Terminal Length – How Long Can Your Hair Actually Grow?

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 lengths from neck length to tail bone length

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!

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15 Ways To Get Longer Healthier Hair


About Alma

Hi! I'm Alma Ruddock, a full time blogger. I stumbled on a hair care forum in 2008 frustrated with my breaking relaxed hair and the information that I found there changed the fate of my hair forever!. I started BlackHairInformation.com as a way to help both myself and other women of color achieve their dreams of long healthy hair. I have now achieved my goal length and I continue to bring new information about hair on both this website and my personal blog.


  1. 1

    It’s been 3 years since I started my hhj and I just got to BSL. I still think I have a few more inches in me so my ultimate goal has been changed from waist length to mid back length.

  2. 2

    I really hope that I get to at least BSL. I can live with that.

  3. 3
    Robyn Kleinhans says:

    Right now I’m praying that I get 6 inches a year with a four year anagen phase!!! That would be freaking awesome!

  4. 4

    You will get there chick, dedication and patience!

  5. 5

    Hi Alma, I love your site. It has been a major factor in my HHJ. I was very intrigued with the article on “Terminal Length” it was extremely helpful and very informative. But…I have a question looming in my head that i can’t seem to find an answer for and that question is ….since your genetics have predetermined your “terminal length” if you’re doing something that enhances your growth, such as the GHE. Does that mean that you’ll reach that length sooner or is it possible to say you’d attain more length, because of your anagen period which is also a genetic predisposition ????? Inquiring minds want to know (((that means me lol))) My gene pool has such variation, on my mom’s side it’s waist length and on my dad’s side it’s shoulder length..where does that leave me ??? We shall soon see !!!

    • 6

      Glad I could help Adrienne! Interesting question. I suppose it depends on what you do to affect the growth in the first place. Hair pills work by increasing the length of time that your follicles remains in anagen phase as well as increasing growth during that period leading to longer hair. So with tablets, your hair will want to continue to grow a bit longer before shedding.

      Techniques like GHE on the other hand affect just the growth rate so I would imagine (can’t find anything conclusive) that you it would in fact get you to terminal length faster. It’s the same with most topical growth aids too. You will notice in the hair forums people who start using mega tek or other topical growth aids have accelerated shedding along with the accelerated growth (hair cycle is just faster). Some of them start using garlic poos etc to reduce the shedding, essentially trying to force the follicle to remain in anagen phase but I can’t say for sure if this works or if just leaves the hair in suspended catagen phase (not growing but not falling out either!).

      I guess the best way to look at it would to be to say that hair growth pills (depending on brand) will grow your hair LONGER while topical treatments (GHE, mega tek etc) will grow your hair FASTER.

  6. 7

    ampit length

  7. 8

    I`m going for tail bone length….

  8. 9

    mid-back lengh

  9. 10

    Shoulder length

  10. 11

    Hip length is my goal

  11. 12

    Bra strap length to start off with

  12. 13

    I’m good with armpit length, anything more I can’t handle.

  13. 14

    Im mid back bit hoping for waist or tail bone. Have to keep it healthy!!!!

  14. 18

    Mine doesn’t past my collar bone…All it does is break of after that..

  15. 19

    I’m perfectly satisfied with whatever length it gets to its maximum healthy length..♡

  16. 20

    Im abt 2 inches past arm pit length..

  17. 21

    My natural hair is currently armpit length, but I’d like it to be mid back length when wet. (That is how I tell my approximate straightened length.)

  18. 22

    I just wish all my hair was even the same LENGTH! No matter what I do, it doesn’t seem to want to grow out. The top half grows, but the bottom doesn’t. My sides continue to break off and not grow. I’m staying to think I should just shave my head! :(

  19. 23

    I ain’t nowhere near 5ft4 so 15in of hair would never be waist length on me.

  20. 24

    I’m armpit length

  21. 25

    I’m already waist length, hopefully I’ll be tailbone later on this year, early next year.

  22. 26

    My goal right now, armpit length. I’m at shoulder length now. One goal length at a time. Lol

  23. 27

    Tail Bone Length right now it is Bra Strap Length

  24. 28

    Trying to get tail bone length but I’m almost at the shoulder! Lol

  25. 29

    This obsession with long hair is ridiculous. Who cares, healthy hair should be the goal.

  26. 33

    I’m at shoulder length

  27. 34

    It’s nothing wrong with wanting to have long hair.

  28. 35

    My goal is armpit lenght.. If I can achieve bra strap lenght then that’s great.. But my main goal is being healthy overall and with that mindset, I know I will achieve my goal! :)

  29. 36

    Smh how about who cares!!! what length you have. Ain’t gonna make our race any more accepted then we are now! Put more energy into our childs education n moving our community farther!

  30. 38

    Shai Pruitt I’m a gone head and try for that ankle length lol

  31. 39

    I’m at bra strap length but I don’t have a length goal. It’s just growing on it’s own and I only trim my ends.

  32. 40

    Certain styles require certain lengths, so I see why people have length goals. When I first started, I wanted to be able to wear a side ponytail that would lay on my shoulder and not be stiff stick straight up in the air! But I also agree that healthy hair should be the main focus…

  33. 41

    Im a little past shoulder length in a straightened state I want to be shoulder length in my natural state .

  34. 42

    My goal is HEALTH

  35. 43

    I’m currently at neck when straightened. I want armpit length to be where I stop. Anything below that is too long for me,

  36. 44

    I have bra length and my 4 year old has tail bone

  37. 45

    My goal is to get from neck to armit hair length! I can’t stand short hair!!!!!

  38. 46

    Im shoulder length but my goal is to be bra strap length

  39. 47

    Mine is neck line now, I want shoulder length!!!

  40. 48

    Neck length right now. Ready for shoulder

  41. 49

    I used to care about length but all I’m wanting is healthy hair. If it grows long cool. If it doesn’t oh well. I’ll still love it anyway!

  42. 50

    How about toe length. Lol

  43. 51

    I have been at arm pit length. I am seriously aiming for bra strap.

  44. 52

    My goal is waist length :) Im Chin length noww

  45. 53

    I’m 2 inches passed tail bone length =)

  46. 54

    My goal is waist length

  47. 55

    U forgot ear length…lol

  48. 56


  49. 57

    waist but i cut it all off :'( and im missing it

  50. 58

    I’m currently working towards armpit length, I have the shoulders covered :)

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