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Curly Nikki

Nature Versus Nurture- Length Retention

By January 27th, 202136 Comments

Nature Versus Nurture- Length Retention

DvaAuNaturel writes:

I was recently at a seminar and of course I could not stop observing the hair of the female attendees. As I noticed the differences in hair textures, length, and overall appearance I wondered about the role of our family history in our hair’s health. Although we know the damage chemicals can have on the hair and that natural hair tends to be healthier and stronger, there are women I’ve observed with long, beautiful, and healthy looking relaxed hair. There are also some naturals who have beautiful long hair and others with short (not by choice) hair. In my own family on my maternal side my relatives hair tends to be shorter. However, on the paternal side of my family, my female relatives tend to have longer hair. I was blessed growing up with thick, long, and healthy hair until I started experimenting. Now that I’m getting back to basics after a recent second BC I want to know what role genetics will play in what my hair will achieve in terms of length.

So, what role do you think genetics will play, or have played, in reaching your hair goals?


  • Anonymous says:

    Genetic and race are two different things. I feel like they are getting mixed up here. Two black women may have the same race, but have COMPLETELY different genetic structures. Thus, one can have hair that grows down to her butt and the other can have hair that won't grow past her shoulders. Yes, how you nurture your hair plays a part, but for some people, due to your hairs growth cycle, won't grow long hair. It's got nothing to do with being black or white or whatever and everything to do with your DNA and gentics AND how you take care of your hair. But, don't think that just because you take excellent care of your hair that you can grow it to your feet because you saw another girl do it. We're all different.

  • Anonymous says:

    i would jus like to comment on the person that said locked hair is not length….i had dreads and i took them down to prove to everyone that they can be tooken down (look it up on youtube) and the same exact length my dreads were which was about 12-13 inches….when i took my hair down it was the same exact length

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm late to this discussion but had to comment because there are a lot of ignorant comments. The length hair can grow is determined by 1)growth rate–i.e. 1/4 inch vs 1/2 or greater per month and 2)length of hair cycle–i.e. 2 years vs 6 years. These things are genetic in origin but not necessarily racial. There are a lot of black people with long hair and many with short. Of course everyone should take good care of their hair and this will help fulfill your hair's potential. However, you are not going to have mid-back length hair if all the females in your family have neck-length hair. This is nothing to be ashamed of–it is just a natural, normal human variation just like some people are short and some are very tall. Having long hair is not an "achievement" but taking good care of what you do have may be.

  • Anonymous says:

    Genetics only play a certain role…in terms of texture, density, etc. however, it cannot determine how long your hair can grow. You just have to learn the necessary procedures it takes to make YOUR hair healthy. It may take a little bit longer for your hair to grow compared to someone else, but it doesn't mean you can't reach that certain length you want. Genetics will play a little part but you should more so rely on how you nuture it for it to be health and/or lengthy(which ever goal you set) :)

  • Anonymous says:

    I does think that genetic plays a huge role, but the more you project you hair and take care of it, the more growth will you keep.
    My father is black 100 % african and his hair is super curly, it's probaly 4b/4c, it's very, very thick and healthy, i gues he haves the thickest and some of the most small curls i've seen. It seems like my family on my fathers hair have beautifull hair, my little cousin looks to have healthy shoulder length black hair.
    And my mother is white danish and have long straigth type 1 hair. My mothers hair have always been long, and sometimes it seems to grow super much, right now she does feel like the growth are stopped a little bit, but else ways. She haves fine thin hair, but still a little bit thicker than many danish people.
    And my moms half sister have long thick hair, and his half brother who are bi racial have long curly hair in locs.
    And here i am with 4a thick kinky, curly, coily hair, and newly i have become totally obsessed with hair, after many fails tangles and a failed relaxer there did'nt work, i'm glad now, were i had to cut my hair back to a the border of a twa and not a twa, last year in december, and since i've been 100% natural again and taking care like ever before, and look forward to see how big part the genetic also will play, but i belive and hope, that no matter how big part genetic play i will be avible to grow long healthy hair. :)

  • Channing says:

    Locs aren't growth? How do you figure? YES it is shed hair ALSO but if it was just shed hair and not growth, the would fall of after a certain point…I don't have locs but it really irks me when people make that comment.

    YES hair sheds but not all at once, and think about the many women with BSL/WL hair, that a continuous strand from root to tip, even if it were locked it would still be that.

    Anywhoo, I think as far as growth is concerned it is nurtue, the growth cycle studies are out there but I've never read any concrete proof that there is in fact a terminal length, but you can bet that even if there IS, nurture will definitely prevent you from ever finding out.

  • Anonymous says:

    Genetics plays some role. Like others said, genetics determines texture and growth cycle.

