Long. Lush. Luxurious. Voluminous. Out of this stratosphere and the next purty. I want it. You want it. We want it. Can you have it? Ummm…yeeeah?
Plenty of us crave long, luxurious, voluminous hair, and many of us can and do get it—from a store. But, unfortunately, not nearly as many of us have been successful in acquiring it directly from our scalps—even with the explosion of the natural and healthy hair movements and communities. Let’s begin with a few terms, shall we?
Hair Strand Pattern.: Your hair strand pattern(s) is/are the predominant shape(s) of your strands. With highly-textured hair, you are likely to have multiple throughout your mane but there is generally a predominant pattern. These can generally be in shapes of “O”s, “I”s, “L”s, and “S”s. The LOIS, OILS, or the Youniqorn-preferred acronym, SOIL (because it denotes growth) hair typing system can guide you in figuring out your hair type and strand pattern If you don’t know it already. Strand pattern is not necessarily regular and often times is irregular in highly-textured and coily hair.
Hair Strand Texture: This is essentially “fabric” of your hair, so to speak. Different strands can have different textures, just like with patterns, but you will typically have a predominant texture all over. This can range from cottony, to spongy to satiny or even wiry. Strand texture affects the strands’ aesthetic more so than its behavior. Meaning, cottony strands, for instance, won’t be harder to maintain than satiny strands just because of their texture.
Hair Strand Porosity: Porosity is basically your hair strands’ ability to accept and lose water, in a nutshell. Again, like texture and pattern, you can have different porosities across different parts of your hair and even along different parts of the same strand, but you will generally have a predominant porosity. There are typically three categories: low, medium, and high porosity. Low porosity hair has its cuticles laid flat and relatively closed (as opposed to lifted and open) and that makes it relatively harder to get moisture through those cuticles (which are your hair strands’ protective, outer most casing/barrier/armor) and into the hair itself. However, once moisture is inside the hair, it stays there for a longer time because, again, the cuticles readily hold it in because of their close structure. Medium porosity hair allows moisture to enter it relatively more easily than low porosity hair but and retains moisture relatively well but not as well as low porosity hair. High porosity hair allows moisture to enter it very easily (the easiest of all three) but because the cuticles are raised and readily open, moisture can just as easily exit as it comes in so it also has the potential of getting dryer faster than low or medium porosity hair after moisture has entered.
Hair Strand Elasticity: With textured, coily hair, the hairs’ ability spring like a slinky after being stretched/pulled is termed “shrinkage”. With coily hair, the higher your shrinkage, aka, your hairs’ ability to shrink/coil/curl up into a percentage of its true length, the better shape your hair generally is in. This is why, when women (and men) with coily hair have heat or color dye damage, their coils lose their shrinkage because they lose their elasticity and become looser/limper/stringier and don’t spring back as tightly as they once did. Elasticity is a measure of your hair strands’ resilience to external force (manipulation, styling, brushing/detangling, parting, etc.) as well as its balance between structure (protein) and flexibility (moisture).
Hair Density: Your hair density is the amount of hair per square inch or square centimeter on your head. You can have highly-dense hair, meaning that there are a lot of hairs per square inch or centimeter, with two or even three hair strands erupting from each follicle sometimes. You can have medium density, and you can have low-density hair where there are not as many hair strands per square inch or centimeter. It’s possible to have a combination of two or all three at different parts/points of your head/scalp. For instance, sometimes some women have low density around their temples and perimeter, and medium to high density everywhere else. Others may have low density around their crown, and medium to high density everywhere else. Your hair density also changes with age, hormonal fluctuations, medication, stress, and diet.
Hair Strand Thickness: As the name indicates, this is literally the size of the single strand. The terms that are typically used to describe hair strand thickness are “fine”, “normal”, and “coarse”. Terminology like this is problematic and, quite frankly, a bunch of bullshit, because it assigns positive and negative words to characteristics that are not inherently negative or positive. So, here on Youniqorn, we’re tossing out implicitly derogatory and offensive labels and terms in favor of ones that are truly descriptive. Like hair density, hair strand thickness can be generally categorized into thin, medium (not normal) and thick. Simply including the word “strand” can easily make the distinction of whether you’re talking about strand thickness or overall hair density. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Strand thickness is also a determiner of the strand’s resilience to external forces and its durability. Thick strands are generally more resilient than medium strands which are generally more resilient than thin strands. As such, it’s important to know so that you’re aware of what your strands can and cannot withstand. This is vital because you don’t want to watch/follow a routine of someone with thick hair strands, for instance, if you have thin hair strands as yours may not be able to withstand the same amount of manipulation as that person.
It’s important to note that all six properties of the hair strand are not directly proportional. Meaning that, having a particular property in one aspect does not mean that you will definitively have another property or characteristic in another aspect. For instance, if you have thick hair strands, it does not mean that you will inherently have high hair density. Nor does it mean that you will have high strand elasticity or a uniform strand pattern or high porosity. Each characteristic is unique and generally independent of the others. However, you cannot treat them as independent of each other because they exist together. This is why it’s important to learn those different characteristics and develop a regimen and routine beneficial to each characteristic so that it’s beneficial to your hair overall.
