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Curly Nikki

What’s Your Hair History?

By January 27th, 202150 Comments

What’s Your Hair History?

Bevy writes:

Often when I see a natural with long hair, I immediately look for her “before” picture and most of the time, find that she had long relaxed hair as well. Me personally, I’ve never had what I would consider long hair. As a natural child I had very thick hair (still do) but it was just past shoulder length. After I started getting relaxers, around age 7, it never grew longer. In high school I wore short stylish cuts, and did so until my big chop at age 30 (a year ago). Now I’m wondering if I will ever reach my goal of Armpit Length (APL).

Is your hair longer than it has ever been?


  • Anonymous says:

    I'm so happy today when i wanted to tjeck my hair length i found out that i reached armpit length. It have never been so long before, since december 2009, i think it have been growing ½ inch at month. December 2009 i had a twa in the last stage and i loved it thats when i fully started to love natural hair, and i'm happy that 1 year and about 2 months later it's armpit length, it have never been so long.

  • Anonymous says:

    I think there is no such thing as "terminal length." That is like saying your hair just completely stops growing, it sounds crazy. Your hair and nails don't stop growing until you die, I believe. Thats why there are people with extremely long (disgusting) fingernails and hair down to the floor, they just have to work harder to grow it past a certain length.

  • KeepItMovingDotCom says:

    length is great. my last natural (ten yrs ago) was shoulder length and i only had it for 2 yrs. this time around i'm focusing on healthy hair-the length will be a consequence of the maintainance I provide.

  • Espy says:

    Since I have gone natural my hair along the neck line has grown three inches. That area was a problem area and stayed less than an inch long. When I BC'd 7 months ago I only had one/one half inch of hair now my hair is at least 4.5 to five inches long. It seems like my hair is growing extremely slow but everyone else thinks its growing fast.

  • apaine says:

    i had long hair as a child. got a relaxer @ 12 and my edges started breaking off BAD. they grew back in but i kept getting relaxers until age 25 when i did the bc. at that time it was just between my shoulder blades. i've been natural going on 7years and mostly stayed hovering right above bsl but just THIS past year i have broken my "length barrier" by doing more conditioning and protective styles. iam almost mbl now! yay!!

  • SRG says:

    *sorry about the typos*

  • SRG says:

    I had very long thick hair until the age of 6. Then around the time of my 6th birthday I got a relaxer and it literally ate my hair off year after year. For years from childhood into adulthood my relaxed hair would never grow past the middle or end of my neck. My sides were always short and I never had any length. I went natural 11 years ago and experienced the same thing. My hair wouldn't get past a certain length. My natural hair never got long at all. Now that I know how to care for me hair—WOW! I am at collarbone on the sides and my hair in the back in between my shoulder growing down my back! This is the longest that my hair has ever been in my adult life. I've been with short hair for so long as a relaxed and natural, I never thought that my hair could be lengthy. Now it is getting there and I am in awe. My hair goal is to get to the same length that I had as a child and hopefully even beyond that. :)

  • Lynnieluve says:

    My hair never grew pass shoulder length as a permie but now I am very close to armpit length and I'm super excited. I'm hoping to be full armpit length (stretched) by my second naturalversary.

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree that all these naturals with long hair usually either had thick or long hair as children. I do believe that some people genetically are predisposed to have the ability to grow and retain long hair regardless of diet and care while others have to do the utmost to take advantage of their growth cycle before terminal length kicks in.

    Some people will have to realise that they must treat their hair like fine silk and their body like a temple before they see the results they crave and they may never grow to waist length etc. I am not sure what this new natural community obsession is with achieving Rapunzel like length. Who are people trying to prove a point to?

    I can't compare it to my relaxed hair only to say that it is thicker when straightened than my relaxed hair ever was. However my relaxed hair was probably longer by a touch due to less shrinkage.

