How I Retain Length

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Last week, I mentioned that I was getting quite a few questions about what I do/did to get my hair to its current length. Usually when I get asked that question, I’ll point to my regimen post. But, to be honest, that is ever evolving and what I may be doing or using today may be totally different a week or two from now. So, I started to think about the various Tips and Tricks that I’ve shared over the last year. Then, I grouped them into categories of things that I consistently do to retain as much length as I can.

Right now, my hair is the longest that it’s ever been in my life … not ADULT life … my ENTIRE life. I have what is viewed as a “looser curl” and some assume that length automatically comes with that. However, I was not one of those little girls with a thick, long ponytail hanging down her back until the yearning for a “perm” set-in and destroyed her long, luxurious mane.

Instead, my hair was fine, frizz prone and armpit length was probably the longest it ever was pre- or post relaxer. All this to say that, at 40 years of age and 12 years natural, my hair is the longest that it has ever been … EVER.

Now here’s the disclaimer! LOL! This post isn’t to say that I’ve got this length retention thing down to an exact science, that my methods are the only ones that work, that I don’t have setbacks or that I have a perfect head of hair. I am trying to grow out a shorter, dryer, coarser and more breakage-prone crown, a shorter nape, transition out henna-loosened ends and recover from the amla induced “Great Shed of 2010.” I don’t have a perfectly even, thick perimeter and although my longest areas have reached waist length, not all of my hair has (I’m testing Chicoro’s “Lead Hair” Theory and the goal point method of trimming). So, yeah … my hair is a work in progress and I hope some of the things that I learned and began incorporating late last year will help me to achieve healthier, thicker, stronger and longer hair in the twenty twelve!!

So, without further ado, here are the 3 things that I am doing to “grow” my hair long or, more accurately, retain the length that I grow!

1. MOISTURIZE: Every week (or two weeks at the most), I pre-poo with Vatika or coconut oil, deep condition, apply a leave-in conditioner and seal with an oil. I re-apply a water-based moisturizer and seal between wash sessions, as needed.

2. PROTECT: I’m not just talking about protective styling. I think about protection as everything I do to reduce stress on my hair and prevent “premature” breakage. I finger detangle, use gentle hair accessories and tools, search and destroy to trim knots and splits that can cause “collateral damage” to adjacent strands, sleep on a satin pillowcase, wear a satin scarf or bonnet every night and wear low manipulation/protective styles that tuck away my ends 5-6 days a week.

3. STRENGTHEN: Throughout most of 2011, this element was largely missing from my regimen and I think it resulted in preventable breakage. But, I rectified this in November 2011, learned how to use protein correctly and began incorporating strengthening protein treatments every 2-3 weeks, or as needed. I also use henna. But, as I do roots-only treatments due to curl loosening caused by repeated applications, it isn’t sufficient as a strengthening agent alone. So, it became imperative for me to begin using protein to reinforce the “structural integrity” of my strands.

Here are a few pictures that show my progress from 2008, when I had my hair cut to ear length straight, to present.

Sept. 22, 2008

Feb. 19, 2011 (post 2-3″ trim)

Feb. 5, 2012

Feb. 10, 2012

Check out How I Retain Length-Part Two here.

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 What do you do to retain length? 

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50 responses »

  1. I’m in a dilemma…….I luv henna for all the obvious reasons but the problem I’m having is with curl loosening!! I didn’t have tight curls to start with so henna has done a trick on my hair. At times I think it looks like heat damage but I know that isn’t the case as I rarely straighten my hair….alas it’s my beloved henna :0( so what to do. Regarding length, my hair is approximately mid back to waist length in parts and I haven’t done anything special in terms of protective styling…I have a saying “I’ll bun when I’m old”. I want to enjoy my hair whilst I’m young. I agree this doesn’t work for everyone and a lot of people protective style 95% of the time to retain length. Any way this comment is getting long…I blame u, you wanted interaction lol

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    • Hey lady!! How soon did you see the curl loosening? Was it immediately, like, after the first treatment? If it wasn’t, but occurred after several treatments, have you tried roots only applications like I do? If you saw curl loosening immediately, maybe you can use cassia instead? I just bought some of that from Mehandi.com, but haven’t tried it yet. The conditioning properties don’t last as long and you don’t get any color, but it is somewhat similar to henna in regard to strengthening hair and giving it shine. Also, you may want to try Zizyphus and/or the Terresentials Mud Wash. I think both of those helped restore some of my curl, though not all of it. Just use the search in the navigation on the right to find the posts!

