Black hair does grow!
Now that we have gotten that part out of the way, let us address the myth. Many people even, African Americans themselves, succumb to the myth that thick, coarse, kinky hair does not have the ability to gain length. They believe that short, broken off tresses are the only option. Many have “gone natural” and still don’t see the growth they were hoping for. Why? Because black hair requires a completely different form of care than other ethnicities. To understand black hair and its growth success you must first have at least a general understanding of the scientific anatomy of hair.
Below is a simple but informative break down of hair attributes:
– Every human has over 100,000 hairs on their head alone.
– Hair is straight or curly because of itss shape (FYI the color comes from melanin just like skin).
– Hair grows faster when you are little. Relatively speaking, as you age hair growth slows.
– Diet affects hair health which in turn, if healthy, helps promote hair growth.
– Hair, anyone’s hair, can grow up to 5 inches a year (typically people see accelerated growth in the warmer months of the year).
So why then with all things being equal does it seems that African American hair has difficulty reaching optimal lengths? For one, the above mentioned hair shape is a major factor. Curly hair, if seen microscopically, looks flat. Typically, very coarse hair is flat AND coiled. The coarser the hair the flatter and more coiled the strain. Those flat, coiled strands have to come out of the hair follicle in that shape, winding and twisting as it exits the pore. Some theories suggest that this winding and coiling could make this particular hair type a little slower to grow as it literally has to unwind itself as it comes out.
Another, more plausible theory supporting the stunting of black hair growth is the fact that many ethnic people, including African Americans, suffer from dry hair. Coarse hair does not seem to hold as much moisture. The problem with dry hair is that it breaks. Therefore as it slowly uncoils out of the hair follicle it is also breaking off down at the other end and one never sees the growth.
Relaxers and straightening for those who are natural, add to drying out the hair even more. Relaxed hair breaks in most cases when it is over-processed, over styled with thermal tools, and under moisturized. New growth and processed hair battle back and forth at the root when it’s time for a touch up. The stronger untreated hair wins and that could also cause breakage.
People with natural hair often still want the look of a relaxer so they blow dry and straighten hair too. This dries it out and breaks it off.
Environment, free radicals, stress, genetics all play a factor in hair health and hence, hair growth. However, you can intervene by staying hydrated. Fill your body with nutrients. Exercise helps blood and oxygen transport to the scalp. And one really important method that is not incorporated enough is massage.
Massage increases blood flow to the scalp thereby stimulating and encouraging hair growth. It is not conclusive if the addition of exotic oils like coconut or argon oils intensify the benefit of massage but they can’t hurt (unless you are allergic). The extra oil can add moisture.
Finally, leave your hair alone. It is extremely difficult when one has to maintain work and social activities. But if possible wear hair wrapped in hair-friendly fabrics like silk or satin scarves (cotton draws out moisture). Keeping it out of the elements helps stave off breakage. Reduce thermal styling. Moisturize often but do not wash too frequently. Corn rowing or plaiting in simple neat styles may be acceptable for work. If all else fails so-called protective styles like sew in weaves or braids can keep the hair from styling. Unfortunately, the tugging and pulling of the weave can cause traction alopecia and the damage from this condition can become permanent over time (if you have ever seen a rare glimpse of Noami Campbell without extensions then you have seen the horrendous affects of traction alopecia).
To be sure, black hair can grow, albeit with lots of tender loving care. One must be gentle and mindful of the qualities of their own specific hair type. Before you know it, with the right technique, that tiny weeny fro will be long lushes locs.