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Curly Nikki

5 Reasons You Aren’t Gaining Length- Natural Hair

By January 27th, 202134 Comments
5 Reasons You Aren't Gaining Length- Natural Hair

Growing longer hair should be pretty simple for every woman- right? I mean, the hair just grows out of our heads. It’s not like we have to look at our scalps on a daily basis and say “Yo follicle! Handle your business!” So why is it that some of us can never seem to grow our hair to the length that we desire? Many women are surprised to discover that the answer to that question isn’t found in taking hair pills or hunting for a new hair product. Growing longer hair is simply about allowing our hair to grow more than we are damaging it. It’s actually that simple. So if you’re having trouble gaining length, you may want to look a little closer at your hair care regimen. Maybe there are specific things that you are doing to cause damage and counteract your hair’s growth. Here are 4 reasons you may not be gaining length:

1. You’re over-manipulating and under protective styling
I constantly get questions about whether women can get away with not protective styling and still achieve length. The fact is that curlier hair is more delicate (and finer) than straight hair. Because of this, you need to protect it from frequent manipulation. Sure, you can try your luck with infrequent protective styling- but more manipulation equals more hair damage, which equals more breakage. And more breakage will always counteract attempts to gain length.

2. You’re not moisturizing and sealing
Curly, kinky and coily hair CRAVES moisture. Moisture it what’s need for our hair to preserve elasticity. And when hair is deprived of moisture, the result is that not so pleasant “B” word again—Breakage! To gain length (and prevent breakage) you must help your hair maintain its elasticity by making moisturizing and sealing part of your daily hair routine. Hair that does not gain length is simply hair that is breaking faster than it is growing. In the case of curly hair (especially curly, porous hair), you always want to counteract dryness and breakage by moisturizing and sealing.

3. You’re using heat
With the exception of using mild, wet heat to deep condition, dry heat (i.e. from flat irons or blow dryers) should be avoided. Dry heat literally boils moisture out of hair- leading to dryness and ultimately breakage. I know there are women that like to flat-iron or blow dry their hair for the occasional sleek look, but those are two of the fastest ways to damaging your already-prone-to-dryness curly hair. I know it may be hard for some to accept, but to gain length you’re going to have to step away from the heat.

4. You’re not trimming damaged or spit ends
Hair doesn’t need to be put on a frequent trimming schedule. But if you are damaging your hair so much that splits ends and breakage become a common occurrence, then you need to trim your hair regularly to counteract this damage. If you don’t take care of these damaged ends on the spot, or ignore them, you’ll just have damage that will literally start to extend from the tip of your hair and up the hair shaft. In those cases you’ll end up having to do a bigger chop than when there was less damage. And this bigger chop will, once again, make it harder for you to achieve the length you want.

5. Keep Things Low Maintenance
Keep things simple with low maintenance and protective styling. All hair goes through normal wear and tear. But the less stress you put on hair by manipulating it with things like combing and heat styling, the less likely it will incur damage that will cause things like split ends and breakage.

Have you ever had a problem with growing your hair to the length you wanted? What changes did you make in hair regimen to help solve this problem?

If you’d like to send a comment/question to Dr. Phoenyx Austin, you can find her on Facebook and Twitter. Dr. Phoenyx is a writer, media personality, and physician.


  • monica m says:

    My hair is in a twa it's been 9 months and my hair is super short! ugh My daughter is 4 and her hair is natural and the back of her hair just breaks off~ am at a total lost. Advice please?

  • leesicam says:

    I gave up trying to grow it out. I'll just keep it short. Life is too short to invest too much time on hair.

  • Anonymous says:

    I must admit, I am confused. I don't really know how to take care of my hair (which is why its almost twice as short as it was a year ago) and my mom doesn't either (her idea of taking care of it is cutting it all off). When everyone talks about moisturizing their hair everyday, what does that mean?? I decoded to wear my hair out a majority of this last year and it caused my hair to get really dry and break off. Any suggestions for what I can do?

  • NaturallyTwisted Hairstyles says:

    I agree with all of the tips. I've kept my hair in twists for about 18 months because I needed a good protective style that allowed me to do creative things with my hair without too much manipulation. I keep my twists in for about a month at a time, and co-wash and moisurize them as if I have loose hair. Check out my site, blog, Twitter, and FB for more info.

