Monday, 21 September 2009

Growing Pains: Is it harder to grow African hair? (part 1 of 2)

The lovely Jaded remarks, 'I find it so odd that african americans just in general have such a hard time *relaxed or natural* growing our hair.' Well, the truth is that African hair is very different from Asian or Caucasian hair. Here are some more details:

1. Slow growth rate? – It has been suggested that African hair grows much slower than Caucasian hair ( Br J Dermatol, pg 294-7, 2001.). African hair was measured at between 3.7 to 4.3 inches per year while Caucasian hair was measured at 5.7 to 6.3 inches per year. This study unfortunately is too small in my view to be representative of the entire African population but it is nonetheless a valid study.

2. Shape of the hair? – Asian and Caucasian hair is more round in shape compared to African hair which is more oval/elliptical (see the diagram!). Some scientists suggest that this can make the hair weak but studies in 4 different labs produced contrasting results (J Am Acad Dermatol,pg S106–S114, 2003). Two of them showed no difference while two found African hair to be weaker - so there really isn't a conclusion as to whether the ellipse shape affects strength.


3. Breakage – This one is a bit of a duh moment. The curlier the hair the more likely it is to break. African hair has more kinks and curls. Each of these turns represents a weak point which can be tested by washing, conditioning, towel drying, combing, braiding (everything basically!).


4. Method of breakage – This related to number 3 but it has to be given its own airtime because it is important. African hair breaks in probably the most traumatic way, cuticle and fibre rupture (Acta Materialia , pg 3585–3597, 2008). This can possibly lead to the observation that lengthwise splits are commonly seen in African hair. The issue with these longitudinal splits is that the damage can very easily travel upwards. The tips of African hair are usually shredded (implying breakage) while Asian and Caucasian hair tends to have either a natural tapered tip or a blunt end where the hair was previously cut.
Now these are just four reasons, tomorrow I will post on combing and knotting. I have a new drawing gadget (PC tablet) that I am dying to use to draw some hair knots! Separately, we will need to have a discussion on the definitions of African, Asian and Caucasian hair. There is alot of diversity within these groups but this is a story for another post ;)
See you tomorrow for part 2 of the Growing Pains series! For today, my question is, do you think your hair grows at a rate of 4 inches per year or do you think it grows much longer?

23 comments:

  1. 4 inches a year is EXTREMELY slow. My hair grows on average of 3/4 an inch per month. I received my last relaxer on March 2008 and I have 4 inches of afro now.

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  2. I get the avg 6 inches per year aka 1/2 in a month. It will be a yr since my BC in December and when stretched a couple weeks ago, my hair has grown about 4.5 inches.

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  3. I find 4 inches hard to believe. I have very fine textured hair and it grows at least 6inches per year. I think the study fails to take into account that Afro textured hair breaks much easier than the hair of other races, so even if it grows at the same rate the results aren't seen due to poor hair care practices.

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  4. Thanks a million JC! I wrote a whole paragraph in here in response and my little one pressed something and I lost it all! *sipped some tea to whoo-saw it out* lol

    I have to say i'm pretty sure my hair grows longer than 4 inches in a year LOL. I'm not sure of the inches but I went from a near buzzed type cut to shoulder length hair in about 8 months. (I got a perm then)
    I really don't think african american hair grows slower but like you said its so frustratingly (to me) fragile what you grow you break off at the ends most times.

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  5. I really have no clue about how much my hair grows in a year because I don't pay attention (I'm still trying to get the retention part together).

    Maybe at the start of 2010 I'll dye a chunk and then measure it for the next year.

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  6. Hi JC,
    You mentioned the study on growth rates was flawed due to sample size, so much so that it is not representative. But I am still afraid that some may read this post and think, "aha, as I suspected, our hair just grows slower". So can you provide more information on what other factors were controlled for in the study. For instance, were the participants instructed to use certain products or practices or just left to their own devices and measured every month? If so, the African participants may not have been practicing appropriate hair care while the Caucasians could have been. Do we know the average health status of the two samples?

    Thanks!

    BTW I am at the standard 1/2 in per month and it looks thicker and feels better when I exercise. Maybe it grows faster then too but I can't say for sure.

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  7. I hear you all. I DO think 4 inches is a low study. Tracyata - I'll get some more details before the next post!

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  8. I'm transitioning now, it been 11 plus months and some areas of my hair is at 4 inches others 5 plus so i don't think that study is untrue, i just think that it's not the stand rate for all African hair.

