If you’ve ever spent months—or years—growing out bangs or a pixie cut, then you know the struggle. On average, hair grows half an inch per month, or about six inches per year – but with curls, it can feel like a much slower process.
“Curly hair grows at the same rate as straight hair,” says Dr. Michelle Henry, board certified dermatologist and Clinical Instructor of Dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College. But, “The coils and curls keep the hair from growing straight down, giving the appearance of slower growing hair.” That’s why it can feel like gaining a few inches can take for-ev-er.
To grow long curly hair that’s as healthy as it is beautiful, you’ll need a game plan. Make your long hair #goals a reality with these tips from our curl experts.
1. Don’t cut your hair yourself — find a specialist.
None of my struggles is helped by the fact that I fancy myself an amateur — major emphasis on the word “amateur” — haircutter. Armed with those salon-style scissors you can pick up at the drugstore, I’ve hacked away at my hair for years. And for the most part, it’s looked okay to the layman.
Stylists, on the other hand, know something untoward has been going on. On the rare occasion I visit a salon, I know it’s just a matter of time before my stylist casually asks, “So, uh, who cuts your hair?” For the most part they kindly bite their tongue when I sheepishly tell them I do it myself, biting my own tongue before adding, “There’s a reason I’m using a Groupon right now!”
Money is just one part of the equation, though — I’ve found over the years that a lot of stylists, even the best of the best, just don’t know what to do with curly hair. Curls can’t be cut or styled the same way as straight hair, which is why stylists and beauty retailers specializing in spirals are a boon to people like me. If you’ve had trouble, check Yelp, search Google, and ask your curly-haired friends for recommendations so you can avoid getting a bad cut from someone who’s not sure how your particular texture works.
2. Find the right cut and style for you.
Unfortunately, there’s no universal cut that works on those of us with curls. Stylists have to take into account a number of variables, including an individual’s curl type, face shape, and (of course) personality. If you see a celeb with a similar hair texture and face shape to yours with a great cut, ask your stylist if it might work for you.
One thing pretty much every head of curls should have? “Layers!” says Lyvar, adding that they’re the best way to battle the dreaded “pyramid hair” that so many heads of curly hair are susceptible to.
3. Keep your hair healthy with proper styling.
As for styling, it’s important to avoid too much heat if you want healthy curls that grow long and strong. If you are going to blow dry your hair, a diffuser is key to keeping your curls’ shape. After washing your hair, squeeze it out and apply a leave-in conditioner or mousse. Twirl your hair into your desired shape, then pop it into the diffuser and let it dry.
4. Use the right products — and avoid the wrong ingredients.
The experts agree that curly girls should steer clear of sulfates, polymers, and parabens, all of which can both strip hair of its natural oils and lead to build-up at the follicle that can slow down growth.
The folks at DevaCurl recommend skipping shampoo all together, or at least opting for a low-lather cleanser. This method has gained steam over the past several years, with celebrities and normal folks alike touting it as their secret.
If you’re not ready to take the no-poo plunge, Desiree Verdejo, founder of Vivrant, suggests a clarifying shampoo — “a clean scalp is incredibly important” — alternated with a conditioning wash. A deep conditioner and a daily moisturizer, such as a light hair milk, are also important and will help keep curls hydrated.
Chadwick Pendley, Master Artistic Educator for Ouidad, is also quick to stress the importance of hydration. Try a deep conditioning mask to make your locks extra healthy.
5. Don’t forget your curl care at night.
While many women take the steps to achieve picture-perfect hair before they leave the house, they don’t focus enough on their bedtime haircare routine.
“Make sure hair is pulled back in a way that it’s not getting tangled while you sleep, whether it’s a high ponytail or a low ponytail or a braid,” advises Verdejo, adding that satin pillowcases or a satin bonnet are crucial to preventing breakage.
6. Be patient — and get trims!
Those of us with curls know all too well that even an inch or two can have a drastic effect on the apparent length of our hair because the shorter the hair, the less it weighs — and the tighter the spiral will be. However, regular trims are a necessary evil when growing out curls (and any hair, for that matter).
“One common mistake I see often is that women wait too long in between cuts, find themselves desperate, and end up cutting their length,” says Chadwick. “Maintaining regularly scheduled appointments helps to make the process less challenging and more enjoyable and all the while their hair looks fabulous through the entire grow out process.”
The takeaway? According to Lyvar, this is the lesson curly girls need to learn: “The best thing you can do is be patient.”
When it come down to it,Say it with us: Patience is a virtue.