Here’s the winning combination to growing a long and thick afro.

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‘Olivia, why are you writing this blog? There is already so much information on YouTube.’ Over the past month, I’ve discussed with a few of my curl friends, hair care, growth and damage. I realized that they didn’t know the fundamental points that every natural must know in order to grow that desired long and thick afro. So ladies and gents this is for you.

Growing hair is a dynamic balance between length retention and stimulating hair growth from the scalp. In order to retain length you must prevent breakage from the ends of your strands. This post is going to easily guide you through these important principles.

Hair growth is a cycle. So no, not all of your hair stands are always growing. Hair has pre-rest phase called catagen which lasts around 2 weeks. And a rest/ shedding phase called telogen, which last around 4 months. Many of you are probably thinking, ‘if that’s true, surely I should have gone through points where I was bald then?’ Your strands go through this cycle at different points in time, so the majority of your strands are currently in their growing phase (anagen), which lasts between 4 and 7 years.

The average speed of hair growth is between 1/4 and 1/2 inch per month. So if your hair grows at its maximum rate and you somehow miraculously manage to retain all of this length (no hair breakage), you can grow 3 to 6 inches per year.

Encouraging hair growth

1) Scalp Massage- Something that I have added to my hair regimen only very recently and have already seen the benefits. Massaging the scalp stimulates blood flow to your hair follicles. You can simply massage the scalp with your fingers alone, or you can also use oils, you also have the option of heating these oils first and then massaging them into the scalp.

2)Shampoo- Now I know that some naturals are dead set on co-washing (using solely conditioner or a product called co-wash). However, cleaning the scalp is important (getting rid of product build up which can stifle hair growth). However I do agree that a sulfate shampoo depleted afro hair of its moisture. Around two years ago I traded my weekly sulfate shampoo for a sulfate-free shampoo and never looked back. I remember my friends commenting that my hair looked shinier and my stands felt significantly softer. However, I still use a sulfate shampoo after I remove a protective style (e.g. box braids) or when I notice a significant build up of products in my hair and I want that extra deep clean.

3)Vitamins- A vitamin deficiency could be the reason that your hair is not growing. My advice? Go to your General Practitioner and get checked out. I have suffered with iron deficiency multiple types and when my iron is low, I notice I do not get any hair growth. If your results come back clear, but you notice that your hair is not growing, try taking a multivitamin. I suggest Holland and Barrett; where you can buy vitamins and minerals to your hearts content.

4) Food- ‘You are what you eat.’ Extremely cliché, but extremely true. Having a balanced diet will certainly help with hair growth. Make sure you are getting enough portions of fruits and vegetables. There are also foods that are linked with hair growth such as pulses, nuts and salmon.

5) Water- Your body needs water! Dehydration is not the way forward if you’re trying to grow that thick and long fro. Your circulatory system needs water- we need blood flow to those hair follicles. It’s going to help and just think if it doesn’t help your hair, your skin will probably become flawless and you’ll probably eat less food (we often mistake hunger for thirst), so you may tone up a bit too. Basically it’s a win-win situation!

Retaining that length

1) Don’t neglect your grandparents!- This is at the top of the list when it comes to maintaining that length. You ends are the most fragile part of your hair strands, because they’re the oldest part of your hair strands. Just think of them as the grandparents of your hair strands, you need to treat them with respect if you want to get anywhere in life. So concentrate that product there, for example, every other day lovingly apply some shea butter or caster oil to those ends.

2) MOISTURISE! LOC- Liquid Oil Cream. This is basically the natural ABC to retaining length. It’s self- explanatory! Apply your liquid for example spritz your hair with water. Apply oil to you strands. Why not start with a start with a scalp massage, move along your strands, then make your don’t neglect your ends? Then finish by applying a leave in conditioner of curling cream. This method usually leaves me hair fully moisturised for 3 days (this may vary for you depending on your hair porosity, thickness and what products you are using).

3) Trims- So you’ve probably heard conflicting messages regarding this one. My advice? If you’ve never trimmed your ends begin today, or if you don’t trust yourself, find yourself a trusted professional. Then observe your ends on a regular basis, when you see split ends trim again. See how much time it takes split ends to appear and then trim your hair using this time boundary. (I’ve can count the amount of trims I’ve had in my life, I need to take this advise too).

4) Let go of that heat damage!- Sometimes in life we have to let go of things. For a natural who wants to maintain that length, heat damage should be at the top of the list. I’ve suffered with heat damage around twice since going natural and trying to make it blend with the rest of my afro strands is a massive challenge. Cut that heat damage off! It’s not cute! And it’s just further damaging your hair. Just let go!

5) Deep condition- I try to deep condition on a weekly basis. I’m not fortunate enough to have a hooded dryer. However deep conditioning with heat will give the best results. Buy a deep conditioner- there has been a lot of hype of the Shea Moisture deep conditioners and I must say they’re worth the hype and the price. But any deep conditioner will do!

6) Protective styling- So we’ve already talked about not neglecting those ends. As well as moisturising your ends on a regular basis, you should also try to protect those ends often if you want to retain your length. Protective styling can be achieved with you own hair e.g. twists, buns or can be achieved with hair that did not grow out of your scalp (real or synthetic) e.g. box braids, marley twists, wigs, weaves.

Have you tried any of this? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

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