Category Archives: self-image

Growth Chronicles Part 2: How Hair Grows, and why Black Hair is Different

Do you have problems with hair growth? Have you ever wondered why your hair does not grow as fast or has seemed to stop growing? In our part 1 of this series, I shared my personal story with hair growth. Now, I personally want to take my hair to the next level…but can I? Will highly textured, tightly coiled hair grow free outside of braids and locs? I think that an understanding of why and how hair grows and why Black, afro-textured hair is different may ease some of the frustration. For some of you natural hair vets, this may seem elementary. Of course, I will put my spin on it, so here goes.

The Basics: What is hair?


Hair growth begins inside the hair follicle found under the skin. The only “living” portion of the hair is found in the follicle. Other structures of the hair follicle include the oil producing sebaceous glands which lubricate the hair. What we think of as the hair that grows out from our head is the hair shaft. Once the hair shaft (hair) grows out from the follicle it is considered “dead” because it has no biochemical activity. The living part of the hair is bottom part of the shaft surrounding the papilla called the bulb. This bottom part is the only part fed by the capillaries (blood supply). The cells in the bulb divide every 23 to 72 hours, faster than any other cells in the body.

The hair shaft/strand is roughly divided into three zones: the cuticle, cortex and medulla. The cortex, the middle layer is the main structural component of the hair. It is primarily made up of the keratin protein and is the primary source of mechanical strength and water uptake. The cortex also contains melanin, which gives the hair color.

The phases of growth
Hair production occurs in phases, including a growth phase (anagen), and transitional/cessation phase (catagen), and a rest phase (telogen).

Anagen phase: Anagen is the active growth phase of hair follicles. The stem cells of the hair are dividing rapidly, adding length to the hair shaft. During this phase the hair grows about 1 cm every 28 days. Your hair can stay in this active phase of growth for 2–7 years. The amount of time the hair follicle stays in the anagen phase is genetically determined. At the end of the anagen phase an unknown signal causes the follicle to go into the catagen phase.

Catagen phase: The catagen phase is a short transition stage that occurs at the end of the anagen phase. It signals the end of the active growth of a hair strand. This phase lasts for about 2-3 weeks.

Telogen phase: The follicle then goes into the Telogen or resting phase for two to four months, during this time the hair still does not grow but remains attached to the follicle. Approximately 10-15 percent of all hair strands are in this phase at any one time. Therefore, all the hairs on your head are in different stages of growth.
 What makes Black hair different?

A study by the British Journal of Dermatology showed that Afro-textured hair is not as dense as other textures. Specifically, the average density of Afro-textured hair was found to be approximately 190 hairs per square centimeter. This was significantly lower than that of straight hair, which, on average, produces approximately 227 hairs per square centimeter. Further, the study found that Afro-textured hair grows at an average rate of approximately 256 micrometers per day, while straight hair grows at approximately 396 micrometers per day.

Our hair texture can range anywhere from pin-straight to extremely curly. Follicles that are round in cross-section give rise to straight hair. Those out of which curly hair grows are oval. Very tightly coiled hair is due to the nearly flat, ribbon-like structure of the follicles. This hair texture is very common in people of African ancestry. Afro-textured hair is wiry, tightly coiled and often coarse. And though Afro-textured hair produces the same amount of oil as straight hair, due to the tight curls, the oil fails to spread evenly along the hair fiber.

Without lubrication, the fibers become very dry. This causes the brittle strands to flake and roughen, resulting in hair that is coarse to the touch. The brittleness of Afro-textured hair adds to the illusion that it cannot be grown long. The tight curls create stresses at each turn in the hair fiber. The hair strands become weak and fragile, making them prone to breakage. As a result, tightly coiled hair tends to stay quite short. This is why moisture and oil is so important to combating breakage.

So, now what?
Don’t be discouraged. Black hair does grow. It may just grow a little slower and take a little more TLC. If your hair has reached a plateau in growth it could possibly be in a state of rest. In which case, keep taking care of your hair and eventually growth will accelerate on its own. If your hair is not growing, then you may want to look at dermatological, medical or even emotional reasons. Take an honest look at your hair practices and regimen to see if that may be the source of the problem. Please subscribe and check in as we discuss more reasons for sluggish hair growth, stimulation, genetics and healthy hair practices.

Web References
African hair growth parameters – Loussouarn – 2001 – British Journal of Dermatology – Wiley Online Library

At Peace with Self for the Holidays

The holidays can do one of two things in our life. They can give us a warm fuzzy feeling as we connect with family and friends while extending generosity to others. Or, the holidays can remind us of the situations and circumstances that can make our lives miserable. Perhaps, you have lost a job, or a loved one. Maybe your kids are acting crazy, or you are waiting for a spouse or your car got towed. And to top things off, your hair is doing crazy and unexpected things… Maybe it’s just a matter of not being satisfied with where you are in life right now. You have dreams and visions, but you just can’t seem to get a break. Trust me, I know the feeling! It can be overwhelming at times. We either respond with gratitude or we shut down emotionally.

