Your Ends Are How You Get Length. 10 Things They Desperately Need.
Beauty & Fashion

Your Ends Are How You Get Length. 10 Things They Desperately Need.

A couple of weeks ago, I got into a semi-debate about Black women and long hair. You know, it really does amaze (and also annoy) me that so many of our own people are so ignorant to the fact that long natural hair isn’t unattainable within our community.

For instance, while so many believe that hair past the shoulders, bra straps, or even down to the butt is only genetically possible, the fact is that genetics play a role in how fast someone’s hair grows and what kind of texture it is (as far as figuring out which hair routine works best for someone). However, so long as one can grow a healthy head of hair and they are able to retain length, anyone can have long hair. And anyone who doesn’t believe me should go to YouTube, put “4-type long hair” in the search field, and watch their minds be completely blown.

For me, as I’m on my own natural hair growth journey (I really need to learn to put my shears down; knowing how to cut your own hair really is a blessing and a “curse”), making sure that my ends are properly nurtured has honestly been my biggest challenge — it’s also why my hair sometimes plateaus.

I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, though. For now, let me just intro this by saying that if you are ready to get some more length as far as your own hair is concerned and you can’t seem to figure out how to do it, here are 10 tips for how to keep your ends in great shape…so that, in time, you can indeed achieve your length retention goals.

1. Eat Zinc-Enriched Foods

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If you’ve got asthma and it seems to be getting worse, lately you’ve been catching colds more than usual, you’ve been having trouble concentrating at work, your sex life seems to be in a rut, or you’ve been experiencing the runs, you could need to add a boost of zinc into your diet. That’s because all of these things are actually symptomatic of a zinc deficiency.

Know what else is? Hair loss (especially alopecia areata). On the flip side, when you take a zinc supplement or consume foods that are rich in zinc, this nutrient helps to develop your hair’s cells and strengthen your hair follicles; it can even help restore your locks’ natural color. And so, since your ends are the oldest and weakest parts of your hair, yes — do those bad boys a favor by eating foods like chickpeas, lamb, pumpkin seeds, chicken, spinach, mushrooms, almonds, eggs, avocados, and oysters.

2. Take a Vitamin C Supplement

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Speaking of nutrients that are good for you, vitamin C tops the list when it comes to, well, just about everything. The backstory is it helps to shield your system from free radicals that can lead to illness. Plus, it’s loaded with antioxidants that can help to improve your memory, prevent an iron deficiency, and keep your blood pressure levels right where they need to be.

Since vitamin C also helps your body to produce collagen, and collagen is a protein that your hair needs in order to remain healthy and strong, it would make all of the sense in the world that you should take a vitamin C supplement, too. As a bonus, collagen also slows down premature graying.

So, if you’ve been damaging your ends by covering up your silver strands with permanent hair color, ramping up your vitamin C intake could be what will free you from going that route (that and using a semi- or demi-permanent hair color option instead).

3. Dust Your Ends Every Wash Day

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You’ve probably heard somewhere that it’s a good idea to trim your ends every 6-8 weeks. Personally, as I’m learning more about my hair and what it needs, I think it’s wiser to prepare your mind to dust some of your ends every wash day, especially if you want to keep your ends under control. I am a big fan of dusting because 1) you can do it yourself from the comfort and convenience of your own home, 2) it’s not as drastic as a trim, and 3) it can help to keep split ends (all six kinds of them) at bay. Just make sure that you take your time, that you use a sharp pair of hair shears, and you only cut what needs to be removed — like ends that long split and fairy knots.

4. Detangle (As Much As Possible) with Your Fingers

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Black hair tends to be drier (because the natural sebum from our scalp doesn’t always get to fully saturate our curls from our scalp to our ends), so this tip needs a bit of flexibility. What I’m referring to is a lot of hairstylists say that if you can “hear your hair” while you’re combing or brushing through it, that means you are applying too much pressure, and that can lead to damage and breakage. One workaround is to use a detangling brush, or you can detangle (and oftentimes even style) your hair with your fingers.

Fingers are good because you can feel your way around any tangles or knots so that you can gauge how gentle you should be with your locks. This can be helpful since, sometimes, with a brush or comb, you don’t realize where tangles (and knots) are until the tool has already ripped through your hair. Literally.

5. Do Some Hair Steaming

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It can’t be said enough that the ends of your hair are the most fragile. This means that they require the most moisture and the most concentrated amount of hair product if you want them to have some serious elasticity (which also reduces breakage). Something that can help to achieve both of these goals is steaming your hair. In fact, hair steaming is especially bomb if you tend to wear your hair in natural hairstyles and you want to refresh your hair without soaking it with water, or you want to enhance your natural curl pattern without a lot of styling effort. Another awesome thing about steaming is it works great on your tresses when the weather is extreme (extremely hot or cold).

Many salons offer hair steaming as an option these days. Or, if you’d prefer to maintain your hair this way at home, there are plenty of handheld steamers that are on the market. One list of solid hair steamers for natural hair can be found here.

