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



I did the above post on the three mainstay components of my regimen that I believe have allowed me to retain a lot of length: Moisture, Protection and Strength. I’ve shared how I do these three things over the course of the last year through a variety of posts. Well, I thought it might be a good idea to put the links to these articles all together in one place. As new readers come to discover the site and “old” readers want to find a post that they know they read, but just can’t find, thought it would be helpful to have a “Library” for quick reference. I hope that you agree!

So, here is Part Two of How I Retain Length with links to core posts related to my regimen!


The first step in moisturizing for me is pre-pooing:
My Staples – Virgin Coconut Oil & Vatika Oil
How I Pre Poo (w/Video Tutorial)

Next is deep conditioning, which I’ve recently discovered a new way of doing:
Deep Conditioning Tricks – Cool & Seal (now for post henna or post-wash protein only)
Pre-Wash Deep Conditioning

Let’s not forget the all important leave-in conditioner:
The Power of pH

(I use the Kimmaytube recipe, but modify it to use less oil for my fine hair: 2 tbsp Kinky Curly Knot Today, 2 tbsp aloe vera juice [food grade-whole leaf], 1 tsp jojoba oil or Jamaican black castor oil; the “regular” recipe includes 2 tsp jojoba oil & 2 tsp castor oil.)

And finally, I have to seal all that lovely moisture into my hair:
My Staples: Jamaican Black Castor Oil (JBCO)


Protection starts with gentle handling in my book:
Finger Detangling
Tools of the Trade
 (gentle tools & accessories)

Next is protective and/or low manipulation styling that hides away those ends from environmental and mechanical damage:
Protective Styling … Boring?
Style Library: Updos

Then I protect the ‘do at night:
A Bonnet for Every Occasion


I have truly realized the importance of treatments that reinforce and strengthen the hair strand.
Henna – My Two Step Henna/Indigo Process
Moisture & Protein, Finding the Balance
ApHogee 2 Minute Keratin Reconstructor
ApHogee 2 Step Treatment 
(my first time review and process)
I ♥ Aubrey Organics and Can I Over-Condition (Aubrey GPB rocks my world)

And that’s it! Enough isn’t it?! I’m nothing if not thorough ;).


64 responses »

  1. is this some kind of trick, i need to see you open your hair in parts (in videos) and allow the public to see your scalp


  2. There will ALWAYS be that “special someone,” the “Proof Fairy,” to try & discredit what someone is saying. All I know is that I will be trying these tools & techniques on me & my daughter’s hair. Thank you for taking the time, of sharing & explaining the process to myself, & others.


  3. Shelli, your hair is fabulous! You are right, you have nothing to prove to anyone. Some people which much rather “attempt” to make another person look bad instead of being happy for their haircomplishments (made me a word!!). Your site and youtube are both full of pictures showing your scalp. Anyway, thank you for sharing and as always…keep inspiring.


  4. Your hair is beautiful! Ever since I was a child, I could grow my hair about half way down my back and it wasnt thin. I also didn’t have to do anything to my hair. I went natural almost two years ago. My hair will grow unevenly past my shoulders. It’s very depressing! I’m really frustrated because my hair is harder to comb now. Your blog gives me hope that my hair will grow back.


  5. I really love your blog. I feel like out of all the natural hair girls I can relate to you the most. I’ve never had long hair in my 21 years of living and it’s not really that long now but I’ve never in my life had hair this healthy. It’s a bit frustrating taking advice from girls who seem to grow their hair overnight or have had long hair before. I guess that’s why I find your hair journey to be so relatable. I also have loose texture 3b and some 3c and people assume my hair can grow out easier but I’m think it actually makes it harder.So Basically….your my HAIRO! lol


    • Awwwww, thank you Mo!! I don’t know if it makes it harder, but I think that all textures can be composed of fine strands that are more susceptible to damage. Sometimes people seem to think if you have a looser curl, it means your hair can grow long easily. And, as you said, that’s not necessarily the case. It’s not the looseness of the curl, but the thickness and strength of the strand, as well as care and manipulation practices that impact length. As you said your hair is the healthiest it has ever been, I’m sure you’ll start seeing it grow to the longest lengths you’ve ever achieved too:)!! Thank you so much for your kind words and hope that you continue to enjoy my blog:)!!


  6. I just came across this and I know I’m late-sorry but…Wow Shelli you’re better than me…I would not have responded…but I like your response- very classy! Love your blog and keep up the good work.


  7. I really enjoy your blog and taking note of what works and doesn’t work for you. Your length retention is impressive. I’ve reached my hair goal and have set another one. I’m BSL going straight for waist in a year. I’ve retained length but also suffer from breakage. I’m hoping that adopting some of your techniques and combining them with mine will allow me to reach my goal. Keep up the great blogging!!


  8. As I sit here with a cap on my head doing a deep condition…I am reading just your pre-poo regimen and I am so lost as to how to do it. Is there a tutorial or video on it? I would love to have the length that you have. What leave in should I use and what do I do with the JBCO? Please help! Thanks Shelli.


