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Wanna Know How To Survive The Awkward 'Growing Out Phase?' Here Ya Go.
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Wanna Know How To Survive The Awkward 'Growing Out Phase?' Here Ya Go.

If there’s one thing that I’ve pretty much become an expert in without really wanting to be, it’s how to get through certain things when it comes to learning more about natural hair. Take that wretched growing-out phase, for instance. When you’re ready to go from uber short to something that’s, say, past your chin, getting from Point A to Point B can feel like your own personal hell — if you don’t know what you’re doing.


If you’re looking at the monitor (or phone screen) and are aggressively nodding your head up and down because that is exactly where you find yourself these days, help is on the way. I’ve got 12 things that you can do to make growing out your hair not feel like pure torture; things that I can personally vouch for because I’ve tried it and succeeded with each and every one of ‘em.

1. Stop Watching the “Stove”

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Pretty much all of us have heard some elder in our family say that a watched pot never boils water. With the kind of personality I have, I’ve tested that theory (LOL). For me, it’s not watching water heat up that drives me up the wall, it’s opening the oven over and over again while baking something that drives me batty. And here’s the thing — how counterproductive is it to do that anyway, since opening the oven lets heat out, making it even more challenging for whatever is trying to bake…finish?

I’m pretty sure you can see where I am going with this, right? Listen, the reality is that your hair is pretty much only going to grow between ¼” – ½” a month. That’s it. The goal is to do all that you can to retain the length as it comes in. So, if you’re about to embark on growing your hair out and you think that playing a game of stare-down with it is going to accomplish something — all that’s gonna do is piss you off, and stress does nothing helpful when you’re trying to have healthy hair. Stop watching the stove, sis. Stop watching the freakin’ stove.

2. Do Consistent Scalp Massages

The reason why I’ve pitched and written articles about scalp care (check out “10 Things Your Scalp Has BEEN Waiting For You To Do” and “Treat Your Scalp To A Little Bit Of Detoxing This Weekend”) is because, I basically had to learn the hard way that, since my scalp is my hair’s foundation, I need to be uber proactive about taking good care of it. One way to do that is by giving it weekly massages.

Scalp massages increase blood flow to your hair follicles, help to strengthen and even thicken your hair strands, and lower stress and anxiety levels (including stressing over growing out your hair). And since stress is directly linked to hair loss and gray hair, the more scalp massages, the better, chile.

Some quick tips on how to massage your scalp properly and effectively here.

3. Enjoy Protective Styles. Don’t (Solely) Rely on Them, Tho.

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One of my favorite quotes is, “The excess of a virtue is a vice;” I believe that Aristotle originated it. That said, you’ve already peeped the header for this tip, so you already know where I’m going with it, right? As much as I’m a fan of protective hairstyles (check out “This Is Your Summertime Protective Style Cheat Sheet,” “This Is How To Know Your Protective Style Ain't Workin'”) — and wigs qualify, by the way (check out “This Is The Way To Properly Care For Your Hair While Rockin' A Wig”) — I also know that they weren’t supposed to be in our hair for more than 6-8 weeks at a time (tops).

Between the tension of tight braids and twists, our scalp needing some TLC, ends needing to be trimmed, and hair simply needing to REST — whether it’s box braids, crown braids, lace fronts, sew-ins, passion twists, faux locs…whatever you’ve got goin’ on, chile, if your ultimate goal is growth, you can’t be living in a protective style 365 days out of the year. It’s counterproductive at best and damaging at worst. So yeah, find ways to enjoy your hair without constantly relying on protective styling. Sometimes wearing them? Cool. All the time? Not cool.

4. Master How to Naturally Stretch Your Tresses

If your hair is 4-type, congrats! The reason why I say that is because, although you have the tightest curls (which can make it feel like your hair is never growing), you also have the most versatility; especially when it comes to getting through the growing-out phases. Don’t believe me? When you get a chance, go to YouTube and put “stretch 4-type hair” in the search field to have your mind blown (some examples are here, here, and here)!

It really is amazing how many of us can think that, just because our curls aren’t loose, we’re not gaining inches when that typically couldn’t be further from the truth. So, while it really is a good idea to keep hair manipulation down to a minimum, if you want to stretch out your tresses in order to stay motivated, get into braiding, banding, or stretching out your wash ‘n gos AFTER they are dry.

Knowing that there are heatless (meaning less damaging) ways to have longer hair? How liberating is that?

5. Take Wash ‘n Gos Up a Notch

While I was watching a video by a YouTuber by the name of Tiana Michelle talk about how she does her own wash ‘n gos, it reminded me that I need to get more into that (once the weather warms up a bit). If you happen to be on a natural hair journey, wash ‘n goes are great because, not only do they not require a ton of work or upkeep, but they can also teach you how to embrace your hair’s natural curl pattern.

The key is to use the best products — ones that complement your own hair texture. And yes, that can take a bit of trial and error, but it’s ultimately worth it to discover what they are. Some that I know naturalistas are fond of include Camille Rose Naturals Curl Maker, Mielle Organics Pomegranate & Honey Coil Sculpting Custard, tgin Honey Whip Hydrating Mousse, Uncle Funky's Daughter Curly Magic Curl Stimulator, and The Doux Bee Girl Honey Curl Custard.

6. Don’t Let Up on Leave-In Conditioning

You’ve probably heard that one of the reasons why it’s easier for other ethnicities to retain length is because it’s easier for their hair to keep moisture in it. Why? Because when strands are straighter, the natural sebum that flows from our scalp is better able to coat our strands from root to tip.

