I’ve been sitting on this post since sometime last spring. But, here we finally are. In a video that is currently uploading, as well as in the post below, I outline the top things that I did/do, and the things that I DIDN’T/DON’T do, to grow my kinky hair past 25 inches long. I’m not expert on hair, but I am an expert on my hair. I figure, since people buy weave in lengths that are equivalent to my real hair’s length, I’ve made significant progress in my growth quest.
A lot of the things I’m about to go through are going to be things you’ve heard before. Maybe even all of them will be things you’ve heard before. Or, some of them may be the exact opposite of what you’ve heard before. That’s kind of the problem with advice for growing out our ‘fros, or with the videos on YouTube about caring for afro-textured hair, in general. There will be people making points in complete opposition to one another, and it can be hard to figure out whose advice you should take. But, that actually brings me to my first point.
1.) The first thing I did that helped me to mostly retain my hair’s growth and get it to its current length was to stop doing other people’s hair routines. I’m a pretty logical person, but somehow, I still sometimes fall victim to irrational thinking– especially when I see someone with the hair of my dreams, telling me how she got that head of hair. The truth is, it *is* useful and informative to hear what other people do. But, ultimately, your hair is the thing that’s going to tell you what to do. I used to think that I was in charge, but I realized a few years ago that that is NOT the case. If I want to retain my hair growth, I have to accept that my hair is the boss, YouTube hair regimen videos be damned.
2.) Second, if you discover techniques or products that work for your hair, but no one else is doing that or talking about that, it doesn’t necessarily mean what you’re doing is wrong. Again, your hair will tell you what works and what doesn’t.
3.) Third, experiment within reason. While I do encourage you to march to the beat of your own drum in developing your hair care routine, there are certain guidelines that can benefit everyone. And, we all probably know what they are, so it’s mostly a question of not being a fucking idiot. Sometimes, damage to our hair and setbacks can take time to reveal themselves. So, if your thing that you do that no one else does is slamming your ends in a car door to trim them, then you may think it’s working for you in the short term. But, over time, you’ll realize it was maybe not the best idea.
Further, when you find something you like, stick with it as much as possible. I have all of the puzzle pieces for my hair routine, but I still experiment with products to a degree because 1.) things get discontinued/companies go out of business, 2.) things get reformulated and 3.) I’m a product junkie. But, when I experiment, I’ll still mostly stick to my staples, and maybe will try one new thing at a time. I won’t throw out my whole starting lineup to try a new range. I’ll try only 1 item at time, 2 max.
4.) Air dry your hair as much as possible. Once I decided I wanted to grow my hair to its maximum potential, I didn’t use heat at all for about 4 years. Then, when I did go back to it for the first time, it was very low heat (I did do a video showing alladat), and I still used a protectant. Following that, I didn’t use heat again for a long time– over a year, in fact– and I haven’t actually blow dried my hair again, since that first experiment with a low heat tension blow dry. I’ve continued to experiment with heat, but by using a hooded dryer, which causes less damage. If you’re going to use heat, take precautions. Avoid direct heat, period, if you can.
5.) F-I-F, fiiiiiiiiiif (“fifth”). Keep your hair stretched. It’ll mitigate your hair’s ability to tangle, and it will reduce the amount of single strand knots you get. But, I still get a shit ton of single strand knots, to be honest with you. I just know that it would be far worse if I let my hair shrink up all the time.
6.) PROTECT YA ENDS. A twistout is not protecting your hair. A braidout is not protecting your hair. Put it in a bun. Play around with French rolls, or some shit. If you want to go the extra mile, cover it. Rock a turban. Wig it. Bag your bun and top it with a phony pony. That’s been my go-to style since I started this hair-growing experiment, and I credit it a great deal for helping me to retain length.
7.) Pay attention to tension! Gentle is always best, when it comes to the handling of your hair, as well as the styling. I avoid hair ties, using my own hair to create ponytails, when I can. Or, I use knee-highs, and I don’t tie them tightly. I opt for hair pins, over bobby pins, whenever I can. And, I switched from braids to twists, when my retention had plateaued, because twists are gentler. And I try to never braid or twist too tightly. Also, my edges are never slicked down and laid. I’m okay with looking slightly raggedy by some people’s standards, if it means I get to keep the little bit of struggle edges that I have.
8.) My eighth tip is to be gentle. Like, actually gentle, not just “less rough.” Gentle handling is always best for hair– and this is perhaps most critical when detangling. I’ve been finger detangling exclusively for about 5 years, maybe close to 6 now. Due to my hair’s texture, I think finger detangling may be the single most influential thing in allowing me to grow it to this point. I hate doing it. It takes forever. I dread it like you wouldn’t believe. But, it’s critical. And, once again, I know that my hair is the boss. And, since I’m tender-headed anyway, it’s just better for me to stay away from combs and brushes.
9.) Clean your scalp properly and with an appropriate frequency. Cowashing is very popular, but ensure that your hair and scalp are being cleansed properly. One of the things that helped me get past my mid-back plateau was actually WASHING my hair. Like, with shampoo.
10.) Are we seriously on ten things? Damn. Tenth tip is, don’t lie to yourself if you know you need to trim. But, don’t trim capriciously, either. There’s no one schedule I can recommend for anyone. But, if you find your detangling sessions are becoming more difficult, and if you can actually see raggedy ass ends, then you’re probably due for a trim. Personally, I also keep my hair shears around on detangling and wash days (in fact, they’re the only tool that I use), so I can snip out single strand knots or split ends that I come across.