  • Anonymous says:

    For the lady looking to have better "second day Hair" and those of you complaining your hair dries out too quickly,one thing most people do not realize is how drying cotton is. If you are not protecting your hair at night by sleeping on satin or silk (it will clear up your skin as well) you are DRYING your hair out each night you sleep on a cotton pillow case. That and cold-water rinsing my hair has my curls looking "perfection."

  • Anonymous says:

    for the lady with the moisturizing problem.water is the only moisturizer.oils and creamy moisturizers are only to help seal the moisture in.i only use shea butter,coconut oil,castor oil,jojoba oil,or etc to seal moisture in.because they are natural products they don't creat buildup on my hair.=] try just an oil and water and see how it works for you.

  • Anonymous says:

    these tips sound great. for me however, going back to blow drying my hair is saving it. n like some1 else said, weirdly enough my hair holds moisture better after it has been blow dried. i went without blow drying 4 the past two years…what i saw is that my hair is so curly/coily that it just curls back on itself and breaks horribly. since going bk to blow drying ive noticed probably a 90% reduction in breakage.
    also im surprised scalp health wasnt mentioned. after i had my sons i got this nasty stuff on my scalp, looked like cradle cap…disgusting. i finally read about applying tea tree oil directly to my scalp n it made a world of difference. when my scalp was all scaly i could deep condition everyday for 2 hrs or more…it did NOTHING 4 my hair…fixed my scalp n my hair began to respond

  • KiKi says:

    For my hair I totally agree with #1 and #2. I am in my second year being loose from locs of 4 1/2 years. The first year loose my hair actually was longer and grew nicely; why, because I kept if in double strand twist, washed maybe 3 times a month and castor oil for my staple for moisture and sealing. This year, watching youtube, I wanted to try EVERYTHING under the sun that everyone else was doing, why? I don't know and I lost a lot of hair; changing styles too much, wearing it loose too much, over manipulating. Just recently I went back to my old routine from last year and await the reversal/damage I have caused my hair. LITTLE TO NONE MANIPULATION and MOISTURE IS DEFINITELY THE KEY.

  • Anonymous says:

    Ihave tryed all of those tips and i still have trouble

  • PluralCurls says:

    What about people who can't achieve second day hair? I sleep like a crazy person and in turn, wake up looking like one too. I can't get anything to stay on my head overnight (like a scarf)…even if I could; my hair is not the type to retain curls like that; if I lay on the couch my curls go flat.
    Bottom line, if I don't "manipulate" or re-style/re-wet my hair everyday then I would have to stay in my house because let's face it…I'm not quite sure my workplace is progressive enough to share the water cooler with a TROLL.
    The only way I don't manipulate my hair is if I get it pressed – hello: heat no-no.
    And then I don't workout when my hair is pressed because I don't want it to get curly again…welcome: health no-no.

    How can I win?

  • Nessa says:

    At first I didn't think protective styling would help… but truthfully, ever since I started wearing my hair in twists, boy the growth I have retained!!!!

  • nikkit says:

    I can't agree with a limit to hair length. So many people grow their hair longer than they ever thought possible. I think we get frustrated when we don't see the results we want. I know I do. It some times seems as if the solutions cant possibly be as simple as the tips that are presented. But what if it is? I am using these tips right now and am seeing results. I had to face the fact that I was NOT moisturizing daily, NOT wearing protective styles, etc. And, I know for me trims are essential. Some folks can go for months or years without a trim. I cannot. You have to FIND what works for you. It's your solution, not anybody elses.

  • gloria says:

    I don't know how many of these blogs with the top 5,7 or 10 tips on how to grow hair I have read over the last few years on how to grow hair. The more accurate title should be "How to maintain your growth." But these tips usually fail to mention what has the most direct affect on how long your grow grows, nutrition, heredity and age. What I see happening in the natural hair community is this quest to grow along hair, and while that may be a worthy goal, how about healthy hair first and then length. And what no one here likes to mention is that no matter what you do and what products you use, each of has has built in limit to how long our hair will grow. This is not just for African American women but for those of other nationality as well. Maybe I have been out here too long, but I would really like more information based on science rather than one persons individual experience. And while I do not dismiss empirical data, data based on facts works better for me

  • Anonymous says:

    I found #5 on her website, and here it is..