  • Anonymous says:

    The advice about conditioning and less manipulation of hair is on point; but you might want to consider your diet, as well. Not saying you have to be a health food freak or anything like that — but a daily multivitamin surely can't hurt. Considering tiny tweaks to your diet — and especially not smoking — you will notice stronger nails and healthier skin as well as longer, healthier hair.

    My hair is type 3a and it took me most of my life to learn that while I couldn't use the bouncin' behavin' white girl stuff — it was equally as damaging to my hair to smother it with dax, ultra sheen and scalp-suffocating products for black hair. Over the years, I've done just about everything you can do to my curly hair except to puree it in a blender! Once I got it in my head the fact that like nails, people destroy growth at the ENDS on a regular basis, I was able to catch myself in nasty habits and begin to change the way I cared for my hair (and my nails). Once I started habitual conditioning, eating a little less junk, a little more fruits and veggies, and popping a multivitamin with my coffee, the hair started rolling in. Even when I don't notice, I notice OTHER people noticing my hair… and that makes me feel pretty nice.

  • New York Diva says:

    Thanks Bevy for asking the question because I ususally do the same thing. And thanks to Natural-ness (LV) for sharing your hairstory with pics and all. I just bc'd the end of August (after transitioning for 10 months) and in the back of mind I had the same question. I found this question and all of the responses to be very helpful.

  • JazBNatural says:

    i hate when people say "you were just born with long hair so thats why its long natural, i can't get to that length" that is completely not true. Yes, I have always had long hair, but thats because I have always LEFT IT ALONE. Your hair is never gonna grow if you flat iron it, dye it, relax it, or even comb it too frequently (for me too frequently is more than twice a month). Just moisturize it and leave it alone and you will be amazed. I had hair that would "not grow" for like 5 years too, but it was because I was flat ironing it too much and it was continually breaking off. As soon as I started getting it braided (leaving it alone) without extensions it grew from bra strap length to tailbone length in 3 years. I have protective styles to thank for my length, not genetics. EVERYONE can reach their length goals and beyond, trust me. Especially with braids!

    If you're really desperate to get past a certain length, just put braids in (very gently) with no extensions once a month for an entire year. Your hair will have no choice but to get longer, and it will be very difficult for it to break off if you keep it moisturized and tucked in.

    And one more thing. . if you're not damaging your hair with a flat iron, blow dryer or dye, there is no need to get your ends trimmed every month or 2 months. No offense to anyone, but I think thats ridiculous. You're just cutting off all of the length thats growing in, thats why its so hard to see progress. Just look at your hair and trim it whenever you think it needs to be trimmed. The problem people have is with trying to fix their hair once they have damaged it, when they should just not damage it in the first place.

  • Anonymous says:

    Great question Bevy. I learned a lot from the responses, as I'm sure you did too. And LV thanks for sharing your history, very inspirational. My hair has always been thick, but length wise it's been about shoulder length (both relaxed and pressed). Since I stopped relaxing in May '09, I've seen some wonderful growth. At this point I'll be happy with shoulder length unstretched, as I am finding that with length comes more challenges.

  • MsChris8 says:

    At age 22, my hair has recently reached the length that I used to have at age 13 (when I believe it was its longest) about a half an inch above BSL. I was permed from the age of 6 to 18 but did not have a problem with retaining length until I was around 16 and began getting perms more frequently (once every three months to once every two months).

  • naturalesque says:

    My hair is the shortest that it has ever been. I went natural about 2 months ago, after transitioning for 16 months. My longest layer of hair reaches collar bone length when stretched. When I was relaxed, I had trouble getting past MBL, and usually hovered at BSL because I like for my ends to be neat/even. I cannot wait until I reach great lengths with my natural hair.

  • Anonymous says:

    i had the same problem when i used to get perms, and pretty much for as long as i could remember my hair never grew past my neck. until of course i went natural now its about an inch below my bra strap.