    My hair is medium-coarse, so it's pretty strong. I've relaxed, texlaxed, blow-fried, colored, and transitioned, and my hair has always been between BSL and WL. At some points, it may have been damaged to all hell, but it was still on my head.

  • Leo the Yardie Chick says:

    I….have no idea. ^^; Coming from a long history of hair mismanagement, I don't know 1) what my growth cycle is and 2) the maximum length that my hair can attain naturally. Since I've only been truly caring for my hair for a few months, it's going to be an interesting journey to see if nature (coupled with nurture) will help me see growth past my shoulder blades.

  • Anonymous says:

    Put me in the nature/genes camp. However, I think nurture can help maintain the strands.

  • Anonymous says:

    Nature. Period.

  • KayDanai says:

    Nature – my sister can relax, color, flat iron everyday and still have long thick hair. I on the other hand cannot because I have thin fine hair, I get heat damage, split ends and frizz. Her hairs grows faster, maybe the 1/2 inch a month while my hair may get 1/4 inch a month. Since I don't have this resilient thick hair from nature, I have to be extremely nurturing, but even then her hair flourishes while mine, ah, it's ok. So because I have first hand experience, I do think that nature and genetics play a far bigger role than some people may like to give credit for.

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree with Efe. Genetics plays some part, although how you care for your hair plays a larger part. My sister has always had longer hair than me. Not sure why– my mom cared for our hair in the same way. I played with my hair more, maybe that's why…

    I did my third BC last week after four months of semi-intentional transitioning. I'm using organic products on my hair for the first time. I'm caring for it much better than I ever have, and I'm very excited for the results. My hair is already at it's healthiest. *yay*

  • Efe says:

    I am a firm believer in nurture. Nature plays a role but nurture plays a larger role. This is true for hair and more important matters.

  • b. says:

    Nurture your insides and maintain good haircare practices, and you will bring out the best in your genetics. PurpleDoc said this better than I did so thanks.

    And LOL at LBell's second comment!!

  • Anonymous says:

    I think it's a combination of genetics and gently caring for your hair. My hair before I was natural grew to a little past my shoulders. In only 4 years after BCing, it has grown to the same point. ~KF519

  • Anonymous says:

    Agreed with the person immediately above!

  • Anonymous says:

    I believe everybody, with serious care and natural products, can achieve armpit length strong hair. Some women can achieve this goal quickly, and some can reach hip length. Some on relaxed hair.

    I think everybody can do this when hair is in its natural state, with no relaxers or colour.

    My mum's hair can reach max. neck length with a relaxer, whereas I could reach MBL with it.

  • Anonymous says:

    Genetics have their part and so do you! If you know you the patterns in your family you will have to be careful my Mum told me they have thinning edges in the family so i am super careful about my edges i cant chnage my genetics but can care for it better and therefore lessen the impact.People have to take responsibility someday your genetics don't make you damage your hair thats in your hands!Developing good hair practices no matter your given genetics and your hair will flourish!

  • Anonymous says:

    Also, people who mentioned locs. that's not growth..that's shedding hair. Hair that has fallen from the scalp.

  • Anonymous says:

    My hair grows faster and longer since I've been natural. I have been natural three years. Both sides of my family never had issues growing shoulder length hair. Although, my kitchen( the back part/nape) is past shoulder length, I am trying t get my sides and bangs to grow longer as well. My braid extensions does retain the length but not sure if it is aiding in hair growth. I just started taking hair, skin, and nails supplements.I am also a strict vegetarian. I will do a review in 6 months on you tube. I am hoping it will boost growth beyond 11 inches.

  • Anonymous says:

    When I think about hair length and black people I think about black people who have locks. Black hair does grow with low manipulation and appropriate care. People who used to have short hair and were never able to grow it past a certain length when they do locks see amazing growth. So yes genetics play a certain role, but it is possible to grow long hair with good hair care.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have to agree with LBell. I know lots of 100 percent Africans (Rustic Beauty on Youtube comes to mind) who have ridiculously long hair so it's important to first make the point that black hair can and does grow. That said each individual person differs but hair growth is not as much a race thing as some people like to say it is. Black women just haven't been taught how to take care of our hair and the products they make for us are horrible. At the end of the day it's a combination of nature and nurture but i think a LOT has to do with how you take care of your hair so that it can reach nature's potential.

  • Anonymous says:

    Genetics MAY play a role in length of hair. This is a subject that is continuously being studied and the regulation of hair growth is still a big mystery in the science community.

    Scientists DO know for sure that genetics play a role in hair color, texture, and density. Certain genetic deficiencies (hereditary disorders) can be responsible for lack of optimal hair growth and can also be attributed to genetic baldness.

    Many black people and also people who are non-black believe that black textured hair cannot grow past a certain length. When you rule out any genetic issue (the *Nature*), the reason why we cannot get our hair to grow properly is because we do not know how to properly maintain it!