    5. Keep Things Low Maintenance
    Keep things simple with low maintenance and protective styling. All hair goes through normal wear and tear. But the less stress you put on hair by manipulating it with things like combing and heat styling, the less likely it will incur damage that will cause things like split ends and breakage.

  • beauty products says:

    i think using natural hair products can be helpful for making softer and thicker and strong hair. also protective styling grows hair too but we cant stick always to these hair style so its better to find other good way too.

  • Angel says:

    My hair has been so much happier since I began to moisturize regularly. It is softer and more manageable. I make my own moisturizer from all natural products, so that contributes to my healthy mane. Just in case anyone is wondering, my mix contains aloe vera gel, EVOO, distilled water, and vegetable glycerin. I spray on day and night from ends to roots. My hair is so happy right now and so am I.

  • Anonymous says:

    I think its interesting that Anonymous at 9:08 mentioned that she had 4c hair that breaks more easily if not stretched out. I feel the same way and was wondering if anyone else has the same issue. For some reason my hair feels and looks more healthy after a low heat blow out. I feel like it somehow holds moisture better that way although this seems to contradict what's been said.

  • Anonymous says:

    I started with a texturized TWA 18 months ago. It took 3 trims during the first 6 months to remove all the relaxed ends. Now my hair is almost to my shoulders (unstretched) so I think I must be doing something right.

    For me, DIY protective styles take too much time and I never get good results after day 1. I have tried twisting and wearing a knit beanie for a few days before twisting out, but I missed having my hair visible and the beanie annoyed me. I would never pay for "protective" weaves, wigs, twists, etc. One of the benefits of natural hair is no more hours/money spent at salons.

    I feel like protective styling hides the hair that I've worked hard to grow. It defeats the purpose to me. So for the last month, I've been 100% WNG and I have not noticed any breakage.

    I never use heat of any kind and I try to keep my hair well moisturized and conditioned.

    I always wear a satin bonnet at night.

  • DiJah says:

    My hair is shoulder length and i've never really watch the growth. Only time i've taken notice is when i flat iron my hair, which i havent done since the summer. Now i'd actually like to see if its growing or not so i'm going to have it professionally clipped (i've been doing that myself as well)my question is: can i use shea moisture curl enhancing smoothie as a sealant? My hair is not really happy when it has oil (jojoba/ kemi/ carrot…) in it :/

  • Anonymous says:

    I feel like I've read these tips a million times!!! What I want to know is what do you suggest for those of us who are growing out our short styles? My hair is at the awful in between stage of being too long to be "short" but too short to do anything with. Most protective styles don't work for me. They fall out or I'm not even able to attempt them. And I can't cornrow (before anyone goes down that road) Second-day hair is a four-letter foreign concept to my hair.*exasperated sigh* Now if there is something I'm missing I just want to know what it is so I can fix it. But all of the solutions seem to be tailored for people who already have long(er) hair. What about the rest of us?

  • Anonymous says:

    I didn't notice there wasn't a number 5 until you pointed it out. LOL!! I have a few problems with my hair.
    I am a plus size person and I feel like bigger hair balances my body out. The only way I can get it big is to blow it out. I try to keep it in Senegales Twists when I can afford it, but I just took them out last week and I know it will be a while before I can afford it again.

    I have very coily 4C hair and it breaks more easily if I don't stretch it out. I look weird/ugly with protective styles. I looked online the other day for some videos on wearing a turban. I found a few scarves tonight and I am going to try those as my protective style.
    P.S. I don't know how to flat twist or cornrow.

  • Dominique-Alexis says:

    Great tips!

  • Anonymous says:

    After more than 40 years learning about and working with my hair and others', I'm convinced that the #1 reason why more of us don't have longer hair is not because of genetics…it's because we're doing one or more of the things Phoenyx listed above, ALL of which are within our power to change. And let me volunteer the missing 5th element: IMPROPER use of chemical treatments such as relaxers and color.

    I honestly do not understand why there's still so much confusion over this esp. given all the information that's out here now.