Building a routine is necessary for success in any undertaking, and growing long, fantasy hair is not exempt, especially if you have never done so or been able to before. If you have the limiting belief that can’t grow your hair out because of its texture, density, pattern or because of your ethnicity/nationality (a.k.a. “genetics”), it’s important to take the time process and analyze why you have those beliefs, where they came about, and how to remove them. When people talk about not having the genetics for long hair, they typically refer to their family members and lineage to see whether or not the other women and men in their families have/had long hair or not. Typically, if the women didn’t, they chalk it up to not having or “being blessed with” the genetics. Meanwhile, chances are, it’s not about the genetics that were passed down, but hair practices. As Africans and descendants of Africans, in particular, we can often really underestimate the sheer impact of certain cultural practices. When everyone around you is doing the same thing (i.e. handling their hair in the same—usually rough—way, improperly deshedding and detangling—often ripping through knots and tangles, braiding/plating too tightly, relaxing, texturizing and coloring in damaging ways and chalking up chemical burns from a relaxer to it “working” and scalp soreness from traction and tension to “tender headedness”) we tend to normalize hair malpractice and, frankly, hair torture. And, then, when our hair inevitably responds by breaking excessively and faster than it grows in as a result of all that cumulative damage, we internalize and interpret it as our hair simply “not growing” or not having the “capability to grow long”. Your hair is growing. All the time—as long as you’re alive. If your finger and toenails are growing, not to mention, the hairs on your body, there is no reason the hair on your scalp isn’t (unless you actually have an underlying medical condition, like an autoimmune illness, that prevents your hair from growing normally which is generally much rarer than external hair malpractice). That’s the reason women who get relaxers and color need to keep getting them, a.k.a “touch ups”. Because their hair, a.k.a. “new growth” keeps growing in. But if the ends of your hair break/snap off as quickly or faster than your new growth comes in, then, of course, your hair length will stay stagnant. It’s like trying to drive with a wheelless car. Even if your engine is roaring and your fingers are pressed into the steering, you’ll stay stuck in the same place even if the mileage goes up and you burn through your gas/petrol.
A simple and effective thing to do is take a methodological approach, as with anything you’ve either never tried or been able to do before. It may seem odd, especially for a technically passive bodily function like growing hair. However, if it’s something you want and desire, there’s really no reason not to treat growing your hair long like any other habit you want to build and pursue.
While it’s more important and efficient to focus on building your systems around a habit than goals, it’s good to have a solid measure of what you want so you have a target, at least initially.
1) Choose your primary/core hair goal(s)/target(s) and create a vision board for your ideal hair in every aspect: length, volume, style, color. It’s imperative to set your target(s) upfront and not stray from it/them, both short and long-term but especially long-term. This is where it’s important not to limit yourself. If you’re still holding onto limiting beliefs about whether or not your hair can grow past a certain length (like your shoulders) you will end up limiting your target(s) because you won’t believe that you can hit/reach them. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, the one thing you should never ever limit yourself in is dreaming. Dream big, dream outrageously and dream unapologetically. Even if you’ve never grown your hair past your ears before, and you want to set your goal for knee length hair, do it. Seriously. You don’t and won’t get anything out of limiting your ideal(s). And there’s honestly nothing worse you can do to yourself and your own psyche than place restrictions in your mind of not only what’s possible for you, but what’s probable. Taking it a step further and creating your Hair Vision Board is so imperative so that you can literally visualize what your desired target looks like. You can actually see what mid back length (MBL) or waist length (WL) or hip length (HL) hair looks like. And then actively imagine what it looks like on you. Use Pinterest to create your vision board and gain inspiration from other women with and images depicting hair characteristics like yours (current length, texture, pattern, shrinkage, density, strand size, etc.). Consuming those images regularly will gradually remove those mental limitations that were ingrained in you about your hair and reset the way you think about what is and is not possible or probable for your mane. Seeing is believing, so see as often and as much as possible. Make sure to look at at least one image of long-haired individuals you admire who share (most of) your hair’s characteristics and ensure you have one particular ideal picture that you have easy access to (like on the home screen of your phone). This should be your “Pinnacle Pic” and the epitome of everything want with your hair for your hair. In every way. It will serve as a constant reminder and driver to stay the course and reinforce your desire to grow your hair to your chosen fantasy length.
2) Taking it a step further, like with anything else, it’s important to write down your target(s)—and what you plan to do to achieve them. And having a target for longer, more voluminous, fantasy hair is really no different. Using a dedicated Hair Journal or Hair Planner is crucial and important through this journey. It’s all too easy to forget the day-to-day and week-to-week challenges, victories, epiphanies, woes, struggles and overall happenings with your hair long term. Writing down your hair’s happenings on a consistent basis will allow you to have reference points and reliable information to look back on and better understand your hair and make your growth journey much smoother, easier and efficient. A lot of mistakes end up getting repeated because we forget that we made those mistakes. Journaling your hair will help in preventing repetition of mistakes and will allow you to better see and remember the positive things you do that lead to positive results so that you can continue to do them and avoid the negative things that lead to negative results. This can prevent setbacks and unnecessary damage and delays in getting to your target. Log everything you do to your hair consistently in this Hair Journal or Diary, including (but not limited to) wash days, styling trials, deshedding and detangling methods and tools, the way you section/grid/part your hair for optimal results, the various haircare products you use and how they work or don’t work, the condition of your scalp, the characteristics of your hair as they change, etc. Think about it; if it’s a Hair Journey, then it’s only logical that you actually journal it. You can also use your kawaii Youniqorn Hair Printables in your STAR+er membership/with your Hair Journal. Make it fun, use cute stickers and bright colors that enhance your hair time and the overall experience of handling, caring for and intentionally growing out your hair. This will make things far more enjoyable and you will likely look forward to it each time. Even having a dedicated pen just for your Hair Journal can go a long way in making the experience of journaling your hair that much more enjoyable, significant and valuable. You’re also more likely to be consistent and stick with the habit for the long haul. Pick a cute, fun pen that motivates you to use it, and chances are will look forward to picking it up consistently. Creating mini video logs (vlogs) and clips of your hair journey is also a really good idea and has the added benefit of giving you visual detail and reminder of your hair at every stage so that you can actually see all the characteristics, challenges etc. that you write down. Take pictures of your hair fairly consistently so that you can look back on them in the future for reference and also for evidence and proof for yourself. It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture in your day-to-day pursuit of longer hair and it’s easy to miss your little wins, your gradual progress, and even your mini milestones that may not seem so obvious to you when you’re not actively tracking. But looking back on pictures and videos will better help you see and visualize your progress so that you’re motivated to keep going. Using length check T-shirts is also another great way to log/measure your progress and see whether or not your efforts and methods are working and paying off. It’s important not to get obsessed with this and check obsessively, but giving your hair 3 to 4 months between length checks is a good window as it allows enough time for you to see a measurable difference and gauge whether or not you are properly retaining your length and to also get a good idea of how much hair you grow in a given period and, therefore, your general average hair growth rate.
