Growing long natural hair has been somewhat of a struggle for many afro-textured hair women. Whether it be constant breakage or not being able to find the right products for our hair, we constantly struggle to get beyond the ‘insufferable’ shoulder length stage. Unfortunately, many of us constantly try to find the ultimate secret to growing our hair to our desired length while trying to find the “Holy Grail” product that magically takes our hair from neck length to our waist overnight. Sadly, no such product exists. Growing hair takes time, patience, and an understanding of your hair. Knowing your hair is the absolute best way to create a solid regimen that will work for you, and it’s also the best way to know what products will work for your hair.
Everyone’s hair grows, but many women have a problem with retaining their length. Hair grows on average about a half an inch per month, but some may grow as much as ¾ an inch or as little as ¼ an inch per month. It all depends on the individual – everyone’s hair is different and grows at a different rate. Hair growth and hair retention are different pieces of the same puzzle, but they go hand in hand. Your hair growth rate is affected by many things including: genetics, health, diet and exercise, whether or not you are taking certain medications, stress levels, and hormone imbalances. Length retention is how well you retain the hair that has already grown from your scalp.
There are 3 phases in their growth process. They are the anagen, catagen, and telogen phases. It is quite important to know and understand each phase of hair growth to recognize issues that may arise in your hair journey.
This is the growth phase. This phase can last anywhere from 2-6 years and is different in every individual. It is solely based on Genetics. The longer the hair stays in this phase then the longer it will grow. This is exactly why you should not compare your hair journey to someone else’s because they have a different growth cycle than you do. Another important thing to note is that not all the hairs on your head is in the same stage at the same time. This is why you may notice that some parts of your hair are longer than others.
This is the transitional phase. This signals the end of the growth phase and this lasts for a few weeks. Hair cell division declines, and the strand root shrinks to around 1/3 of its original size. This is just preparation for the shedding/resting phase.
This is the part that we all hate to deal with, it’s the shedding/ resting phase. The resting phase lasts about 3-4 months and your hair sheds during this time. Shedding is normal and you shouldn’t be alarmed if you see hair in your comb. What you should be concerned with is if the hairs are broken and are shorter than your original length. This would mean that you have breakage.
Growth and shedding are normal parts of our hair journey. There is a balance that exist between the two and if that balance is interrupted then you will have more shedding and hair loss than necessary. Please note that hair sheds about 80-100 strands per day, so pay close attention to your hair to see if the shedding has increased.
KNOW YOUR HAIR
Knowing your hair is one of the most important steps in growing your hair to waist length or beyond. You must get to know what your hair needs and what it responds to in order to figure out what products and techniques you need to maintain and retain your length. Some of the first few things you need to know to get your healthy hair journey off to a great start are your hair’s porosity, the density of your strands, and your hair type.
Hair porosity is simply an indication of how well your hair accepts and holds onto moisture. There are three categories of hair porosity: High porosity, medium or normal porosity, and low porosity.
Having high porosity hair indicates that you have strands with raised cuticles. The cuticle is the outer layer of the hair which decides what gets inside your strands. Highly porous hair will accept moisture readily and be moisturized, but it also means that moisture will leave the hair just as quickly. It is very important that women with high porosity hair seal the moisture in their hair with an oil, butter or thick cream.
Medium/Normal Porosity Hair
Normal/Medium porosity hair means that the cuticle is lifted slightly to accept moisture and products. This porosity type allows for good moisture retention and has great shine.
Low Porosity Hair
Low porosity hair has strands with closed cuticles. The hair has a more difficult time accepting moisture. However, when it does get moisturized it retains the moisture for a longer period of time.
How do I know what porosity hair type I have?
After knowing all this information about hair, I’m sure you’re ready to figure out your hair’s porosity and how to properly care for each type. There are some different ways in which you can test and figure out your hair’s porosity.
The Float Test
The first is the float test which is the most popular. This test is very easy, and the first thing I recommend is having clean, product-free hair when doing this test. Hair that has product build-up may skew the results.
To start, get a glass with room temperature water and place it on a flat surface. Place one clean strand of hair (you can just grab a strand from your comb after detangling or washing your hair) in the water and leave it. After 3 minutes check to see if the hair strand is floating at the surface, has sunken to the middle, or if it is at the bottom of the glass. If the hair strand is still floating at the top then it means you have low porosity hair – the hair barely absorbed the water so it is still light enough to float. If it sinks halfway down then you have normal/medium porosity hair, and if it’s at the bottom of the glass it means the hair quickly absorbed a lot of water, making it heavy enough to sink to the bottom. This indicates that you have high porosity hair.
The Mist Test
This test is simply spraying your hair with water and observing how well the strands absorb the water. I also recommend doing this on clean hair as well because product-laden hair might not absorb water well and give inaccurate results. Start by sectioning clean, product-free hair. Use one section in this test and proceed to mist the hair with water. If the hair readily absorbs the water then you have high porosity hair, but if the water just sits on top of the hair then you have low porosity hair.
Proper Hair Care based on Hair Porosity
Getting to know and understand the unique characteristics that each porosity type possesses will lead you in the right direction to proper hair care.
High Porosity hair has distinct properties, which include:
- Raised Cuticles. Raised cuticles means that moisture comes in and escapes very quickly. Women with high porosity hair will need to seal their hair with an oil, butter, or thick cream as soon as they apply moisture to seal the moisture in the strands.
- Tends to be frizzy. This frizz comes from having raised cuticles, which sticks out to give that particular look. You can use smoothing products to cut down on the frizz, and also incorporate gentle practices such as using a smooth t-shirt to dry your hair instead of a towel.