This means that since our hair has a curlier texture, we have to put a bit more effort into keeping it hydrated; one way to do that is by applying a leave-in conditioner.

What I tend to do is apply one as the final move on wash day and then apply more on the ends of my hair before braiding it up; I will also put some on the tips when I’m wearing my hair out. I’ll admit that it’s also a bit of trial and error to figure out which leave-in works best for you. Two that I like a lot are Mielle’s Pomegranate & Honey Leave-In Conditioner (it’s super light and deeply penetrating at the same time) and a chebe powder butter that I found on Etsy (you can cop it here).

Chebe is an article all on its own. What I’ll say for now is, that if you’re looking for something that will strengthen your hair and help to reduce split ends, it totally has you covered.

7. Use Gentle Color Options ONLY

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Listen, I know from personal experience that while you’re waiting for your hair to reach ear, chin, or shoulder length, it can be super tempting to switch up the color often in order to keep you patient and distracted. While, in theory, that strategy makes a ton of sense, the challenge is that you can end up drying out your hair, which leads to damage that results in breakage or having to cut it — and since your goal right now is to grow your hair out…how counterproductive would that be?

Honestly, the less color that’s in your hair, the better. However, if you must, go with gentle color options ONLY, like henna, hair color wax, or semi or demi-permanent brands. Bottom line, ammonia is never your hair’s friend yet it’s definitely not when you find yourself smack dab and in the middle of the growing out phase.

8. Be Consistent with Bond Building and Thermal Heat Protectant

I’m someone who doesn’t have any chemicals in my hair; however, I do like to wear my tresses stretched out, and so, on wash days, I will blow my hair out and then keep it stretched by braiding it until the next wash day rolls around (which is every 2-3 weeks for me personally). When I’m sure to apply a protein treatment, deep condition, add a bond builder, and a cream-based thermal heat protectant before applying any heat, it’s all good in the hood. When I skip any of this (well, protein treatments get rotated about every 2-3 wash days), all hell breaks loose — quite literally, too. SMDH.

Protein keeps hair stronger. Deep conditioning adds moisture. Okay, but what gets overlooked a lot is the fact that bond building products are great at “filling in the holes” when it comes to the cuticles of your hair. I’ve been using Marc Anthony’s Repairing Leave In Conditioner Treatment, Repair Bond +Rescuplex, for a little over a year now, and it’s one of the best investments that I’ve made for my hair to date.

9. Stay Up on Hair Accessory Trends

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Camouflage. If there’s one thing that has gotten me through my own growing-out phase journey, it’s literal hair camouflage that is otherwise known as hair accessories. That’s actually why hair bonnets in public (yep, I’m THAT girl) irk the mess outta me because there are way too many options out here that look less like “I just rolled outta bed” than that. Turbans, hair wraps, hats, skull caps — the list goes on and on. All of ‘em are super cute and a great way to get through a bad hair day or a day when you’re so sick of waiting on some extra inches that you’re tempted to cut it all off (or all off AGAIN) and start over.

So yeah, definitely see stacking up on some hair accessories as an investment into your long(er) hair goals. Some that will be in style over the next several months include hair ribbons, comb headbands, rhinestone-embellished items, 90s-style hair clips and hair pins, and beanies.

10. Handle Your Hair Like Silk

Silk is both strong and uber fragile at the same time — and that’s basically our hair in a nutshell. That’s why it’s so important to handle your tresses with extreme care, especially when it comes to the oldest parts of your hair, which are your ends. One way to do this is to make sure that you either use your fingers or a detangler brush to style it. Now, I have tried the UNbrush that TikTok was losing their minds about. It’s not half bad. Whatever you do, just don’t be out here ripping through your hair and then wondering why your ends are raggedy. Your hair is silk. Your hair is silk. Your hair, sis…is like fine silk.

11. Expand Your (Big) Earring Collection

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Hey, you think I’m playing, but I’m absolutely serious. Although I am totally Team Style-Your-Hair, I know from my own personal experience and looking at other women, both online and off, that when your earring game is on-point, and you’ve got a colorful lip happening, your hair is probably like the fifth thing (after your eyes, your smile and probably your outfit) that folks are gonna notice. So, if you’re a bit paranoid about how awkward the growing out phase may appear, ramp up your earring collection — the bigger, the better!

By the way, if you consider yourself to be a trendsetter, some popular earring looks for 2024 include chandelier styles, big-ass sparkle hoops, and mismatched earrings (they’re always a lot of fun!). Oh, and statement earrings that are only in one ear (think Janet Jackson when she used to wear one key in one earlobe).

12. LEAVE. THE. SHEARS. ALONE.

I’m pretty sure that a lot of y’all have heard that you should trim your hair every 6-8 weeks. Eh. I think the actual “rule” should be that you trim your ends whenever you need to — and you need to if you notice split ends, fairy knots, your hair tangles easily, you notice that your hair isn’t holding or keeping a style or your ends feel rougher than the rest of your locks do. Other than that, keep the shears out of your hair because if you spend a lot of time trying to make sure that your sides are perfectly even or that no strand is “unruly,” — I can tell you again from very up close and personal experience that you’re not going to see any real progress any time soon.

_____

Is the growing out phase easy? C’mon, you know better than that. Yet, can you get through it? If you apply these tips, keep your eyes on the prize, and RELAX…you most certainly can. Hit us back with some pics in the comments in six months to prove it, aight? Awesome.

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Featured image by katieho Seisa/Getty Images

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