Ask CurlyNikki: What Are the Secrets To Length Retention?
Calling all naturalistas: Do you have urgent tress questions? If so, you're in luck. Every Thursday, natural hair blogger extraordinaire CurlyNikki will be solving your curly hair conundrums! Submit your questions by emailing them to BeautyEditors @essence.com.
READER QUESTION: I'm having a hard time getting my hair to grow longer. Also, my hair coils are tight and appear longer once I've washed, moisturized, conditioned and gone through the steps. However, they slowly spring back up.
CURLYNIKKI'S RESPONSE: The answer to realizing long hair is “retention.” Your hair grows every month, but if you're not achieving new lengths, it means your ends are probably snapping off just as quickly as new growth is sprouting from your scalp. I know this can be supremely frustrating and sadly, there is no overnight fix. My first suggestion would be to get a professional trim. You should also lay off of stylers (mousses, hair sprays and gels), if you rely on them, and focus on hair health. Look for deep penetrating moisturizing and/or protein reconstructing conditioners. If you’re not sure whether your hair is craving moisture or protein, I’ve shared a few helpful tips to find out on my blog. You would also be wise to increase your water intake (drinking half your body weight in ounces), and make sure your diet is healthy and balanced.
Below, I’ve listed my top three length retaining techniques:
1. Moisturize! Between washes, don’t allow your ends to dry out completely. On an as-needed basis (usually every two to four days), apply water and/or a water-based, leave-in conditioner. You don’t need much, just be sure to evenly distribute. You know it’s water-based because “aqua” will be the first ingredient! I'm currently using Qhemet Biologic's Moringa Tree Conditioning Ghee.
2. Try finger detangling. It’s time consuming, but it rocks. It’ll take a little practice to master the technique of detangling solely with your fingers, but you’ll enjoy a much happier head of hair. I do it in small sections, working from the ends up, and I’m able to gently remove shed hairs and tangles with minimal (if any) breakage.
3. Follow up your moisturizing routine and wash day with sealing. Apply a thin layer of oil, butter or a silicone-based serum to seal in the moisture from the water and conditioner.
As far as the shrinkage you're experiencing, know that it comes with the territory.
It’s important to remember to work with what you got! Don’t fight your hair. If it wants to reach toward the sky, you’ll be a lot less frustrated if you embrace that aspect and work with it, not against it! Below you'll find some tips that may help you show off your length when rocking a twist-out.
1. Flat twist or pin the roots. Whenever I two-strand twist, my roots unravel, leaving me with results that are half poofy and undefined. To achieve even definition from root to tip, I begin each twist by flat twisting the hair to my scalp. On lazy days, I’ll do a simple two-strand twist, but bobby pin the root to my scalp. Both techniques allow for better definition, with the unexpected side effect of better hang time! Using this technique on wet or damp hair reduces shrinkage as well.
2. The scarf set. In line with the above, once your hair is twisted, reach for your satin or silk scarf and tie down your crown (think pirate or Left Eye from TLC). This will help to set your hair in the downward position. I do this whether I’ve twisted wet or dry, and if I sleep in my twists, I tie a scarf on my crown prior to donning a satin cap.
3. Roll the ends. My signature style is the Twist-n-Curl. I simply twist my hair and set the last 2 inches or so on a roller. It gives super cute definition, but on wet hair, adds weight to each twist, which reduces shrinkage. This tip, used in conjunction with tips 1 and 2, should be your best bet.
4. Tension dry before twisting. I get the most hang time on hair that is styled dry. Whether I re-twist an old twist-out or blow out my freshly cleansed, moisturized hair, I get results that are more likely to lay down. If you choose to blow dry, use the tension method in which you simply stretch your hair with one hand and in a downward motion, blast your roots with warm (not hot) heat. It’s less manipulation than your typical blow out, and gently straightens your roots, which will result in some downward hanging action.
5. Product choice. Heavier products weigh hair down. Hair that is weighed down is less likely to rise. If it’s hang time you seek, then opt for a moisturizing leave-in PLUS a styler, such as a butter, or pomade and be liberal! This tip works best on wet set twist-outs. Some hair textures don’t really allow for hang time, no matter what you try. I’ve also found that with length comes weight and that added weight helps hair to hang where it didn’t before.
Happy Hair Growing!
Nikki Walton, founder of CurlyNikki.com, is a successful psychotherapist and creator of the most credible online source about natural hair care, maintenance and decoding the psychological ties between black women and their hair. She's the author of the book, Better Than Good Hair.