No matter what way you look at it, when you have curly hair, it is very difficult to know how quickly your hair is actually growing. This is why a length check once in a while works really well. I last did a length check in February 2011, about 14 months post Big Chop (December 2009) and 10 months post last barber shop visit. This was mainly to trim my hair, which I hadn’t done since I started growing it. I also wanted to try flat ironing it, just so I could see how long it actually was. In that time, I continued learning about my hair and worked on this blog intensely. I learned so much about my hair, but to be honest, did not concentrate so much on how it was growing, so long as it was relatively healthy and wasn’t falling off.
|February 2011 – 10 months of growing my hair
This was blow dried and flat ironed, but not very well.
Then, in November 2011, I saw a 2 year length check video from one of my favourite vloggers Simplyounique (view her channel on YouTube). I was so depressed because we had both been natural for about 2 years and my hair looked nothing like her’s, which was long and she was able to do so much with it. I remember taking the video to my hairdresser who chastised me for not appreciating my own hair type and insisted that actually my hair was growing, I just didn’t realise it.
2012 was spent in much frustration, and my hair lived in two strand twists most of the time. I was also very busy and stressed, so I basically left my hair alone as much as I could. I also seriously considered locking my hair a few years early (I’m switching to sister locks in April 2015 – five years post last barber shop visit). Actually, this was the best thing for my hair because hair likes to be left alone. After a year, my hair was due for a trim and I decided to also flat iron it to see how long it had grown. My oh my…
|It was 14 inches in some places.
If I was Malaysian, I could have cut it off and sold it. Lol!
I will concede that I am chuffed to have grown this hair out of my own head, all by myself without help from sisters in Brazil or India. But, I would be lying if I said it has been easy – I have almost shaved it all off in frustration many times over the last two and a half years as mentioned above.
|The ends were curled and my photographer cut off the bottom.
I was rushing somewhere, so could not afford to retake the picture.
I have learned that genetics can take you part of the way and it is the most important step to understanding your own hair type, how it behaves, how and why different hairstyles, products or techniques that work for one person may not work or may work differently for you. In this respect, learning good haircare practices that work well for your hair and using the right products, tools and styles for your hair can do far more for a person’s hair retention than genetics.
“Everyone’s hair grows, which is why people with relaxed hair have to retouch it every few weeks. Natural or relaxed, if your hair does not look any longer after 3 months, it means there is something you are doing that is causing your hair to break off — hence failure to retain the hair’s growth.” Masuka M.
What it takes is patience and gentleness and making sure that you are moisturising your hair. Moisturising and sealing the moisture into your hair is probably one of the biggest hair lessons that I have learned and properly understood in 2012 and is a subject we will delve into a lot more, because it seems to be where most people get it wrong with their hair. What this experience also taught me is that my hair grew while I was paying medium level attention to it. I felt challenged to see how much it can grow if I really give it some TLC. To get myself back on track, I will length check again in April 2013 and then again in April 2014 and 2015 before I sister lock it.
|September 2012 – 2 years and 5 months of growing my natural hair|
I posted the pictures of my length check on Facebook in early September and naturally, the feedback was huge. I had three main responses:
Group One were other naturals or those thinking about going natural who were encouraged that actually, their hair was growing too, even if they or other people couldn’t see it. This is the group that warmed my heart most, because I chose to be a ‘role model’ for natural hair, so it blesses me when other people can see the benefits and be encouraged that they can do it too. But I was even more heartened by people who flooded my inbox and texted or called asking for advice on how to have healthier hair. I got several SOS calls from people who were at their wits end because their hair was falling out and they didn’t know what to do.
Group Two surprised me the most. These were people who knew I had a blog about hair and had natural hair, but secretly gave me the side eye (as in, what does she really know) OR, they remained skeptical about whether I really knew what I was doing. In their eyes, only after seeing the true length of my hair did I earn the credibility to talk authoritatively about hair. Now I cannot blame them too much because results are what we all want and even I had far more confidence in my own hair regimen, philosophy etc after seeing how long it had grown. And this is not forgetting the fact that in the natural hair community, my hair is not even long. I know many other Zambian naturals with way longer hair than mine.
Group Three were the many people who thought that I had relaxed my hair and made rude comments such as, “Your hair looks so much better this way, you should keep it like this.” I just rolled my eyes and ignored them. To avoid misunderstanding, I should make it clear that there is nothing wrong with perming one’s hair, it is just not for me. Healthy hair is what we want – relaxed or natural. Still, for whatever reason, some people struggle to understand that at aged 30 something, I can afford to relax my hair or wear a weave but I simply don’t want to. This simple fact is beyond some people’s comprehension.
My hair is fully natural, kinky and curly – just the way I LIKE it!
Click here to read the step-by-step account of my flat iron and trim experience.