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Let's Gain An Inch A Month Of Hair Growth 'Til December, Shall We?

Time to make that super long ponytail happen.

Hair

Jessica Zziwa. Indigenous Strandz. StayUniquee. Merry Curly. Maryam Hampton. BeYoutifully Natural. Seun Okimi. Believe you me, I could go on and on but for the sake of time and space, those are seven naturalistas on YouTube who have some pretty long hair (most of 'em are Type 4 hair too). I thought that shouting them out would be a great way to intro this because, if one of your new year's desires is to have the longest ponytail ever come Christmastime, those women can inspire you—right along with some tips that I've got down below.

I won't lie to y'all. Genetics play a valid role in how long our hair gets and how fast it gets there. Yet if you're someone who thinks that you can't get longer tresses than you've ever had because your hair simply doesn't grow, that's a bold-faced lie. It grows. Somewhere around one-half inch and an inch a month, to be exact. You've just got to make sure that you do all that you can to retain your inches. That's where these tips come in.

If your deepest desire is to keep as much new growth as possible, apply the following 10 suggestions and watch how close to your goal you get by around this time next year.

1. Take the “Less Is More” Approach

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When I first began my own length retention journey, I would literally spend hours a week on YouTube, listening to what different naturalistas would put in their own hair to get the inches that they had. One tip that had me super stoked, I wrote about on here ("Looking For Hair Growth? It Might Be Time To Bring 'Blue Magic' Back"). I got so excited that I purchased 4-5 tubs of Blue Magic, right out the gate. Unfortunately, using it more than to seal my ends every once in a while ended up being way too heavy for my hair (although some folks have been thriving with it). Anyway, after spending more money than I ever thought I would on a bunch of other products that are still in both of my bathroom cabinets, the thought crossed my mind to simplify and see if that would be my best bet. It was. Hands down.

I'm not even going to get into the specific products that worked for me vs. the ones that didn't because it doesn't really matter. All of us are unique, so it really is different strokes for different folks. What I will say is clogging up your hair follicles and weighing down your strands with tons of stuff is gonna probably do more harm than good. So, get to know your hair type and texture, try a few things that are branded for those two things specifically and wait at least a month to see how it all turns out. In the long run, you'll probably come to realize what I did—that less (product) really is more when it comes to hair growth.

2. Boost Your Collagen Intake

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If you want your hair to thrive, it definitely needs protein. Something that a lot of people don't realize is collagen is one of the most abundant forms of protein that there is. The reason why it's so good for your tresses is because, for one thing, your hair is made up of mostly protein (keratin). Also, collagen provides your hair with the amino acids that are necessary to build protein. Also, collagen fights off free radicals at the root (your hair follicles) and, as bonuses, it can slow down hair thinning and greying as well.This is why it's wise to eat foods that contain a good amount of collagen in them. Some of those include fish, chicken, berries, citrus fruits, red bell peppers, tomatoes and bone broth. If you'd like, you can also take a collagen supplement. A list of some of the best ones for 2021 can be found here.

3. Stay Hydrated

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Our bodies are made up of more than 60 percent water, so of course, we need to consume a lot of it on a daily basis. Unfortunately, 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated which can lead to all sorts of health issues. If you're wondering if you could be among that number, check out "10 Overlooked Signs That You're Dehydrated". As far as your hair goes, a sign that it could use some extra hydration from the inside out is if your strands feel dry and brittle, no matter what you do or if your scalp dry.

In the quest to have long hair, a lot of people overlook very simple steps. When it comes to making sure that your hair is moisturized, it's not going to matter how many moisture-rich products you use if your system is begging for water on the inside. So, definitely make sure that you get no less than eight glasses a day. Your hair will thank you with every sip.

4. Take a Vitamin B12 Supplement

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A vitamin deficiency that is actually pretty prevalent within the Black community is Vitamin B12. What are some signs that you could be low in it? You're irritable. You have low energy. Your vision is blurry. You have an unexplainable shortness of breath. You're constipated. You sense that your muscles are weak. Your tongue feels "slicker" than usual. There's a random numbing or tingling feeling throughout your body. You've got memory loss. Your hair follicles are dormant.

Since Vitamin B12 is something that helps to keep your iron in good condition, when you don't have enough of it in your system, it can weaken the blood supply to your hair follicles which can result in weak follicles, hair thinning and even hair loss. This is why it's also a good idea to take a Vitamin B12 supplement and to also eat foods that are loaded with this particular nutrient. Some of those include fortified cereals, salmon, eggs, Greek yogurt and beef.

5. Wash Your Scalp More than Your Hair

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A huge mistake that folks make when it comes to wash day is focusing a ton on their actual hair more than their scalp. The reason why this is a no-no is because your scalp is the foundation of your hair. If you don't get all of the gunk and build-up off of it, ultimately, your hair isn't going to thrive. Not only that but I once read an article that said, a part of the reason why it seems that white women have more success with length retention is they shampoo their hair more often which means their scalp gets massaged more in the process.