Your self is comprised of all the things that make you who you are. It is comprised of your body, mind, thoughts, emotions, desires–basically everything pertaining to you. When situations arise, self is the first one to react and sometimes the last one to let go. Even after the storm has calmed, our self is still not satisfied. Part of being at peace with self is being satisfied with what was and what is. It’s about having gratitude for life.

Taking care of self
A good friend of mine called me the other day and asked, “When’s the last time you did something just for your self?” I was like, “Ummmmm…” It’s so easy, especially during the hustle and bustle of the holidays to neglect self. We sometimes feel like “self” activities, like pampering, eating healthy, exercising or just doing things by yourself, are a waste of time. What we fail to realize is that when self is neglected, it will eventually begin to shut down. Your body will react with health issues, fatigue, skin and hair issues. Your mind and emotions will react with poor concentration, moodiness, depression and low self-esteem. Neglecting self will cause you to not be able to effectively care for the people who depend on you or execute the things you endeavor.

At peace
So, at the end of the day, when the festivities are over and you are alone with self, it’s important to release the good and the bad. It’s important to release and move on because tomorrow is a new day. In everything give thanks. Choose to be at peace.

Top Ways to Transition from the TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro) to Longer Hair


So you did it, “the big chop.” You were so proud of yourself for taking the big step. You rocked that sexy short cut with style and class. One day, you decide, “maybe I will try to grow my hair out.” Here’s where things start to become interesting. Your cute little fro doesn’t feel so cute anymore. It’s bushy and unkempt. It’s too long or too kinky to just put product in and wear a short curly fro and too short for elaborate styles. Listen, you don’t have to hid your hair under a wig until it grows out. Here are some of the top ways women deal with this difficult period.

1. Comb twists.
Let me start by saying that this is not a DIY hair style. You need either a good friend with some skills or about $50-$80 to go to the salon (though, I have done my own and they were just alright…I could still go out in public…lol). Comb twists are when you part the hair into small squares (or my personal favorite, diamonds). Then place a dab of twist gel on that section. Using the small end of a comb, twirl the comb until it forms a tight, coiled twist. Best results are achieved when you let the hair set under the dryer. This is a really neat and controlled style. It’s also a great way to start locs. In fact, that’s how I started mine back in the day when I had locs. This style can last about 3-4 weeks. Do not wash the hair, and tie it up with a scarf every night. Spray with a light oil mist or glosser for sheen as the hair starts to dry out.
2. Braids
These are cornrows after
my second “big chop”
My girl hooked me up.

At this transition stage, I prefer weave cornrows. Again, you are going to need about $50 or a hookup. Cornrows protect your hair from breakage and help to accelerate growth. Now, I’ll be honest, after about two weeks my scalp is itching so bad that I can’t take it anymore. You can wash your hair with the braids in or use herbal cleanser to refresh the scalp. Essential oil sprays work too, but realistically if your scalp is itching because it’s dirty you just need to clean it. I will say this again and again…DO NOT USE GREASE or OIL SHEEN. These products cause buildup and can make the itching worse. Box braids are also nice with weave (you can do them without weave depending on your level of comfort with short hair). I would advise stay away from micro-braids, especially once your hair gets longer. If you don’t take them out properly, they can cause breakage which is counterproductive to growing out your hair.

3. Sew-ins
If the thought of waiting a year before your hair finally grows out makes you cringe, then sew-ins are a great option. This is basically the same concept as the cornrows with similar benefits. With a sew-in, the hair is completely cornrowed and the weave tracks are sewn onto the cornrows It’s a great protective style. However, beware that if not done properly, sew-ins can also lead to pain and scalp damage from being sewn to tight. Breakage can also occur from keeping them in too long.
4. Acceptance.
Once you learn to accept your natural hair texture and length, you will find that there are a variety of non-weave styles that you can do. I personally embrace the afro. I wore them both shaped and unshaped when my hair was short and I still wear them now that my hair is longer. I’ve also been seeing women with finger twists which is similar to comb twist which are twisted with your fingers instead of a comb. Oh, and don’t forget, coloring the hair can also give you a funky, sexy look as well. I would suggest discussing your options with a stylist based on your unique texture.

What are some the styles you have tried during this period?

There Can Never Be a More Beautiful You

I heard this song on the radio on the way in to work this morning by Jonny Diaz. It made me think about my natural hair journey and life in general. It basically sums up the truth that I had to learn to accept about myself–that there can never be a more beautiful me. Hopefully, you know it too that there can never be a more beautiful you! Enjoy!

Share your response to this song or topic below!