by Sabrina Perkins of SeriouslyNatural.org
Many in the natural hair community are consumed with hair growth but the real concern should be on hair retention. Your hair IS growing and while there are four stages of hair growth, and while all are not growing phases, they continue throughout our lives.
While hair growth does slow down as we age, hair growth can be hindered by things like manipulation, weather, hormones, illness and medications, too. Despite all that, hair growth continues on in these four stages illustrated below:
Photo courtesy of viviscal.com
So, why is your hair staying at only one length? Your hair is not retaining length-- it's breaking off as fast as it's growing. Length retention is holding onto your hair longer and that means caring or keeping the oldest hairs (the ends) in better condition and healthier. If you are struggling with this, then are five reasons you are probably losing your length.
We love our hair and we love how much versatility it gives us in styling but many of those styles require a lot of manipulation and damage. The more textured the hair, the less the manipulation it can handle and often why many naturals (especially women with 4c hair) opt for protective styling.
Straight styles and wash and gos are often considered styles that have a lot of manipulation but honestly, just keeping your hands out of your hair (hands in hair syndrome) and being gentle with your strands will keep your damage to a minimum. The bottom line is that even washing our hair (a true necessary evil) is damaging to our delicate strands. Just use as little manipulation as possible when caring for your tresses.
Not Maintaining Balance
Moisture vs. Protein balance is crucial to healthy hair. Natural hair needs moisture to stay elastic and hydrated and that leads to less damage. Hair is made up of a hard protein called Keratin and protein helps to strengthen our strands. There is a fine balance between the two. Too much moisture and hair becomes limp and can suffer from hygral fatigue (strand to weaken and eventually break). Too much protein and you can make hair brittle and cause breakage.
Maintaining moisturized and strong hair takes listening to your hair so you know what it needs and when it needs it. Either extreme can and will cause breakage so keep that balance equal and you will find your length retaining.
Heat styling is one of the quickest ways to damaging natural hair. You can incur severe damage or something even worse--heat damage. Heat damage can not be reversed either so the best way to fight heat damage is to limit your heat styling (flat irons, blow drying without a diffuser or using a hot comb) and to never get heat damage in the first place).
The dryness that heat styling also creates can cause hair to pop or break as it whisks away the moisture and elasticity. Also, there is not such thing as heat training. If your hair will not revert to it's regular texture it is heat damaged. If you must use direct heat, make sure to use a good hair protectant and use the lowest setting possible.
Not Getting Trims
Trims are a necessary component of healthy hair are maintenance. Some see them as a nuisance or counterproductive to long hair but they keep hair from splitting and become more damaged. They also help with raggedy ends that can cause more tangles and knots. I opt for two trims a year and my hair is growing steadily. The more chemicals or manipulation to your hair requires more trims but we do not need to trim our hair as often as we did when we were relaxed.
Neglecting Your Ends
As I mentioned earlier, our ends are the oldest hair and that makes them the most vulnerable to damage and the weakest. Seal them, be gentle with them and protect them at all costs as they are the troopers that keep our length retaining possible.
Once hair is moisturized (including your ends), you need to retain it so concentrate your efforts heavily on your ends and begin to notice how they stay healthy and remain on your head and not in your shower, sink or floor.
What are your tips for retaining length Naturals?