  9. I just cut off all of my hair and just have a twa and really want to get my hair your length which was my hair length as a child and teenager then got into chemicals and destroyef it all I need some simpler guidance starting over again with my little tiny bit of hair and also something to help my eight year old daughters hair grow long too. Both of us have very dry hair


  10. I struggle with length when it comes to my hair. I’ve been natural for two years now. I’ve always had thick hair, but even with a relaxer my hair never seemed to grow past my shoulders. I love your length and really would like to see my hair get there one day. I love this post and your blog.


  11. I love your hair and the information that you give. I have always transitioned between wearing my hair straight and natural curls, however somehow last year, I was wearing it straight by using a straightening foam by Bed Head and a flat iron, it always reverted back to my curls but now, on the left side, there are a ton of stick straight pieces. It’s not dry, and there is no shedding, or breaking so I’m not sure if that’s heat damage or if it’s just been trained but I’m looking for something to fix it. Does the “Z” from Mahandi actually help with that or will I just have to grow and chop?



    • Awwww, thank you so much Lovely! As to the zizyphus, I think that works on hair that has been weighed down by henna because it lifts some of the dye deposit. I don’t think that it’ll restore curls lost due to heat damage. But, you know, it’s not too expensive and it might be worth trying! But, just make sure to condition after using it as it works like a clarifier and can be drying. Speaking of clarifying, have you done that? Sometimes hair gets limp because it has product build-up, though, it does sound like you have heat damage since the straightness is in a localized area. Heat damage doesn’t necessarily cause the hair to break or shed. It just changes the structure of the hair. Have you tried doing a protein treatment (followed by a moisturizing DC). Protein helps put “structure” back into hair and the moisturizing DC helps restore elasticity. If the damage isn’t severe, that may help restore some of the curl. Okay, HTH!!


  12. Did you go to cosmetology school?Im 14, My hair and my familys hair is pretty close to african hair since we got a relaxers,my mom,my sisters and myself have been going naturaul for a year now,the relaxer really jacked our heads up,our hair has shortened a lot,(like shorter than ear length)Will all these tips grow our hair long and silky like yours?Will the methods still work?


  13. Hi there! Lovely blog and hair indeed! I am very much so interested in trying out some henna. I’ve been on my journey for 2 years 6 months and I’ve grown to enjoy it although challenging. I did the big chop and had less than an inch. Now I think I’m between 8 and 10 inches throughout. I keep my hair in two strand and flat twists often, but I think I’m ready to see if I can reap some benefits from henna. I’m doing my research before hand though. I just wanted to share that with you since you are gracious enough to share yours. Thank you!


  14. How can I get my edges to be straight again? Before my hair was permed my edges use to be smooth and straight and now that I have natural hair again I can’t get my edges back!!! It seems to always be dry no matter how much I moisture. What should I do?


    • Dani, did you have issues with your edges when you were relaxing and how long have you been natural? Sometimes people experience damage from relaxers around their edges due to over processing or too frequent relaxers. How is the skin in that area? Is it darker? Is your hair density the same or thinner? If you are more recently natural, I have heard people talk about what is referred to as “scab hair.” There is conjecture that the first “new growth” that you grow after relaxing may not be your true texture if the scalp has been damaged from relaxers and that, when you cut off that initial growth, you’ll see your “true texture.” So, if you haven’t been natural for long, that could potentially be what you are experiencing. Regardless though, are you pre-pooing and deep conditioning your hair weekly? If not, you may want to try those steps and focus on your edges. Make sure you are using a leave-in conditioner and seal with something that keeps the moisture in. Also, be careful with the fabrics you use against your edges if you use headbands and wear a silk or high quality satin scarf and/or a silk/satin pillowcase for bedtime, making sure your edges are adequately covered.


  15. I have been natural now for 5 years and my texture still isn’t what it use to be! I don’t remember ever having problems with my edges while relaxing and I don’t have any problems with it now. Its not darker either i just checked. The hair at my edges is definitely thinner, as a matter of fact the hair at the front won’t grow out. It just stays in curly balls instead of growing out straighter. I’ve pre-pooed only twice but I still moisturize regardless. Every week I wash, deep condition, use shea butter as my leave-in,air dry and put my hair in a bun to protect it. At this point I’m so frustrated because shea butter doesn’t work and edge control is only good for one day.


    • Shea butter is not a moisturizer, so it wouldn’t be an effective leave-in. It’s a sealer. A leave-in should have water as the first ingredient. You can use just water, but I found that wasn’t effective for me. As to smoothing/holding your edges, I’ve been using ORS Lock and Twist gel and really love it. But, I tend to reapply daily. I haven’t found anything that works for more than a day or two at most to keep my edges smooth … but I also work out/sweat daily.


    • Oh, Cantu Leave-in? You said Shea butter, so I thought you meant PLAIN Shea butter. Lol. Then yeah, that would be a moisturizer, but doesn’t sound like it is working for you, so you may want to try other leave-ins. If you’re pulling your hair into a bun, are you doing it tightly and always in the same position? If so, that can put a strain on your edges and cause them to thin and break. As to the texture change, the only thing I can say is that they say our hair texture can change every 7 years or so. I don’t know if that us a price scientific fact, but I do know my hair seems to have changed from my 20s-30s. And it really changed in my late 30s, though I think it had more to do w/diet and henna. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.


