Have you ever heard the phrase that black women can't grow long hair?
We are black, therefore we cannot grow long hair. You may be a person who has thought this to be true, or maybe you've thought about this before and asked yourself why. Why do so many black women have short, natural hair that supposedly can only grow to shoulder length?
You would not believe how many times I have heard this, including from other black girls themselves as to why their hair won't grow.
"Oh, my hair just doesn't grow."
"Why won't my hair grow?"
Well, I am here to tell that this myth that black girls can't grow long, healthy hair like other ethnicities is a lie. Our hair does grow, and will grow, it just needs the right circumstances to do so.
I've seen many black girls with long, healthy real hair down their backs, even with relaxers and heat in their hair. Let me tell you, the reason why so many of us are not experiencing longer hair is not because of our race...It's not because of our hair texture...it's not because our hair "just won't grow". It's do to factors BESIDES genetics...and these are factors that we can change.
Why is it such a common belief that every time a woman of color has hair past her shoulders that people have to question her race, or whether or not her hair is real or not?
"Oh, that has to be weave!"
"It's not all of her real hair!"
"She has to be mixed with something!"
I am sure many of us have heard some of these phrases before.
I saw a girl in the store the other day, and her natural hair was so beautiful and ample. It was curly, and in it's natural state. It was so healthy and beautiful. She wore it in a big poof on the top of her head. I heard a girl say, "Where did you get that hair piece from?"
People constantly want to touch my hair to feel for weave, and are surprised when it isn't.
It is a common misconception that our hair is fake when it is long.
What are some of the reasons many women of color don't see growth, or have long hair yet?
This can be due to a variety of things:
While it is not entirely our genetics, they can play a part as to why ethnic hair is so hard and tedious to grow. Ethnic hair in general is a tad bit more difficult to grow than Caucasian hair due the natural curl pattern. With hair that is bound together in tight curls, unlike straighter hair, it makes it difficult for the hair shafts to absorb moisture (While Caucasian hair makes it's own oils, which it is why it is much easier for them to grow their hair long). Over time, it becomes dry and brittle, and breaks off at the ends, making seem like the hair is not growing. The hair is in fact growing, but as fast as the new hair comes in, the ends are steadily breaking off, making look as though the hair is at a stand-still. This can be avoided with proper moisturizing and regular washing and conditioning.
Relaxers and/or other chemicals
Relaxers and other chemicals (such as hair dyes) aren't all bad nesscarily. They can allow the hair to be much more managable, but when done incorrectly or fequently, they can cause havoc to fragile ethnic hair and ruin it's natural texture. Issues such as over-processing can occur, causing the relaxed hair to fall out and lose it's springy texture forever! Many women who have had relaxers choose to start over again and to remove the relaxed hair due to over-processing! Even hair dyes can cause dryness and breakage.
Medication such as high blood pressure meds can cause hair to grow slowly, or to halt it all together.
Unhealthy eating habits can be unkind to our hair as well. I remember eating lots of unhealthy things which along with other factors, caused my hair to shed and break off. I know most of us have a sweet tooth, but lots of unhealthy fat, carbohydrates, and other things are the root cause of unhealthy hair.
Stress can be the culprit of many things: weight gain, depression, anger, but it's also taking a toll on our hair. It can cause hair loss, hair breakage and dryness, among other things that could possibly cease our hair's growth all together. Find ways to deal with this, such as doing a sport, meditating, yoga, or even taking a walk, and your hair will be thankful.
Excessive combing or brushing
When I was younger, I thought combing my hair would make my hair touch my shoulders. I would comb and comb, applying lots of products to my hair in hopes of it magically growing, but to no avail. Combing and brushing are good for our hair, but when done too often, it can weaken the folicles and pull our hair out, making it appear thinner and causing split ends to form.
Flat ironing our hair is not bad. I do it too, but when done too often it can cause heat damage, which causes the hair to not be able to return to it's natural curly, springy state. Heat damage can make the process of growing out long hair very tough. Flat ironing should only be done 2-4 weeks at minimum to give the hair a break.
Hairstyles done too tightly
Even something as simple as a high pony tail can cause damage to the hair. When done too tightly, it can pull and cause breakage. Styles such as weaves can cause havoc when done incorrectly too (I've had a bad weave before that totally ruined my hair, believe me). When the braids are done too tightly, it can cause breakage if the hair is weak, same with syles such as box braids. I know we love these hair styles because they fulfill the fantasy of having long hair, but they can cause damage to our real hair. Leaving them in too long is a bad idea. They can even cause permanent hair loss!
Hormones can also play a role in the hair and how it grows. No, it is not out of our control and can be regulated through medication and other things.
Not taking care of split ends
Clipping split ends do not help hair grow faster, they only minimize hair breakage. Not tending to these every 6 months at minimum can cause the split end to travel all the way up the hair shaft and break it off, making the hair appear as if it's not growing. Tackling down on these and cutting them off before they break is a good idea. Do not do it too often, as again, it doesn't make the hair grow faster. The hair will always grow an average of a 1/2 inch (1.27 centimeters) a month!
Products geared towards black people
Many of these products contain ingredents that are awful for our hair! Products such as grease and heavy oils take away volume and movement and prevent moisture from penetrating into the hair strand. Even hair gel can "suffocate" our hair and lead to breakage. Light and natural oils such as tea tree oils and olive oils work the best for our hair.
Lack of exercise
Sitting around can be damaging to the hair, if that is hard to believe. Exercising, while good for our overall wellbeing, can be benefical to the hair too! Exercises, such as cardio, can increase circulation to the scalp and allow hair to grow easier.
Which one applies to you (and to me personally)?
For me, the biggest culprit that was stopping my hair from growing was the constant use of relaxers. I hated my hair texture and I yearned for the Caucasian hair texture, so I would constantly relax my hair in hopes of not damaging it, but changing its natural feel and texture and making it easier to manage
Boy, was I wrong.
I began to shed like a dog because my hair was so unhealthy. I would come home from school with black stands of hair contrasting with my shirt. The constant use of relaxers, along with constant combing and bad hair products broke off and thinned my hair, leaving me with a bald spot behind my ear! I was mortified and used to cover it with styles such as braids and low ponytails. A few months of that, and my hair grew back, but it was thinning and breaking off due to the braids. So, I decided to get a weave to fulfill my long hair fantasies.
The weave also ended up damaging my hair. When I took it out, my hair was dry, matted, itchy...It also thinned out even more, leaving me with thin, heat damaged hair down to my ears. It got worse.
So, I stopped doing these things and began taking care of my natural hair from the beginning. My hair today is now touching my shoulders, and it is much, much healthier. No more shedding, and it grows rapidly.
So, what's the lesson?
Things like the media have warped our perceptions of our natural hair, making us feel like the only acceptable hair texture is that of a Caucasian. That Caucasian-like hair is the only one that holds beauty. All hair textures can be beautiful if we care for them right and embrace them
And yes, black people can grow long hair if we stop manipulating it so much to fit society's standards of beauty. Many of us would have healthy, full heads of hair if we were committed to caring for and loving our natural hair.
Our hair is not ugly. Our hair is not "bad". It is ours, and that's all that matters.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed. <3
I will write a take about how to grow long hair if this one is well-received. :)