Who says that an African girl cannot have a long hair? I mean an African girl, born and bred in the continent without any trace of Asian or Caucasian parentage, with hair that has grown beyond her shoulders. Don’t be surprised! Long hair is not only the preserve of the “Non-Africans”. Yes we know that their hair texture is usually straight and it’s thought to grow longer, while the African hair texture has this corkscrew shape that grows in rings. One fact about all hair types is that it grows. Understanding the chemistry of hair growth and grooming it is the key factor in achieving a long hair both for people of all races.
Hair grows at approximately 1.25centimeters or 0.5inches per month; this is about 15centimeters or 6inches per year. The speed of hair growth sometimes slows down to about 0.25centimeters or 0.1inch per month and this happens about 3 times in a year. So averagely, the hair achieves a length of 12centimeters or 4.7inches in 12months. The length between the top of the head to the shoulder is approximately 25centimeters or 9.75inches. So at the rate of 12centimeters or 4.7inches per year, it will take the hair approximately 2years and 14days to achieve a shoulder length. In 2years and 6months, the hair has grown beyond the shoulders and stands at the length of 30centimeters or 11.7inches. This hair growth calculation applies to any type of hair.
For the African hair type that grows in corkscrew rings, it kind of stands when it is achieving length unlike the Asian or Caucasian hair type which is straight and wavy and falls when it is growing. So at the same length, you will see the African hair appearing full in an Afro style while the Asian or Caucasian hair looks long and falls down the shoulder. At this stage it becomes a question of choice for the African woman. Does she want her hair natural and African, or does she want it natural and Asian/Caucasian?
Sadly looking at what is trending amongst African women, it can be noticed that the preference for Asian/Caucasian hair type/style is higher when we look at it from the perspective of the number of women who use hair extensions frequently and those who wear the natural afro hairstyle. But one underlying yearning for some of these women is the wish that the hairpiece they are fixing is their natural hair. So the task at hand is to show those women who prefer the Asian/Caucasian hairstyle, how to achieve it with their own natural hair.
Given that in 21/2 years the hair can grow beyond the shoulder, what we have to look at is
(a) How to strengthen the hair to make it look and feel like the Asian/ Caucasian
(b) How to groom the hair to ensure that it is strong and healthy until the desired length is achieved
In strengthening the hair, the process of hair relaxing is used. Relaxing loosens the hair’s natural curl pattern located inside the hair cortex, and once this curl pattern has been loosened, the hair becomes straight and the new structure cannot be reversed because the structure of the hair molecule has been reshaped. Reshaping the original molecular structure of any element weakens it, but if properly treated, that element can be made stronger in its new shape. Given that relaxing runs the risk of making the hair to be brittle and weak, hence tending to breakage, this problem can easily be avoided if the application is performed by an experienced and certified hair stylist. After relaxing, it must be ensured that all relaxer residues are washed off the hair. Use a neutralizing shampoo preferably one that has a colour indicator (try the Natures Gentle Touch Silky Neutralizing Shampoo) will make it easier to notice if there are still relaxer residues on the hair. After relaxing, the hair should undergo a deep conditioning treatment immediately to restore some of the natural essential oils that have been stripped off by the harsh chemicals in the relaxer.
Note: Once a hair has been strengthened through relaxing, it is irreversible unless in a situation where the hair did not relax. Only relax new growth which is at least 1inch. So wait for at least 8 weeks before the next relax. When relaxer is applied to an already strengthened hair, it erodes the hair leaving it very brittle and prone to breaking. Always make sure that relaxer application is performed by a certified hair stylist.
In between the next relaxer application, deep condition the hair weekly to strengthen, detangle and prevent split ends. Some deep conditioning treatments contain a blend of herbal ingredients that add extra benefit to the hair. For example, the Natures Gentle Touch Deep Conditioning Cholesterol Treatment has a blend of Vegetable proteins, Shea butter and Vitamin E that heal damaged scalp and foster hair growth. Deep conditioning treatments also replenish moisture in the hair if done regularly and equally prevent the hair from becoming damaged when heat is applied during styling. The elasticity of the hair is also improved with regular deep conditioning treatments.
With the process of strengthening the hair noted, the next task is to maintain the growth to ensure that it stays healthy and strong, and reach the desired length. A simple routine that involves timely cleaning, conditioning, moisturizing and periodic trimming is all that is needed. One of the major factors that can affect the health of the hair is dirt. Dirt attacks the hair strands making it brittle and vulnerable to breakage. Also accumulated dirt can lead to different scalp conditions that militate against hair growth. A recommended care routine for the African hair should follow thus:
- Shampoo every week or every 10 days. On any other day, rinse to remove sweat and salt. A moisturizing shampoo is preferable for the African hair because it adds moisture to the hair strands. When shampooing, do it gently to avoid breaking the hair. Just massage the scalp with the fingertips and gently wash off without pulling the hair.
- Moisturise daily mostly after the first bath. Before going the bed in the evening, wet the hair or spray with water and apply Castor oil or Shea Butter Cream to lock away moisture. This process is like watering a flower garden, the flowers blossom when they receive the right nutrients necessary for their growth. For ideal products to use, try the Natures Gentle Touch Daily Oil Moisturiser and Castor Oil Conditioning Cream.
- Conditioning makes the hair strong and healthy. Deep Condition every week or try a hot oil treatment in place of it.
- Trim when necessary. Whenever the hair starts looking thin and unhealthy at the ends, go for a trim. Split-ends will cause more damage to the hair so it’s better to trim it off. Split-ends are like dead skin layers. If they are not exfoliated, they block the skin pores making it difficult for the skin to receive nutrients.
- Go on a healthy diet that will ensure that the hair grows normally.
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Natures Gentle Touch is a natural hair care brand that provides solutions to different hair and scalp problems such as hair breakage, dandruff and hair loss. It is the owner of Natures Gentle Touch Hair institute, the largest conservatoire of beauty and style education is Sub-Saharan Africa.