  16. Oh no, you just made me realize that I probably put strain on my edges because I do put my hair in a bun everyday!!! Lol. But it’s what I do for a protective I’ll try to remember that next time. I have one last question though… Do you think it’s possible that my edges need some protein? Because I looked at it and noticed that the root is curly but the end is straight. I was so confused by this, but then I thought maybe I need amprotein treatment to strengthen and balance the ph. You think so?


    • Hi Dani, curly usually means your hair has enough protein and straight means it is over-conditioned. But, that is just the norm. Only you will know your head of hair the best. Usually people are trying to get their straight hair to curl (when natural) and not the other way around as straight natural hair usually means heat damage and/or over-moisturized hair. So, since I don’t know your hair, I really don’t want to recommend one way or the other on that. You have to do what you think makes sense and works for you from experience. But, definitely … pulling your hair back tightly every day into the same hairstyle (and brushing your edges, if you do that too), will put strain on them and can result in damage. Sorry I couldn’t provide more help on that one. Good luck!


  17. Hi Shelli,

    I’m in love with your blog and so happy I found a home for information! There’s just so much info out there (you tube, ect) and it gets overwhelming at times.

    I’m a newbie natural – big chopped after a 6 month transition from relaxer just last week, so i’m just 9 days in. I’ve been co-washing every day (deep conditioned with honey, mayo and aussie Most mid week). Is it okay to co-wash every day or is that too much manipulation? i want to retain as much as I can so i can start to see some length. Thanks!


    • Sorry… Also (LOL) I was using Kink Curly Curling Custurd all of last week. Since Saturday I have been just using a moisturizer and no gel (I’m considering that curling custurd gel). Is it okay to be using gel each day? I started to worry that i was damaging what little hair I have and have been going without it. thanks (again!)


    • Hi Mninij!! Awwww, thank you so much!!! So happy that you discovered my blog and find it helpful!!! As to co-washing daily, for naturals with shorter hair, it can be okay. But, in the long term, soaking the hair in water daily can be damaging and, if you are not incorporating protein into your regimen, you can also end up with over-moisturized hair that can become mushy. That’s not to say that you can’t wet your hair daily to refresh your curls. But, fully saturating it with water and conditioner may not be necessary. You may want to try just letting the moisture from the shower dampen it or use a spray bottle and then apply some conditioner to your hair (I would recommend a leave-in over a rinse out conditioner, if you can find one that you like. But, if you can’t, plenty have success with regular conditioners too and I say, do what works for you). As to the gel, KCCC does not have drying alcohols. So, as long as your gel doesn’t contain agents that make your hair feel dry (with it in or after you rinse out), you should be fine. I have a post on here about Product Ingredient basics that break down the different types of alcohols (fatty and good versus drying and bad). There are also a couple of posts on protein conditioners and over-moisturizing in the right-hand navigation. HTH!!


      • Thanks so much for the advice! I did not co-wash this morning, just used the spray bottle with water/ coconut oil and a little Cantu curling custard …that spruced me right up. I’ve seen your post regarding balance (Protein & conditioning) and will keep all that in mind. Thanks again!!!


  18. ‘be Hey Shelli, Just came across your blog and i LOVE it. I’ve been natural all of my life, I’ve had locs since I was 8 and cut them off a year ago at 22. So for a little over a year now I’ve been growing my hair and I’d say its maybe Arm Pit Length, but for some reason I think my growth has halted. I don’t use heat regularly (my last time was in July for my moms wedding and the stylist was awful with my hair and the heat), and I recently tried box braid extensions for the first time, thinking it would help me retain length. I moisturized daily, covered and protected at night with my bonnet, everything just in hope to retain length. But, after taking them out after about 5 weeks, I’m experiencing a great deal of shedding still (after about a week of taking them out) and I really feel as though my hair is at a plateau. When I do a length check just by pulling the strand, it still seems as if its as long as it was back in July when I last straightened.

    I co wash every week, DC every week, I don’t do protein tx’s as often but I don’t feel as though my hair is limp. I keep it moisturized and sealed. I wear mostly twist outs and usually I bun it up (lol) a day or two before wash day. Nevertheless, I still experience a great deal of breakage :/. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong and I’m starting to feel a little discouraged. I’ve been looking into henna to maybe strengthen and help with my thin strands, but any advise or post you recommend me to read would be wonderful.

    Thanks in advance!


  19. wow..ur hair is beautiful…i seen your other post and I have a question for you.How long should i wait to redo a twist out..,i did a twist out and two days later my twist arent as looks like an afro with curly please..any suggestions


    • I really don’t redo my twists/twist-out. Once it doesn’t look good anymore, I start wearing it in a bun. Too much manipulation/re-twisting results in breakage for me. It may look nice for the short-term, but it’s detrimental to length retention and I’m still aiming for full thickness tailbone length.


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