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On BHI our mission to to teach women of color to grow long hair but ‘long’ means different things to different people. When we first begin our hair journeys, we have hopes and dreams of hair swinging in the wind lapping at our waists but is this even possible for all black women?
Before we get started, this graphic below shows different hair length terms.
Hair grows at a genetically pre-determined rate, the rate that you will often hear quoted is an average of 6 inches per year but in truth, the rate is 4-6 inches per year. It tends to be faster in Caucasians and Asians and slower in people of African descent, mine is only 4 inches per year.
A strand of hair can only grow for so long and this period (anagen phase) ranges depending on who you ask from 2 to 6 years with men having shorter anagen phases than women. Even though different strands may be at different stages in their cycle, about 85% of your hair will be in anagen phase at any one time. The anagen phase is clearly a big player when it comes to determining the length of hair.
So what is terminal length? Terminal length is the maximum length that a strand of hair can grow, if it never broke and was never cut, from when it sprouts out of your scalp until it eventually sheds. It’s a simple formula really, Terminal Length = Growth Rate x Length of Anagen Period.
There’s no denying that an individual’s growth rate and the length of anagen period is genetically predetermined and as such, so is the terminal length. That being said, its clear that majority of black women have never reached their terminal length. Even if you didn’t cut your hair, a certain amount of breakage is inevitable which makes true terminal length an elusive prospect for most of us.
So the question is, will you ever have long hair? Let’s do the math. Let’s put you right in the middle of the figures I have already quoted with a growth rate of 5 inches per year and an anagen period of 3 years. This would give you 15 inches of hair as your terminal length. With an average height woman in the USA being 5′ 4.6″ that would be close to waist length hair. Long? I think so!