      In regard to not doing protective styling, but still retaining length, I wrote this originally, then removed it from the post because I didn’t feel like it flowed:

      “I do want to note that I previously grew my hair to bra-strap length when I was mostly wearing WnGs and putting my hair in a bun, updo or ponytail a couple days a week. Although WnGs aren’t protective, they can be low-manipulation. So, when I wore this non-protective style, but consistently ensured that I moisturized and strengthened my hair through regular conditioning, protected it with a satin bonnet and gently detangled, I was able to achieve longer hair. But, again, I’ve achieved the longest hair I’ve ever had with regular protective styling.”

      LOL @ the comment getting long … I’ll take the blame, because I love the interaction ;)!! And, did you SEE my responseSsssss (plural) on my post on CurlyNikki?! I had to break it into 3 parts because it was over th 4000+ character limit!! LOL!!

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      • I’ve been using it monthly for maybe the last eight months?? and have really noticed it in the last 3 months or so….. Problem with cassia is that it wouldn’t give me the colour and that is what I luv about henna (have to colour the greys you know!!). I may do the length every other month and the roots every month and see how I go. I notice if I do a catnip rinse then my curls ‘curl’ more and also if I do a rhassoul clay treatment. I’m actually going to make a mud wash today using bentonite and irish moss powder, kelp etc but I wont be trying it for a few days yet as I just washed my hair on monday. I don’t think there’s any doubt that you will retain more length by protective styling but personally, I hate my hair in a bun. I do remember wearing a high bun for a good six months straight and it did really grow my hair.When i’m old and have no choice, then I will bun…lol (I keep meaning to do a post on my blog about that)…. Also, I want to enjoy my hair (wearing it out) as you don’t know what tomorrow brings but that’ts not to say im careless with the care of my hair, because i’m not. So on the quest for my curls, for I am a kinky girl after all ;0)

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        • Do you feel like your color fades after a month? If so, I still wouldn’t recommend full head applications anymore. I’d suggest doing the roots one month and then a henna gloss with just a tbsp or two of dye released henna mixed into a ton of a thick, protein and cone free conditioner to refresh your color and condition.

          And do you girl and rock those curls out:)!!! I actually don’t enjoy my hair out during the week because it freakin’ gets stuck under my purse, caught on things (why was I walking through Dick’s and my hair was huge, and I feel a yank … turn around and my hair is stuck on one of those metal post hanger things for products … I was like, WTH?? LOL!). So, I enjoy having it up and out of the way. So, we both do what we enjoy, we just happen to enjoy different things:)!! Though, I do like my hair out when I’m not rushing around and dealing with work!! When I’m at work, it’s got to be put away, otherwise it’s a distraction to me! LOL!

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          • My colour doesn’t really get the chance to fade as I do it monthly, it’s more for the greys that grow/show through literally 2-3 days after i’ve just done a henna.
            I have actually made a henna treatment which I will be using next time I wash my hair. I basically made a conditioner base using BTMS and added the henna to it, so I plan to use that on the length of my hair and then straight henna on the ole greys.
            When I straighten it, I don’t like having it out as it gets caught on everything and I have been a victim to getting it caught on coat hangers, hooks, peoples bags a number of times..lol so I know what you mean. I just don’t think my hair suits me up in a pony……

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        • Tracy, do you mean me? If so, yes. I was actually thinking of doing a very short video on my YT channel asking people what kind of videos they want to see. I could do a WnG video. Don’t know when, but I might even try this weekend after my henna treatment. So, stay tuned:)!!

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      • Shelli, I tried cassia and it will color your greys if you leave it on too long. So be careful. I fell asleep doing mine, so . . . My bad. :-/

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        • Hey Tracy, what color did your become after the cassia? I’ve used the henna and indigo and the color was dark brown but I was keen on it being so dark. So now it’s growing out and I want to color again but not that dark. Also, does acv remove the henna?

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            • Ohhhh … you have grey. Yeah, it’ll turn grey yellow. I was recommending it if you just have dark hair with no greys. Tracy, since I still plan to henna, my greys will be red, so cassia won’t impact the red. I’m not replacing henna with cassia … just want to try it between hennas to see what it’s like … you know, so I can do a review and comparison :). Coco, try mixing less indigo with more henna to get a medium brown. You can check out my post, “Color Options with BAQ Henna” to find some ratios for different colors and a link to the full mehandi.com chart on color mixes.

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          • Coco, ACV will not remove henna. Nothing really removes henna totally. There is something that is supposed to lift some of the color, but can’t remember what it is off of the top of my head. If you google though, you’ll find some threads on lifting methods.

