5 Length Retention Tips for Naturals with Slow Growth

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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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Hails from a great city in the Midwest and will forever be a Bears fan.

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  • Tee-winder

    Excellent tips! THE KEY FOR SLOW GROWERS IS TO HAVE A REGIMEN THAT RETAINS YOUR HAIR!! As time goes on, even though you are a slow grower, you will still have very long hair in however many years. I started my journey in 2009 and now my hair is approaching waist length (the longest length). I am a slow grower so instead of getting to waist length in 4 years, it will probably take me 4 and 1/2 years or maybe even 4 and 3/4’s of a year. That’s okay with me. I’m comfortable with my slow growth because I know that I know how to retain the 1/4 of an inch that I get every month. I’m so glad that the author mentioned that not everyone can detangle their hair every week!! I agree.

    I would add that when doing those monthly or even longer (I’ve stretched my protective styles to between 6-8 weeks),detangling sessions use your FINGERS ONLY. My staple DETANGLING conditioner is Vo5 moisture milks. I used to use oils before and they worked but not as well as Vo5. It reduced my breakage and made detangling go a little bit faster. We all will have some breakage from detangling especially if our hair is prone to tangles. But the more that we reduce it with conditioners with amazing slip the better for our retention.

    I also agree with the poster that said to add some protein to your regimen. IF YOU HAVE FINE STRANDS this is a must!!!! My protein comes from my leave-in (I use CANTU and Garnier). CANTU is an awesome leave-in that moisturizes and provides protein to strengthen the hair. I would also add that we need to wash our hair at least three times a week (whether it be co-washing, with shampoo, or whatever). Shampoo is not the devil as long as we are gentle and put the moisture back into our hair. Stimulate and keep that scale clean. Even if you just run water on your scalp three times per week like you are washing it, the scalp will benefit from that.

    I am a slow growing, 4b but mostly c kinky haired girl with no curl pattern. My hair has never been this long and healthy in my life. Trust me these tips work!! My ultimate goal is to have natural hair that hangs right on my hips or mini braids where the longest layer hangs at my waist. It’s lofty. I don’t know if I can actually get there but I am going to keep trying. Cipriana from UrbanbushBabes, sister T-Wonder is my hair inspiration. Her hair looks like LOCS but her hair is actually loose braids. That is what I want my hair to grow to and even though I’m a slow grower, I believe that I can get there with these methods.

    • Mesha

      I’m sorry, but I had to laugh when you said that you have been natural for 4 yrs and your hair is waist length. Honey, that is NOT slow, that’s extremely fast! Shoot, I’ve been natural since 2009 and my hair is barely past my shoulders…and that’s at my nape! Now THAT’S slow! And I’ve been doing everything I can think of to get my hair to grow: prenatal pills, biotin, washing every other week, once a month, every week, moisturize, etc and NOTHING seems to get my hair to sprout out! The only way I can tell that my hair is growing a little bit is by looking at pics from the year before. I tell ppl that I must get the growth from my slave roots bc goodness gracious! Slow as a turtle that has nothing else to do LOL