate for poor hair prac­tices. On the flip side, you can retain length with 5 or 6 prod­ucts from a drug store. I choose to use some qual­i­ty prod­ucts, sev­er­al of which I have to pur­chase online, not because I think I need them to retain hair length but because I like the way they make my hair feel.  I find this espe­cial­ly true of mois­tur­iz­ers. My hair often feels dry to the touch even when it has received the nec­es­sary amount of mois­ture. So, when I come across a pro­duct that allows my hair to receive both the need­ed mois­ture and to feel soft and sup­ple I may con­tin­ue to use it. This is not to say oth­er mois­tur­iz­ers are poor qual­i­ty because they don’t make my hair feel the same way.  My hair may feel dif­fer­ent­ly but if my hair is being mois­tur­ized then the ulti­mate result — health­ier, longer hair — is the out­come.

In the first 7 months of my healthy hair jour­ney I used drug store prod­ucts in the “eth­nic” hair sec­tion (mind you, this was before the pletho­ra of “nat­u­ral” lines cur­rent­ly in drug stores). I found a mois­tur­iz­er that had water as its first ingre­di­ent and decid­ed it was good enough. And you know what? It was. My hair retained every inch dur­ing those months. It was only until I tried one of two oth­er nat­u­ral hair lines that I real­ized I pre­ferred them or that, in addi­tion to water, I liked aloe vera juice to rank high on the ingre­di­ent list. Although I have changed prod­ucts dur­ing my healthy hair jour­ney, the truth is my hair hasn’t had a dras­tic increase or decrease in length reten­tion. For this rea­son, I feel that only shar­ing the hair care prod­ucts that I use with­out shar­ing tech­nique is only half of the sto­ry.

I under­stand that at the begin­ning of your hair jour­ney the temp­ta­tion to be a pro­duct junkie is real. There’s noth­ing wrong with exper­i­ment­ing. But please know that there is no sil­ver bul­let pro­duct that will take you hair from shoul­der length to waist length in a year. Trust me, I jumped on (and off) enough odd band­wag­ons to know that hair care requires iden­ti­fy­ing a rou­tine that works and remain­ing con­sis­tent.  As for the speci­fic band­wag­ons I’ve joined…well, per­haps I’ll save that for anoth­er post :)

What do you find plays a greater role in your hair care reg­i­men: tech­nique or hair prod­ucts?


Island girl raised in the most roy­al of NYC’s bor­oughs. Proud nerd, social sci­en­tist, edu­ca­tor and recov­er­ing awk­ward black girl. When not lis­ten­ing to NPR, try­ing to grow spir­i­tu­al­ly, or detan­gling my fro, I’m search­ing for the best shrimp and grits in the Queen City.

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49 Comments on "Practices NOT Products are the Key to Natural Hair Length Retention"

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It’s fun­ny because I don’t real­ly use any “prod­ucts” apart from Gio­van­ni direct leave in and Herbal Essences Hel­lo Hydra­tion. The rest is water, aloe vera gel, home­made shea but­ter mix, coconut oil, eggs or yoghurt when I want to do a pro­tein DC and I wash my hair with ACV and bak­ing soda. Can some­body say kitcheni­cian out here?


Wow, that’s what I was seek­ing for, what a infor­ma­tion! present here at this blog, thanks admin of this web site.


[…] wom­en she meets at the mall ask­ing her what her secret her or what pro­duct she uses to keep her hair that long and that beau­ti­ful. She does not real­ly have any par­tic­u­lar spe­cial pro­duct only that she […]

Ya know, this very ques­tion actu­al­ly gets so annoy­ing to me that I was tempt­ed to do a youtube video on it and now I think I will. It’s not just about get­ting long hair, but nice look­ing curls, pro­duct is always the first and only ques­tion I get and while I know ppl are doing the best they can with what they know it is real­ly super annoy­ing. How­ev­er, I do want to say that as a low poros­i­ty nat­u­ral, I used to be skep­ti­cal about the pow­er of hair prod­ucts all togeth­er before I knew my hair was… Read more »

Great arti­cle!

