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This Is Why Your Natural Hair Ain't Growin'

It's taken me a while to do what is necessary in order to retain lasting length.

Hair

Two years ago, this coming July, I made the decision to grow my hair out. Chile, when I tell you that NOTHING will teach you more about patience and how to be at peace with the process of things like your hair will, sometimes I think that I'm gaining more character than actual hair length.

Anyway, since I've always been able to cut and style my own hair (even when I was rockin' a fade), it's been a form of self-torture to try and keep my hands out of it. And to not color it. And to not want to dust my ends on a weekly basis. Because I've been in detox in these areas, while my hair should be getting close to shoulder-length at this point, it's actually around my ears. It's not that my hair isn't growing. It's that it's taken me a while to do what is necessary in order to retain lasting length.

In the pursuit of gaining more self-control when it comes to leaving my hair totally alone, it's currently in a set of long box braids. But for about six months before I decided to do that, I must admit that my natural hair was making more progress than ever. Through research, trial and error and even random days of cussing and crying, I have finally figured out what I need to do in order to keep my hair healthy and in order to keep it on the road to gaining more inches.

If you're currently natural and wondering why your hair ain't growin', I'm thinking it's because you're probably not doing some of the following things. Whatcha think?

Why Won't My Natural Hair Grow? Here Are 10 Reasons

1. You Don’t Know Your Hair’s Texture or Porosity

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If I had known more about this point alone, perhaps my hair would be down my back without the help of braids (sigh). Anyway, know better, do better, right?

You probably know what your hair texture is about. It's how tightly or loosely your hair curls/coils. For most of us, we tend to have more than one kind of texture (I'm mostly 4a with some 3c and 4c in areas). As far as hair porosity goes, the long short of it is how well your hair is able to hold and retain moisture. Porosity breaks down into three categories—high, normal and low.

This point could be its own book series, but if you want to learn more about your hair texture, check out this article. To figure out more about your hair's porosity, check out this video, this video and this video. It's well worth the research.

2. You Have a Love/Hate Relationship with Shampooing

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Figuring out how often you should shampoo your hair is not a one-size-fits-all type of situation. The amount of product you do or don't use, how much you workout and even if your scalp flakes a lot, all play a factor. Whatever the case may be, one thing you can be sure of is if you use a shampoo that contains sulfates, you're doing your hair more harm than good.

Something that natural hair is always gonna need is moisture. That's why it's important to not use any product that will strip your hair of it. Personally, I shampoo with a non-sulfate brand and then follow that up with a deep conditioner (more on that in just a sec). I used to do the whole co-wash thing (that's basically when you wash your hair with conditioner), but it actually made my hair too soft to the point that it was losing elasticity.

What I do know is that our hair goes through a lot on wash days, so it's important to find the kind of products that work best for you rather than picking what's popular. And how can you know if your shampoo isn't being all that beneficial? If after using it, your hair feels dry or dull, your color fades fast, it's difficult to style, it's lacking volume, your scalp is irritated or you simply see far too many chemicals on the label—that's a cue to look for something else. Or (even better) to make your own shampoo.

3. You Don’t Deep Condition Often Enough

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There's conditioning. Then there's deep conditioning. When you're trying to keep natural hair healthy, it's a good idea to deep condition your tresses every time you shampoo your hair (if you do that every other week or so). Not only does deep conditioning penetrate your strands and protect them, it also reduces the amount of damage your hair experiences from styling it. Deep conditioning also helps to promote your hair's elasticity and keep it extra moisturized in between washes. It's also a good move if you color treat your hair since doing that has a tendency to make hair dry and brittle.

That's not to say that your hair can't get too much of a good thing. If you deep condition your hair more than four times a month, it can make your hair look flat and feel mushy. The way to bring balance back is to do a protein treatment (which basically fills in the holes along your hair shaft), but if you do that too much, it can make your hair hard. So yeah, deep conditioning no more than once a week (and following the instructions on the label) is gonna be your best bet.

Bonus Tip: Rice water as a form of a conditioning rinse is pretty dope too. Learn more about why here.

4. You Rarely Pamper Your Scalp

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Does it matter how beautiful a house is if its foundation is all jacked up? That's how we need to look at our scalp when it comes to growing out our hair. Just how can you know if your scalp needs some TLC? If it's extra dry; if you've got dandruff (which is basically like a mild yeast infection on your head because dandruff comes from a yeast-like fungus called malassezia globose); if it's irritated; if you have lots of product build-up; if your hair is breaking (pieces of it are snapping off) or shedding (full strands of hair with the bulb attached are coming out more than usual) or if you notice any sores, bumps or it's burning.

In most cases, you can heal your scalp yourself by exfoliating it with some brown sugar and olive oil, massaging it with a blend of peppermint oil, lavender oil and avocado oil and keeping your dirty nails or sharp styling tools off of it. Bottom line, your scalp needs just as much attention as your hair does. Love on it consistently. Your hair will thank you.

5. Your Hands Stay All Up in It

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This. One. Right. Here. Sometimes my hands are in my hair and I don't even notice it, like when I'm driving or chillin' and reading a blog. That's not good because hair is a lot like silk in the sense that it's as fragile as it is strong. If you're always messing with it, between the pressure of your fingers and the dirt on your hands, it can start to make your hair weak over time.