    People saw lots of length with the Jheri Curl and its associates because the hair was kept moist (as in WET) all day and night, which hindered breakage. The Jheri Curl did not make hair grow or grow faster, and neither did the products used to keep it moist. Braids, weaves, wigs, etc. — these don't make hair grow faster either. They keep your hair safe from whatever it is YOU'RE doing that's causing your loose, free hair to break. As soon as you figure out what that is and CORRECT it, you will see length.

    What worked for me? Giving up chemicals completely. Protective styling (that hid my ends) most of the time. Manipulating hair with the right tools. Very rare (2x/year) use of heat. Monitoring ends and clipping as needed.

  • Anonymous says:

    All points are so true. I wore kinky twist and moisturized daily and everytime I took it down I noticed real growth. When I decided to have my hair out (so proud of the growth and wanted to show it off) and because I have tightly coiled hair I would blow dry and flat iron my hair to stretch it, it broke off badly. Now I am back to my protective twists and seeing growth again. I moisturize daily and sometimes twice a day.
    Lesson learned!

  • Tamandra says:

    I've found that my hair seems to gain length when I wear straightened styles. For instance, a straight sew in weave or even sewing in a few tracks into a straightened style. Could it be because there are less tangles and manipulation? Also, when I think to when my hair was at its longest and thickest it was when I was a child and my mother used to wash and blowdry my hair every 2-3 weeks and then braid it up.

  • Anonymous says:

    Ummm. where is the 5th reason "/

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree protective styling grows hair, I had my hair professionally braided for 2 yrs staight in the late nintes and its the reason why my hair is the lenght it is, now im transitioning. It also is the reason ppl with dreads have long hair, they arent combing there hair!

  • Anonymous says:

    Although for three years my goal has been total moisture for my hair, I only have very moist hair 3-4 days out of seven. The deep conditioner I use leaves my hair oozing w/moisture right after the wash, but my kinky coils still desired even more moisture! Soooooo recently, I decided if I can't beat 'em I'll join 'em – I moisturize with a creamy water-based hair product and seal with jojoba oil. Also, I leave some conditioner in my hair and only wear my hair out on Sundays. Today my hair feels like silk. I kid u not, looks like my hair has grown and I have only been doing this procedure for two weeks!

  • Anonymous says:

    Lmao at Anon 4:43…I remember how I hated my freshly washed jheri curl! And I remember the collar on my starter jacket. HOWEVER! Yes, my hair did grow and it was because of what my mom called the "stuff" (the juice)!

  • Anonymous says:

    I try protective styles and within a day my hair is matted…for example I just twisted all my hair on Sunday night, took it down Tuesday and I have knots upon knots

  • TiAnna Mae says:

    I never thought about it like that Anon 4:43, but you are so right! I'm over here rollin!!!!!

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi curlies…I'm mzcnnd! It's amazing to me how many black folks haven't figured out that moisture is what our hair needs most. Remember the curls of the '80s (California, Jheri and nem). I had friends who'd never had hair that were suddenly growing hair like crazy. People started saying, "Girl them curls make your hair grow!" No, curls didn't make your hair grow, but having a curl allowed our hair to grow because of two things, lots of moisture and very little manipulation. The only thing about curls was nobody was washing they damn hair because they didn't want to mess with the moisture balance and that led to some funky heads and dirty manes. But folk didn't care 'cause they had hair! Anyway, the lesson learned from old school curly days is that moisture is something our hair loves. BTW, love your site Nikki. I'm an avid reader and I think I've read everything that's been posted here. So many pearls of nappy wisdom! CN Rocks!

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree not Moisturizing and sealing breaks hair.I am having that problem now .. but i feel that when i do moisturize daily my hair starts to feel very greasy and gets very frizzy. any suggestions on products?

  • Candace4life says:

    I agree with everything on here except for #3, because there are alot of people on Youtube that it didn't hinder their hair growth. I think heat in minimal is good esp. for keeping the tangles at bay. Now I plan on putting in some mini twists into my hair and keeping those bad boys in for 1 month. I make sure to keep my ends dusted because only doing it once or twice a year won't work for my hair. I make sure to moisturize my hair every other day because it soaks it up like crazy.

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