Growth and Terminal Length


If you watch YouTube videos and view Instagram photos, you will see your favorite vloggers displaying their amazing tresses. Many people attribute their hair growth to genetics.  You may wonder if it is possible for you to achieve such lengths with your hair.



Isn’t growth genetic?

Some may believe they are destined to have short hair forever, because long hair simply isn’t in their DNA.  Well first you have to examine the growth pattern of hair and the rate in which Afro-textured hair grows.  The truth is, unless there is an underlining medical condition, everyone’s hair grows.  Think back to the days you had relaxed hair, every six to eight weeks you would need a retouch because of the new growth.  The main reason many of us experienced a limit in hair length was due to the lack of length retention.  We now know that avoiding chemicals, protective styling, trimming off damaged ends and moisturizing, are the best ways to retain length.

So why is it that some of us are still at armpit length when others seem to reach BSL (bra strap length) in the same amount of time?

Terminal Length

A hair follicle grows for a certain number of years before falling out to make room for the new strand of hair.  This is called the anagen phase.  Terminal length is the number of years a hair strand grows before falling out.  This can range from 2 to 6 years on average.  Hair typically grows ½ inch a month.  This is the average rate, so for some it may be a little more or a little less than that.  The rate is usually higher in Asians and Caucasians, average or slightly below average for people of African descent.  The monthly growing rate and the number of years your strands grow for is determined greatly by genetics.  General health and environmental factors also have an influence.

Hair growth-cycle

Hair growth-cycle

The terminal length is the length that any strand can reach without being cut or broken off.  Once it sheds it is replaced and pushed out by the new strand.  This happens with every strand on the head continuously over a person’s lifetime.  So with a 2 -6 year cycle of growth, a person’s length will be affected by the length of time each strand grows for, on average.  Having the shortest growth phrase of 2 years does not mean that a person is limited to having short hair.  Even with a two-year growth rate, a woman’s hair can reach 12 inches in length.  12 inches on average would equate to BSL.  Women with longer growth cycles can usually reach waist length.

Does it really exist?

Terminal length is not a myth because nobody to my knowledge has eyebrows long enough to braid.  The hair on our head has the longest growth rate.  Author Audrey Davis-Sivasothy believes with 99.9% certainty that shoulder length and APL (armpit length) are hardly anyone’s terminal length, as two years growth equates to 12 inches.  So after going natural, do not get discouraged because you haven’t reached BSL in two years.  Your growth rate may differ and may simply take longer to reach this length.  This doesn’t mean that your genetics is preventing you from having long hair.  Just be patient and continue to care thoroughly for your hair.  Enjoy your hair regardless of its length.


Achieving terminal length

To achieve your terminal length, consider your hair care practices.  I know that relaxers and the over use of heat, prevented me from achieving my terminal length.  The incorporation of protective/low manipulation styling helped my hair push beyond the point it had reached previously.  I  had to learn from past mistakes in my regimen.  For many of us, it may have been bad hair care practice that stunted our progress in length retention.  You may have been natural for 5 years but have only just begun to see real progress over the last two years, because you have improved your hair care practice.


3 responses »

  1. Yes I agree. Once we learn how to properly care for our hair and avoid harmful chemicals, there is no reason why long hair (albeit varying degrees of length) wouldn’t be attainable. Thanks😊


  2. I have to agree with your sentiments here. I always tell people to ignore terminal length when I’m giving them hair care advice because it’s the things that we can control that will determine how much hair we grow.


  3. Pingback: Manage your hair expectations | Get your Sizzelle on!

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