    In this case it's the *Nurture*. We are not nurturing our tresses in the proper way to retain and gain length.

    For intance, we cannot rake a RATTAIL comb thru DRY 4b/c hair and expect to retain length!! (I've seen this happen before! Yikes and ouch!!) Most blacks don't realize that the best way to comb our hair is when it's wet and full of conditioner and with a WIDE TOOTH comb!!! lol. Natural hair requires moisture (a predominately WATER based product) to remain supple to prevent breakage. We need good products to seal in moisture (Coconut oil, Shea butter, etc)…These are the things that most of us do not know about our hair. We think it's "rough" and needs to be handled with an aggressive approach to "tame" it! No no nooooo.

    At the end of the day, the things we do to/put in our bodies plays a role in hair growth too. Eat your fruits and veggies! Take vitamin supplements if necessary. Take the pop and sugary juice drinks out of your life! Drink WATER and for heaven sakes EXERCISE!!! These things help!!

    Now if you do these things (the *Nurture* parts) and your hair is still breaking and falling out, and not growing, you may need to see a Dermatologist or professional hair loss expert to see if you can be helped. If not for hair growth, but just to see if your body can be regulated to function properly.

    High levels of testosterone in women (especially if you have PCOS) can cause MASSIVE shedding and male patterned baldness. Thyroid disorders can make your hair thin, cause extreme dryness and brittleness (which leads to breakage, which leads to no growth) and cause easy tangles. Unfortunately some medications used to TREAT thyroid disorders (Levothyroxine drug side effect IS hair loss after prolonged usage) can cause hair problems. :(

    I believe that a good balance between Nature and Nurture leads to the best hair growth. Black hair can and does grow LONG!!! :)


  • Dee says:

    @ skeeta i too disagree with you, i dont know why your hair isn't growing past your shoulders but i dont think genetics has anything to do with it,genetics does play a role in the growth rate but the the overall growth.

    I feel a lot of black women make excuses for why their hair wont grow past a certain length, genetics is one excuses they use. Whenever I watch a video of an unusually long hair black woman I see comments questioning the persons ethnicity and whether or not it's their real hair? It's almost as if Black women rather make excuses than just do the work to achieve long hair. This is one of the main reasons i became natural; i want to prove to skeptical black women that black hair does grow! now that i am natural i am starting to think no matter what i or anyone else does, there will always be those who aren't convince i am already prepared for those skeptic questions once my hair grows past my shoulders…hey you cant win them all (lol)

  • Lori says:

    I know genetics plays a role in hair growth, I just don’t know how much. As a child my hair grew all the way down my back. I didn’t have a relaxer and my hair was never heat straightened, but I still don’t think my hair was necessarily healthy. Mom only used body lotion on my hair ever. LOL No hair grease, no moisturizer and I think I can count the times she washed my hair because she didn’t want to deal with me kicking and screaming. Yet, my hair grew and grew.

    Once I discovered curling irons during high school and then color in college my hair began breaking off, developed split ends, etc. I had my hair cut very short my senior year of HS and off and on through the years. But since I used heat consistently, constantly and at VERY high temps (dial turned all the way up to 10 and beyond if there was such a thing) it’s only ever grown back just past my shoulder blades…and then it was dry and crackly and split halfway up.

    I’m really curious about the length now because I think if I straightened it, it might just touch my shoulders and then I could truly gauge how much or how fast it’s growing if I can get it to grow even longer now that I’m not using chemicals or heat.

  • shea_nicole says:

    Genetics do help to determine what type of hair you have and texture but I don't recall learning that your hair has a predetermined length. It is about how you take care of your hair yes genetics may make it more difficult or longer to obtain goal lengths but in no way is it predetermined that your hair will be X inches long. I took genetics in college and majored in biology and blah blah blah. Bottom line it is possible to grow long hair just takes patience and practice.

  • JazBNatural says:

    i meant to say her comments.

  • JazBNatural says:

    i totally agree with LBell's second comments.

    ANYONES hair can grow long if they take care of it, no matter their genetics. It may take some longer than others if their hair grows slower, but it will still get long if you don't go messing it up or manipulating it too much (which is usually the reason with women with relaxed AND natural hair).

    I know this from experience. Since I started wearing braids year round, my hair reached waist easily. that would have never happened if i were still flat ironing or wearing it out & manipulating it all the time. im a strong supporter of braids!

  • Kasey says:

    I'm taking a Genetics class in my university right now.
    And, the funny thing is that the Prof. JUST taught about the inheritance patterns for baldness and what it means to males and females.

