How to grow kid's natural hair for beginners - PART 2 The Science of Black Hair

Hello and welcome to part two on our series on how to grow kids natural hair for beginners.

In part 1 we learnt about what it is that makes black hair unique. I would advise you to go back and read that if you haven’t already!

In this post we are going to learn more about the science of hair itself.

My aim with this series is to both EMPOWER and EDUCATE you to get the most out of your kid’s natural hair.

I’m a FIRM believer that knowledge is power and I want you to have a solid understanding of the science of Black hair first, because then you can build from there with the confidence that you KNOW and UNDERSTAND Black hair.

I want you to have the confidence that you KNOW how to care for your kid’s natural hair in a way that will result in it being long healthy and beautiful.

But it all starts with knowledge.

I just don’t see the point in telling you what to do without you understanding why you are doing it…

As you probably now know I am pretty much obsessed with my daughter’s hair!

For me personally it was really important that she have healthy happy hair that she could bond positively with from a young age.

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I wanted her to love and accept her hair as soon as she possibly could and started her on a healthy hair regime from birth pretty much, the results of which led me to writing my number 1 bestselling book “A Parent’s Guide to Natural Hair Care for Girls” and starting this blog due to all the questions I would get from curious mums like you asking me how I grew her hair so long.

My only aim is to empower as many women as possible to give their kids beautiful natural hair, so share this blog post and images where you can!

For me it was important that my daughter not only have beautiful and healthy hair, one of my primary objectives was for her to have long hair as well which comes from my own personal experience of having very short hair as a child.

As a kid, I was the girl with the short hair….come on, you know who I am talking about. That girl, you know the one who’s hair just never seems to get any longer. Yea, that was me.

But compounded with the fact that it was permanently short, it was also dry and brittle (it was NOT a good look) and my self-confidence and self-esteem suffered because of it.

You see back when I was a kid there just wasn’t the access to information (like this blog) that there is today and most mums simply didn’t understand Black hair enough back then to give it what it really needed to grow, thrive and be healthy

And without the correct information it’s not possible to get the best results.

You see, I didn’t have a hair growth problem or bad hair, my issue was that due to its condition my hair broke almost constantly, so any new growth would have broken off before it would have been noticed. I suffered from poor length retention which I explained in the previous post.

 

My main aim with my daughter was for her to not have to go through the same negative hair relationship that I went through as a child because it was painful, but not only that, it was also unnecessary.

It's not some rite of passage all Black girls have to go through. It’s completely unavoidable, if you know how to avoid it that is!

All I want for my daughter is for her to feel positive about herself as a Black girl and I know her relationship with her hair will play a vital key role.

This post is aimed at helping you understand about what hair is, how it grows and what this means for your kid.

 

Lets get to it!

1) What is hair, anyway?

Hair is primarily composed of a protein called keratin and grows through the dermis (skin) from follicles beneath the scalp.

It has two parts to it: the root (the part beneath the skin at the base of the follicle) and the shaft (the part you can touch and style).

The base of the root is known as the hair bulb, which is where the hair receives nutrients from the blood stream and where new hair cells are created.

 

2) What is the structure of hair?

 If we were to dissect a strand of hair, we would see that it’s made up of 3 distinct layers: the cuticle, cortex and medulla.

 

The medulla

This is the innermost part of the hair shaft and is constructed of transparent cells and air spaces. It’s only present in large, thick and grey/white hair. Scientists are uncertain as to its exact function.

 

The cortex

This is the middle layer of the hair strand, between the medulla and cuticle, and forms the main bulk of the hair. It also contains a majority of the hair’s pigment melanin. It primarily consists of long keratin filaments held together by disulphide and hydrogen bonds. The health of the cortex depends heavily on the integrity of the hair’s cuticle.

 

The cuticle

The cuticle is the protective outer layer of hair and consists of overlapping cells similar in pattern to fish scales, which face downwards towards the ends of the hair. These cells control the amount of water in and out of the cortex and determine the hair’s porosity. When healthy, the cuticle protects the inner layers of hair from damage and gives it shine. If damaged, it leaves the hair vulnerable to splits, tears and breakage.

 

 

3) How does hair grow?

The hair bulb (the base of the follicle) can be described as a structure of actively growing cells that are constantly dividing.

When this happens, the existing older cells are pushed outwards and harden. This, in turn, lengthens the strand and contributes to hair growth.

The process by which the hair passes from the follicle and through the skin is called keratinization, which is essentially where the hair cells die, lose their nucleus, harden and are filled with proteins.

 

4) What is the human hair growth cycle?

The human hair growth cycle

The hair growth cycle consists of 3 distinct phases, the anagen (growth) phase, the catagen (rest) phase and the telegen (shed) phase.

 Anagen/Growth phase

The growth phase is a stage in the hair cycle where a hair is consistently growing. At any one time an average of 88% of individual hairs on our head are in the anagen phase.

Catagen/Rest phase

At the end of the anagen phase, the follicle will go into a rest phase, where it will stop growing. This period lasts about 2 weeks.

Telegen/Shed phase

This is the final stage in the growth journey, and it’s the point at which resting hair begins to shed. The follicle then remains inactive for about 3 months, until the whole process begins again.

It’s important to note that each hair on our head operates independently and goes through the cycle at different times; otherwise we would go completely bald in the shed phase! Instead, an adult will normally shed between 80–100 hairs a day although children shed less.

 

5) How long can hair grow to?

Terminal length can be described as the maximum length hair can grow to, and it’s determined by genetics.

You see, every one of us has a maximum length that the hair can grow to.

BUT I WANT YOU TO GRASP SOMETHING RIGHT NOW BEFORE WE GO ANY FURTHER.

Because I know that by now some of you may be thinking that maybe black people are genetically predisposed to having shorter hair.

THIS IS NOT THE CASE.

The human hair growth phase can last anywhere between 2–7 years, regardless of race.

Lets put this into more context shall we?

The average person will grow 6” of hair per year or .5” per month and this again is regardless of race.

So if this person is yourself or your daughter, and your hair grows at the average rate of 0.5” per month you have the shortest hair growth phase at 2 years, then you can grow at least 12” of hair.

Of course, this is oversimplified, because it doesn’t take into account factors such as breakage or haircuts, but hopefully it illustrates the point of hair growth potential.

The growth phase can be anything from 2–7 years, so my above example is for someone with the shortest phase. Some people have growth phases of up to 7 years and can grow seriously long hair.

And NO, Black people don’t genetically have the shortest growth phase, it is determined individually by GENETICS, and not be race alone.

At least 12” inches

It’s a myth to think that black people cannot grow long hair!

I consider 12” to be a decent length myself, and the good news is that it should be the bare minimum that is achievable for anyone, regardless of race.

No more excuses

It’s important for us as mums to get our heads around this one, but I will actually take it one step further.

It’s important to learn the facts, accept them and take responsibility, and not use excuses to pardon yourself from not trying with your daughter’s hair.

If you have a young child, then you are the caregiver. If for any reason the hair seems to be suffering, then you will need to stop, pay attention and figure out what is going wrong so you can correct it. Strong talk, I know, but I say it with love!

 

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Comment below and let me know what issues YOU are facing with your own or your child's natural hair!

 

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