Retain the Gain


If you ask most naturals, they’ll tell you their hair length goals. Everything from BLS (bra strap length), to MBL (mid back length), we all have them.

I have been natural since October of 2007. I transitioned for all of four months. I had no patience with hair and if I could find a time machine somewhere, I’d go back and transition a little or a lot longer. No reason. I just would. Over the course of time, I have gotten to know my mane. What she likes and what she doesn’t. What makes her flourish and what makes her break. She’s a sensitive mane. Particular in all of her ways. She wants what she wants, when she wants it. It sounds weird, I know, but I don’t care. That’s how I refer to my hair.

I have taken vitamins for growth…massaged my temples….purchased “growth serums” that made promises of longer and fuller hair. Seriously. I feel like one of those old ads where women would take pills for bigger boobs and gotten on ridiculous machines for smaller waists. I’m not saying that hair growth pills don’t work. Honestly, there are some that do. What we have to realize, as naturals, is that the key to growing longer, and fuller hair isn’t in the pill or the growth serums. It’s in retaining that hair that you have.

Without getting too scientific….your hair goes through growth phases. Heres an excerpt from follicle.com of how your hair grows:

The Hair Growth Cycle
Hair follicles grow in repeated cycles. One cycle can be broken down into three phases.

Anagen – Growth Phase
Catagen – Transitional phase
Telogen – Resting Phase
Each hair passes through the phases independent of the neighboring hairs.

Anagen Phase – Growth Phase

Approximately 85% of all hairs are in the growing phase at any one time. The Anagen phase or growth phase can vary from two to six years. Hair grows approximately 10cm per year and any individual hair is unlikely to grow more than one meter long.

Catagen Phase – transitional phase

At the end of the Anagen phase the hairs enters into a Catagen phase which lasts about one or two weeks, during the Catagen phase the hair follicle shrinks to about 1/6 of the normal length. The lower part is destroyed and the dermal papilla breaks away to rest below.

Telogen Phase – resting phase

The resting phase follows the catagen phase and normally lasts about 5-6 weeks. During this time the hair does not grow but stays attached to the follicle while the dermal papilla stays in a resting phase below. Approximately 10-15 percent of all hairs are in this phase at an one time.

At the end of the Telogen phase the hair follicle re-enters the Anagen phase. The dermal papilla and the base of the follicle join together again and a new hair begins to form. If the old hair has not already been shed the new hair pushes the old one out and the growth cycle starts all over again.

As you can see, you hair spends a specific amount of time in each phase. Your job is to prevent your hair from breaking off during the cycle where it experiences the longest amount of time in growth. This is the Anagen Phase. This phase lasts from 2-6 years, depending on your genetics. If your hair is genetically pre-determined to stay within this phase for 2 years, then obviously, your hair will not grow as long as someone who’s hair is pre-genetically determined to stay in the phase for 6 years. It’s genetics baby! Your hair is already programmed! A pill or growth serum will only cause your hair to grow longer within this critical phase of growth. It doesn’t change the amount of time that your hair will spend in this phase. This is why it may seem as though your hair has reached a plateau in growth.

Genetically, my hair grows long. The photo you see above is my hair. I am about 4-5 inches from my waist. Before I went natural, my hair was long. I took after my grandmother. Her hair has always been long. I don’t take pills or use special oils. My hair is genetically determined to be longer simply because of the amount of time my genes are programmed to remain in the Anagen Phase. No other reason.

The critical thing that we must remember, is that we need to retain as much of our hair as possible, during this phase of growth. This is key so that we can retain optimal length that is gained during this period.

So, don’t worry and obsess over growth and length. Your hair will do what it’s programmed to do. After the growth phase, it will shed itself and start fresh. You just have to worry about making sure your hair is healthy and well taken care of in the mean time.

Happy growth!