3) Opt for moisturizing and lubricating products above all else to retain maximum length and prevent tangling, matting, knotting and the consequential breakage that results from all three. Look for products that contain the Top Moisturizing Ingredients for Gorgeous, Springy and Coily Hair. Products are somewhat trial and error, however, if you know what ingredients to look for, chances are there will be less error during your trials. This is important so that you don’t end up spending a bunch of money on things that don’t work or that may even cause you a setback in your journey or do substantial damage to your hair. Ingredients like behentrimonium methosulfate, petroleum jelly, glycerin and lanolin offer both moisture and lubrication that produce resulting slip and softness to coily and spongy hair. Used in the right amounts and proportions, they won’t be “greasy” or “weigh your hair down” as is so often touted by people with non-coily hair. Understand your hair’s unique properties and characteristics so that you can better understand what products are going to be beneficial for your hair and how you want to wear it as it grows out. Coily hair has a lot of elasticity and therefore shrinkage, so it literally has a unique, gravity-defying characteristic that circumvents the weight of most any product you put in it. And if you want to prevent fairy knots a.k.a. single-strand knots, products that can help weigh your hair down some are actually a good thing. Most people who say grease weighs their hair down are people who do not have high elasticity hair. “Grease” is probably one of the best products for lubrication and smoothing the cuticle. It is also a fantastic deshedder and detangler and also really, really great—and probably your best option—for removing matting. Anything with a combination of petroleum jelly, mineral oil, and lanolin (minus any proteins) tend to be really good options. Deep and leave-in conditioners with behentrimonium methosulfate, hyaluronic acid and aloe vera are fantastic water-based options. Castor oil is probably the best botanical oil option that offers a ton of smoothing and lubricating properties if you prefer more “natural” or plant-based lipids. It’s also a heavier option and is essentially a liquid botanical grease if you are still apprehensive about seeing petroleum jelly or lanolin. You can also use a combination of all three. The whole point is to remove friction. That’s truly the name of the game (and this should be applied to pretty much every aspect of your life). Anything that can prevent your hair fibers and strands from experiencing friction (between themselves or from external tools/objects like your hands and brushes/combs/clips) will allow them to retain their integrity and structure over time and prevent them from getting frayed, weathered, split, and damaged.
4) Work with your hair in sections or grids. Working in sections is fairly important, particularly if you have highly-dense hair and want to grow it significantly longer. Coily hair already renders itself to some degree of volume, regardless of density, so, working in at least two sections (halves with either vertical or horizontal parts) makes your process more efficient and streamlined, from washing to deshedding to deep conditioning to moisturizing, styling and braiding and twisting, etc. Gridding your hair into workable sections alleviates overwhelm and offers a sense of structure and organization to your haircare process. This prevents over deshedding and manipulation of particular areas of your hair so that you don’t have to keep going over them again and again when they are segmented and consolidated into groups. It’s common for a lot of naturals, in particular, to go with sections of 4 (quadrants) with two sections in the front and two in the back. However, this type of gridding puts a lot of strain on the hairs at your crown, which is why a lot of women who part this way consistently experience breakage and thinning at their crowns. Parting and sectioning your hair in a grid of 5, 6, or 9 is a lot more ideal and allows you to work in sizable chunks that offer a lot more simplicity and cut down on overwhelm but not too many sections that make your routine time consuming.
5) Use gloves when handling your hair. Following from the previous point, reducing and eliminating as much friction as possible is paramount to your hair’s length retention. Using gloves when handling your hair, particularly if you finger detangle/deshed is something that will take things to the next level and up your hair game as well as protect your own hands/fingers from being exposed to water and moisture for extended periods of time—which can wreak havoc on your fingernails if you’re trying to grow them nice and long, too. Protect both your hair and fingernails by using gloves when handling your hair at all stages (washing, deshedding, moisturizing, braiding, styling, etc.) and both will thank you. The gloves offer far more slip and even surface area than your palms and skin can, and can also prevent micro tears and snagging from unnoticeable irregularities in your fingernails or chips in your nail polish.