  • Anonymous says:

    When I was a kid my hair was thin and brittle. It would grow a bit, then break off. Thanks to puberty (hormone shifts) and swim class my hair was barely at my neck and was shedding a lot. I went natural in 8th grade and my hair took off. It became stronger, thicker, and is now at the middle of my back. I'm in the 12th grade now so it's been some time. As you can imagine I'm extremely happy with it even though my hair doesn't always do as I wish. I truly adore being natural. The end. :)

  • Anonymous says:

    Relaxed Length: Chin Length
    –I had relaxers at a very young age (5 yrs old), got relaxers for 13 yrs (from 5-17 yrs of age), and suffered from damage and scalp issues due to the relaxers. My hair grew but never retained lenght and I had split ends and breakage.

    Current Natural Length: Collarbone Length
    –I had about 1 inch of hair after I BC'd and I am 2 yrs natural. My hair retained length even when I didn't know how to treat it right. Now, that I am better at moisturizing, preserving my ends and doing protective styles I expect to retain even more length.
    My hair is healthier, more attractive and retains more length than it ever did when it was relaxed. I would like to retain as much length as possible and reach BSL because I never thought I could.

  • honeysmoke says:

    Anonymous @ 12:30 is on point.

  • Anonymous says:

    When I was younger, I could barely get my hair to shoulder length due to over manipulation and poor hair practices on my poor 4a/4b hair. I've almost always been natural, but now I've learnt how to take care of it, the back is almost apl. Just waiting for the rest to catch up.

  • Anonymous says:

    thank you to Bevy and Natural-ness for the inspiration!!!!!!!!!!!! –Vonnluv

  • Anonymous says:

    As a Child I had long thick hair past my shoulders. Then came the jerry curl at about 10 years old. My mom said because I had hair like a brillo pad, she had curly wavy hair, I have 4b, and I didn't know how to take care of it. Come to find out she didn't know either. I hated that year but my hair did grow. Then i had enough of the curl chopped it all off and relaxed. My hair has been many lengths, from 1 inch to my shoulders. My hair grows fats thanks to genetics I can chop it all off and as long as I took good care of it it would be shoulder length by that time next year. I once before tried to go natural( this is my second time) because of a bad relaxer fried my hair. I lasted 2 years and tried to texturizer, didn't work, my hair was past my shoulders again but with shrinkage it looked way short. At that time I still really didn't know how to take care of my 4b hair. I cut it all off and went back to the relaxer.
    Now (10 years later)I am going natural again. Thanks to all the sites and blogs I learned how to take care of my hair, it still grows faster than most peoples and is still thick an kinky, 4a and 4b now textures change as you get older in my family, moms hair is just straight in some places. I plan to beat my last natural length which was just below the shoulders if i get arm pit length great if not it's still good.

  • Natural-ness (LV) says:

    Glad to help Bevy!

  • Courtney says:

    My hair grew like gang busters after my BC until it got to about the length of my relaxed hair (CBL). I just think I have trouble with length retention once it reaches a certain length.

  • Slinkyhead says:

    my hair is longer than its been since i was a little girl. when i was little it was mid back length but once i started doing my hair it was stuck hovering around SL…now its a little past APL and Im trying to get it past BSL and eventually to Midback length again. Dare to Dream. hopefully i will be past BSL by this time next year and then on to waist length. i think i need to go back to wet buns or twistouts year round.

  • Bevy says:

    Thank you everyone for your responses and feedback! This is why I love this site. Special thanks to Natural-ness for posting your hair story (with pictures) on your blog. I think our stories are almost identical…including the jerri curl…lol. So seeing how much length you were able to achieve is truly inspiring!

  • bl.anderson says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Sharmer says:

    My hair grew to the middle of my back when I was about 5 years old. Unfortunately I got my first perm at that age and I swear it stunted my hair growth because it has never gotten very far past my shoulders. I'm transitioning now and I'm hoping to grow my natural hair to waist length.