- Tangles easily. Having raised cuticles means dealing with strands running into each other to cause tangles. You have to be very careful detangling as this can cause breakage and limit your ability to retain length. Try gently detangling with your fingers first to remove knots and tangles. Then proceed to using a wide-tooth comb to further remove any knots.
- Hair looks dull and dry. This will happen if the hair isn’t sealed to retain the moisture. Seal hair immediately after applying moisture to prevent hair from drying out by applying an oil or cream to the hair after adding your liquid.
How to keep High Porosity hair Moisturized.
High porosity hair gets dry very easily because the cuticles are always raised, and in order to grow long hair you must have moisturized hair. The best way to keep high porosity hair moisturized is to always seal your hair after applying moisture. One method that is effective is the L.O.C (Liquid, Cream, Oil) method. This is simply a method of layering products on the hair to get maximum moisture retention. The liquid can be water or any water based product (leave in conditioner or moisturizer), the oil can be any oil that you choose, but I would definitely recommend a natural oil such as extra virgin olive oil, jojoba oil, or Grape seed oil. The cream can be a thick butter/moisturizer of your choosing. My favorite cream is a homemade shea butter mix. It works wonders for my hair and it also provides great nutrients and shine in my strands.
- Section your hair first to make sure that you are distributing the product evenly on all parts of your hair to maximize moisture retention. Moisturize your hair with a liquid or liquid based moisturizer
- Apply your oil of choosing to hold that moisture in and also to nourish the hair.
- Seal it all in with a thick butter or cream such as shea butter.
Properties of normal/medium porosity hair includes:
- Absorbs and retain moisture very easily.
- Has great shine and is healthy
- Very easy to care for and maintain
How to moisturize Normal Porosity hair.
This porosity hair type is very easy to moisturize. It is quite easy to maintain and requires very little coaxing to receive and hold onto moisture. I would also recommend using the L.O.C or L.C.O method just to make sure that the moisture is being retained.
Low Porosity Hair
A lot of women have many a worries about dry hair, and don’t realize that they just have low porosity hair. Here’s some info that might help you understand your low-porosity hair a little better.
- Low porosity hair doesn’t accept moisture readily. Start by using warm water (but not hot!) to raise the cuticles. Apply a light oil such as jojoba oil or coconut oil, and then seal with your favorite cream. You should also start to understand how to layer your products right. I wouldn’t recommend using a cream before your liquid as this will prevent the moisture from reaching the strands.
- Requires heat to open the cuticles. Using a steamer or plastic cap/bag on the hair during the deep-conditioning process will help the penetration of the product in the hair.
- Takes a long time for the hair to dry. While it definitely takes some coaxing to get your low-porosity hair to absorb water, once the hair strands finally do accept moisture they hold onto it very well, which prolongs the drying process.
- Does not accept color/perm treatments easily. This is due to the tightly closed cuticles which limits what the hair absorbs.
- Takes a long time to get wet.
- Does not like thick products as moisturizers. Due to the cuticles being closed, using thick butters or creams to moisturize will only coat the strands without allowing penetration. Butters and creams have large molecules that are unable to penetrate the hair easily. It is best to use light/water based products to moisturize the hair.
- Retains moisture well once it is moisturized. Although it is hard to moisturize low porosity hair, it does hold on to the moisture well for long periods of time once it does receive moisture. Again this is due to the cuticles being in the contracted state which holds in moisture.
How to keep low porosity hair moisturized.
Low porosity hair type is very difficult to moisturize because the cuticles are contracted and will require some help to get them to accept moisture. I would recommend using warm water to open the cuticles before adding a moisturizing agent. Using the L.O.C or L.C.O (liquid, cream, oil) method would be very beneficial in holding in the moisture.
- Section your hair first then mist your hair lightly with warm water to open the cuticles.
- Apply your moisturizer and seal it in with an oil or butter of your choosing.
Knowing the density of your hair strands
Density refers to the thickness of your hair strands. Knowing if you have fine or thick strands can make a big difference in the products you select for your hair. This affects how well you retain length.
Let’s take a look at it… If you have thin strands and you use thick, heavy products on your hair the products will weigh your hair down and coat the strands without allowing moisture to get in. Detangling then becomes very difficult since your hair becomes saggy, wet and limp, and this will ultimately lead to breakage.Use products that are fitting for your hair density;for example use light oils such as coconut oil on thin strands and you can use heavier oils on thicker strands. So study your hair strand after you’ve washed to observe the density of your hair. I promise you this will help you in your journey.
How do I figure out the density of my hair?
- Before you start the process make sure your hair is dry. This is very important because wet hair may seem less voluminous or thinner because it is weighed down by water.
- Examine your hair from all angles (make sure it is hanging). If you can’t see your scalp at all, then that means you have thick hair with high density. This hair density type is tolerable of thicker products (which is also dictated by the porosity of your hair). If you can see your scalp then most likely you have low density hair. This hair density thrives on light products and gets weighed down with by thick products. Medium density falls in the middle. If you examine your hair and you see your scalp slightly then you indeed have medium density.
- You can also try putting your hair in a ponytail. You can determine your density based on the size of the ponytail. If it is small then that means you have thin hair, while if it is thick/big then you have high density hair.
Knowing your hair type
It isn’t necessarily essential to know your hair type, as many people have grown beautiful, waist-length hair without studying this particular characteristic. However, it can be helpful to know your hair type and how to deal with that type. So take a look at one of your clean strands of hair to see which type it looks most similar to from the picture above. As you go from left to right in the picture the hair tends to be drier. Just remember that every person’s hair is different and what might work for one person might not work for another, so it is important to understand your individual hair.
I hope this information is helpful to someone who needs a little guidance in figuring out where and how to kick off their healthy hair journey. Read here for my top 16 tips to grow your hair longer and faster.
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