  • DvaAuNaturel says:

    I tend to believe that it's a combination of both. I think will play a role in me growing my hair, since it tends to be able to do so if it is properly cared for anyhow (nature) but I've also noticed over the years, especially when I first when natural, how my hair grew like crazy from a very simple routine. All of what is available now didn't exist then and it was drugstore brands only but lots of protective styling. The french braid was my go to sytle and my hair thrived. With my locks my hair grew to BSL, its longest ever. So, I know it's possible but also know that my hair care practices (nuture) can affect the overall outcome and either hinder or help my goals.

  • says:

    @LBell I agree with your point. I hate the fact that some people believe that black hair doesn't grow. According to my comment above, with the shortest growth cycle typical (this is backed by research) most people, regardless of race can get at least 12inches of growth if not more. 12inches is halfway down most people backs (even though I am natural I don't know the correct length lingo, I don't take it that seriously ;-) ). So if the hair doesn't grow past your ears or even shoulders, you could try to nuture it just a tad bit more! ;-)

    But hey, short hair rocks too, so do what you do!

  • Anonymous says:

    I have noticed that genetics plays a great role. Hair grows at genetically pre-determined rate. Hair also has genetically pre-determined growing periods, and follicles have their resting periods as well. Hair grows. But for some women it grows at a faster or slower rate than others. If the follicle is in its growing faze, hair will grow. (great!). So now we've got to work on maintaining length. Health, environment and manipulation all play a highly significant role length retention, and that's where we come in. I believe that we have the power to either abuse our strands or help them the retain length during their growing phase.

    Personally speaking, my mom's side of the family have long, thick and full heads of curly hair, and my dad's side has thinner- looking kinky hair. This has left me with something in between. When i relaxed my hair, it was able to reach mid-back, it was healthy and shiny. Now that i'm natural (3 years), it has only reached my arm pits, i had lots of breakage, and split ends. This, i think was due to wash and gos, using the blow-dryer in the mornings to dry my hair in winter, and by not detangling or handling my hair gently. Thanks to this site and many others, i've learned how to treat my hair better, condition, and use protective styles, and now I can proudly say that I have retained more length and seen less breakage, shedding, and split ends than in the past. I think this is due to the way I nurture my hair.

  • LBell says:

    One more quick thing:

    If you are a descendant of slaves who were brought to America, the odds of your being 100% African are extremely remote. I'm not 100% African, but having done the genealogy I'm about as close to 100% as a descendant of slaves can get. And there are folks out here (Sera2544 of YouTube comes to mind) who ARE 100% African AND have super long hair. I know this is going to be lost in the rush of "my grandma was Indian, my great-granddad was white, and that's why my hair grows long" but it had to be said…

  • LBell says:

    @Skeeta, I disagree…I think, once you KNOW your "nature," the "nurture" makes ALL the difference.

    I have the exact same fine, nappy 4b/4c/4a strands I had when I was a kid (for the most part). Back then, Ultra Sheen and fine-toothed combs (and, later, sponge rollers without papers) were a regular part of our hair grooming ritual and the longest my natural hair EVER got as a child was about ear-length. With the relaxer, after my hair broke off completely and started growing back in, again, the longest it ever got was just about shoulder-length.

    As a natural, I have seen more length than I ever have (both loose and, later, locked) and it was because I did the exact OPPOSITE of what I did (and what was done to me) during the first 30 years of my life. For me personally, less is more…a LOT more. It's funny because now that my hair is short and the WNG is my only style, I have to keep cutting it because I lose the shape within about 3 weeks. If I had kept my locs, they'd be 7 years old next month and I'd be sitting on them right now.

    You cannot change genetics…so you have to learn to work with and/or around them…

  • says:

    Genetics play a huge role! Your genetics determine how much your hair grows a month (1/2 inche average) and how long your growth cycle is (2- 6 years).

    The growth cycle is the biggest factor in determining how long your hair will grow. Your hair enters this cycle, grows, enters a rest cycle, and then falls out and is replaced by a new hair.

    So lets say that your hair grows 1/2 inch a month and is on a growth cycle of two years according to your genetics. That means no matter how well you take care of your hair, it would only reach 12inches max before it naturally falls out and starts over. The max your hair could grow is 12in. You may never get hair to your bottom, but 12inches would still be pretty long. This scenario would be the typical shortest growth cycle, so most people can get beyond 12inches of growth.

    Bottom line: genetics do play a role in hair growth! xoxo

  • Skeeta says:

    I think genetics has a much larger impact than your hair technique does (nature over nuture). I have been 4a relaxed my entire life with short hair. My mom is 3b natural her entire life with short hair. Both of us have fine hair.

    Now that I'm natural, I don't believe that my hair is going to grow down my back because I've stopped relaxing. The proof is in the pudding, Our hair is thin, fine and although her's is straight and mine is kinky, I still am not going to cry if I get stuck around 10 inches because she's been natural her entire life (with great hair practices) and has about 8-10 inches of hair.

    You can protect all you want, if its not meant to be, it won't be. Simple as that.

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