Our hair strands are always in various phases of the hair growth cycle, gaining on average six inches a year. Factors that can affect hair growth include genetics (the rate at which your hair grows in each phase), diet, or any heat / chemical use. Retention of this growth however, can depend primarily on our hair care habits. If you are properly and gently taking care of your natural hair, you can expect to retain more length.
On the other hand, if you are not adequately taking care of your hair, it may be more prone to breaking off and thus cause stunted length retention. If you’ve noticed that your hair appears to not be retaining length, it may be a fixable misstep somewhere in habit.
Here are some reasons why your natural hair may not be retaining length:
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1) You’re rushing through detangling
Detangling is a long process for some of us. And sometimes, we get impatient and rush through certain sections – we’ve all been there. However, if it becomes a habit, harsh detangling can start to stunt your length retention. Tangles in the hair are already in a weakened state, so combing through them without first loosening the tangles (finger detangling, applying a conditioner, etc.), causes them to snap and break off.
Rushing through detangling can even cause otherwise healthy strands, to get caught in the mix and break off. The snapping and breaking of your strands can create mid-shaft splits and split ends in various parts of the hair.
The fix: When detangling make sure you are gentle with your hair in the effort to promote length retention. Detangling in sections is a good start to limit unnecessary breakage. Finger detangling the “big knots” first and then finishing off with a wide tooth comb helps too. Finally, applying a leave-in conditioner with slip will help your comb to smoothly glide through your strands.
2) Your hair is breaking off at your shoulders
If you like to wear your hair in a wash and go often, or perhaps leave your hair down when lounging around, this can be a reason why your natural hair is not retaining length. With our hair constantly rubbing against our shoulders and clothing, this is causing friction against the ends of the hair. The ends of our hair are the oldest parts and are prone to dryness and breakage. A lot of clothing fabrics, like cotton, can also be drawing out moisture from our ends as well.
Wearing protective styles on occasion will help to give your ends a break and reduce unnecessary breakage and manipulation. Also, be sure that you are applying extra care to your ends with the help of sealing oils and more moisture.
3) You’re trimming your hair too often or not often enough
The number of hair trims one should get per year varies depending on the individual and their current hair health. Any underlying hair damage can play a role, as well as your hair care habits. However, the frequency of your hair trims can be a reason why your natural hair is not retaining length. If you are getting trims too often, visible hair growth isn’t really going to be seen since it is being cut off each time.
If you are not getting your hair trimmed enough, split ends can further split up the hair shaft creating mid-shaft splits. Untreated split ends will result in having to get more length cut off when you do decide to go for a trim.
4) You’re hair is not receiving enough moisture / protein
One of the biggest factors that affect the health of your hair is hydration. Our hair needs water to grow from both the inside and outside. Without enough moisture, our naturally dry-prone strands are more susceptible to breakage. We additionally need a healthy balance of moisture and protein. Our hair strands are comprised of a protein called keratin. So, if you are not getting enough protein in your diet or incorporating protein treatments in your hair regimen, it can cause your strands to become weakened.
The key is a healthy balance of both moisture and protein. If we over-moisturize our hair or give our strands too much protein, it can also leave our strands in a weakened state. Doing monthly protein treatments and making sure you get enough protein and water in your diet is a good aim.
5) You’re wearing the same style too often
A go-to style for many naturals is a quick bun or afro puff. However, when we begin to wear these styles all day, every day, it can start to cause some breakage particularly around the edges and nape area. When we sleek back our hair, it is pulling our strands in different directions, causing tension on the hairline and hair follicles – hence why many get headaches with pulled back styles.
The same applies if you are wearing your hair down all the time – the constant rubbing against clothing can cause the ends to break off. Switching up your hairstyles on occasion will give your hair a break and release stress on the hair follicles.
6) Heat and chemical use
The use of heat tools and chemicals like color dyes can be affecting your hair’s length retention. With the use of heat, the protein that comprises the hair strands can begin to become weakened with the high temperatures. Hair dyes, bleach, etc. contain a combination of chemicals that can be very drying and damaging to the hair strands. Frequent use of either can cause permanent damage and even thinning that will eventually need to be cut off.
1“Hair Loss: The Science of Hair.” WebMD, WebMD, 1 Mar. 2010, www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/hair-loss/science-hair.
2Hatfield, Heather. “8 Ways You’re Damaging Your Hair.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/beauty/features/8-ways-youre-damaging-your-hair.