6) Avoid using too many protein-laden products and only use them on an as-needed basis, in conservative amounts, not on schedule to prevent over reinforcement of your hair which can leave it hard and rigid which may in turn lead it to break off. I experienced the worst matting/locking of my hair from overuse of protein-based hair products, termed “protein overload” in the natural hair community, that created consecutive setbacks for about four consecutive years. It kept happening because I didn’t realize it was from using too much protein. I actually kept using protein products and deep conditioners because I thought it would help alleviate the severe breakage that came from the matting. It got so bad that my hair, at two or three different points, looked like someone had thrown glue into it. I couldn’t detangle those “glued locks” of hair. I literally had to rip the chunks apart. This happened multiple times. I cannot begin to tell you just how much hair I lost and mechanical damage my mane incurred. What did manage to survive on my head was thin, limp and stringy from loss of density (I mean, I literally had to rip chunks of my hair) and elasticity (from being stretched beyond the point of no return). Seriously, it looked just as bad as severe heat damage. Too much protein can truly wreak havoc on your hair strands and you do NOT want to have that kind of negative, shitty experience. Trust me. Stick to moisturizing conditioners and treatments, especially with your leave-in products.
7) Pick the right deshedding tool(s) and method(s). Deshedding (the removal of shed hair) is one of the most time-consuming and challenging aspects of haircare for most people, especially most highly-textured naturals. The right tool and method can make or break your entire hair routine/regimen and is one of the pillars of your hair journey. It plays one of the most pivotal roles in whether or not will attain your targets because your hair is generally the most susceptible to damage and breakage during this step. To streamline the process and make things more time and energy efficient, working in larger but manageable sections/grids and using a tool with a large surface area will allow you to work through more of your mane at a time and therefore take less time, overall. A Fan Brush, Kazmaleje Paddle Comb, or Denman Paddle Brush are good options for if you have shoulder length hair or longer. If your hair is currently shorter than shoulder length, you will likely have to use more sections just because the natural layers at varying elevations on your hair will be harder to group together. Also note that, like any habit, frequency not only matters, it’s key. The more often you do your hair, the less time it will generally take to deshed it. The longer you go between wash days and handling your hair, the more time it will generally take to deshed simply because there is going to be more shed hair accumulated in your mane in that period. For instance, it will take you a shorter amount of time to remove your shed hair if you wash it on a weekly basis than it would if you washed it on a monthly basis. Just something to keep in mind when deciding and experimenting with how often you want your wash day/haircare routine to be so that it fits your lifestyle, skill set and overall preference. It’s always also a good idea to use your fingers first, just so you can feel for any large knots or tangles before you go in with a tool that may end up simply yanking through meshing/webbing/tangling and breaking your precious hair off in the process. Paired with vinyl (or latex, if you’re not allergic) gloves, this should be a lot more effective and efficient and allow for shed hairs to slide through. Using a grease (petroleum jelly, lanolin, mineral oil) to detangle in addition to a mist of water or aloe vera juice from a spray bottle will likely go a longer way in removing shed hair than a water-based, rinse out conditioner, although you could use that in conjunction with the grease for even better results. If you don’t use grease in any other way and you have a hard time with deshedding your hair, give grease a try during the deshedding process. Definitely use it if you have severe tangling, knotting or matting. This will work better than a traditional rinse-out conditioner because it’s not as water-based and prevents your hair from trying to shrink up into itself, and consequently, the knots and mats with the introduction of water. Sectioning your hair off and gridding in clean parts is also very important so that your strands don’t cross over from one adjacent section into the next, leading to snapping and breakage at the parting lines and section perimeters. Sectioning into grids of five or nine is generally a good idea so that the hairs at your crown and nape are protected and do not experience and endure ongoing traction/tension (and resulting breakage) from being pulled too far out in either direction as if often the case when you part your hair in quadrants (four sections). Using hairclips to section off your hair during the deshedding process and the rest of your washday is also a really good idea and helps things move faster versus having to twist/braid up and untwist/unbraid each section as you go. That shaves off a significant amount of time—and energy—so incorporate clips instead of twisting or braiding each section.
8) Trim your hair consistently—and proactively—for stronger ends. Trimming is something you will ultimately have to decide for yourself and will depend largely on your hair’s general durability which is impacted by how and how often you manipulate and style it. The more often you manipulate it, whether that be with washing and cleansing or styling, the more manipulation it endures and the more wear and tear it accumulates over time. And, therefore, the more frequently it may have to trimmed. A decent guideline to go by is trimming your hair a quarter of an inch every quarter of the year. Essentially, a quarter (1/4) of an inch every three months (season) will add up to one inch of hair trimmed off every year. Doing it incrementally in this way is more effective than waiting to trim an inch off once a year because it keeps your ends and your hair blunt and fairly even throughout the year and this aids significantly in the ease of handling your hair throughout the year. A huge reason for the formation of tangles, particularly in coily and curly, highly-textured hair are frayed and weathered ends that catch on to each other and make the deshedding process much more challenging and longer than it needs to be. Keeping your ends relatively blunt and not so tapered will help with manipulation and maintenance as you continue to grow it out. Even micro trims, also known as “dusting” make a huge difference in how your hair feels and behaves, and even how it lays when it’s styled. To make things even more fun and interesting, you can trim your hair according to the growth stages of the moon. Yes, the moon. Lunar trimming or cutting is definitely something that has been practiced for centuries in various parts of the world. Today, it is most popularized as “The Morrocco Method” (spelled with an extra “R”), not to be confused with the North African nation, Morocco (where Rhassoul Clay, one of the top ingredients for coily, highly-textured hair, is mined from). Even if you’ve never tried it before or you don’t believe in that type of stuff, it wouldn’t hurt to try and see, if only to indulge your curiosity (which is one of the Top Ten Traits and Habits of Wildly Successful People). Plus, you have nothing to lose—except a few scraggly ends. If you’re going to trim your hair, anyway, you might as well go by a pretty celestial body. I mean, this blog is called Youniqorn, after all. Using the Lunar Cycle might actually offer you a natural schedule and built-in accountability for your trims which will in turn make it easy for you to stay consistent with your journey. You can trim your hair according to the moon for different purposes; length, thickness, strength, roots, etc. If nothing else encourages you to trim your hair, the aesthetic of fuller hair and a fuller hemline actually makes your hair look Full and blunt armpit length (APL) hair will look so much better than severely tapered/layered bra-strap length (BSL) hair. It’s truly a win-win situation: having hair that looks fantastic and easier to care for because there’s little to no opportunity for catching and snagging (and resulting breakage) at the ends because they are relatively even in length.
