The natural hair movement has exploded in the past ten years, allowing black women and women of color to celebrate their hair’s natural texture. Once upon a time, having your hair straightened with a flat iron or hot comb, or chemically altered with relaxers, was a natural rite of passage that took place every weekend or every month depending on the process. As time went on, , black women began to embrace their natural hair, celebrating the kinks, coils and curls of their original texture. What was once seen as something to be ashamed of or something to hide became something to celebrate. The movement started in the 70s, slowed down for a bit and was revived in the 90s. Natural hair became an extreme source of pride.
But now a new dilemma presented itself. How do you grow your hair when you're not used to dealing with it? Many a new naturalista discovered that while she was in love with her nature-given hair texture, she was unclear as to how to care for it in a way that would help it grow. Now that she’d seen the possibilities, she wanted it to grow so that she’d have even more styling options. Nursing curls and coils to their longest long length is very different from nursing straight, processed hair to that level. How do we take our newly birthed glorious coils to new lengths?
Hair Growth Facts
Listed below are some key facts about hair growth.
How exactly does a strand of hair grow?
There are about a 100,000 follicles on the human scalp. Hair begins growing in a root at the bottom of a follicle that's been constructed out of protein cells. Your blood vessels in your scalp transfer blood to the root, feeding the cells and helping the strand of hair grow. As the hair grows, it pushes its way up through the skin and through sebum, the oil produced by the sebaceous gland. This oil is added to the hair and helps it stay strong and moisturized. By the time the strand of hair pushes its way through the skin, it is dead, and bizarrely, ready to shine!
What are the stages of hair growth?
There are four stages of hair growth on the human head. All hair on your head is not going through the same stages at the same time. Instead, random hairs on your head are all going through different stages of hair growth.
The anagen phase is the actual growing phase of hair growth. This phase lasts anywhere between two and seven years. However long your specific growth phase is will determine how long your hair gets. The longer the anagen phase, the longer the hair. People whose hair never seems to grow have short anagen phase periods. Roughly 80% of your hair is in the anagen phase at any given time.
The catagen phase is hair's transitional stage. Roughly 3% of all hair on your head is in the catagen phase at any given time. This phase lasts for about three weeks. In this phase, the hair growth officially stops. During this period, the hair follicle gets smaller and detaches from the dermal papilla, turning the strand of hair in to a club hair.
The telogen phase is the resting phase, and anywhere between 6% and 8% of your hair is in this phase at any given time. It lasts for about a hundred days, and the hair follicle is fully at rest has a club hair that is completely formed.
The exogen phase is the shedding phase of the hair where the old hair finally detaches and falls out. When they say you lose about 25 to 100 strands of hair each day, that's the exogen phase that they're talking about.
Sooo...what does this all mean for me and my newly flourishing natural locks?
It's easy to look at all of this and say okay, me and my super-fast anagen phase hair have no luck!
Technically, based on the above, it is true that an individual hair will only grow as long as its growth phase. The longer your hair stays in the anagen phase, the longer it will grow. That doesn't mean that people with shorter growth phases are out of luck. What it does mean is that people that do have short growth phases will have to work harder to retain their hair length.
How to grow natural hair
Let’s get to it. Following are some key tips that can help you form a healthy head of beautiful, natural curls.
Stress kills! You already know that stress can cause an adverse reaction on your overall health, causing ailments ranging from bad skin to strokes and heart attacks. On a relatively superficial level, stress can also cause you to lose your hair. How does it do that?
There are three types of stress-related hair loss.
Remember the telogen, or resting, phase mentioned above? Too much stress can force your hair follicles into a prolonged version of this resting phase. After a couple of months in this phase, the mere act of brushing your hair can cause it to fall out.
Stress can sometimes cause people to pull their hair out of their heads as a way of counteracting the negative feelings, resulting in hair loss.
Many scientists believe that with alopecia areata, high stress levels cause the body’s immune system to attack the hair follicles, resulting in major hair loss.
Eat great! And Make Up the Deficit With Vitamins!
