Curl Care 101: How to Maximize Your Natural Hair Growth and Retain Length

Curl Care 101: How to Maximize Your Natural Hair Growth and Retain Length

I know what you're thinking -- today is Wednesday! It's not time for Curl Care 101 yet! Well, yes it is :) Since I skipped the week before last, I made sure to play catch-up by dropping this here part today, and the final article of the segment will be up tomorrow (Thursday)! Today we're talking all about maximizing natural hair growth and length retention. As always, I hope you find this helpful, informative, and practically applicable!

Before I get too deep off into the subject matter, let's make an important distinction:

GROWTH: The amount or length of hair that is produced directly out of the scalp within a given time frame. Barring certain medical conditions or complications, our hair is always growing. Always. No really, like, always.

LENGTH RETENTION: The amount of hair (typically referred to in inches) that remains on the head (or is retained -- sorry, I really hate using root words in definitions #oldschool) through the various cycles and time frames of growth.

I had to get that out of the way because one of the chief complaints I hear is that "my hair won't grow". If you have a pulse and are free of very specific medical conditions (and medications), the issue isn't your hair not growing. The issue is length retention, and the lack thereof. But let me dial it back a little bit. Let's talk a little about growth first.


Now that we've established the key differences between growth and length retention, let's delve a little deeper into the biological functions of growing hair. Whether you know it or not, every single strand of hair on our head exists in one of 3 stages at any given time. Those stages are:
Anagen: This is the active growth phase, which occurs between 3 and 8 years, depending upon genetics. 85 - 90% of the hair on your head is in the anagen phase, which means that with proper care, it is entirely possible to grow a head of long, healthy hair anywhere from 18 - 48 inches. (Based upon a growth rate of 1/2 inch per month. This does not account for trims and cuts). During the anagen phase of growth, the follicle grows deeper into the skin for nourishment.
Catagen: During the catagen phase, the strand of hair has reached its terminal length. It stops growing, the follicle shrinks and the hair is broken off from its blood supply. During this 2-4 week stage, a new hair begins forming in its place in the dermis while the terminally grown hair sits in the follicle preparing for exit.
Telogen: This is what is known as the resting and final phase of hair. Anywhere from 8 - 10% of our hair is in this phase, which is where the estimated 34 - 180 shed hairs per day comes into play. Hair does not just fall out at the telogen phase, despite what it may seem like. Once the newly developed hair has grown enough, it pushes the old hair out and the anagen phase starts again. This push out produces the shed hairs that you see well, everywhere. Without proper removal (i.e. detangling), shed hairs become caught among the living (so to speak) and cause tangly, knotted, nightmares.

Curl Care 101: How to Maximize Your Natural Hair Growth and Retain Length

I'm sure you've heard the statistic before that hair grows approximately on average 1/2 an inch per month. However, given the diversity in our textures, backgrounds, diets, exercise, and external stimuli (like scalp massages), those numbers can vary greatly. Some ladies on extreme ends of the spectrum see anywhere between 1/8 of an inch to a full inch (or inch and a half) of hair growth in a calendar month. Many of us will fall somewhere in between. My hair personally grows 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch per month. You most certainly can positively impact and maximize your growth rate with any of the above mentioned mechanisms, scalp massages with Jamaican Black Castor Oil, peppermint or rosemary essential oil included. Click here to learn about how exercise, healthy food choices, reducing stress, and sleeping better can all improve your hair growth.

Faster Growth? A Note on Vitamins
Many ladies wish to accelerate their hair growth rate -- which is how JBCO challenges, and the tomfoolery known as the inversion method gained popularity. It's also why vitamins from brands like The Mane Choice and Hairfinity have taken center stage in a major way. While I do not take any specific hair growth vitamins currently (I do have a pack of Viviscal that Vitamin Shoppe sent me -- I might pop those open in March), I did take The Mane Choice Vitamins for a few months and I'd be lying if I said they didn't improve my hair growth rate. On the whole, I don't have a problem with hair growth vitamins as long as you understand the ingredients and what you're getting in to. What I do have a problem with is this "growth cult" business that has overtaken the natural hair community (I played the game for a while too, for some free vitamins --  I ain't gon' lie), that pressures women into extremes chasing behind some inches of hair. 

