All hair grows an average of ½ inch per month, but it's how you treat your hair that determines how much you'll retain. Some women swear by vitamin regimens that call for popping pills all day long, while others cut their hair according to the phases of the moon. There's no mumbo-jumbo involved in hair growth. All that's required is your commitment to healthy hair practices and treating your hair with TLC. Here are 11 tips you can use to grow your hair longer and stronger:
1. Follow a Healthy Lifestyle
Before we get to the outside, we need to take care of the inside. Yes, what you eat, drink and how you treat your body has an effect on your hair. You need to eat enough fresh fruits and vegetables, drink enough water and exercise regularly for your body's overall health. Since your hair grows directly from your body, when you treat your body well, your skin, nails and hair benefit, too. People who suffer from vitamin deficiencies and unhealthy diets can suffer from dry, brittle hair.
2. Get Regular Trims
This sounds counterproductive if you want your hair to grow longer, but trims help get rid of dry, damaged and split ends which can work their way up the shaft of your hair, causing even more damage. A trim is defined as removing ¼ to ½ inch of hair, nothing more. If your stylist insists on cutting off inches of hair every time you go in for a visit, your hair won't get longer, so either find a professional who understands exactly how much hair you need removed or learn to trim your hair yourself. Depending on the chemicals you have in your hair as well as your daily routine, you may need a trim anywhere from every six weeks to six months. The better you care for your hair on a day-to-day basis, the less often you'll need trims.
3. Use Moisturizing Products
Because black hair is often dry by nature, it's best to use products that replace needed moisture. This includes using shampoos and conditioners formulated for dry and/or damaged hair. These products don't have to come strictly from the "ethnic" hair aisle, either; many mainstream brands make hair products for different types of hair, from oily to dry.
4. Low Manipulation
There's no need to brush your hair 100 strokes per night before going to sleep. In fact, the less you do to black hair, the more it flourishes. This ties in with the next step, protective styling, since many of the hairstyles that fall into that category become low-manipulation 'dos once they're in place.
5. Use Protective Styling
Once your hair is a certain length, you might want to wear it loose all the time to let everyone know just how long it is. You want to feel the wind blowing it to and fro, but wearing your hair in protective styles more often than not will help you retain that precious length. Protective styles keep your ends – the oldest and often driest parts of your hair – from rubbing against clothing, pillowcases and car seats. By keeping these ends up and out of sight, you hold in the moisture your hair needs and prevent dryness that can lead to breakage. Protective styling also applies to nighttime care; a silk or satin hair cover or pillowcase is better for the health of your hair than cotton.
6. Stay Away from Heat
While occasional flat iron and curling iron use is usually fine (so long as the heat isn’t too high), you should minimize heat styling as much as possible. Choose hairstyles that don't rely on so much heat, as well as gentle styling methods like wraps, wet sets and twists.
7. Use the Right Tools
With all of the hair styling tools and accessories out there, it can seem overwhelming. What do you buy? The best tools and accessories for black hair work with its natural texture. They don't pull on it, but are gentle. When you lose less hair to tools and accessories, that's more hair you keep on your head.
8. Condition, Condition, Condition
This is crucial for having healthy hair. Besides the right shampoo and conditioner, use leave-in conditioners as well. You also need a good deep conditioner; use it at least once a month. Well-moisturized hair is less prone to dryness and breakage, leading to more hair retention.
9. Relax with Care
Chemical abuse is one of the biggest causes of hair damage in black women. Everyone isn't going to go to a professional to get her hair relaxed; even some who do may find that the stylist isn't putting hair health as her top priority. When it comes to growing relaxed hair longer, you can't relax too often, but when it's time for a touch-up, get one because the longer you wait, the greater the chance of breakage occurring where the relaxed hair meets the new growth. Overlapping a relaxer onto previously relaxed hair is another major cause of breakage. If you choose to wear your hair relaxed, it's best to find a competent stylist and stick with him or her – the fewer people you have applying chemicals to your hair, the better.
10. Go, and Stay, Natural
If you currently relax your hair and see a lot of breakage and damage, consider stopping chemical processes altogether. Many women have rediscovered their natural texture after years of straightening. Learning to work with your hair in its natural state may take getting used to; some women don't know what their real texture is like because their hair has been permed since childhood. While cutting off all of your relaxed hair sounds like the last thing you want to do to gain length, getting rid of chemically processed hair at once, instead of trimming away as your new growth comes in, is the easiest way to return to your roots. It also leads to less breakage and less frustration in dealing with two different textures.
11. Wear Gentle Styles
Our hair is not as tough as it may appear, so you need to choose styles that keep its fragile nature in mind. Too-tight ponytails and braids worn over extended periods of time will eventually lead to breakage. Hair styling should never be painful! Think: Be kind to your hairline and choose hairstyles accordingly.