If you ladies have sev­er­al prod­ucts that you don’t use any­more here’s a sug­ges­tion. Donate them at your local women’s shelter.It would be of great help for the­se wom­en and chil­dren.

Milton Genova

Care of the hair and care of the scalp skin may appear sep­a­rate, but are actu­al­ly inter­twined because hair grows from beneath the skin. The liv­ing parts of hair (hair fol­li­cle, hair root, root sheath, and seba­ceous gland) are beneath the skin, while the actu­al hair shaft which emerges (the cuti­cle which cov­ers the cor­tex and medul­la) has no liv­ing process­es. Dam­age or changes made to the vis­i­ble hair shaft can­not be repaired by a bio­log­i­cal process, though much can be done to man­age hair and ensure that the cuti­cle remains intact.^..

Newest post­ing straight from our own blog

Mary Cosedine

Look I couldn’t agree more. I have long hair and I guess i can thank my moth­er because her approach to hair was sim­ply look­ing after your hair. I sup­pose she had a min­i­mal­ist approach. 

This has rubbed off on me. OK I sup­pose I do use more prod­ucts than she did, but in say­ing that I don’t get lazy and try to take short cuts.

Let’s face it, most all prod­ucts should be for short term use — they real­ly do noth­ing but dis­guise hair con­di­tion — and so should be used as just a fin­ish­ing touch etc.

So I recent­ly became ful­ly ‘aware’ of the need to mois­tur­ize my hair dai­ly. Out of the 2 years and 4 months I have been wear­ing my hair in its nat­u­ral state, it’s only been 1 mon­th now since I’ve real­ly focused in on moisturizing/sealing. It’s crazy, I know! You see last Sep­tem­ber, my hair start­ed break­ing a lot- by the tons! Along with Pre-Poo-ing, Co-Wash­ing, Hair Steaming/Deep Con­di­tion­ing every week­end, I still expe­ri­enced mas­sive break­age. I tried Drug Store Anti-Break­age Shampoo/Conditioners, I tried the High End ‘Nat­u­ral’ (expen­sive) prod­ucts but to NO avail! My ends were split­ting into ‘trees’… Read more »
I have the same prob­lem going on right now but I was mois­tur­iz­ing I was just doing it the wrong way. Poros­i­ty mat­ters, so be care­ful that if your hair con­tin­ues break­ing or split­ting you should def­i­nite­ly check out your hair poros­i­ty. Since my hair is low poros­i­ty I have learned that mois­tur­iz­ing works a lot bet­ter for me when I warm things up a bit, and it has also helped a lot for me to choose prod­ucts that are rec­om­mend­ed for low poros­i­ty hair. This is why in fact pro­duct does mat­ter, but how you use them also mat­ters.… Read more »

both. With the right pro­duct, my hair stays moist and it doesn’t break off or become tan­gled at the ends. And keep­ing my hair mois­tur­ized, un-manip­u­lat­ed and pro­tect­ed with a scarf helps too. I’d say that is a pow­er­ful com­bo!

won­der­ful arti­cle. i used to spend way too much on prod­ucts. but i learned over time how to use a com­bi­na­tion of drug­store and select nat­u­ral hair care prod­ucts to keep it sim­ple. first water, water every­where. drink it. show­er in it and spritz your hair with it. steam it up. walk in the rain. learn to love fog and mist. sor­ry shea but­ter does noth­ing for me. com­plete­ly unab­sorbable. i know it’s heresy but my 4b4/c hair sim­ply does not like oil. in win­ter, i will do a skin scalp treat­ment with grape­seeed oil/lavendar/citrus. the best! but day to… Read more »

I agree as well! I made it to apl with an assort­ment of prod­ucts that I large­ly nev­er real­ly liked. Now I’ve most­ly found my sta­ples 5 years lat­er. What the good prod­ucts have done is real­ly ensure more con­sis­tent, pre­dictable results. The key is just do what­ev­er you can to pre­vent break­age!