Curl Care 101: How to Maximize Your Natural Hair Growth and Retain Length
The Mane Choice Manetabolism label
While there's no magic bullet pill that will have you sprouting 4 inches of hair in a month (please don't fall for those screenshotted --or is it screenshat? What's the past-tense of screenshot? Lol-- to hell and extra blurry recycled ItWorks! Hair Skin & Nails pictures on Instagram). But there are certain vitamins and supplements that may give you that extra oomph you've been missing to optimize growth and follicle stimulation. Hair is primarily composed of keratin, which on a molecular level exists as a long chain of amino acids. Those amino acid chains are made up of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and sulfur. Without delving too far into polypeptide chains (salt, hydrogen, disulfide... Christina, WHAT?!), let it just suffice to say that there are certain vitamins and supplements that are on the molecular level, beneficial to stimulating hair growth. Biotin is beneficial in not only follicular stimulation, but in strengthening the cortex of the hair (the part that is essentially keratin). MSM (Methyl Sulfonyl Methane) is an organic sulfur compound (scroll up... sulfur is a building block for hair!) that is generally used for reducing inflammation in the body's tissues, particularly joints. MSM is really cool because in addition to easing joint inflammation, it has been proven to increase hair's growth (anagen) phase. There are plenty of other beneficial vitamins and supplements, just make sure you do your research and consult your doctor before beginning any vitamin regimen. Many herbs, supplements, and vitamin combinations can have potentially dangerous interactions with prescription medications. Don't say I didn't warn you. 

My personal philosophy over the past several months has evolved to that of the "collateral benefit" -- taking vitamins and supplements that benefit both my hair and body. If I've got to take these smelly things (let's keep it real here 99.8% of all vitamins have an odor from the pits of hell), they might as well do more than help my hair grow. If you're interested in details about my specific vitamin regimen, let me know in the comments and I'll do a separate post -- this one is getting long already and I haven't even touched on length retention. But to sum this thing on up, I do believe vitamins are helpful to supplement (ha, see what I did there?) a holistically healthy hair regimen. They are one piece of the puzzle, not the main focus. A healthy diet, exercise, drinking water, stress reduction, and a solid haircare regimen will transform your hair more than a pill in a bottle ever can. It doesn't sound sexy, but the truth rarely ever is.

I think this goes without saying but, before somebody tries to sue or blame me: I am not a nutritionist, doctor, nurse, or other licensed healthcare professional. Do not place anything you see in this article or on in higher regard than the advice of your doctor. 

Length Retention

Now that you understand the mechanics of what's coming out of your scalp, let's rap a little bit about how to keep it there. As I mentioned earlier in this piece, the majority of perceived growth issues are actually length retention issues as a result of breakage. Luckily, solving issues of length retention (in my opinion) come down to 3 key things: developing a solid haircare regimen, learning how to handle your hair, and maintaining a regular trim schedule. Why those 3 things? Let's dig a little deeper.

Developing a Healthy Hair Care Regimen
We went into great detail during this segment of Curl Care 101, but I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have a regimen that works for your hair in place. This means figuring out pre-pooing and detangling, cleansing, deep conditioning, moisturizing regularly, and more. Natural hair needs hydration and moisture, and your regimen should be reinforcing that at every stage. Once you've got the foundation of a great hair care regimen going, your hair will respond positively by breaking and splitting less -- which leads to greater length retention.

Handle With Care
Although our hair is strong in general, textured hair is structurally weaker. Each bend (curl, zig-zag, wave, or otherwise) in your strand of hair represents a weak point that is prone to snapping and breaking. Knowing this, it is of the utmost importance that textured hair be treated gently and with great care. Yanking, pulling, tugging, and hurriedly rushing combs, brushes, and even fingers through textured tresses is a huge no-no. Whether it be to detangle or style, take your time and do it the right way. 

