15 Tips for Retaining Length for Natural Hair
Why haven’t we been able to achieve healthier hair that grows and retains length successfully? Hair breakage is one of the biggest enemies to growth, but until we understand the causes of breakage and take steps to control it, we will be unable to add visible length to our hair over time. Proactive care must begin with better education and take conscious steps to help our hair if we want it to grow.
Hair Length Depends On Three Things:
- Hair growth rate
- The length of the anagen growth phase (which can be anywhere from 2 to 7 years)
- Hair retention (how good you are at keeping your ends from snapping, splitting and breaking off)
The bread and butter to length retention has a lot to do with how you care for your hair after it has grown out. Your ends are the oldest, thinnest, and weakest part of your hair. They are also higher in porosity. The best you can do to keep them as healthy as possible is to slow down the rate of damage.
Here are 15 tips to help you retain your length as it grows out.
- Avoid towel-drying your hair. Towels cause friction, which can increase split ends. Instead, use an old t-shirt, microfiber towel, or let your hair air dry. Do not rub your hair because this can cause the cuticles to open and make your hair frizzy.
- Handle your ends with care. Keep them moisturized and lubricated before they dry out. The ends of your hair tend to be the most fragile since they are the oldest section of your hair shaft, and they need to be adequately hydrated to prevent breakage and splits. Water and water-based products are the best moisturizers; however, oils and butters are great for sealing in that moisture. Coconut oil, Grapeseed oil, a combination of oils like RighteousRootsOils and Shea Butter are the top sealants used by many.
- Pre-poo oil or pre-conditioning treatment. Pre-poo treatment will help your hair preserve some of its natural oils and emerge from the shampooing stage, less stripped and fragile. These treatments can be done with either warm conditioner, oils, or with a combination of both. Oils like coconut, olive, avocado, and Righteous Roots oils make perfect pre-poo treatments. Concentrate those oils on the ends of your hair and allow it to soak in for a few minutes to an hour (or however long you wish), then wash your hair as usual. Remember, less is more.
- Protect your hair while you sleep. Low thread count cotton pillowcases could be the culprit behind your stagnant hair growth. Cotton is a highly absorbent material that robs your hair of moisture while you sleep. Furthermore, the weave of cotton fibers can cause individual strands to tangle and break. Satin/silk scarves, bonnets, and pillowcases provide a smooth barrier that hair strands can glide across to reduce hair damage and friction.
- Use protective or low-maintenance styles. When it comes to length retention, less manipulation is always best. Try to keep protective styles in for no longer than four weeks, as your hair can get very tangled. Some examples of low maintenance or protective styles are twist outs, braids, loose buns, etc. The key with these styles is to keep your hair stretched (a popular method of styling in which you perform specific techniques on your hair to maximize the length and to make hair care easier and more efficient) to avoid knots and breakage.
- The L.O.C/L.C.O method. Styling methods that consists of hydrating the hair with water or a water-based product, which is your liquid, sealing in the moisture with oil or cream, then applying acream or oil product to smooth down the hair cuticle. The idea behind following the steps laid out in the acronym is to lock in moisture and improve the manageability of your hair.
- Self care. Maintaining a balanced diet, using the right products for your hair type, finding a solid regimen that works, and sticking to it are essential to success in hair retention. Hair health should always be top priority over compromised length.
- Know your ingredients. Avoid ingredients that can strip your hair of the moisture it needs. The key is to use products specifically made for curly hair, which are sulfate and alcohol-free. These ingredients really dry out the hair (and are also harmful in other ways), so you want to avoid them at all costs.
- Take inventory of your hair accessories. While clips and headbands can add pizzaz to your hairstyle, these accessories can also pose a threat to your hair strands. If you notice any broken clips or teeth on your accessories or bobby pins, these sharp edges can literally tear your hair out or cause nicks and scratches on your scalp which can lead to follicle damage. Tight plastic headbands can also cause hair loss around the edges, so be sure to use cloth-covered headbands when possible.
- Beware of Too-Tight Styling Habits. Braids and twists can be ideal as length retention styles, but they defeat their purpose if they’re done with excess tension. You should never feel headaches or soreness during or after getting your hair done. Another red flag is if you see bumps or have irritation along your hairline, these are tell-tale signs that your hairstyle is too tight and could lead to hair loss or breakage.
- Treat your scalp with TLC. Healthy hair growth starts with a healthy scalp. While cleansing your hair, make sure to massage your scalp with your fingertips instead of using your nails. You can also stimulate hair growth with weekly scalp massages using essential oils (used with a carrier oil) or your favorite combination of oils.
- Get rid of scraggly ends. If you’re holding on to scraggly ends for the sake of longer length, stop it. Split ends will continue to split up the hair shaft and can even begin to tangle onto nearby hairs which will cause even more breakage. Don’t buy into claims that split ends can be magically repaired by creams, pomades or conditioners. The only way to make them disappear is to cut them off.
- Be gentle when detangling. Don’t rush through detangling your hair. Detangle hair in sections if you have to, making sure to start at the ends and work your way up to the roots. Using the proper tools to detangle is imperative, so be sure to use a seamless wide-tooth comb, detangling brush, or your fingers.
- Protein/Moisture Balance. Too much of either protein or moisture can cause breakage. If your hair is overly moisturized, it can become weak and lifeless. If your hair is loaded with protein, it can become brittle, straw-like, dry, and may snap off easily. Establishing and maintaining an appropriate protein/moisture balance in the hair is vital to the success of your haircare regimen and is key to fighting hair breakage. Making informed decisions on hair product selection is absolutely essential for making the protein/moisture balancing process work. The right product combo can make a major difference in your hair.
- Abandon the Heat. If you want to retain length, ditch the flat irons for a while. Using excessive heat will strip your hair of moisture and can lead to breakage. If you use a blow dryer, try to use medium to low heat. It especially affects your ability to retain length if you have heat damage and have to constantly cut your hair.
Bonus: Give it time. While this is not a ‘hair retention tip’ per se, having patience during the grow-out process is imperative. Without it you may feel that your hair is not growing fast enough.
Keep in mind that we all have different rates of growth and your hair can and will grow with proper care, so embrace each stage of your journey. Growing out our hair to commendable length takes time.