Kim, even after show­ing my hais­rtylist (when I actu­al­ly was able to splurge) a pic­ture of the cut I want­ed, he still cut it the way he want­ed, way too short and after also telling him (in Sep­tem­ber, 2012) that I want­ed to be able to have an updo for a March wed­ding, com­ing up in less than 2 weeks, I still won’t have the length I need for an updo, so I have to impro­vise for my moth­er of the bride moment. Not to wor­ry, it’s all about the bride, any­way, it’s just that I specif­i­cal­ly told him, (and… Read more »

I have tried many prod­ucts over the years and I too con­tin­ue to use a pro­duct if I like the way the pro­duct makes my hair feel. My hair is pret­ty close to my bra strap, but that is not what I am proud of. I am proud that my hair is healthy. Great arti­cle.

Barbara Horne

Nice Arti­cle. I com­plete­ly agree.

I’ve been dying my hair since I was about 14. And in my expe­ri­ences the box dye has alawys turned out on top. There was one time it turned out bad but I knew the rea­son and fixed it. Every time I’ve gone to the salon they want to over charge me and nev­er do what I want. I remem­ber get­ting high­lights once and I had to go back twice because they messed up. Don’t get me wrong I respect pro­fes­sion­als and love when they can get my hair per­fect. But I don’t have the time or lux­u­ry to get… Read more »
Its a com­bo for sure but noth­ing annoys me more (i guess i should­nt be annoyed bc if you dont know, you dont know) than when some­one asks what prod­ucts im using to make my hair grow.…everyone is dif­fer­ent and some­one using the same prod­ucts as me does­nt mean their hair will grow like mine or curl like mine. My hair grows (and breaks off too! noth­ing is per­fect!) bc i take care with it and bc its MY hair, my gene pool, my dumb luck to be born with this hair so jbc i use a hair line does­nt… Read more »
This part needs to be repeat­ed: “The truth is if you see some­one with hair that you admire and want to know their “secret”, begin by ask­ing them about how they care for their hair. Learn­ing how they approach wash­ing, detan­gling and styling will give much greater insight into how they retain length than the prod­ucts that they use.” In my expe­ri­ence prod­ucts take a DISTANT back seat to tech­nique espe­cial­ly when it comes to fine-strand­ed kinky (4b/4c) hair. Case in point: The­se days, my night­ly rou­tine con­sists of me putting my hair into two puffs — one on either side of… Read more »
I’d say it is about 70% tech­nique and 30% prod­ucts. There are cer­tain prod­ucts that the nat­u­ral hair com­mu­ni­ty raves about that do not work on a small per­cent­age of peo­ple. My hair hates pro­tein so I can’t use most of the Shea Mois­ture pro­duct line. I know oth­er nat­u­rals who can’t use coconut oil. So there are some times when pro­duct is mak­ing the dif­fer­ence. I know I suf­fered a lot of break­age when I was using a sham­poo that had pro­tein. I admit gen­tle detan­gling and pro­tec­tive styles will help main­tain length even if you are using petro­le­um… Read more »

I hear you! The only thing that sucks is, you don’t know your hair hates it until you try it, you hair feels ter­ri­ble, and you have to wash it out and start over lol! I tried as I am twist defin­ing cream the oth­er night and couldn’t wait to get out if work for a date with some sham­poo! Ugh!


