LENGTH LUST: Thoughts On Natural Hair Health & The Pursuit Of Length


So, I’ve been a proud, natural hair-wearing chick for the past 5 years or so. Just as I start to get comfortable in my regimen, comfortable with my look, and comfortable with what my hair choices mean to me, something always comes along to shake things up.

Here’s the scenario I’ve been facing lately:

Random person: “Wow – I love your hair!”

Me: “Thanks so much!”

Random person: “How long have you been natural?”

Me: “Oh, about 5 years.”

Random person looks at my hair again with slight disappointment.

Random person: “Oh.”

I often don’t have to guess at what that “Oh” means. Sometimes, they’ll come out and say with a tinge of pity, “Oh – your hair grows slowly, doesn’t it?” or “Did you recently chop it off?” or something to the effect that tells me that my hair length and length of time being natural don’t match up in their head. And there’s that word: length. These days I find myself thinking about fixations on hair length, and what it all means.

Now, to be honest – I did recently cut a lot of hair off. 2013 wasn’t a great year for hair health, and it really started to show. Stress levels, poor nutrition, and lack of proper time/effort all led to my hair being probably at its worst since I’ve gone natural. It got thin, stopped growing, broke a lot, and generally let me know how poor of a caregiver I was. And if that wasn’t enough, I decided to go all out and colour it for my 30th birthday – and then I continued to fail on the TLC tip.  An appointment at Curl Bar a couple of months ago was all I needed to get back on track. I went back to black, cut off a lot of the damaged hair, and recommitted myself to letting my hair flourish in all the glory I know it possesses.

However, the responses and discussions around my hair have been interesting of late. My hair doesn’t look like 5 years of growth, I guess. 5 years of growth should mean a humongous halo of hair, kinks and curls as far as the eye can see, and a massive, beautifully uncontrolled spillage of locks – right? In an ideal world, that’s what I’d have. But I don’t, and it’s OK.

Well, it’s OK most of the time. I’ll be honest – I’ve had my share of fixation on my hair’s length, width, and thickness, and have often looked at myself in the mirror with disappointment when I felt I haven’t hit my mark. In the natural hair community, we tend to focus so heavily on length, for a variety of reasons. One being the beauty ideal that states that femininity is related to long, healthy, gorgeous hair. Another being the fact that we’re so amped to prove those wrong who think natural Black hair can’t grow. Both of those points have mattered for me, and while it’s great to have ambitions towards beautiful, big hair – I have to remind myself that there’s more to it than that.

Before I can focus on length, I know I have to focus on health. I really and truly have to do a better job of taking care of my hair from now on, and I can’t allow myself to slide like I did this year. I also have to let my length goals be secondary, and not allow others’ judgements to get me down.

Being that I’m a blogger who is a strong advocate of natural hair, I remain conscious of the fact that my hair is almost a representation of my work. Have I felt in recent times like I’ve disappointed people who’ve met me in real life? Call me sensitive, but yes. However, I have also become more of a supporter of the variety of hair choices we have at our fingertips. Grow it, cut it, loc it, colour it – the most important aspect for me right now is to take care of it.

Are you fixated on length? Have you ever caught yourself judging someone else’s hair based on what you think it should look like? 

P.S. – if you’re an aspiring or current blogger in Toronto, get your tickets for The Syndicate this Saturday! 

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4 Responses to “LENGTH LUST: Thoughts On Natural Hair Health & The Pursuit Of Length”

  1. Daphne November 25, 2013 at 8:49 am #

    This post came right on time. I have been natural for about 4 years and at one time I was absolutely without a doubt sure that my was not growing. I was at a phase where it just seemed to curl, and kink up and die. But at the same time, I wasn’t expereincing alot of shedding or breakage. So what was the problem. SHRINKAGE!!! Every time I washed my 4c hair in it’s wet state i would have length past my shoulders, but as soon as that mop dried up I was back down to a twa and it made me a little upset. But as I looked at my hair closer and kept taken care of it, I realized that yes it has grown, but that shrinkage is a liar. Just this past weekend I got a trim and flat iron, by a professional stylist in a salon. I have not been in a stylist chair or had a decent trim since I started this journey and was amazed at the results. I have blow out my hair and flat ironed it maybe once since the beginning, but I wasn’t all the impressed by the results at the time. Anyway, I say all that to say this I have never been in the hunt for length, but for health. And I believe this is the healthiest my hair has been in for a long time. If you keep your hair healthy, the length will follow.

  2. Tasha November 27, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    Yesterday, someone asked me how long I’ve been “natural.” I replied, “A year and a half.” They said that was great, but I rebutted and told them that my hair should be a lot longer than it was.

    Why do we do this to ourselves? We will always find something to complain or gripe about! SMH!!

  3. Jamila December 1, 2013 at 7:21 am #

    I am very obsessed with length and every once in a while I have to tell myself to calm down and let it go. My tight 4c hair shrinks a lot so any length it has only ever shows after I get a blow out, otherwise, it always looks the same.


  4. Adeola @ TheManeCaptain December 30, 2013 at 10:11 pm #

    I need to follow your blo ore so I don’t miss out on events. I always find out about them weeks after :(
    i do length checks because I battled with length retention during my relaxed days. so i check to make sure im progressing. 2013 wasn’t a good year for me in terms of length, a big disaapointment. I even expressed my disappointments in these bog posts.

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