Growing hair, natural or otherwise, can seem like an almost impossible task to most women, and a few men. But the solution to this is not as simple as buying an expensive hair growth cream and calling it a day. Instead, you need a persistent hair care routine. Before we get into how you can figure out a hair care routine to see growth, let me explain why your hair may not be growing.
Why Isn’t My Hair Growing?
First things first, natural hair is almost always constantly growing. This is why when a person relaxes (or dyes) their hair, they need touch ups. That is literally new growth peaking through to say hello. So if that’s the case, why aren’t you seeing growth? Well… the reason you may not be “seeing” length gains has less to do with your hair growth & more to do with the amount of breakage you’re probably experiencing.
If your hair is breaking at a similar rate (or greater rate) to the rate of hair growth, then you won’t actually see any increase in length. In fact, you’re more likely to see a decrease. So for examples sake, let’s hyperthetically say you generally grow about 1 cm each month, if you experience 1 cm of breakage each month, then your length will be stagnant. However, if you experience 1.5 cm of breakage in that month, then you will visibly see your hair shortening. You’ve actually lost 0.5cm of length, in this example.
You may probably be wondering to yourself, so how do I gain length? Well, that’s actually a simple solution, you practice length retention. Length retention in its most simplest explanation is making sure you maintain the length you already have, by reducing the amount of breakage your most likely going to experience. By doing this, you will see growth/ length gain ( length gain is minimising your breakage rate while maximising your growth rate). So, to summarise:
Length retention = minimising breakage & maintaining previous length.
Length gain = length retention + hair growth.
This is the reason why a hair care routine is essential. By taking certain steps, you can reduce the amount of breakage you will receive, by keeping your hair healthy. When hair is healthy, length (& probably density) will follow, but rarely does health follow length. This is why, while your hair can be long, it may also be sparse (unless your hair is naturally thin), uneven & patchy.
Necessary Info. To Figure Out & Customise Your Hair Routine.
Contrary to popular belief, hair is not all the same. Besides having different curl types/ patterns, we all have different porosities. Simply explained, Porosity is how fast/slow your hair absorbs, retains & loses water. Water is essential for most organisms to grow &/or survive, and hair needs water to grow & stay healthy. The 3 types of porosity are:
- High Porosity.
- Low Porosity.
- Medium Porosity.
Each of these porosities have different ccharacteristics & therefore different needs. While some hair products & DIY’s can work for everyone, not all of them are a one size fits all.
1. High Porosity.
High Po has many pores (holes) in each hair shaft to allow for the quick absorption of water & products. However, because it has many pores, that stay open, the moisture it is supplied with is quickly lost, which is the downside. Therefore, high porosity has a poor retention rate, when it comes to retaining moisture. It’s for this reason high po needs to be hydrated more frequently, ie within a day or so. High porosity is generally soft, because it has no issues absorbing moisture.
Due to the hair has a high number of pores, it also gets weak very easily. Think of it as a rope with many holes in it, if you use the rope to climb with (or to tie up valuables in a moving truck), it’s more likely for that rope to snap fairly quickly under tension. Another thing is that the constant expanding & contraction when wetting & drying also aids in weakening the hair strands.
It’s for this reason that high porosity needs more repairing & strengthening products, so that the hair avoids breaking as easily. Amino acids & protein’s like collagen, keratin, silk protein, etc, can help strengthen hair. Why? Because hair is made up of the protein called keratin. Thus by using keratin & other proteins, you can temporarily fill in the pores, so the hair won’t be as fragile. Therefore your “rope” is now much stronger. High Po also needs more heavy oils/sealants, which will reduce the speed of which high po hair loses moisture. Things like castor oil & shea butter, which are thick & not fully absorbent can be a benefit. However, it would be best not to use too much, as high porosity can be weighed down a bit. Cool/ cold water helps to reduce the size of the pores, so that moisture doesn’t evaporate as quickly.