9) Massage your scalp and/or invert your head daily. Physical stimulation to any part of your skin encourages faster blood flow and circulation to that localized area. Your head is the part of your body that sits above your heart and, because of the downward pull of gravity, your heart has to work harder to pump blood to the areas above it than it does to those below it. But adding external pressure with your fingers or a tool/device to your scalp will signal activity on your scalp and the veins and capillaries connected throughout the blood network beneath your scalp will become more active as a result of not only the physical motion you produce, but the friction and heat naturally produced as a result of that motion. Inverting your body so that your head is below your heart aids in this considerably. Improved blood circulation is why inversion is done during exercise such as yoga, aerobics, etc. Your heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood to your head when it is resting in an inverted position because it is aligned with the pull action of gravity for the time that it is inverted. Massaging your scalp while inverting your body so that your head is at level with your thighs/knees will go a long way in enhancing your hair’s growth capacity if you do it consistently. It’s the consistency that has a cumulative, compounding effect over time. And, because of your improved blood circulation, the quality, thickness, strength and structure of your hair growing in will generally be of higher quality. To make the process more enjoyable and efficient, a vibrating/automatic scalp massager is a great option. It’s also a great to use on washday to cleanse your scalp and easily lift build-up, compacted sebum and dead skin cell without tiring your fingers out. This is one good way to incorporate automation and streamlining into your hair process and routine. For a more hands-off experience, a helmet head massager is also a good option and can allow you to be more consistent with scalp massages without the physical effort of performing the massage/holding the massager on your head which can dissuade some people from being consistent with the practice. If nothing else, the stimulating sensation can help you relax and offer quality downtime to meditate and quiet your mind, temporarily freeing it of any and all thoughts so you can center yourself. This improves your emotional and mental state and, when done consistently, improves your quality of life tremendously and allows you to better cope with stress and unforeseen challenges. It is also a great act of self-care and self-protection.
10) Following the previous point, use a scalp stimulant three times a week. This is not a device but more so a substance you would place on your scalp or rub into your scalp that would help stimulate blood flow. The most popular types of stimulants are botanical essential oils like peppermint oil, rosemary oil and lavender essential oil mixed into any carrier oil of your choice as detailed in the Top 10 Botanical Essential Oils, Carrier Oils, and Butters for Heavenly Hair, Sensational Skin and Noooiiice Nails. Being consistent with this step also has a cumulative effect and, when done frequently, will allow you to reap the glorious benefits in bounds and leaps over time.
11) Deep condition your hair when you cleanse it. Deep conditioning is a good step to treat your hair with lubricating, moisturizing and elasticizing emollients and lipids (fats) to help better preserve your hair’s structure and integrity over time, particularly if you choose/like to style your hair with hot tools like blow dryers, flatirons, curling wands, etc. Deep conditioning is both a preventative measure and a treatment for damage control, however, prevention is always better than cure so prevent your hair from getting frayed and damaged by deep conditioning consistently as opposed to only trying to deep condition once your hair has been damaged. You may not have to deep condition with every single wash and, over time, you’ll get a better knack and feel for your hair and its traits, behaviors and needs at any given point and you’ll be able to better gauge when it needs to be deep deconditioned and treated and with what. A deep conditioner is basically something between a rinse-out conditioner/cream that you only leave in your hair for 3 to 5 minutes and a leave-in conditioner that, as per its name, you leave in your hair until the next time you wash it. Deep conditioners are typically formulated to be kept in your hair anywhere from fifteen (15) to forty-five (45) minutes and, depending on the instructions of the deep conditioner, you can use a source of indirect heat to help it better penetrate your strands. Deep conditioning with heat is a good idea particularly if your hair has low porosity (i.e., your cuticles lay flat/closed and don’t lift as easily) and it takes a while for water and other penetrative products to soak into your strands. A microwavable deep conditioning cap or a soft bonnet dryer are easy, accessible options, particularly for portability, but you can also get an overhead hard dryer if you want more of a salon experience at home during your washday. A few good options for deep conditioners are the ORS Replenishing Conditioner, Design Essentials Almond Butter Express Instant Moisturizing Conditioner, KeraCare Humecto Deep Conditioner, and Blue Magic Cholesterol. Find more deep conditioner recommendations—as well as other hair products—on the Hair Resource Page. Avoid deep conditioners with a lot of protein in them unless your hair actually needs it or you run the risk of your hair getting too reinforced, rigid and hard which can lead to it matting, locking, and breaking.