Amen Jes­si­ca, I total­ly under­stand where you are com­ing from. I think too the 70%/30% ratio is about right, because in my expe­ri­ence, prod­ucts are impor­tant and can real­ly help pro­tect and mois­tur­ize the hair, but if you don’t have good tech­niques and abuse your hair with heat, chem­i­cals, etc., all of the prod­ucts in the world won’t make a dif­fer­ence, been there, done that, got the t-shirt :)

I am one of those who thinks every­one has their pre­de­ter­mined length. I don’t dis­cour­age those who seek long hair and I actu­al­ly applaud those who reach their goals. Still,IMO it all comes down to genetics(or at least it plays a big part). May­be this stems from the fact that both my sis­ters and I had our hair done by my mom as youngsters…same reg­i­men, same prod­ucts. My sib­lings have respec­tive­ly WL hair and MBL hair while I bare­ly have BSL hair.The prod­ucts and prac­tis­es def­i­nite­ly give a “boost” to hair growth, but don’t change much overall.That doesn’t mean I don’t… Read more »

mayb you just need a dif­fer­ent reg­i­men. just like rais­ing chil­dren. u may have to go about dif­fer­ent means to get the same result.

The fun­ny thing is that I grew up wear­ing pro­tec­tive styles.My mom would braid or twist my own hair and the style would stay for 2/3 weeks. There was nev­er ten­sion on the edges, no tight hair­styles. I also used to deep con­di­tion every two weeks and do hot oil treat­ments also. I even used to spray water on my hair and then add oil. Look­ing back, I had a pret­ty good reg­i­men till I got my relax­er at 17. I would say the only “bad” habit I had was dry detan­gling with a comb. But con­sid­er­ing that the nat­u­ral… Read more »

Great arti­cle! When­ev­er some­one asks me what I use I very briefly tell them what prod­ucts I use b.c who knows??? They might get some great results from them! I do, how­ev­er, make sure to tell my FRIENDS & peo­ple who I’m actu­al­ly hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion w/ that lasts longer than 20 sec­onds that mois­ture, good hair care habits, & DEDICATION are key to hav­ing healthy, beau­ti­ful curls! Length will come w/ the prop­er hair care.


I find that tech­nique and PATIENCE is the key to length­en­ing your hair. I don’t use a lot of prod­ucts, but I do keep my curls hydrat­ed. But as long as you keep your hair healthy, i.e., hydrat­ed, it will grow, so the key is to just let it do its thing!!!! Stay away from the flat iron and the blow dry­er and keep it hydrat­ed!!!!!!!! And stop try­ing every pro­duct under the sun!!!

Great arti­cle! I’ve found that both prod­ucts and tech­niques help me to retain length. Con­di­tion­ers with sil­i­cones just stopped work­ing for me after using them heav­i­ly for more than a year; so last year I changed things up and start­ed using more nat­u­ral prod­ucts. I can’t cow­ash (I have an oily scalp sen­si­tive to build up and dry hair), so I just keep my scalp clear with a reg­u­lar sul­phate sham­poo and my hair is thriv­ing. I remove shed hairs with my fin­gers, but if I don’t detan­gle with a comb, my curls wrap around each oth­er and get mat­ted.… Read more »

I think Shea Mois­ture has real­ly helped me. Even when I wasn’t using good prac­tices, but Shea Mois­ture kind of for­gave me and helped me any­way. I’ve even frost­ed my hair and Shea is bring­ing it back to life. I am start­ing to quit using heat again and make Ban­tu Knots, but Shea Mois­ture kept my hair mois­tur­ized dur­ing by bad habit.
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I am a strong advo­cate for not using sham­poo at all.… I only use con­di­tion­er for wash­ing my hair. My locks have gone from feel­ing dry and rough and look­ing dull to soft and light and very shin­ny. I also advised friends to do this and they have con­vert­ed to con­di­tion­er only. For lit­tle girls who have been intro­duced to this regime, hair wash­ing has gone from scary and painful to pleas­ant and easy. The con­di­tion­er does not burn their eyes there­fore they can devel­op some inde­pen­dence by mas­sag­ing the con­di­tion­er into the hair and rins­ing out them­selves. Dry­ing the… Read more »

My hair is bet­ter when I co-wash, but my scalp gets bumps and my fore­head breaks out:( How do you avoid this?


try a Rhas­soul Clay wash or

I also like to wash my hair with Shea Mois­ture Organ­ic African Black Soap Purifi­ca­tion Hair Masque (mas­sage into scalp then smooth down hair, rub scalp while rins­ing).