If you know that you have a nasty habit of always being up in your head, make sure to wrap it up at night (more on that towards the end of this) and wear something to cover up your head a few times a week. Maybe a (non-wool) hat or a silk, satin or organic cotton scarf. Anything that will keep your hands away.

6. You Trim Too Little (or Too Much)

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Figuring out how often you should trim your hair poses quite the dilemma. Although a lot of stylists say that it should unequivocally be every 6-8 weeks, it really depends on the rate your hair grows (on average, it's half an inch a month but that varies) and how well you should take care of it.

As far as me and my hair shears go, because I'm a little OCD when it comes to how my hair looks, I used to have a habit of dusting (which is when you take off tiny pieces of the ends of your hair to prevent splitting), at least a couple of times a week. There's no way my hair was gonna grow if I kept going at that rate.

So, how do you know when it's time to dust or get a professional trim? You notice that you have split ends, your hair is super frizzy or you continue to have a difficult time holding a style or shape. If that's what's happening, it's definitely time to pull out your shears. Better yet, to schedule a trim appointment.

(By the way, a good stylist is like a good editor—they will correct what's "wrong" but you'll barely know they were there after they are done. If you are losing a couple of inches every time you go, somebody's stylist is showing signs of being a hater. Real talk.)

7. Your Diet’s All Wrong

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You can put all of the stuff on your hair that you want, but if your diet is crazy, your hair is gonna tell on you. Remember that the hair that's actually showing on your head is dead (that's why it doesn't hurt whenever you cut it). What you need to be focused on is what you're feeding your hair's follicles.

Foods that you should try and consume on a daily basis include proteins (because your hair is made up of protein) like almond butter, lentils and broccoli; foods with iron in them like dark leafy greens, cashews and baked potatoes; omega-3 fatty acids foods like salmon, walnuts and chia seeds and also foods that are loaded with antioxidants including citrus fruits and berries. Foods you should be avoiding? Basically everything white (white sugar, white bread, white rice unless it's jasmine rice). There aren't many nutrients in them so, they aren't doing your hair—or the rest of your body—much good.

Oh, and drink water. Since you're made up of mostly H2O, your scalp and hair definitely need plenty of that!

8. You Aren’t Properly Using Your Styling Tools

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While I personally feel that the best styling tools you can use on natural hair are your fingers, there are a few other things that you should have in your hair care collection. A wide-toothed comb. A Denman Brush. A water bottle. A hair diffuser (you can control how much or little curl you want with those). A hair steamer. Some ouchless hair bands and bobby pins. A tourmaline (it retains the moisture of your hair without drying it) hair dryer or ionic (it removes water from your hair without causing heat damage) hair dryer.

But even with all of these types of tools in tow, manipulation is manipulation. If you're drastically changing your hairstyle a couple of times a day—or even every couple of days—the constant wear and tear can start to wear your hair totally out.

Think of your hair like a rose. If you're constantly touching it, even with the "right" things, the petals are still gonna eventually weaken and fall. The same thing applies to your hair and the styling tools that you use. First, use the right ones. Second, use them properly while applying the motto of "less is more".

9. Your Protective Styles Stay in Too Long

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Whether it's a wig (y'all some of these wigs these days have been absolutely blowing my mind as far as how natural they look), a weave or something along the lines of twists or braids, protective styles are great because it gives your hair an opportunity to take a break from some of the styling tools we just talked about; it also keeps your hands out of it. Plus, protective styles can protect your tresses from environmental damage as well.

However, I'd be irresponsible if I also didn't say that protective styling is supposed to be a temporary hair growth alternative, not a permanent solution. When it comes to all protective styles, your scalp needs to breathe, your edges need relief from stress and tension and your hair needs a thorough washing and conditioning from time to time.

How can you know when it's time for your protective style to go? If it's been more than six weeks (on average) is a good start. Some other signs is if your hair is dry and brittle; your scalp is itchy and irritated; you notice some thinning in certain areas; your roots appear tangled, matted or full of build-up or you've worn a protective style for so long that you've totally forgotten what your natural hair even looks like.

Remember, protective styling isn't supposed to replace your natural hair. It's supposed to assist it as you strive for healthy long locks. BIG DIFFERENCE.

10.  Your Bedtime Routine Sucks

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If your hair bedtime routine consists of nothing more than tying a scarf around your head and calling it a night, you're definitely working against the kind of length retention you're looking for. Keep in mind that you are (hopefully) spending 6-8 hours in bed, each and every night. The tossing and turning alone is enough to send your tresses through it! That's why it's a good idea to do the scalp massage thing that I mentioned, that you apply a little bit of hair oil to your ends and then that you braid it up or put it into a pineapple. Also, make sure you've got a satin pillowcase on your pillows for additional hair support (in case your scarf falls off).

If you do this consistently, your hair will not dry out due to your bedding and it will require less manipulation in the morning. Less manipulation equals more length retention. At the end of the day, that's what we all want. Definitely.

Featured image by Shutterstock

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Originally published on May 14, 2019

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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