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm always confused as to how many people are confusing "growth" with "length retention." The relaxer isn't why your hair didn't "grow" and going natural isn't why it is growing now. It just means that in your case, your relaxer wasn't ideal, or the techniques that accompanied it were bad. I think anyone who has longer hair natural probably engaged in a lot of bad habits by relaxed, which makes everyone blame the relaxer as the problem. A lot of my friends mix the relaxer with curling irons, frequent touch-ups, and failure to use scarves at night. So yeah, their hair stays the same length. When I had a relaxer, for years I had people who relaxed right for my hair type (which meant quick application and removal), trimmed it regularly, I never used a blow dryer or curling iron, and I deep conditioned a LOT. My relaxed hair only saw heat when I got touch-ups and that was every 10-12 weeks. At home I air-dried. My hair was really, really long and most didn't think it was relaxed. I never cared so much if it was out, and in the end, getting too caught up with that and letting the wrong people do my hair b/c of it did me in.

    At any rate, genetics plays a role in how quickly your hair grows, what texture it is, and how thick it is, but after that, whatever you have can't be breaking it off faster than it's growing if you want it to be longer(and yeah, it might take a lot of patience to see what some people get after just a few months). That is more of a challenge for some than others.
    I have friends who have always had short hair but then they also had relaxers before they knew how to take care of their hair, and never learned of followed any good hair care techniques.

    I had to go shorter than ever to get the perm, and I'm not sure how much I'd want to handle with it natural. What I had before would be a huge task. I can see why some people switch it up, and do big cuts from time to time.

    If you goal is long hair and you never had a lot as relaxed, my guess is that lower maintenance and good conditioning might be the answer.

  • tiffany says:

    Most of my friends think my hair doesn't grow because of shrinkage, but my hair is definitely longer than its ever been. When I stretch it right now, it's about two inches below APL, so if I straightened it it'd sit on top of my chest. I've been natural since May of 2008 and I've never had any issues "making" my hair grow. I went natural for the variety, not necessarily the length, but the length is what I'm getting. My mom is still relaxed and is always amazed at how much my hair grows.

  • Channing says:

    I was just talking about this yesterday b/c I've felt the same way, it seems as if ladies who had long relaxed hair shoot right back to that length when natural no problem, and even I, who maintained a little longer collar bone lenth during my relaxed days, got right back to it no problem when I went natural.

    I think the main reason for this is because you already have practice at maintaining a certain length and even though it's a new texture, it's esentially the same amount of hair and you're used to that amount.

    Does that make sense?

    Put it like this, the majority of women I've talked to and know personally had no problem getting back to their pre-natural length no matter what it was [because that's what they're used to] but once it started growing past that length, that's when the issues began, and I think because it's new territory.

    My personal example, I've been natural for about 6 years, i easily got back to my pre-natural length but for years i didnt get past it, after a stint w/braids, I had retained quite a bit and thought i FINALLY got past my stopping point, but soon i noticed that after a while all the hair that was past my pre-natural length was thinner than the rest, [almost like a line of demarcation] this made me realized that even though I knew how to handle the texture i didn't know how to handle the length.

    After talking w/ a few people [complaining mostly] I realized others had the same issue. So i knew it was something in my routine [for me it turned out to be not fully detangling and wet combing] Once I got that down, finally my hair got past that plateau it's longer than it's ever been and it's given me the confidence to set new hair goals.

    So to answer your question: YES!!

    of course you'll get there, it just takes practice, any new territiory requires a learning curve.

  • Natural-ness (LV) says:

    I hate typos :( I meant to say, you can check it out by clicking my name :)

  • Anonymous says:

    as a child my natural hair was mbl/bsb-ish…which is probably apl on an adult…relaxed, my hair went from apl to full shoulder length…and never went past that…so as a natural i plan to atleast get to full BSB or MBL

  • Natural-ness (LV) says:

    Hello Bevy! This post has inspired me to add a brief hair history of my hair on my website to show that my hair was able to grow longer than it's ever been while natural. Currently, it not at its longest because I did a 2nd BC last year. But I did include pictures of my hair before my 2nd BC, along with pictures of my hair when it was relaxed. You can check it out my clicking my name.