12) Eat nutrient-dense foods to enrich your blood. There’s no point in improving your blood circulation through massaging and inverting and exercise if your blood is actually not carrying a lot of nutrition. It’s the nutrition in your blood that feeds your body and all its cells, including the hair cells. If your diet is lacking in adequate and optimal nutrition, no amount of scalp massaging, topical oil stimulants and inversion will improve the quality and/or rate of growth of your hair. Hair growth ultimately starts from the inside and so, in order for growth to happen and to be sustained, you need to feed your body for that. This is particularly true if you are prone to conditions like anemia and vitamin D deficiency, which is the case for many African, African-American, Afro Caribbean and Afro Latina women. It’s important to get annual tests and comprehensive bloodwork/checkups done at your primary care physician, clinic or trichologist to see if you have any nutritional/vitamin deficiencies or insufficiencies so that you can properly address them. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know it’s there. So, get and stay informed about your health and body. Free and more affordable testing is available if you can’t afford consistent checkups, depending on where you live. Several good options for iron and vitamin D supplements are available online. Having adequate amounts of protein and healthy fat is fundamental. Your hair is made up of keratin which is a type of protein and so, therefore, if you are lacking adequate protein intake, your hair—and nails and skin—will suffer as a result. Without enough protein, the hair that does grow in will be significantly weaker and therefore more prone to damage and less likely to stay attached to your head long-term which will make it difficult for you to achieve longer hair lengths—and in good condition. You want your hair strands to be in as optimal condition as they can be, so your diet and what you put into your body will be your first line of defense and assurance of your hair’s overall quality. Marine collagen, legumes (beans and lentils), eggs, poultry, beef, and various protein powders are great options. Whether you are omnivorous, vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian or follow the Keto, Atkins, Paleo, Raw or any other diet or combination of diets, there’s always a good number of protein sources aligned with your choice of sustenance that you can consume on a consistent basis for optimal results. Incorporating protein in the form of broths/soups and smoothies are another easy way to up your protein intake if you are someone who struggles with eating properly or on schedule or eating adequate amounts of protein. Eating iron rich foods is necessary, especially if you are a woman who still menstruates. You have to replenish that monthly (or however long you go between cycles) blood loss so that it does not negatively affect your hair growth or the rest of your bodily functions. Unchecked, gradual blood loss that goes unreplenished will lead to anemia that can lead to a host of other problems like fatigue, hair loss, pallor, delayed healing, heart/cardiac strain/palpitations, etc. Nutrient-dense foods like dark green vegetables that contain high amounts chlorophyll (which is essentially plant blood) is fantastic for your overall health and certainly for your hair’s growth and quality. Chlorophyll is almost identical to hemoglobin (the protein in your red blood cells that give them—and your blood—their distinguished red color and carries oxygen through your body into your cells) and its makeup except for the fact that chlorophyll has magnesium where hemoglobin has iron. Consuming chlorella and spirulina are also great options for nutrient-dense, low calorie food that packs a lot of punch. The taste is not the best (seriously, chlorella tastes like fish tank) but the health benefits definitely outweigh your palate’s shrieks of horror. Start small and work your way up with these powders or use tablets because they can cause nausea with some people. Vegetables like spinach, kale, and collard greens etc. will give you the benefits of chlorophyll as well as fiber to help eliminate waste and keep your bowels in optimal shape. Strive to have a Rainbow Plate/Bowl, or the Youniqorn dubbed ‘RainBowl’ at least once a week. The more colors on it, the better. The various colors are plant and fruit pigments that contain so many different variations of phytonutrients that tend to work together synergistically and are therefore greater than the sum of their individual parts. The darker the pigments, the better. Go with foods like red cabbage, grapes, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, red onions, purple/orange carrots, tomatoes, ripe watermelon, etc. Unfortunately, fats have gotten a very bad rep as far as diet goes in US and the West, in general. They have been demonized as a result of a lot of misinformation, misconstruing and fear mongering. But fats are a necessary macro food group and are fundamental to health and well-being. It is both irresponsible and dangerous to cut them out or completely eliminate them from your diet. You need them. There are no ifs or buts. However, focusing on healthy fats are what you want to do. Foods like avocados, cod liver oil, and grass-fed cow butter, are great options for healthy sources of fat. Foods like full-fat yogurt and whole-milk kefir are great protein-packed nutrition sources that have healthy fats as well, not to mention necessary probiotics (good/symbiotic bacteria) that aid not only in your digestion of all these healthy foods but comprise the bulk of your immune system. Even the structure of your hair strands comprises of lipids (fats like cholesterols and ceramides) in addition to protein (keratin). Lipids/fats are what give it flexibility which is why even externally applying a botanical oil or butter or a lipid-based lubricant makes your hair strands more malleable and flexible. But you don’t just want beneficial fats on your hair, you want them within it, as well. So, eat up. It’s important to consistently eat well and not just once in a while in order to reap the benefits. Like anything else, consistency is key. Meal/food prepping and learning how to cook a variety of dishes can allow you to eat well and eat well consistently so that you have higher/improved quality of life, health, and hair.
13) Use satin to protect your hair from friction while you sleep/nap or lie down/lounge at home. Satin-lined bonnets, scarves and caps are great tools to protect your hair at night or while you binge anime/Netflix. You can also use satin pillowcases for your pillows or even use a satin scarf spread over your pillow if you do not have access or don’t want to invest in satin pillowcases. I don’t recommend silk because of how silk is produced (boiling silkworms alive). This ensures that the fabric slides smoothly against your strands and does not rub up against your hair’s cuticles and causes unnecessary wear and tear over time, especially if you are a tosser/rough sleeper. Using satin also prevents the fabric from absorbing/leeching too much moisture and lubricant from your hair and, therefore, does not dry it out the way cotton and other more absorbent textiles do, which can thwart and even undo your efforts to grow your mane long. This allows your hair to stay optimally and consistently moisturized and lubricated. The effects of this are more so long-term but they certainly compound.