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  9. I had cut my hair into a chin length bob, and in a year it grew back down to my collarbone (with a couple of trims in between). If I would have left it untrimmed, I think my hair probably would have grown 6 or 7 inches (but instead its only about 4 inches longer since the original cut).

    I think they key is working on caring for the hair you do have so that you can retain length, as opposed to studying how many inches your hair grows each month. ALSO, I take Biotin and MSM and my hair is thicker and has been growing like a weed recently. Between that are keeping it moisturized, I think I've found the perfect combination!

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  10. KADIANE here ( not typing from home lol)

    @ tracyata
    Since it is about hair growth (witch can bee easily seen when you color the hair) and not lenght retention i don't think the africans hair practice matter

    Also. A lot of people on the kinky-coily blogs are also from europeen descent and that makes a difference

    I'm from the ewe ethny from Ouest Africa. 4C hair type 1 to 2mm in coils diameter. this study is more about my leght retention then my hair growth so it makes me wonder unless i have a super lenght retention ability.

    Fulanies witch are nomades in Ouest Africa have curls and i though there hair takes so long to grow.

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  11. So i meant i don't think theire hairs take so long to grow :)

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  12. How can naturals tell the rate at which our hair grows? It's not like we can measure new growth over the course of a year, and taking measurements doesn't rule out loss of length due to breakage so...how can I measure my growth rate?

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  13. I don't think it is very important to know the rate of hair growth but if it is something you want to do then outside of a lab I would say,

    1. Measure hair length in atleast 3 different areas after a certain period (maybe 1 year after a big chop)

    2. Dye your hair a different colour and measure the growth over a set period by visualising the difference between your normal colour and the dye

    I really don't recommend any of these methods. I think focus should be on good hair care and keeping the hair on your head. The less you worry about growth, the easier the natural journey.

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  14. My hair grows .4 inches a month which equals to 4.8 inches every 12 months. Thus, my hair growth is not very far off from what the research indicates.

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  15. I started transitioning last march and did my big chop in December. My hair is about 5 inches long. I honestly feel like my hair grew faster when it was relaxed. I love the texture of my natural hair which is probaly closest to a fine/medium 4a but the length is really starting to get to me. It's hard going from near waist length hair to a twa. I'm not sure if doing a BC was a good decision for me since I'm having regrets. I was hoping with the help of growth aids I could get maybe a full inch per month so I guess the study is a little discouraging to see that African hair doesn't even get the average .5 inch per month. Now I really regret cutting it since it's going to take even longer than I planned to grow back. On the upside whenever it does I will be soo happy since Long thick kinky curly hair is gorgeous to me.

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  16. Im at 10.5 mos post relaxer and only at about 4 +/- .25 inches. I def agree that there could be some validity in that study of slow growth, but being a science geek, I def wouldn't bet my money on a small study.

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  17. I am 63 yrs of age and have always experienced extremely slow growing hair (thin Type 4c). Approximately 3 yrs ago I started to use Dr. Miracle's products, and experienced the most growth in my entire life. About 1 yr. ago (having stopped using this particular product), I began to experience my hair falling out. Have since cut it about 1/4 inch; began with Hair Forumula 37 vitamins, and a regimen with Ayurvedic powders and oils together with Neutrogena Triple Moisture Conditioner and Chi Silk Infusion. Beginning to experience some growth in the last 8 weeks, with hairline filling in. No longer experiencing shedding. My hair has never grown 1 inch/month.

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  18. The reason im even on this post is because I've just had a haircut...chopped about four-five inches and now my hair is shoulder length. I like it...but Im afraid my boyfriend wants the longer hair to come back...so i was trying to figure out exactly how long it would take to get back to my normal length!!! But...i dont know which approach to take....Im of Caribbean heritage...African and East Indian descent with curly hair...its frustrating not fitting into any one category and not having any answers!!!
    -Cee

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  19. My hair grew over 6 inches this year...as long as you take good care of your hair, it will thrive.

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  20. I like how unbiased and impartial you were in this post. It's refreshing :-)

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  21. I just DON'T believe the growth rate part. My hair grows .75" a month, and when I consistently take Biotin, I get 1 inch a month, and I got my last relaxer this past July, and it's not been a year yet, and I have 4.5" now. 4" a year would be snail slow

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  22. Its no secret that our hair does Grow slower! I mean am i the only one who noticed the little black girls in school had shorter hair then the rest!!
    Im not saying we cant grow long hair it just TAKES WAAAY MORE EFFORT ON OUR PART THEN THAT OF OTHER RACES! There hair does not need regimes ours does smh
    I prey that one day my hair can grow past my shoulders one day\!

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