Afro hair grows around 2 inches every month, so it is very common to feel like there hasn't been much growth. I know its hard but try not compare your hair and growth to other peoples, no two curly heads are the same and each and every one of us is on our own individual journey! You will learn to be patient when growing your hair. BY FORCE. I found that taking pictures every couple months really helped me to notice the growth I believed was non existent.
Our afro hair's tight kinky curls are so fragile which causes it to break a lot more easily than other hair types. There are 3 types of breakage that can occur, known as manual, physical and chemical, so it is important we take extra care at all times (even under wigs/weave). Growing your natural hair can be simple once you have the right practices in place, so don't be discouraged just yet!
Here are 8 ways to retain length and prevent breakage from occurring.
Trim your ends
Get rid of any damaged or split ends as soon as you notice them, as they can lead to further damage. If your ends are frayed or get tangled a lot in single strand knots, its time for a trim!
I haven't been to a hairdresser in a while as I am just too paranoid however I've been dusting my ends every time I wash and style my hair. Any time I come across frayed ends or a knot I cut it away there and then. For example if i twist my hair and the ends gradually get thinner I will cut to where my hair is all one length and at its thickest. We are told to trim our ends every 2 or 3 months however sometimes our hair has other ideas. Personally I would just do what works best for your strands.
2. Deep condition & Cleanse
Deep conditioning is not just for special occasions! It should be part of every wash routine and should be kept on for at least 15 minutes. Heating your conditioner up can also add extra benefits, as it stimulates the hair cuticles enabling it to penetrate through the hair shaft.
I try to wash my hair every two weeks (personal preference) and every time I deep condition for a minimum of 30 minutes. A clean healthy scalp is essential for growth. Making sure your scalp and hair gets a good clean will get rid of any build up that can be blocking the hair follicle, preventing hair growth and causing dryness.
First of all there is no magical product that will give you long hair to your knees overnight, but the right products will help you along the way. Harsh ingredients in products can actually lead to breakage, therefore it is important to read the labels and pay attention to what works and doesn't work for your hair (have a look at our previous posts on what ingredients are good/bad). Personally I just buy all natural products, not only is it easier but it's also better for your skin and hair. Although they are more expensive I think it is worth it to know what you are putting on your hair, and the more I think about it, why would you even want to put ingredients such as silicone or alcohol on your hair?
Chemical treatments such as relaxers, keratin treatments and blow outs can also be quiet harsh for our delicate strands and not help with growth. Especially if they are left on for too long. So if you really must use one take extra care to prepare your hair both before and after the treatment.
Using appliances such as hair dryers and straighteners excessively or on a high heat will lead to damage and then breakage. I have been heat free for 3 years now and that has seriously helped with my growth! Stupidly I didn't realise that every time I was blow drying my hair with the comb attachment at the end that it was actually breaking off my ends with it. So personally I have found it best to avoid using heat completely. If you do use heat in your hair, be sure to use a heat protector and to keep the heat set on a low setting.
Weather conditions can also cause dryness and breakage so its important to update your care routine during the Summer and Winter months. When the seasons change my hair can become very dry and I find that I have to either try different products or change up my technique to try and retain moisture as well as taking precautions when on holiday in hot countries to not fry your strands. I have found that when on holiday it is best to keep your hair in a protective style such as twists, as you are easily able to re moisturise your scalp and strands. I also found that it was better to cover my hair from the sun as it can really dry it out and in some cases even cause heat damage.
5. Moisturise & Seal
Afro hair needs the perfect balance of protein and moisture in your hair regimen. If there is an overload or lack of either one it can lead to breakage. Too much moisture and your hair will become very weak and moushy where as too much protein will just cause your hair to snap off in little strands. In the beginning I alternated between moisturising and protein conditioners to help me find the right balance. Once I got to know my hair and knew what worked best for my strands I was able to tell by looking and feeling my strands what it needed.
The ends of our hair are the first to break off as they are the oldest, therefore they require more moisture and attention as they are easily prone to dryness and breakage, as they become brittle. Whatever style you do make sure to add a little extra product to the ends and then seal with an oil such as castor or jojoba oil. Protective styling is the best option to prevent your ends from drying out,as they are tucked out the way. The LOC (liquid, oil and cream) method is perfect for keeping those strands extra moist, I do it every time I moisture and style and my hair. As long as you make sure every strand is covered with a water based product and then sealed you can't go wrong with this technique!
6. Protective styling
Honestly, the less you touch and manipulate your hair the more it will grow and thrive. As afro hair is so delicate, breakage, tangles, split ends and knots can literally occur every time you put your hands in your hair, which is super hard not to do! It's hardest when Summer arrives and all you want to do is let your hair down. So, it is important to have some balance and give your hair a break for a few days, in order to try not to over do it as it can damage length retention. I wear protective styles probably 90% of the time and I found that leaving my hair alone every few days is my way of allowing for growth to occur.
Never ever ever detangle your hair dry as you will literally see your strands break off and end up on the floor or in your comb! Make sure you hair is either wet or damp and work in sections either with a wide tooth comb or your fingers. I have not combed my hair in almost 4 years! Instead I just use my fingers, even though it does take longer I have significantly less breakage and shedding. I will either detangle my hair wet in the shower with a conditioner or damp with a leave in conditioner with lots of slip to make life a lot easier. Dentangling afro hair has got to be the longest part but its important not to rush it as it will just lead to breakage. Take your time and if you get annoyed have a break.
8. Wrap your head at night!
I admit that sometimes I just don't feel like wrapping my head, especially after a long day. However by doing this most simple thing you can really save a couple inches! Investing in a real silk/satin scarf or pillowcase will stop your hair from drying out by retaining moisture, therefore prevent breakage from occurring. Although you might not notice any damage straight away it will gradually happen over time, and if you're an active sleeper like myself maybe even sooner rather than later. I found that cotton bedding really tugged away and my edges and I never realised until it started to get a bit tender around my hairline. I have both a silk pillowcase and bonnet and can honestly say that my hair does not get as dry anymore. The pillowcase is also super handy for us active sleepers that loose our scarfs and bonnets half way through the night!