14) Keep your hair stretched to prevent knots and tangles. With coily and curly hair, as mentioned previously, it is an intrinsic characteristic to have a lot of elasticity. And, therefore, your hair shrinks. It is similar to a slinky or a coiled telephone cord. When it’s an external force or pressure is applied to it (i.e., it gets pulled) it extends and appears longer than the length it does when it is at rest. But when the pressure or force is removed, it reverts back to its resting state and coils up again. That is why it is called coily hair. However, unlike a slinky, hair is not made of metal and so, it is far more malleable, moldable and flexible. This makes its recoiling action and direction somewhat unpredictable and not always consistent. In this way, it’s more like a telephone cord. It may coil on top or around itself when it springs back, and when a force is applied to it again, a.k.a. with your hands or a brush or other styling tool, it may end up looping into itself and forming a tiny knot during subsequent recoils. These are what are termed “fairy knots” or “single-strand knots”. It’s essentially like knotting the end of a single piece of thread. Pair that with over 100,000 coily strands at the same time, and there is tremendous opportunity for a hoard fairy knots to form over several strands and sometimes even multiple knots on the same strand. This is especially true and crucial the longer you want to grow your hair. When your hair gets past a certain threshold, (typically bra-strap length (BSL) and beyond), fairy knots can form 3-4 or even more inches (7-10 centimeters) up the strand, depending on how elastic your hair is. And single-strand knots cannot be untied/loosened when they are fully formed. They have to be cut out, otherwise they will cause snapping at the point of formation during deshedding and brushing etc. because of the irregularity of the knot along the strand and the friction that that inherently causes. Other strands can also catch on to fairy knots and get “trapped”, causing more unnecessary tangles, larger knots, and consequential breakage for your healthy strands that are in good condition. If you want to grow your hair to BSL or longer (waist length (WL), hip length (HL), classic length (CL), thigh length (TL), knee length (KL), etc.) you will have to keep your hair stretched in some way, shape or form to prevents fairy knotting along your strands which can cause loss of length either through mechanical breakage or having to physically cutting them out with shears (side note: you may be tempted to rip/snap off the fairy knot from your strands with your fingers, but refrain from doing this damaging practice. It will only create more damage along your hair strand and inhibit length retention). Keeping your hair stretched also prevents tangling which will eliminate the need to detangle in the first place. Different methods of stretching work depending on what you’re going for and what is important to you. Stretching your hair with responsible and controlled amounts of heat, like with a Revair reverse air dryer, is a great way to stretch/blow your hair out without excessive manipulation to the hair strands and allows for you to style your hair without worrying about single-strand knots. If you do not want to utilize heat to stretch your hair, African threading, banding, and even braiding and twisting your hair are other great ways to stretch your hair prior to styling so that you don’t have to excessively touch and manipulate your hair because you are actively working against its intrinsic characteristic of shrinking. You can also stretch your hair with tools such as Flexirods, Waveformers, Rollers, etc. for more heatless options. It is much easier to retain your length when it’s stretched as knots and tangles are the number one cause, especially cumulatively, of a lack of length retention—and, therefore, longer hair.
15) Use a microfiber hair towel to dry your hair instead of a regular towel. The fabric of a microfiber towel is much softer, gentler, and interestingly enough, more absorbent than a regular towel. As its name suggests, the fibers or “pili” are larger and dispersed in a regular towel and smaller and compact in a microfiber towel. This means again, less friction against your hair strands, especially when they are wet, in this case. Having a dedicated microfiber towel for your hair, specifically, is a great way to spruce up your washday and to bask in the luxury of your hair care and your self-care routine, overall. Get one in a color that you really like and enjoy and that makes you feel pretty and adds to enhancement of the overall experience. As we’ve talked about in various posts (How To Have A Happy Home and How To Turn Your Place Into Your Palace), color therapy is a great way to feel good and, therefore, it’s smart to incorporate colors and designs that boost your mood with the items/tools/equipment/products that you use during processes that you want to do consistently (and become habitual). When using a microfiber towel, simply wrap your hair up in it and put it away. Refrain from actively rubbing the cloth against your hair as that will encourage your cuticles to lift and cause frizzing and micro fraying, especially over time. A good quality microfiber towel should to absorb the excess water from your hair without any manipulation in about 15 minutes or so, regardless of your hair’s porosity.
