GAHL: How to grow Long Natural Hair without doing the Big Chop
My healthy RELAXED hair and length retention journey.
Towards the end of 2010 someone asked me why I didn’t want to grow my hair long, to my defence I told him that this was African hair and it just didn’t grow that long. Bear in mind that my hair was shoulder length at the time and I thought it was long.
I thought about this conversation and went online to find out how I could care for my then relaxed hair. I happened to stumble upon YouTube videos of women with very long relaxed hair. I decided I was going to do whatever it is they were doing and I was going to grow my hair long as well. Thus my journey began.
The first 6 Months
So I started following random hair care routines, deep conditioning my hair twice a week, moisturizing and sealing everyday. I was completely dedicated to my routine. Six months into this healthy hair journey, there was zero difference in the length of my hair. I was so disappointed. It was not dry but was breaking really badly. I came to realise that I had been using the wrong product to deep condition my hair and it has caused my hair a protein overload. I decided to start over and I am glad I did because otherwise I would not be here today sharing this with you and the blog Grow African Hair Long (GAHL) would never have been born.
My journey started with relaxed hair. I loved my relaxed hair and it was so much fun watching it grow from shoulder length to mid-back length once I got my hair care practices right.
On my quest to achieve healthy relaxed hair, I started texlaxing and getting relaxers every six months instead of the usual 2 months. This really helped with length retention because it reduced overlapping relaxers. Stretching out the retouch time frame also gave me a chance to actually see my curl pattern for the first time. (I had never seen my natural curls due to regular blow drying and relaxers every 2 months) I fell so in love with the coils and curls that I decided to transition to natural.
My transition was pretty manageable, but the more new growth I had, the more my hair’s need changed. It needed less protein and wanted more moisture; this is still the case today. Despite all the knowledge I had acquired through the years, the long term transition of 17 months was not easy at all. My hair was a ball of knots of tangles and the shrinkage was driving me crazy as well. I also realised that my natural curls were so defined that they were actually difficult to maintain. In this journey I had to learn how to properly care for my natural hair.
How I achieved healthy long natural hair:
Hair doesn’t grow overnight and it might take a bit of time to learn what your hair likes. Try not to give up easily and surround yourself with people who can cheer you on when you get frustrated in the journey.
- Magic products
Forget about any product that promises to grow your hair, it won’t work! Instead focus on improving your hair care practices. Healthy hair comes as a result of combining all the healthy hair care practices.
- Healthy hair care practices
Our hair differs in textures, curl patterns etc. but there are a some basics that all of us can benefit from.
- Always detangle from the ends towards the roots.
- Avoid combing hair while it is dry.
- Avoid tight hairstyles that pull the hairline.
- Wear a satin/silk/polyester scarf to bed or use a pillow case made from these fabrics.
- Avoid ripping knots with your fingers, this causes split ends.
- Find hairstyles that allow you to leave your hair alone.
- Avoid hanging on to damaged ends.
Healthy hair care practices are the products used. You don’t need many.
- conditioner and/or deep conditioner( Use more moisture based than protein based conditioners)
- leave in conditioner/moisturizer
- oil and/or hair butter
- styling product (optional)
Length retention Success Secrets
Length retention comes by protecting the ends of the hair. This means that more attention should be paid to the ends because they are the oldest part of the hair. They also tend to dry out more; therefore keep the moisturized and oiled to keep them from breaking off. It also helps to wear hairstyles that keep the ends of the shoulders as rubbing on clothing can cause breakage. My go to protective hairstyles are buns. Note that I did not say puffs. Buns keep the ends protected while puffs usually leave the ends exposed giving the hair room to tangle and knot. Last but not least is stretching the hair. This makes it easier to style and helps keep knots and tangles at bay.