I attended a hair party recently and I asked this question of the attendees: what are you hoping to learn from this gathering? Various answers were thrown out with the common ones being, “I want to learn how to take care of my hair” and “suggestions on how to make my hair grow…” When I inquired of each woman what their current hair care regimen was, I received blank stares. “Okay”, I continued, “what products do you currently use on your hair?” The response from one natural in particular that pretty much summed up the response from the rest of the group was “I don’t know, whatever is on sale!” This elicited a laugh from many in the room. It definitely was funny, but it shed a light on many women’s reality when it comes to taking care of their hair:
“I don’t know.”
And it showed in the appearance, health and growth (or lack thereof) of their hair.
The Hair Growth Cycle
I’m going to make the assumption that as a naturalista or someone who is transitioning, you’re ultimately interested not only in healthy hair but long hair. Hair goes through 3 different phases; a growing phase (anagen), a resting phase (catagen) where the hair takes a growth break and prepares to shed, and a shedding phase (telogen). At any one time more than 85% of our hair is in the anagen or growing phase. The catagen phase can last from 4 weeks to 4 months and at any given time about 1% of our hair is in this phase. About eleven percent of our hair is in the telogen phase and this is when the hair naturally sheds. The roots of hairs in this phase appear white or clear. Interestingly most of our hair is in telogen during late summer and early fall resulting in the greatest amount of shedding during this time. This stage can last for up to four months. In general hair grows at an average rate of ¼ to ½ inch per month. Some people may experience more growth than this, some less, and the main determinants of your rate of growth are the time of the year, genetics, nutritional status, hormones, overall health, age and the practices employed to take care of your hair. All of the hair on your body is subject to growth rates that are predetermined through your genes, resting rates and what’s called terminal lengths. The terminal length is the longest length that any hair on your head can grow, given the monthly growth rate and duration of the anagen phase. While there are some aspects to your hair growth that are out of your control, the most important factor is the retention of length. Without retention along the length of the hair it will appear as though the hair doesn’t grow at all.
Why “Knowing” Is Important for Healthy Hair and Length Retention
Retention is something we have quite a bit of control over and can be a direct result of our hair care practices. But it doesn’t just happen. Length requires effort to sustain since many processes can lead to damage and breakage. Chemical processes like colouring, mechanical stresses such as combing the hair and manipulating it, and environmental factors such as ultraviolet rays and pollutants can disrupt the moisture balance in the hair.
The big question I’ll pose to you is:
“What is your daily or weekly regimen so that you minimize breakage, improve moisture retention, strengthen the hair, create a favourable environment for hair growth and see the lengths add up?”
Are you an active participant in the process or a passive observer? If you have a regimen, do you know why you are taking a specific action with your hair, or are you following the recommendations of someone else without really understanding what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and what overall effect their suggestions will have on your hair? You need to know whether or not your hair care practices are supporting the goals you have for your hair or hindering them.
And what are your hair goals? Are you just going with the flow or do you have a plan for your hair? There is no correct answer hair but your hair goals will dictate your hair care practices. If you could care less about length retention and breakage then how you care for your hair will be completely different from someone who wants to grow their hair as long as possible with minimal trauma.
As we move into a New Year I think that as we resolve to improve our health and fitness, we should include hair care in there as well. Now I know it really isn’t that serious but I honestly believe in the power of goal setting. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. It can be as small as “I plan on trimming my hair every 6 to 8 weeks”. Remember that the care of your body includes the care of your hair as well, and if you’re planning on taking steps to improve your health and wellness, it’s all part of the same package. So I want you to consider the following questions regarding your hair:
1. What is the current condition of your hair?
2. Are you happy with your hair at this point?
3. Where do you find most of your information on how to take care of your hair? 4. What is your current hair care plan or strategy?
5. What are your hair goals?
6. Is your current plan or strategy moving you toward your hair goals, or away from them?
If you have a healthy hair care plan that’s working for you then you’re moving in the right direction. However if you don’t and you have no idea where to start the good news is that you can begin to develop healthy hair management practices through education and dedication.