16) Pick one go-to consolidated style and one go-to “out” style that you enjoy at each length. Examples of consolidated styles are cornrows, flat twists, loose single twists, single/box brains, three strand twists, etc. Look to YouTube and Pinterest for inspiration and tutorials on different structured styles that are consolidated that African women from across the continent wear, as do their descendants across the African diaspora (North America, South America, Europe, Asia). Different braid patterns and partings with cornrows and flat twists can create beautiful and elaborate updos. But you don’t have to be super detailed with your braiding for your hair—and you—to look cute. Ideally, your go-to style should be something that you can do yourself easily and without stress or too much time commitment. Or, if there is a larger time commitment upfront, it should be able to pay off in how long the style lasts. You should always be getting a positive return on your investment of time, energy and effort. West African Baby, a YouTube Influencer hailing from Ghana and Nigeria, is a fantastic example and resource of ideas and tutorials for structured, consolidated hair styles for highly-textured, coily hair that are super gorgeous, regal and can last a good while (up to weeks at a time). Free or “out” hair styles are non-consolidated styles. Meaning that the hair is not braided, tied or otherwise clustered to itself. Examples of these are braid outs, twist outs, Bantu Knot outs etc. Basically, the “release” of a lot of consolidated styles i.e., braids, twists, Bantu Knots. Buns are also a really great consolidated style that are simple, easy and relatively low-maintenance. It’s important, however, to make sure that you’re not doing the same styles in the same way with the same parts every single time. For instance, with buns, make sure that you are varying your bun’s placement so that you do not get traction or excess tension in one particular area/spot of your scalp. A lot of women who wear buns, puffs, ponytails and ponypuffs find that the hairs where there is most tension or where the bulk is constantly gathered tends to break over time and be shorter than the surrounding hairs. Prevent that by doing variations of the same go-to style. For instance, if you enjoy ponytails or puffs, you can do a high puff or ponytail one month and then the next month do a mid ponytail or puff and then the month after that, do a low ponytail or puff and repeat that cycle. Avoid applying too much tension when gathering and consolidating your hair. Traction alopecia is something that can happen to anybody and your scalp is not invincible. Your hair follicles, hair strands and hair roots are not invincible. They are actually more fragile than you may realize. So, avoid putting any more tension on them than required for your style and avoid being heavy-handed or going to heavy-handed professional braiders. When it comes to “out” or free styles, in order for your “set” to last, it’s important to set your hair with something other than your hair the way you would with consolidated styles. So, instead of doing a twist out for the look of spirals, it may be a better idea to use Flexirods to get your desired effect/aesthetic. Similarly, instead of doing a braid out, using Waveformers may be a better way to set your hair so that your resulting “braid waves” last longer. Setting your hair with/against itself is not as efficient as setting it with something else (a harder material like plastic, rubber, etc.) so that it better holds the shape that it is set into over time. It’s also important to your styling and leave-in products carefully to make sure that there are no irritating ingredients in them or ingredients that end up flaking or not working well together or that do not give you enough hold, moisture or lubrication so that your sets and therefore styles last until the next time you wash your hair. Avoid resetting your hair before your next washday to cut down on unnecessary manipulation. For instance, if you have to retwist or rebraid your hair every day or night to keep your braid out or twist out looking fresh/new, then, chances are, either the products you’re using are not effective in allowing for your style to last or your actual technique of setting your hair with itself, again, is not effective and you are likely better off using a hairstyling tool or set of tools to set your hair with for that twist out/braid out look. Keep in mind that, as your hair gets longer and you go through the different growth stages (shoulder length, armpit length, bra strap length, mid back length, waist length, hip length, tailbone length, classic length, silence, thigh length, knee length etc.) some or all of your styles may not look the same as they did before. You will generally have more volume at shorter lengths so your hair will lay or hang differently than it does when you have more length and therefore more weight and bulk to it. Track all the changes with your styles and what works and what doesn’t at each stage in your Hair Journal so that you have “active” and not “passive” insights to your hair and you can better understand—and therefore care for—it at different lengths.
17) Make sure your body is optimized for growth. This includes having an optimal diet as mentioned above, scalp stimulation and head inversion, and also exercise. Exercise is vital for your entire body and well-being, and your hair growth and quality is absolutely no exception. If your body is in survival mode, it will not prioritize growth, it will prioritize repair and conservation. This is why it is so important to get annual checkups to make sure everything is working as it should and there aren’t any underlying issues that are not aware of. Sometimes we internalize stress and don’t even know it because in some ways, we become “used to it” that we do not actively register or think of it as stress. Destressing through consistent exercise and meditation will alleviate a lot of the burden on your body so that it can get and stay in a state of optimal health versus simply trying to catch up. Growth cannot be optimized when you’re in survival mode. You are either surviving or thriving and you want to make sure that you and your body are doing the latter. Simply surviving is never enough and, frankly, is no way to live. It is certainly not the Youniqorn way to live. Your body includes your brain (a.k.a. your mind) so, therefore, it’s important to optimize your body for emotional and mental growth as well as physical. In the context of active hair growing, you can do this by consuming content, (videos, images, music, text, blogs, books, podcasts, etc.) that support, uplift, encourage and reward your specific pursuit of longer, fantasy hair.
18) Be consistent. Consistency is king, queen, princess, and prince. It is consistency that produces extraordinary results. If there’s one thing you have to commit to, with whatever it is you’re doing, in this case, growing your hair longer, you have to be consistent with it. Commit to being consistent with your hair routine, with the care you show to your hair, with the beneficial products you use, with massaging and stimulating your scalp, with inverting your head, with eating well, with exercising and with being gentle with your hair and appreciative of it and you are bound to see positive results. It truly is a simple as that.
19) Finally, have fun with the process as you look forward to your final destination. It’s called a journey for a reason and you’re going to go through it either way so you might as well enjoy it. A lot of growth in life, in general, is as much about the process as it is the final target and you learn a lot about yourself during this process. Enjoy fun with styling, handling your hair, experimenting safely and within reason and don’t be afraid to try new things if you want to. Do your research beforehand but do not stifle yourself out of fear and not deny yourself permission to deviate from a routine every now and again to try something new that might be a positive addition to it. It’s important to be firm but flexible. This applies to every area of life and definitely with your hair—no pun intended. Joining a community of other intentional hair growers will make this process and journey a lot more enjoyable, fun, and exciting because it’s always much more satisfying to enjoy success and work toward it with someone else who wants the same thing than by yourself. The Youniqorn S+ELLAr membership (coming soon) is one such community and, if growing hair is one of your desires and specific targets, there are others just like you who you can connect, learn, grow, laugh, cry and enjoy the process and everything that it entails with. If you’d rather start off solo, though, you’ll feel right at home in the STAR+er membership.
Share what your hair goal(s) are, why, and what you’re doing to reach them below ❤.