6. Invest in a Bond Builder

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Boy, had I known that there was such a thing as a bond builder for my hair, I’d have locks that are a helluva lot longer than the ones I currently have, that’s for sure.

If you’re not familiar with what a bond builder is or does, it’s basically a hair product that helps to repair the cuticles of your hair by adding a concentrated amount of protein to it. I’ve personally been using Marc Anthony’s Repairing Leave-In Treatment for most of this year, and not only do I immediately feel a difference in my hair, my ends are stronger and don’t break off nearly as much either.

Without question, it’s been my favorite “new hair thing” for 2023. Anyway, if you’d like to check out some other bond building options, CNN has some options here, Allure has other options here, and Vogue also has some options here.

7. Be Intentional About Reducing Frizz

When it comes to achieving your personal hair goals, it’s important to know what kind of porosity you have. All of this is its own article, yet the shorthand is high porosity has cuticles that are kind of flared up and open, normal porosity is smooth and slightly open, and low porosity is damn near sealed shut. This means that high porosity absorbs moisture the fastest and loses it the quickest, normal porosity is low-drama (on the moisture tip), and low porosity makes it difficult to take moisture in.

While keeping all of that in mind, hair frizz is what happens when your tresses don’t receive enough moisture, which can cause your cuticles to not be smooth. This means that when you’re trying to style your hair, the frizz that you’re noticing could result in breakage because your cuticle may be too fragile for the kind of styling that you’re doing. That’s why it’s important to keep frizzing down to a minimum, too.

You can do this by keeping your hair (especially your ends) moisturized, avoiding styling products that contain drying products like sulfates or alcohol, sleeping on silk or satin (as far as your headwraps and pillowcases are concerned) and being extremely careful when it comes to color treatments. When it comes to permanent hair color (especially if it contains ammonia), very few things are more drying — which ultimately means more damaging.

(Two hair dye tips: Always deep condition your hair on wash days if your hair is color-treated, and only focus on the roots when doing color retouches. Your ends don’t need the same amount of color; it’s already dyed…remember?)

8. Never Just Accept "Hair Growth Plateaus"

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Has it seemed like your hair has been the same length for at least a couple of years now? If that is indeed the case, please don’t settle for another ridiculous-yet-popular myth that some hair just “stops” at a certain point. Again, so long as your hair is growing, it can get longer.

The reason why your hair growth seems stuck or stagnant is that something is transpiring that’s resulting in your hair breaking off (or you cutting it off) basically as fast as it grows. A poor diet can cause this. Too much heat on your hair can cause this. Raggedy ends can cause this (if your hair feels rough at the ends, it usually means that they are either dry or split). Not properly and consistently nurturing your scalp can cause this (check out “10 Things Your Scalp Has BEEN Waiting For You To Do”). Cutting your hair too often can do this. Not studying your hair can do this.

As far as the last point, a YouTuber who I thoroughly enjoy is Seun Okim (her hair is so long and healthy; I adore it!). She literally breaks hair growth down to a user-friendly science. So, when you get a chance, check out her posts “The TOP MISTAKES You Do That Cause Your BREAKAGE.” and “The Truth About Why Your Hair Won't Grow Past a Certain Length & How to Fix It.” You’ll be oh so very glad that you did.

9. Keep Metal (Accessories) Out of Your Hair

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While this one should be common sense, you know what they say: common sense ain’t so common. For instance, I’ll raise my hand in this class and say that it’s kind of wild that some of the hair clips that I use to style my hair are made out of metal. And yes, especially when my hair is wet, sometimes they do cause snagging, and snagging can lead to breakage. In fact, any hair accessory that has metal in it can do this — so be super aware of this fact while you’re out here getting hair clips, barrettes, and even headbands that have the “teeth” in them.

(As far as the hair clips for styling go, plastic duckbills can get the job done. Some inexpensive ones can be found here.)

10. Apply Leave-In Conditioner to Your Ends Every Other Night

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Your ends have spent the most time with you (as far as your hair is concerned) which means they require the most TLC. Although I make sure to apply a leave-in conditioner on wash days, I also make it a point to apply some to my ends on the nights when I am braiding my hair up (to keep it stretched out without any heat) — and boy, has it been a length retainer!

Since leave-ins are designed to add moisture to the hair without weighing it down, so long as you use them sparingly and only on your ends when they feel on the drier side, you can feel confident that your ends are stronger, well-hydrated and better prepared for the styling ideas that you have in mind — especially if you “seal” the conditioner with a bit of shea butter or a carrier oil like rosemary or grapeseed (butters and oils can help the conditioner to last longer). So, definitely take this final tip to heart. I honestly can’t say enough good things about it.


I ain’t go no lies for you: growing out your hair can teach you a lot about patience, self-control, and yourself overall. Yet I promise you that if you prioritize your ends, you will see some progress. Maybe not when you want it yet…right when you least expect it.

Love on them bad boys…watch how your entire head flourishes once you do!

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