  • Anonymous says:

    i had long hair when it was relaxed. i got my first one when i was ten and i was never allowed to cut it short, but it was healthy. when i went to college, i cut it in a chin length bob, the shortest it had ever been straight. so, my family now doesn't understand why i went natural. they like it, but they still mourn the loss of my "long, pretty hair". i've been natural for about 18 months and it's now APL, about the length it was when i started transitioning.

  • Aitza Briauna says:

    My hair has always grown but I'm always preferred my hair to be short until now. The longest my hair has ever been is midback and then out it off to shoulder, this was around age 8 or 9. then my hair stylist did a horrible job at "clipping" my ends, she gave me a bob. Since then I've been keeping my hair shoulder length so my braids wouldn't be extremely long.
    Now I'm at shoulder in the front and APL in the back. My goal is to reach midback by my 17th birthday which is September.

  • Jenell : BlakIzBeautyful says:

    My hair was always short as a child, I always longed for long hair and never got it.

    During my early teens, my hair was somewhere around my chin.

    I think I'm finally getting my wish of long hair because the back of my hair is down my back. The front is already to my nose and its only been 8 months.

  • Anonymous says:

    I've always had hair that was at least BSL in the front. For the couple years while I was relaxing it wouldn't go further. When I was using a texturizer for the last 2 1/2 yrs, it still grew, so I find my now SL (in the back only) after my BC hair very frustrating.

  • Anonymous says:

    The weird thing about my hair is that it would grow to shoulder length and then it would start breaking off at the crown of my head. I would then have to cut it into a short style then grow out again. This was the usual cycle that I went throught for about 7 years. I have been completely natural for 6 months (transitioned for 14), and my hair is shoulder length with no signs of breakage. I would love to see how long my hair can grow.

  • Jamila Reddy says:

    My hair was the longest it's ever been when I first got a relaxer. I remember all the girls would ask me if I "had white" in me because my hair was SO much longer than theirs.

    Of course it broke off over the years and never got longer than shoulder length. My hair now (3 years natural) is longer than it's ever been.

    There's hope! :)

  • Jamila Reddy says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Leo the Yardie Chick says:

    Since my hair's suffered from chronic ignorance/lack of proper care until 2-3 years ago, I wouldn't use any of my before pictures as a gauge as to how long my hair can grow. ^^; I'm just looking after it now and watching what it will do.

  • honeybrown1976 says:

    I have always had long hair. The longest it's been is MBL as a child. When I was relaxed, the longest was BSL. So, when I am newly natural again, it'll be as long as it was before simply because I'm treating it better these days.

  • Anonymous says:

    My hair is longer than it has ever been and it's not because of my regimen or good care, it's simply because I finally left it alone. Along the way, I have learned many things about my hair and can do more with it now than I ever could. I imagine that even without locs, my loose natural hair would be much better as a result of what I've learned about caring for my hair. My second BC was proof actually. I cut off a short set of locs and within a year of lackluster, inconsistent hair care had inches and inches of new growth. Because it was kept braided and wrapped up. The minute I resumed bad haircare practices (going to have it straightened at a Dominican Salon to "check my length") I had to start over, again. Like westNDNbeauty said, MOISTURE + HANDS OUT MY HAIR = Longer Lengths. Add proper diet, exercise, and TLC (careful manipulation, regular deep conditioning, wrapping at night, etc.) and I'm confident it would be long thick and healthy. I currently have locs nearing BSL at 4.5 years.

  • westNDNbeauty says:

    I've pretty much always been natural. It's only since I became conscious of taking care of and specifically growing my hair to longer lengths has it become longer than it has ever been. Grazing BSL.

    I started to realize I had friends who'd recently become natural and their hair was just as long as mine….I had to do something about my hair care game.

    For the most part, I think when you focus on length and complete all the appropriate measures to get there, its attainable.