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            • Hey Lady Skills, I don’t know what is up with the Hennas I’ve used then because the I could see the color running down the drain each time I washed my hair!
              A lil background, the first henna I did I went to an Indian salon where they do tats, threadings etc. needless to say my gray hairline was serious in competition with Ronald mcDonald’s wig! I work in a law firm, its enuff that I’m rocking a ‘fro, here I come with 2 inches of orange hairline and 3inces of dark brown hair…not professional! But I went back the next week thinking I’d see a change, naht, it simply got more orange. I then ordered 2 henna and indigo from the folks at Mehandi. Left it in for 6 hrs but the dark brown I got has simply washed down the drain:(. So I have the next box to use again and I’m hoping this time it works cause I really don’t want to use the commercial dyes. I’m now using Terresentials fabulous stuff and also finally refining my regimen..so please give me any advice you may have about Henna.
              Just how much salt should one use when mixing the indigo with the henna?
              How long is the henna+indigo supposed to “rest/release” before I apply it?
              Should I wait more than 6 hrs before I wash it out?
              Do you know any salons in New York City that apply henna? I realize the salon’s henna are dyes not baq, and they charged me $40 to apply my own stuff! I have shoulder stiffness so it’s hard to apply it. It takes me an hour and a half to put twists in my hair!
              And last, have you ever used Lush Hennas? If so, what was your experience?
              I know it’s a lot to focus but I haven’t found anyone in NYC that uses baq henna with whom I can talk about this stuff with.

              Looking forward to read your thoughts and suggestions,
              Coco

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    • I like your saying. I can’t stand bunning my hair ALL the time. My aunt use to tell me when I get old I have to cut my hair. Old people don’t have long hair it makes them appear as if they are trying to look young she would say. Well that tells me I better enjoy my hair and length while I’m young. LOL!! I want to retain length with out 95% protective styling. As for the henna, I didn’t have tight curls either and henna seems to have loosen my ends a great deal. I love henna but I WANT my curls!!!!

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  2. Look at you! Your hair has grown so much. It’s crazy because I’ve seen it grow, right before my eyes since probably just before Feb. 2011! I remember when even YOU didn’t realize how much it had grown.

    That protein conditioner that you added is critical! I think a lot of naturals craze the soft hair feeling and sacrifice strength for softness. Protein treatments are great, but they don’t give that soft, mushy feeling that moisturizing conditioners do and I think a lot of people may think that it doesn’t “feel” like a good conditioner.

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    • My girl Rece:). We’ve been hanging tough for over a year now! Wow!! And, I know!! LOL! I remember you saying it was growing a lot and me not really thinking it had and then seeing those pics! LOL!!

      And thank YOU for the words of advice on protein. You are absolutely right! I do think the issue is that many of us don’t understand the differences between conditioners and how to use moisture and protein. So, I’m so happy to understand that now and thank you for helping me get there!!

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    • I agree Rece, Shelli’s has grown like a weed. It has shown enormous growth since last year. I am still learning how the whole protein and moisture work. It takes so much time to learn about your own hair and not to mention all the information we read, it can drive a person crazy. My problem is deciding what works for you can become pricey. Oh boy, by now this hair thing should be SIMPLE!!!!

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  3. For those of us who are just starting to henna, do you think it’s best we do a roots only process?

    Hugs and Mocha,
    Stesha

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    • Hey Stesha:)!! If you are worried about curl loosening, yes, you may want to do roots only. But, if that isn’t a concern, then you can do full head. Roots only actually makes the process a little less involved for me.

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      • So doing the roots on won’t cause loosening? What about henna glosses? My biggest fear with henna is not with my hair, but with my bathroom! It’s all white and if that shiggity messes up my bathroom, I will have a fit!

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  4. Great post!! You are seriously an inspiration! I have been working on getting more protein in my regimen, your post on Aphogee 2-step is what convinced me to take the jump and my hair loved it. Thanks for taking the time to go into detail on your regimen!

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    • Awwww, thanks Marcia!! Thanks for the comments here and on CurlyNikki:)!! Yeah, I am so mad that I didn’t know how to use protein earlier!! But, hindsight is 20/20!! We got it now;)!!

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  5. Alright Shelli, I’ve been waiting patiently (lol). Where is the product you said you’d mention in today’s post? Your public awaits. Do tell!

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    • Bwahahahahahaha!! Okay Veronica. I’ll do a short post about it. But, it won’t be a true review because the product didn’t get a fair shake. I’ll need to try it again in different circumstances!!

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  6. Your hair is amazing!! Sadly, I don’t think mine will eve attain enough length to pull into a puff as my fine hair is the type(4) that grows in thickness not length:(. That said, is do you ever use ACV in your hair now that you henna and what are your thoughts on glycerin use in the summer?
    Thank you for sharing you experiences as a 50+ I am heartened to see oung women embrace their hair after the past crazy20 years or so of the crush for rapunzel in a bag that has destroyed hairlines and whole heads of hair! Not that weaves and braids are bad, it’s just that they became addiction for so many of our sisters.
    Thanks again

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    • Hi again Coco! Thank you so much for the kind words!!