Curl Care 101: How to Maximize Your Natural Hair Growth and Retain Length

Regular Trims
Even with the most delicate and intentional care, our hair will still inevitably suffer some breakage, splitting, and weathering at the ends. That's just life. What I encourage you to do is take the time out to get a trim (professionally) or trim your ends at home regularly. Holding on to split, damaged, broken and uneven ends will do your hair and styling more harm than good.  Some ladies trim annually, others trim at the change of each new season. The later is recommended by most professional stylists, but I've come to understand that ladies who avoid heat use, are diligent about their regimens, and don't utilize hair color can go much longer between trims, and that's totally fine. Those of us who like to flat iron every 4-6 months or dabble in hair dye should definitely lean more toward the seasonal timeline. It seems counter-intuitive to trim to retain length, but when you consider the negative impact of damaged hair on your otherwise healthy hair, it makes perfect sense. The standard trim amount is 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch, which is like...nothing. If you have an average growth rate of 1/2 an inch per month and trim seasonally, you've gained 1 1/2 inches of new growth, trimmed away 1/4, and retained 1 1/4. In a year's time, that's only 1 inch of hair gone (provided you practice healthy hair regimen-ing and gentle hair handling). 

Of course with trimming, I advise listening to your hair and enlisting the help of a professional when necessary. You can trim more or less frequently, take off more or less hair, and trim on blown out, straight, or natural textured hair, depending upon your styling goals and hair needs.

Well ladies, that about wraps it up for the topics of growth and length retention. If you have any specific questions on the topic, drop 'em in the comments below! See you guys Thursday with the last installment of Curl Care 101 -- we'll be talking about safely using heat to switch up your style from time to time!

If you missed any Curl Care 101 articles, click here!

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  1. I truly look forward to your daily posts. I, too, was on that ItWorks train..actually I have 3 days left to finish my last bottle and NO I did not accelerate my growth rate to the GAWDS!!! My hair is a bit thicker and my coworkers tell me it is longer. I am going to start taking Hairinity on March 1st though; I have taken that in the past and I know that works for me. I would like to know what your supplement regimen in though. You are doing a great service on your blog and YT videos!!! We appreciate you!!!

  2. Why is the inversion method "tomfoolery"? My understanding is the basis of the method comes from yoga which a great way to get your mind, body, and spirit in shape. Also some people hang upside down on an inversion table to help with disc issues of the neck and back. My opinion is that it is one of the methods that has the least possibility for negative side effects (hair vitamins for me caused acne. And the fish oil supplement for shiny hair, I am almost too embarrassed to even mention what that did to my body). Have you tried the inversion method and had a bad experience? I have tried it, not only because I was so curious about it increasing my rate of growth but it also reminded me of something I used to do all the time when I was child. I do not know why I did it but sometimes when I was playing in my room I would hang upside down on the bed. Sometimes while climbing trees I would hang upside on a branch or on the monkey bars. Increasing circulation to your head is not foolish. Scalp massages, steaming, natural oils can all increase circulation to the scalp as well as hanging upside down. Well, when I consistently tried it I had one inch of hair growth a month instead of 1/2 an inch. It was free, simple, quick, and if I didn't like it or it wasn't working I could stop immediately and not have to wait months for the effects to subside (hair vitamins, anyone?). But I will say the point is to increase the amount of nutrients that reach the scalp if you are not eating healthy and getting the recommended amount of vitamins, minerals, protein, and WATER then this process and no other process is gonna work well. Also I started taking a daily multi-vitamin that has been blended specifically for women (it has 3 herbs that help regulate female hormones, what a godsend. It cleared my acne in about 2 months) and I started drinking the recommended about of water (and keeping track of how much water I drink with an app on my phone). Good Luck with your journey!

  3. I need to know which service is the best from the ones listed on the site?
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  4. Anthony Constantinou | Anthony Constantinou CEO CWM FX says There are several products out to make your hair look fuller. One of the easiest that I came across at site, is to dry your hair upside down with a hair dryer then flip it back over when you are done. Drying the roots first seems to help a lot.