Getting those few remaining inches to waistlength can be a real struggle for some naturals. Though you may know that the key is to preserve those ends, figuring out how to actually do that can be tough at this length. Here are some things that helped me get over the hump in 2013 that may hopefully help you as well:
1. Hide your hair in braid extensions
Back when I was working towards those last few inches to waistlength, braid extensions were one of a few things I incorporated for help. They have been great for helping me preserve that 1-2 inches of growth in my relaxed, transitioning and natural days. Braid extensions (when done properly and cared for well) can give me close to 100% length retention. Why? This is because there is practically no manipulation of my ends, which remain intact and hidden for the duration of the wear (i.e., 2-3 months). So if you are MBL and desiring those last few inches, maybe braid extensions will work for you.
2. Adjust your detangling routine
For many naturals, a lot of breakage and length loss occurs during the detangling process. Sometimes, this particular type of breakage happens gradually over time, making it hard to notice until months or a year down the line, when you wonder why you’re not any closer to waistlength. (At least this was true in my case.) Adjusting my detangling routine was necessary and helpful. For you, that might mean:
switching from combs to your fingers as detangling tools (or even vise versa)
detangling on dry instead of wet hair
blow drying your strands after a wash to minimize tangle formation
3. Oil, oil, …. Did I say oil?
A few years back, I was looking at what most long-haired naturals had in common and a religious use of oil was one of the things listed. It makes a lot of sense, considering the many benefits that come with the substance: sealing in moisture, lubricating the strands, minimizing friction and thus split ends and breakage, etc. So incorporate oil beyond a mere step in your moisturizing routine. Use it for pre-pooing, oil rinsing, detangling, conditioning and handling your ends (e.g., undoing your braids/twists).
4. Deep condition more intensely and more regularly
When trying to retain those last few inches to waistlength, deep conditioning is another key component … and I mean SUPER deep conditioning. Up until now, your hair probably thrived with just 15 minutes of conditioning under a shower cap. However, now you might require 30 minutes of deep conditioning with heat to reach that next length. Other things you can try are:
Switch from monthly deep conditioning sessions to bi-weekly
Change your non-protein conditioner to a protein conditioner
Substitute your standard sulfate-free shampoo with a cleansing conditioner
The reality is that the older the ends of your hair, the more care and conditioning it will need.
How did you overcome the challenge of retaining those last few inches to waistlength?