      If it grows in thickness, I’m sure you’ll be able to pull off a puff!! I LOVE thick hair, though I know that it can be a challenge to detangle (because my roots are getting thicker and it definitely takes more work to get through them if my hair isn’t stretched).

      As to ACV, I used it once in between henna in 2010 … wasn’t something that I felt a need to incorporate into my regimen. Cool water rinses and henna seemed enough to give me the shine and smoothness that I was seeking and shampooing with a diluted shampoo with SLS once every month or two takes care of any build-up/clarifies my hair.

      As to glycerin during the summer, my hair (especially my crown) is highly porous, just like CurlyNikki and I live in NJ where the humidity in the summer is RIDIC. So, I avoid products with glycerine high in the ingredients list winter and summer. They make my hair swell and get frizzy and tangly. But, if you hair is dry and of normal or low porosity, glycerin can be great in the summer (if you live in a humid or normal humidity environment … if you live in an arid environment, you’ll need to make certain your hair is very hydrated before walking out the door … there’s a guest post on here about glycerin in the winter that explains how to use it when the outside air is dry). So, you should make your decision based upon your hair’s needs.

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      • Coco, in regard to your questions further above about henna, I don’t have any experience with Lush henna. I know that some people love it. But, I would think you probably wouldn’t want to mess with the bars, because you have to shave the henna off and mince it into a fine powder before mixing, so there’s extra work and strain on your hands and arms.

        Sorry, I don’t know of any places in NY that apply it and I’ve never had anyone do mine, so I couldn’t recommend anyone either. Maybe someone will see your comment and have some feedback. You may want to try looking and/or posting for an answer on the CurlyNikki.com forums.

        In regard to the problem with henna and indigo. My mom bought the kit the kit from mehandi.com and it didn’t work for her either! I buy my henna and indigo separately and it works fine to cover my greys. I’m trying a henndigo mix as I type to see if I can do a dark brown in one step instead of black in 2 steps. I don’t measure the salt I add. I just shake enough times to make a visible amount on top of the indigo powder. Maybe I do 1/8 of a teaspoon?

        Sorry that I couldn’t be of more help on this one. That’s all I got.

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        • Oh, Coco, one last thing! I ALWAYS use heat when I use henna/indigo. I usually do 4 hours of henna, 2 with heat and 1 hour of indigo, all with heat. Today, I’m doing a henndigo and I have used my heat cap for the entire 4 hours. So, if you aren’t using heat, that may help with the dye uptake and permanence.

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          • Hi, thanks for answering my questions and yes the grating/shaving thing would be a problem for my fractured wrist and elbow,right hand no less:( how did your henna take? I had never heard about applying heat as a means of getting the color to really adhere. I don’t have a heat cap but I do have a hood dryer, do you think that will work just as well? It really was upsetting to see the ancient sunrise henna wash down the drain leaving behind the hideous rusty color the ladies at the “salon” applied so many months ago. I have one more box here and I’m gonna ask a friend over to help me apply it on Friday. I will let you know my result.

            Thank you again for all the information you pass along and for your candor. I am learning so much from you and the ladies that visit Hairscapades.

            Have a great week!

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  7. What is Henna? When I try to wear my hair in a WnG, it curls up to my ears! (it usually sits at my shoulders.) I would like to have my curls loosen only I don’t know how to do that. I am just now starting the process of really going “natural” although i haven’t had a relaxer in about two years. As much info as you can give would be amazing! Thanks

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  8. Pingback: How I Retain Length – Part Two « hairscapades

  9. Girl you know that’s a weave stop playing . 🙂 Just kidding I am working on length retention for at least three years and then cutting from there. Thanks for the wonderful tips Shelli

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  10. Pingback: Chicoro Lead Hair Theory (Kind of) Update | hairscapades

  11. Pingback: Growing Long Hair: Diet, Exercise and Vitamins | hairscapades

    • Hi Sheena, if you check out the link above in the comments, which is part 2 of this post, I provide the products I was using at the time. However, my new fave protein treatments are in my current regimen post. They are Joico K-Pak (the Sally’s GVP version) and my DIY goat milk conditioning mask. LOVE them!! My hair has been doing awesome ever since I started incorporating them both.

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  12. Pingback: Growing Long Natural Hair: Diet, Exercise and Vitamins? | The Urban Hanger

  13. Pingback: Cheveux qui s’affinent ou vitesses de pousse différentes ? Shelli de Hairscapades nous donne son avis ! | Nounoune et ses tifs

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