Today I have a question that I hear very often, and I’m eager to answer this question to put an end to it for once and for all. Tara M. has sent in a question where she asks:
Hi. I find your website very informative and interesting, but I’m a bit reserved about whether the advice will work for me. I am a first generation African immigrant to the US, and I have really kinky, black hair, and it’s never really grown that much. My hair is relaxed, and it always breaks off and it’s really thin and just damaged. I’ve always wanted long hair, but I just don’t think my black hair can grow.
Yes, absolutely! Black hair, like any other hair type is always growing, so unless you are dead, your hair certainly grows. The thing is, people believe Black hair doesn’t grow and many Black ladies have hard time retaining length for a few reasons.
1. In it’s natural state, Black hair shrinks, sometimes it can shrink as much to 80% of it’s length, this is known as shrinkage. I like to think of natural black hair like a slinky. A slinky is shaped like a spiral, so it appears short and springy, but when you stretch it out, it’s actually pretty long. Many curly and highly textured hair types are shaped the same way, so they can appear short to the naked eye, but when you stretch it out, it’s fairly long.
2. Tara, you said your hair is relaxed, right? Well every couple of months or so you have new growth that you have to relax, correct? Well this new growth is proof that your hair does grow. Unfortunately, there is something you are doing to your hair that is causing it to break off just as fast as it grows, thus never retaining any noticeable length.
Black hair is delicate, it tends to sustain damage and breakage more than any other hair type. However, many people think the opposite of black hair. Some people think it’s “tough” and able to withstand anything, but that isn’t the case. This false dichotomy leads many Black women to do all sorts of damaging things to their hair, believing it can withstand the stress, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
If you looked at a strand of black hair under a microscope, you’d find bends and curves that are known as kinks along it’s structure. A strand of black hair can have multiple kinks along each strand, and each kink is a stress point where the hair can easily break or split of handled improperly. Even everyday handling can be damaging to black hair, so imagine how damaging blow drying, flat ironing, curling, and all other common hair care practices can be for black hair if not done properly. As a result, black hair tends to break off and not retain as much length more than any other hair type when you blow dry it, flat iron it, and style it all sorts of ways without moderation. More than any other hair type, black hair benefits from protective styling and low manipulation when trying to grow it long.
3. Natural black hair tends to have a low or lower porosity level, so it has a hard time letting in moisture. I’ve talked before about how curly and kinkier hair textures having a hard time staying moist along the length of their strands because the sebum from the scalp can’t navigate all the twists and turns in textured hair types. Moisture is essential to growing long hair, so if you have a highly textured hair, you must pick up where nature lacks and moisturize your tresses everyday with hair care products to keep it moist, flexible, and ward off breakage.
On the other end of the spectrum, when you relax black hair or dye it, it becomes highly porous, and the way you take care of relaxed or dyed black hair is totally different from how you take care of black hair in it’s natural state. Last I heard a solid statistic, nearly 70 percent of Black women in America relaxed their hair, but I’m sure that has gone down with the surge in Black women transitioning from relaxers to their natural hair texture. Relaxed hair needs protein, protein, and more protein to fill in the gaps and cracks that relaxers leave behind. Relaxing your hair too often and improperly applying your relaxer (overlapping and relaxing hair that’s already been chemically straightened) is another no-no that can make relaxed black hair break off and never reach it’s fullest potential.
There are several reasons why black hair seems to not grow long, but with the proper hair care regimen tailored to your hair’s specific needs and renewed and gentle approach to hair care, I can confidently tell you that yes, your hair can grow Tara. Check out some of our relaxed hair care articles and I”m sure you’ll be on the right path to long hair in no time.