11.) Do as little as possible. That means low manipulation, as well as using only as much product as you need. Use enough product to achieve moisturized hair, etc., but don’t overload your hair and weigh it down with the LOCOCOCO method. Also, don’t overcomplicate your routine. You don’t need to trim your hair with the phases of the moon. You don’t need to deep condition under a steamer 4 times a week. I do the absolute least I can do to my hair day to day, week to week, and month to month, whilst being careful not to let a minimal routine turn into straight up neglect. Find a good cleanser– and, again, I recommend an actual shampoo for this. Find a good conditioner and/or deep conditioner. Find an effective moisturizer/leave-in, and maybe an oil that you like. Give your hair a little mist or something, if it gets dry here or there. And, other than that, leave your hair the fuck alone.
I say all of this with the caveat that my own hair is not without its problems, so by no means do I have it all figured out. But, I have managed to get to where I am now, and my hair is the longest it’s ever been in my entire life.
Now, more specifically and less generally, here is what I always do, and what I absolutely never do. I repeat the caveat stated above: This is just letting you know what I do and why, it is not me telling you to do exactly this. But, hopefully, you can draw some ideas and information from my routine.
I ALWAYS pre-poo overnight with coconut oil (or something containing a good deal of coconut oil). It prevents hygral fatigue, when it’s time to wash my hair, the next day.
I ALWAYS deep condition with heat (heating cap or hooded dryer) after I wash my hair. I just don’t feel like I’m *really* deep conditioning if I don’t add heat.
I ALWAYS keep my hair stretched (typically with twists rather than braids for the past 3 years, to be a bit gentler on my hair strands).
I ALWAYS cover my hair at night, and it is almost always with silk, rather than polyester satin. When I hit a length retention plateau a few years back, I went all the way back to basics, which included sleeping with silk scarves instead of satin. I can’t say that it didn’t help. I usually get my 100% silk scarves from thrift stores for pretty cheap.
I ALWAYS shampoo my hair on wash day to cleanse my hair. I NEVER rely on cowashing only.
I ALWAYS keep the products as simple as possible. As indicated above, I don’t do the LOC method, or the LOCO method, or the LOCOCOCOBOCO method (the “B” would be for “butter,” I imagine). I don’t fuss with my hair throughout the week. Once or twice a month, I detangle my hair, pre-poo with coconut oil overnight, wash it with shampoo, deep condition for 20-30, rinse, then put a leave in it and add some oil on top. That’s it.
I’m ALWAYS as gentle as possible. I’m inept at cornrows and even my flat twists are pretty ratch, but I think being unable to do these potentially high tension styles has served me well. And, I don’t use any tools that can rip through my hair like certain ponytail holders, combs, brushes, etc.
I am ALWAYS thoughtful and cautious with my hair (without living in fear of my own hair, which admittedly was a problem in the past). If I use a perm rod and see the little sharp teeth on it, I use an end wrap to cover it, so it won’t snag or damage my strands. I don’t wear tight ponytails. And, I’ve learned to accept that I will probably never have laid edges. I always am mindful of friction being inflicted upon my hair strands, because friction = mechanical damage.
I ALMOST ALWAYS keep my ends up with a bun or other style where they are tucked away and not rubbing on my clothing. Because rubbing = friction = we just talked about this.
I NEVER use combs or brushes. I only finger detangle and have done for the past 4 or so years. No, it is not fun.
I NEVER “wash and go.” My hair is too tightly coiled with a high degree of shrinkage for that mess. It will only exacerbate tangles and single strands knotting, so I choose to keep my hair stretched.
I NEVER press/flat iron, and I don’t really use heat all that much. If I do continue to experiment with heat, it is still just going to be for roller sets under my hooded dryer, or the odd low heat tension blowout, or low heat flat iron, since I did buy one that can be set as low as 190 degrees.
I NEVER use those alligator hair clips. They broke my hair off.
I NEVER use those hook hair ties. They broke my hair off.
I NEVER dye my hair. It broke my hair off. Though, I used to use henna for strengthening my hair a whole lot, up until 2 to 3 years ago. I still like it, but I hate the mess, so I rarely do it now.
I NEVER deep condition my hair overnight or for hours on end. I generally avoid keeping my hair in a wet state for any excessive amount of time. When I do my overnight prepoo or the “baggy method” my hair is not sopping wet. It’s just moisturized the way it would be with any freshly applied product, and then covered with plastic.
I NEVER go to the beauty parlor, and I never let anyone else do my hair. I’d like to, but I don’t trust anyone else to have the necessary patience with my hair texture.
I RARELY use ponytail holders. Instead, I USUALLY use a knee-high (it’s easier to control tension and it’s gentler), or I just use my own hair to make a ponytail.
I RARELY use wig combs, and I often remove them entirely. I use bobby pins to secure my wigs, because they have less of a chance of ripping my hair out.
I DON’T take hair vitamins. Years and years ago, when I still went to braiders, one woman suggested I try a vitamin called “Maxi Hair” to help with my edges. It did nothing, because my edges have always been this way, and I should have known that. Since then, I’ve never bothered with Hairfinity or any of the other hair vitamins that seem to plague my YouTube feed.
Okay that’s really all I can think of, but I think this summarizes what I’ve done in the past 6 or 7 years pretty well that has contributed to my success with growing out my hair. Trust and believe, there are things I have done that have contributed to setbacks, but overall, I think I’m doing alright. I hope this helps you get your routine sorted out, if you were looking for some tips.