First up—white women's hair doesn't grow faster. Their hair is straighter (so it appears that way), it's naturally oily (which makes it harder to break) and we experience more shrinkage (by a country mile). Second, I didn't just say all of that so that you would up your wash day frequency (more than once a week can rob your hair of the little natural oil that it has). However, it is a good idea to detox your scalp once every 4-6 weeks, massage your scalp at least once a week (all you need is to warm up a carrier oil like jojoba or avocado, put a few drops of lavender in it and then use your fingertips to rub your scalp for 5-10 minutes), and to definitely put more emphasis on washing your scalp than your hair. The key is to get your scalp really clean so that your follicles are healthy; your hair doesn't need that "squeaky feeling", tho. The cleanser that drips down from your scalp is more than enough.

6. Rinse Hair in Cool Water

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It definitely feels divine to let hot water run down your hair and scalp, but it's actually not the best thing for your hair's progress. It's because hot (or even super warm) water can end up drying out your hair and causing frizz. So, how can you avoid all of this? By actually rinsing your hair in cool water after your deep condition it (because you do that every wash day so that it's extra moisturized, right?). Cool water is what will help to seal your hair's cuticles while closing the pores on your scalp too.

7. Dust More than Trim

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Is there anything more annoying than uneven hair growth? When you want to get your hair down your back, probably not. The thing is, having one side of your hair that is thicker and grows faster is pretty normal, for two reasons. One reason is because the left vs. the right side of our bodies is not identical. This is why one of your feet or breasts may be bigger than the other. The other reason is because we tend to give one side of our hair more stress than the other when it comes to things like constantly sleeping on one side, parting our hair on one side—stuff like that.

While you would think that the remedy may be to constantly cut the "thriving side" so that it will catch up with the "weaker" one, that is actually gonna be more counterproductive than not. Your best bet would be to focus on dusting (lightly trimming) your ends (you can watch videos on how to do that here, here and here) and then keeping your hair in a protective style so that you don't even have to think about it. Then, once the weaker side has made some real progress, you can get a trim to even things out. Make sense?

8. Remember That Protein Is Essential

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Again, your hair is made up of protein, so it needs a lot of it in order to remain healthy and strong. Aside from what I already shared about getting more collagen into your system, something else that you should do is eat other foods that are high in protein. Meat is an automatic protein booster. If meat's not your thing, check out "Vegetarian Or Vegan? Check Out These High Protein Foods." for a list of other options.

Speaking of protein, it's also really important that you give yourself a protein treatment, about every six weeks. It's what will help to improve your hair's elasticity, so that it can endure more of the styling and manipulation that you do. A lot of people notice more breakage than they should because they miss this small-yet-impactful step. I hit on this specifically in "10 Things Your Natural Hair Needs In The Winter".

9. Leave Permanent Dye Alone

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There used to be a time when you couldn't guess what color my hair was going to be on a pretty much weekly basis. Now that I know how detrimental hair dye and chemical relaxers are, especially to our health ("our" meaning Black women), I tend to use hair wax or a semi-permanent alternative (henna is a pretty good one too). Besides, if you are serious about gaining ½-1" of growth each month, permanent hair color is gonna be your ultimate nemesis. The main reason why is because the ammonia in hair dye strips your tresses of its natural pigment (in order to deposit the color) which can make your hair brittle as all get out. And if your hair keeps breaking off, you'll never reach your hair goals.

I know for some of you, it sucks to even think about going without dye. But sometimes we've gotta make sacrifices for the greater goal. Bottom line, color or inches? In 2021, which one is it gonna be?

10. Use Saw Palmetto Oil

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If there's a new oil that you'd like to try on your hair, my vote is saw palmetto. It has a great reputation for preventing and even restoring hair loss because it blocks an androgen known as DHT from developing in our bodies. Why does that matter? Because DHT plays a direct role in hair loss. Saw palmetto also has a pretty good reputation for increasing hair density too. Not only that but it's an oil that can decrease inflammation, treat urinary tract infections and can regulate your man's testosterone levels too. For internal health benefits, it's probably best to consume it as a supplement (like maybe a liquid extract) or in tea form. If you want it to be the main oil that you use for those scalp massages that we already talked about, a cool place to purchase some is right here.

11. Apply Extreme TLC to Your Ends

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One more time for those in the back. Again, a myth that you need to make sure to debunk for the rest of your life is your hair doesn't grow. That is a damn lie. If you are living, your hair is growing. The reason why a lot of us don't see proof of this is because our ends break off as fast as our roots grow. The way to prevent this from (further) happening to you is to treat the ends of your hair like you would a newborn baby in the sense that you choose to treat them oh so very gently. Seal them on wash day. Try and keep your hair in a protective style (even if that's a wig) most days of the week. Wrap your hair up in a silk or satin scarf (or bonnet) at night (friction is your hair's enemy too). Let straggly ends go. When your hair is out, keep your hands out of it. Simple things like this will keep your ends about as fresh as your roots.

12. Stick with What Works

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Out of all of what I said, the main thing to remember when it comes to achieving hair growth is you've absolutely got to be as patient with the process as possible. The reality is, growing out your hair is a lot like baking some cookies—if you keep watching the oven or your roots, it's going to seem like nothing is happening. However, if you cultivate a routine, stick with it and try and leave your hair alone as much as possible, by June you could have 4-6 inches and by December…at least double that!

Alright. Let me get off of here and nurture these cornrows I've got so that I can walk the talk, chile. Let's all check back in around the holidays to see how things have been going. Can't wait to see you flipping your hair back. Whew, girl. #wink

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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