Waist-length Hair for African American Women

African woman with very long hair
Photo: William Moss/Shutterstock
Q: Is it possible for an African American woman to have waist-length hair without extensions? I have been trying to grow mine, and it stays about shoulder length. Every black woman I know can only seem to grow it so long before it stops. If it is possible how can I go about getting natural, waist-length hair?
A: I understand your desire for long hair, but I'm afraid that the lengths to which hair will grow is determined genetically. Some people's hair grows to a certain length and stops. It has to do with the length of the hair's growth phase, which is different for each individual hair follicle.
The average growth cycle of a hair follicle lasts three to five years, but can be as short as 2 years or as long as 10 years in rare cases. After the growth phase, the hair enters a resting phase, then a shedding phase, then the cycle repeats and starts over.
The duration of the growth phase determines how long hair can potentially get. Since hair only grows an average of 1/2-inch per month, waist-length hair would require at least six years of growth (accounting for 1/4-inch trimming every six weeks). This doesn't take into consideration factors such as environmental damage and damage from styling and brushing. Therefore, if your hair's growth cycle is only 2 years long, you will never have waist-length hair.
There are things you can do to maximize your hair's growth. Regular conditioning to keep hair moisturized and protect it against styling damage is essential. You should get twice-monthly deep-conditioning treatments. In addition, sleeping with a satin or silk nightcap or pillowcase will help to prevent roughing up the hair and potential breakage while you sleep.
Essentially, keep in mind that your hair is pretty susceptible to environmental damage. Longer lengths can be damaged by wind, long exposure to the sun, chlorine in swimming pools, and many other factors.
You should also consider starting a dietary supplement containing vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin C and being sure to get plenty of protein in your diet. All of these will help to ensure that the hair that you grow will be healthier and stronger. You also need to be sure to keep your hair trimmed as it grows to remove split ends, which left unchecked will continue to split and can result in significant loss of length.
I wish you the best in your efforts at growing long hair. With luck, your growth cycle will be sufficient to allow for the waist-length hair you desire.
See also:
Hair Lengths
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