They say you are what you eat. You can pretty much tell what someone’s diet is like simply by looking at their hair. A nutrient-poor diet low on key strand-strengthening foods will leave hair brittle, dry and prone to breakage.
Remember that protein is the key to hair growth as it leaves the follicle. Foods rich in protein like meat,tofu, beans, eggs, milk and legumes are examples of foods that you should incorporate in your diet so that protein cellular production functions flawlessly.
B vitamins are absolutely essential for healthy hair grow.
- Vitamin B2 helps in cellular respiration
- Vitamin B6 helps keep your hormonal balance, a key factor in stress-related hair loss and breakage.
- Vitamin B9, or folic acid, is one of the most important vitamins when it comes to hair grow. It aids in the health and strength of a hair follicle, providing an optimum environment for hair growth.
- Vitamin B7 or vitamin H, more commonly known as biotin, is the mack daddy of all B vitamins. If you're taking it in supplement form, you want to take anywhere between 3 and 10 mg per day. Many people have gone as far as high as 15 or more per day and claimed to have doubled their hair growth, but you need to ensure that your body can handle that level of excess. Biotin-rich foods include eggs, pork and liver, salmon, sardines, avocado, peanuts, pecans and walnuts. If you find or suspect that you're not getting enough biotin, you can take it in the form of a supplement.
Sometimes we do our best, but we just don't get enough nutrients from the food that we eat. If you're unable to eat healthfully, supplements are the way to go.
Protect those precious strands.
In spite of its gorgeous tendrils, kinks and coils, natural hair are often extremely fragile. Constant combing, heat application, styling, and over manipulation can lead to extreme damage very quickly. That extreme damage that leads to breakage, which interferes with growth retention. In order for natural hair wears to retain their hair length, many of them use protective styling techniques. Protective styling is styling that helps protect the ends of the hair from breaking. The ends are tucked away so that growth is maintained. Protective styling also makes it easier for natural hair wears to keep their hair moisturized so that hair doesn't dry out and again lead to more breakage. Protective styles include properly installed braids and extensions, buns, wigs and any other styles that allow you to use as little manipulation on your hair as possible.
Be gentle when washing or combing your hair.
Natural hair is all powerful, but it can also be fragile. When you wash your hair, finger detangle it beforehand in order to ensure that as few strands as possible are broken of your natural hair curls and kinks. The curlier the hair, the more fragile it is.
Cut down on the heat.
Heat can be anathema to natural hair. You go in for a silk press on your coils and kinks. You walk out with silky, flowing hair that looks healthy but that is in fact scared straight. Any type of heat potentially weakens hair strands, making them vulnerable to breakage and the dreaded length-shortening syndrome (made up term!). Too-hot heat damages the cuticle of natural hair, breaking it down and making it more prone to breakage and dryness, which then lead to more breakage. Add in the fact that too much heat can cause split ends, and you’re left with a recipe for disaster. Unless it’s part of a conditioning treatment, keep heat application to a minimum.
Moisturize...And then moisturize again..and again..
It doesn’t matter how fast or long your hair grows if it breaks off easily. One of the most common reasons for hair breakage is the fact that the hair is not moisturized. Many factors determine the type of moisture you need, including your hair’s porosity level (your hair’s ability to absorb moisture and oils past its cuticle layer and into its cortex), your hair density and your hair texture. Once you figure out how much moisture you need, you’ll be able to protect your hair from breakage. Follow up a deep conditioning treatment with the best hair moisturizer for your type of hair. Popular moisturizers include avocado oil, shea butter, and Jamaican black castor oil. Many people follow up a wash and conditioning with a vinegar hair rinse, used to seal the cuticles and keep all the moisture in.
Give it time
Taking care of your hair from the inside and on the outside will help you grow lush, vibrant kinks and curls. Learn your hair. Once you start to see results, it will be easier for you to stick to what you have to do to retain and maintain length, resulting in the gorgeous, longer hair of your dreams. Remember that at the end of the day, healthy hair is your goal. Even if you don’t get the knee-length locs of your fantasies, you’ll be reaping the overall benefits of healthy hair.