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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 that 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 that 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
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
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
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
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
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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