    My trick: MOISTURE + HANDS OUT MY HAIR = Longer Lengths.

  • Unknown says:

    I catch myself doign the exact same thing as Bevy. However, I stumbled upon a natural called Kim Love's on youtube. She was kind enough to share her hair journey with us through videos in which she documented. She shows pics of her hair before she "figured it out" and pics now. Homegirl went from having 10 years of those dreaded "see through ends" to having long luscious hair!!! So don't automatically think that because uve had short hair all your life, you can't accomplish your goal of BSL!!! Be patient and kind to your hair & body…then watch it grow!!


  • LBell says:

    Longest lengths:
    – As a natural child (0-12): Somewhere around earlobe-length
    – As a relaxed adult (12-30): Just above SL
    – As a natural adult (30-now): About 1.5 inches above APL

    What this tells me is that 1) I can grow hair :) and 2) I can keep the hair I grow IF AND ONLY IF I adapt my styling regimen and techniques accordingly because that (ignorance of what works best for my particular head of hair) was the primary reason why I wasn't able to keep length before.

    I've said this for years: If you can grow long hair WITH a relaxer, you can grow long hair WITHOUT a relaxer…so don't be afraid to BC because your hair will grow back before you know it. Growth rates don't change…as always, the question is how you're caring for the hair and how much length you're retaining. In general we are taught that Afro-textured hair is rough, tough, coarse, etc. when in reality for a lot of us it's very fragile and needs to be handled very carefully. That's the main reason (IMO) why more black women don't have longer hair with or without a relaxer.

  • Anonymous says:

    Lord, that was riddled with typos. I was in a rush and didn't re-read it. Anyway, that was supposed to say my "mom" or I did my relaxers after my first one, that my hair is about an inch past "BSL" now, and that I learned sealing "here." Ugh, that last one was extra embarrassing!


  • Anonymous says:

    I've always had hair that was several inches past shoulder length unless I cut it short because I wanted a different look. However, I wasn't allowed to get my first relaxer until I was 13 and I only relaxed twice a year. Either my more or I did my own relaxers after my first one. I didn't like salons too much and didn't have that much money and didn't trust them to take it out when I said to take it out. My last relaxer was done about 10 years ago at a Dominican salon after they insisted they couldn't do my hair because I had far too much new growth (probably about 3-4 inches (maybe more) … again, I only relaxed twice a year). That was my last one because they pulled that crap the entire length of my hair and, shortly thereafter, it started breaking off at a ridiculous rate. So, that was it for me. Since I've been natural, I've cut it a few times as well because of split ends, but never to deal with damage like that. Currently, my hair is the longest it's ever been (about an inch past BSP) and, since discovering CurlyNikki, I'm hoping that I can preserve my ends through sealing (learned that hear) and protective styling during Winter (had some damage last Winter due to a protein based gel … again, CN taught me that I'm protein sensitive).

    Anywho, all this to say, I think anyone who had relaxers at a very young age, before they hit puberty and reached full development, regularly relaxed thereafter for years on end, suffered from damage or scalp issues due to the relaxers, might struggle with growth once going natural. I don't think it's irreversible. However, I think that those chemicals affect the scalp and it might take a couple of years of really good hair and scalp care to see the growth that some desire. As many have said, natural hair can be very fragile and you really have to do your homework to understand what it needs and what your scalp needs to get it to thrive.


  • Kristen says:

    Hi Bevy, Nikki and ladies!!! My hair was elbow length as a child until I messed it up with that WHACK creamy CRACK!!!! (LOL) And even when I HAD relaxers I never was the one to go regularly to get touch ups. I feel like I may have gone ALL thru high school without a fresh one until it was time for Senior Prom!! (I HAD to be FLY!!! LOL)

    But anyway, my hair is currently about 2-3 inches past collarbone. Which is ok, but I am trying to reach like bra strap length, at LEAST!! I have started treating my hair better recently because I notices shedding and breaking, not sure why. So hopefully I will get there soon. :o)

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