How about using a sul­fate free sham­poo or doing a Apple cider vine­gar rin­se?


This was an AWESOME arti­cle. Loved that you shared this because it is So true, every aspect of it.


Very true. I don’t even use pro­tec­tive styles ( I know, the nat­u­ral die hards are hav­ing fits). I usu­al­ly wash-n-go and,” let her do what she do” And for me it works. We have an under­stand­ing- I cow­ash, mois­tur­ize and leave her,be and she’ll grow. I bc’d in 7/12 and had a col­lege cut; 10 months lat­er I have medi­um fro, that when stretched, hangs off my shoul­ders.


I don’t know any nat­u­ral die hards who say you all nat­u­rals have to do pro­tec­tive styling for length. Peo­ple nor­mal­ly say it only real­ly has to be done for the super kinky types.


Not true. I am a 4a/b who prefers a wash and go. I just have to mois­tur­ize a ton and detan­gle very gen­tly.

Kesha Bruce

So true. In fact, the longer my hair gets, the less prod­ucts I actu­al­ly use.


I total­ly agree; tech­nique is the key to length reten­tion and there­fore vis­i­ble growth. I use to pre­poo, sham­poo, deep con­di­tion, detan­gle, leave in con­di­tion­er then seal with an oil. Its a nor­mal reg­i­men for some peo­ple but i found it to be too much work. I tweaked my reg­i­men and now i just fin­ger detan­gle my hair with con­di­tion­er, ben­tonite clay wash, then seal with shea but­ter and twist hair up. Lol my hair likes this sim­ple reg­i­men much bet­ter because i’m han­dling it alot less there­fore break­age has been reduced.

Great arti­cle! I been nat­u­ral for two years. I didn’t know any­thing about how to treat. I used sul­fate sham­poos and combed my hair with those not wide toothed combs and didn’t moistrize at all. I was clue­less.. and now I know my sta­ple prod­ucts and been try­ing not to comb my hair. It’s just so fun to watch the dif­fer­ent coils and waves bounce. I was so focused on hav­ing long hair so bad­ly like the oth­er nat­u­ral gurus. Now I’m not as focused and thanks to that my hair is grow­ing pret­ty fast. I do wish my hair… Read more »

Hi! New sub­bie here! I love this arti­cle because it gives a great truth about growth and hair care. There isn’t a mag­ic for­mu­la to growth.


Love the arti­cle I’ve only been nat­u­ral for 14months and dis­cov­er­ing new ways of car­ing for my hair but more than any­thing I’ve learnt to be patient I can’t wait till my hair is long enough to try the styles I real­ly wana do


Great arti­cle. Low manip­u­la­tion and pro­tec­tive styling has been the key to me retain­ing length. Like the author I buy the more expen­sive nat­u­ral prod­ucts because my hair just feels and looks bet­ter when I use them but I don’t believe they are absolute­ly nec­es­sary for my length reten­tion.


I always get asked the same ques­tion, my hair is past BSL and my daughter’s is to her waist. My answer for years- mois­tur­ize, very lit­tle to no heat/ styling, and basi­cal­ly just leave it alone. Here’s a pic of my daughter’s first blow out
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D.P. to Shani

Gor­geous head of hair!


Low manip­u­la­tion and pro­tec­tive styling has been key for me. My hair flour­ish­es when I just leave it alone.


Great arti­cle! Dif­fer­ent hair tends to like dif­fer­ent prod­ucts, no one is the same. And what our hair likes today, it might hate tomor­row. At least, that’s my obser­va­tion. I do per­son­al­ly love mois­tur­iz­ers with water as the first ingre­di­ent.

As far as tech­nique goes, for me I find that not using a comb at all is best for length reten­tion. No mat­ter how gen­tle I think I’m being, I lose much much less when I just use my fin­gers.