2. Low Porosity.
Low po is basically the exact opposite of high po. Unlike high porosity, low porosity has a problem absorbing water & products. This is because low porosity has very few pores. In addition low po is the only porosity that’s cuticles lie flat, like scales, over the pores. This therefore limits the moisture from being absorbed into the strands, in fact sometimes water can evaporate from the strands before absorbing. This is what makes low po generally dry & hard to the touch. However, these “scales” can also a blessing. Because the pores aren’t always open, moisture isn’t easily lost. So once you manage to hydrate the hair, it would a few days before you need to hydrate the hair again. Therefore low porosity has a great retention rate, when it comes to retaining moisture.
This porosity won’t benefit from too many protein’s to strengthen it, because it is already strong on its own. The fact that the hair doesn’t need to be hydrated as often, it means the cuticles also don’t expand & contract quite as often. So that wouldn’t be the reason it would break. However, it will need to be strengthened eventually, jus not as quickly as high porosity does. Instead, this porosity needs more hydrating ingredients that will draw in moisture to the strands. If you think of hair like a stick or twig, a dried up stick is much easier to break than a more hydrated stick. If you accidentally brush up on a very dry branch, it will most likely break. But if you brush up a hydrated branch then, your most likely to bend it a little before it snaps back into shape. Hydrating ingredients that draw in moisture, jus to name a few, are aloe vera, glycerin, honey, etc. These definitely will draw external moisture within the hair shaft. Warm water is also beneficial as it opens the closed pores and allows absorption. Lastly, lighter oils like avocado oil & olive oil, that can be easily absorbed, are beneficial to nourish the hair from within. However, a small amount of heavier oils/sealants can also be appreciated.
3. Medium/ Normal Porosity.
Medium porosity is the best of both worlds. While it doesn’t absorb moisture as quickly as high porosity nor does it lose moisture as slowly as low porosity, it does absorb moisture a lot more easier than low porosity & loses moisture a lot slower than high porosity. In my personal opinion this seems to be the best porosity. This porosity has a medium number of open pores. And it’s main issue is usually just maintaining balance between strengthening and moisturising. While all porosities need balancing between the two, this one needs a more equal balance. Eg. High Porosity needs more strengthening properties, while low porosity needs more moisturing properties. Thus with medium porosity, you can almost use any product you want.
4. Curl Pattern/ Type.
Knowing your exact curl pattern is not as necessary as porosity. However, it’s good to know what range your curl type is in. Different curl types have different characteristics. Generally, the curl type chart from type 1 (straight), however this usually only applies to those whose hair grows naturally straight from root to ends.
TYPE 2: WAVY.
Wavy hair has huge S shaped curls, sort of like a wave. Their hair doesn’t require heavy products that can weigh the hair down to look greasy & straight. Their hair also gets oily pretty fast, so the hair requires more lighter products like foams & mousses and fewer product.
TYPE 3: CURLY.
Curlier hair is a little bit more drier, compared to wavy hair. It also experiences more shrinkage, however this gives it more volume. The curl pattern ranges from large ringlet curls to small cork screw curls. The hair requires hair products that are a little bit more “heavier”, with a bit more oil. But butters may be too heavy & make the curls fall flat and limp. Their hair can still get a little bit oily but not too oily, as this depends on how tight the curl is. Benefits more from milks, soufflés & custards.
TYPE 4: COILY/ KINKY.
The driest & most fragile of all hair types. Has extremely tight curls & hair naturally wants to grow upwards, until it is too heavy and falls downwards. Has the most shrinkage of all curl types, but as a result has the most volume. Needs the heaviest products of all and loves butters (eg. Shea butter). Benefits more from creams & butters & needs a lot of product.
Please note that each curl type has sub categories A, B & C (except type 1). A being the loosest curl & least driest of the group; & C being the tightest curl & most driest of the group. But this is not as important to figure out as it basically just notified you how your curls will look.