By Chinwe of Hair and Health

Let’s be real.  Not every natural grows the average 6 inches of hair per year under optimal health conditions. Some grow 7 inches or more.  Others grow 5 inches, 4 inches, or possibly less.  Remember, 6 inches per year is just the average – not everyone’s – hair growth rate.

Today I want to encourage those with slow hair growth.  First, check out this earlier post to see if you have exhausted all avenues to reach your optimal growth rate.  Secondly, there is no need to feel defeated or inferior.  This is not a race.  This is not about how you fair against others.  This is about reaching your own personal goal, which can be done.

I want to discuss how you can reach your goal length if you have been struggling until now.   The reality is that your method may have to differ greatly from someone who has a faster growth rate.  This is because every one third or quarter of an inch is crucial in your case.  The following is a strategy that helped me to reach my goal in five years:

1. Detangle once a month or less

Detangling is probably one of the biggest sources of mechanical breakage of the hair, so the less often you do it, the better – with the exception of a caveat.  That caveat is to keep your hair as untangled as possible (for example, via protective styling) during the month.

With frequent or excessive detangling, breakage or mid-shaft splits can accumulate over time.  This is why it is important for a natural with slow growth to detangle once a month or less, if possible.  Weekly or even biweekly detangling may hinder length retention.

2. Limit trimming to no more than half an inch a year

As a natural with slow growth, if you need to trim off more than half an inch (or even one inch) of damaged ends a year, then you may want to evaluate what in your regimen is causing that damage.  Are your ends splitting due to excessive and improper heat use? Are they splitting because of inadequate moisture or over-manipulation?  If you keep your ends under good care, there is no reason why you should have to cut more than half an inch every year.

3. Find a great staple conditioner and invest in good natural oils

Though many naturals can benefit from this tip, it needs special emphasizing for those with slow growth.  You see, a great staple conditioner and good set of natural oils can help immensely with retaining almost every bit of growth you get.  These products can transform a breakage-filled detangling session into a virtually breakage-free one.  They can coat the hair strand to reduce friction from combing and styling.  They can also strengthen OR moisturize the strand to decrease formation of splits on the end and mid-shaft.  Use your oils and conditioner religiously.

4. Be EXTREMELY patient when detangling

Even with the above tips, a rushed detangling session can cost you all the growth you achieved in the month or over the course of a few months.  Take your time as you detangle through each section, and if it helps, play some calming slow music in the background.  (I personally like Maxwell and Daley.)

5. If you can, incorporate long-term protective styling

The reason I say “if you can” is that some naturals simply do not fair well with long-term protective styling.  However, if you want to give it a try, then start by extending your twists or braids from one week to three weeks and then eventually to four or five weeks.  Check out this earlier post on how to make protective styles last a long time.

Ladies, have any of these techniques helped you with length retention?


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80 Comments on "5 Length Retention Tips for Naturals with Slow Growth"

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HALLELUJAH for this post! I am a slow growth natural and it took me 4 years to figure out that all of these tips were beneficial.I wish I had seen this post back in 2009– Especially detangling infrequently BUT gently and doing longer term protective styles. Oily finger detangling using coconut oil not a water based conditioner, is best for me. (water=weaker shrunken-tangled hair for me) 4 week mini braids and 3 week kinky twists, havana twists, or yarn braids with ADEQUATE moisture have been a god sent to my length retention. Also using a leave in with a little… Read more »
I agree this post is great and I definitely needed it a few years ago as well. Nevertheless, I’ve gone back to the drawing board and did the BC about a month ago and have been wearing a wig since then and my hair has done so good. I had a great deal of heat damage and had to cut it off because my hair was spliting like crazy, but my hair has done so well since then. I have 4a/b hair and out of all of the things I’ve tried, and I “done tried them all”, from Carol’s Daughter,… Read more »

mini braids with my OWN hair.


I don’t know (or care to know) about my rate of hair growth but I am gentle with my hair so as to foster length retention in my kinky, coily Afro-textured, super dense hair.

I consistently follow techniques 3 and 4.

Other things I do to foster length retention are:
– detangle before shampoo-ing
– finger-detangle 98% of the time (2% of the time I use a seamless wide-tooth comb)
– wash and condition in twisted sections (10)
– wear stretched styles (braid-outs)
– protective style often (cinnabuns, donut buns and updos)
– trim 1/4 inch to 1/2 an inch every 4 months


I don’t believe in slow growth

i agree insomuch as it’s all relative. if you come from an area or ehtnicity (hypothethically speaking, as always) in which all or most of the individuals have a hair growth average of 3 inches a year, then to you, 4 inches a year would be exceptionally fast. by contrast, if you hail from a region or ethnic group in which most individuals or all tend to grow about 7 inches a year, then to you, 6 would seem unusually slow. it’s truly relative, when you think about it. so from this perspective, there IS no such thing as slow,… Read more »

Looks like the troll is back for her daily episode of ‘Mindless Foolery’…


You don’t have to believe in it. It exists whether you do or don’t believe it.


Is it because the words ‘slow’ and ‘growth’ does not make sense? This is a wonderful post


How does it not make sense? The rate of growth is different for different people. Some can be slow, some can be fast, average, etc.


Good tips. I,’d also add try using some protein based conditioners every so often to help strengthen your hair.