Trimming: How much and how often?

Q: So why trim hair if you want longer hair?

A: Trimming hair when growth appears to be slow or stagnant can allow hair to reach a new longer length (read the first part here!). When the cuticle layer (outside covering of the hair) is thinned down, it no longer offers as much protection to the internal cortex. The hair at the end therefore becomes a split end hot spot (see the diagram!!)

Q: How much hair should be trimmed?

A: The first trim depends on damage. All thinning ends ideally should be cut off, this could be an inch or it could be 5 inches. Naturally it is a very personal decision if the hair cut could result in a significant appearance change, in which case you can be more conservative and just do several small chops.

Q: How often should hair be trimmed?

A: After the first trim, you can choose to let the hair grow and trim as little or as much as you like. If you are interested in getting to a new longer length then logically, you have to trim less than your hair grows. If you work on the half an inch a month growth rate, then cutting half an inch every 3 to 4 months may be logical.

Q: How do I know my hair has been trimmed enough?

A: I can only give a subjective answer to this question. I would say that after a trim, if you notice many split ends soon after, then you probably did not trim enough. If you trimmed enough, your hair should not split as much or as often as before (at least this is my theory!)

What is your view on trimming? Is trimming just cutting hair or is it useful?


  1. I know often times after I've trimmed my ends they feel nice, but shortly after (a few weeks or so) they feel rough again - BOO.

  2. I'm undoing my locs and I know when I'm done, I might need to get it trmmed. The question is where?

  3. I agree with your theory. Cool post :)
    To me trimming is very helpful and needed in hair growth/ maintenance.

  4. I agree. If you have a gang of splits then you should trim but trimming just to be trimming is nonsense. You are cutting off perfectly good hair.

  5. oh boy...saw part 1 of this post friday...and trimmed hubby's hair this past weekend (and also got scissor happy :-( his ends still look and feel better though :-) and it's still past his shoulders with *most* places, lol!!)

    Grrreeeeaaat post, thanks!!
    Happy 2010!!

  6. Trimming has always been a friend of mine, allowing my hair to grow longer & healthier. Never been afraid of a pair of sheers, mainly because I always understood (thanks to my aunt who's a hairstylist) that hair health sometimes starts with a proper cut/trim. If you're experiencing damaged ends, it's a detriment to your hair journey holding on to them. It's invisible length as far as I can see, something that's holding you back from achieving your ultimate hair goal.

  7. Hair has a terminal length so of course if you cut it it will grow back to that length. But you suggest that it will grow longer than that without giving any reasons or proof that this will happen.

    If what you are saying is true than is trimming the only thing proven to make hair grow longer/faster? That is a significant statement that warrants more details

  8. Great comments all!Thanks for contributing

    Chai - I like that term - damage ends are invisible length!

    @vkb247 - I have not talked about growing your hair beyond its terminal length. I am talking about growing hair beyond a static point when it appears not to gain any more length. If you have reached your terminal length, then trimming will result in your hair growing back to the same length.

    I definitely think you should take some time to read the full text of the article which I referenced in the first article.

    1. Hi, isn't it fascinating, stillm how hair resting at its terminal length is able to wake up and grow back exactly of the length that has been cut off? As cutting or shaving never directly affetc the root, nor it can alter their total life cycle (if the hair has lived enough, it will fall whatever you do, but when it rests it's different, it's still alive and active (: ), I read it can depends on a combination of their mass and pull, where mass is not dependend on gravity while pull is, to an extend. It doesn't mean that the follicle is not able to push more hair off because of the increased mass, but it can be used as a measuring criteria.

  9. @Lion-ess - I think your situation is different. Combing out the locs may cause damage to the hair strand or it may not depending on your hair type and how you comb. I think the best assessment would be for you to condition the hair, wait a few days or weeks to see how well the hair is and then snip off any breaking ends.

    All the best!

  10. I had a look at the article and though the hair may seem to be stagnant it is still growing. you just aren't retaining the growth because of wear and tear on the hair.

    The study has serious limitations in that it only included 6 Caucasian women and of course their hair regimens, particularly if they have straight hair, is going to be different that those of someone who has highly textured hair.

  11. @vkb247 - Hair studies by and large do have small groups and do tend to be restricted to the ethnicities from where the scientists are based. Hence South African studies study South African hair (here is where we get information on combing damage), Indian studies study Indian hair ( here is where the coconut oil studies come from) etc etc.

    Hair regimens may differ but there is a huge body of evidence that indicates that all hair regardless of origin is very similar in structure (i.e cuticle and cortex). Hence, cuticle wear is just as likely in Asian women or Black women.

  12. I don't think I successfully sent my last post. Either way, please let me know what you think of this presentation by Dr. Ali Syed concerning the structure of hair based on origin/hair type.

  13. Here's another:

  14. I haven't had time to read it all in detail but I'll have a look at it later. I do think that some of this is similar to the post I did on why it is harder to grow african hair longer (i.e elliptical shaft and breakage etc).

    Certainly plenty more information has been garnered after 1990's thanks to Nonhlanhla Khumalo. I'll have a look later and see.

  15. Hi, I have never been afraid of cutting hair, and have trimmed my hair before in the past, the only thing is that this time last year I had about 6 inches of my hair cut for an asymmetric style, and at the other areas anything from 2 - 4 inches. Since, I had my hair in braids and began the healthy hair regime and conditioning.

    I have been keeping an eye on my ends, and I check for split ends and I never find any (I found one tonight and have trimmed it). But seriously, I don't see any, the hair was cut professionally with sharp blades, and I feel as if if I cut my hair, I could introduce split ends, my point is, why should I cut my hair if it's very full and split end free at this point?

    The point of cutting is to remove and prevent, but I can't find any, wouldn't I just be cutting for nothing?

  16. Cutting hair is not known to create split ends. Evidence shows otherwise - meaning when hair is cut it is likely to reach a longer length. This is related to removal of damaged ends.

    I think if you have no split ends or thinning ends, then trimming your hair would not be necessary. The only reasons to do it on a regular basis would be to maintain a hair cut or simply to ensure that thinning ends do not happen. Not compulsory though.

  17. Great post. I agree that trimming can be helpful if ends are damaged and thin. However, I would caution naturals not to be too trim happy if the goal is to retain length. My hair grows about 4.5 inches a year, so trimming an inch even every 3-4 months would keep me from retaining any substantial length. Instead, I keep my hair in protected styles 95% of the time and keep it moisturized with oils, water and humectants and comb gently (and as infrequently as possible) to minimize damage. I don't use heat on my hair ever. I trim about 1 cm. every 4-6 months and my current hair length is 10-12 in. If your hair grows 6 inches a year, you can get a way with aggressive trimming. If it doesn't, protect your hair and trim more conservatively.

  18. I have been pressing my hair for the past 15 years, once every 6-8 weeks when I wash it. My hair was 10 inches long 6 years ago and wouldn't grow pass that. I had plenty of damaged strands because I had never had it trimmed previously. Hence, some parts were shorter than others and the ends were thinned out.

    I decided to go for healthy hair and had 3 inches chopped off. Within three years, my hair grew back and surpassed it's original length - it grew to 14 inches even with trims every 3-4 months.

    I have cut it a lot in the past 3 years to keep the ends looking fresh. I keep my hair in protective hairstyles all the time as I'm trying to achieve a longer length now.

  19. Usually I trim every 3 or 4 months, or when I have a noticeable dry and split ends. For me trimming is helpful. :)


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