comments 12

Things I Covet: Length

This conversation, my friends, is on something that plagues curly-haired people everywhere: shrinkage! No, this isn’t referring to something in the bedroom; I’m talking about the length of my hair not really showing the true length of my hair. I’ve been growing it for just over a year now, and while the inches have definitely been adding to each other, my hair has been doing this wonderfully tricky thing. For any of you super curlies out there – you know what I’m talking about. It’s still at the stage where it’s growing out rather than growing down. What the hell, right? It makes it really difficult to maintain long hair inspiration (hairspiration?). I constantly amaze straight-haired friends by flaunting the fact that my hair is just about at nipple length (I could almost do a cool boudoir-style photo shoot with straight-hair coverage [sorry, Dad!]), but it bounces up to near my chin. Sometimes, it’s not in the cool, afro-esque way, either – no! It does a Sideshow Bob kind of thing. Absolutey darling.

What's that? You think my hair could't be longer than my shoulders? Well, aren't you cute.

What’s that? You think my hair could’t be longer than my shoulders? Well, aren’t you cute.

Awww yeah. Check me out.

Awww yeah. Check me out.

Now, when I was younger, I used to envision what I like to call ‘mermaid hair’ – a beautiful, flowing, loose curl that wafted down near my lower back – always stylish, always romantic-looking, and always easy to manage. You know, like a mermaid (get it? Mermaid hair?). Flash forward to my present reality: curly, sometimes wiry, 3b/3c hair that, although I love it dearly, does not always produce the most satisfying results, length-wise. So, what’s a girl to do?

Grow, damn you! GROW!

Grow, damn you! GROW!

My current way to push through this (perhaps another year long) block of limited appearance of growth lies in my ‘Curl’ Pinterest board. Crazy, right? But hear me out — I try to find women with hair similar to mine, for starters. There’s no point in salivating over a hair type that I will most likely never have (I’m looking at you, Solange Knowles, with your amazing afro). I need to see length retention in ladies who are similar to me. It gives me a much clearer goal, and acts as inspiration to keep going with my hair care journey. What about you, friends? How do you avoid chopping all your hair off in a Britney-esque display of insanity? What makes you push through?



  1. Once upon a time I chopped 11 inches off my hair out of boredom/need for change. It’s been 3 years and my hair is STILL not back to the pre-chop length. *grumble* I feel ya on the shrinkage!

    And I’ve always wanted hair down to the middle of my back too. It’s not fair.

  2. Thaïs

    Lately, since it’s so hot and humid in the summer, I’ve been braiding my freshly washed and conditioned hair into two French braids. While it’s still wet, I put some leave-in and coconut oil in it, and braid it fairly tight. I’ll leave it like that for 2-3 days at a time, rebraiding each day. It really helps with hair growth because your hair being gently pulled at the scalp, and all your ends are super moisurized and protected.

  3. I hear you on shrinkage!
    For the “mermaid hair” look, have you ever tried washing your hair at night, adding some product, braiding into maybe 4-6 braids and then sleeping on it while it dries overnight? You will definitely lose some of the definition of the curls, but it will add length as the braids pull your hair down, and give the curl a more relaxed and “beachy” look when you undo them the next morning.

    • Jess A

      I could try this — my hair is so curly I’m not sure how it would react, but it would be interesting to give it a go. It’s funny, but at this point, I think I’d start to really miss the volume! Maybe I should focus less on mermaid hair, more on afro achievement….

  4. You have really tight curls so shrinkage will be an issue but I love them. They’re so bouncy and healthy looking. Mine used to be like this before I destroyed them with bleach and hair dye. Now they are more of an s shape rather than loopy. But just make sure you buy products that stress ‘no shrinkage’ on them. A lot of curly hair products shrink your hair unfortunately so just look for the ones that don’t. What do you use to style your hair now?

  5. Oh man, you are certainly speaking my language, too! I have always wanted long hair. What I usually end up with is just more coil than curl. The curl definition becomes fantastic, but it doesn’t show the length.

    I have talked to many hairdressers about this, and they all recommend the same thing: have the curls relaxed if you want to show the length. This will give you something closer to the mermaid curls. I don’t know a ton about this, and I have never tried it, but it sounds kind of like a perm to loosen the curls.

    I also find that when you are at that in-between stage between wet and dry, when your conditioner and product hasn’t finished setting for the day, that you can carefully pull your curls out and down. You have to twist (or uncurl) the curl slightly as you pull down. Especially over time, they will loosen a little when they are originally set in the morning.

    The downside of this: It flattens out your hair, which means you lose some of the wonderful fullness of the curls. Instead of that big curly circle, you can produce a little bit of the dreaded triangle head, or just generally lose body in favour of length.

    • Jess A

      Thanks for checking out this post, Em! I feel like you and I have very similar curl type, so I was particularly interested to read this response. It’s such a tricky balance between the volume and length…I think I’m reaching the stage where I prefer big hair anyways. The relaxing scares me, because it involves chemicals…a lot of girls, especially in the black hair community, use relaxers and the girls refer to it as ‘creamy crack’ – chemicals that can actually leave burns on your scalp and cause hair to break and become brittle. I’m not sure if what your hairdressers were referring to is similar to this or not, but I think I’d be pretty wary of anyone trying to chemically change the structure of my curl.

      Have you tried stretching it out? I feel like it could also take a long time. I’ve never heard of anything like it before! Also, have you been to fairly good hairdressers? None in Peterborough seem to be Curly Girl trained so I’ve taken to trimming my own hair with some lovely shears I picked up.

      • Jess:

        I am always super wary of losing the shape and body of my hair in favour of length. Especially now in Halifax, sometimes my hair doesn’t perk up, but flattens out. The curls stay coiled (rather tightly in the rain!), but they need to be massaged out to keep the overall shape I want. I end up with a flattened shape and super tight coils. In that situation, the hair does end up longer, but it isn’t worth it.

        When I really want to encourage the length, all I have really done is carefully pull on the curls, (twist and down) to encourage a slightly looser curl when it sets. I also avoid using shampoo more than once a week, and always use a leave-in conditioner and some other product (Aveda when I can afford it, Morrocan oil brand cream when I can’t) when it is wet. As it sets, fullness is usually the most important thing for me, so I am more likely to scrunch up then to pull down, but with the right cut you could work toward it.

        I haven’t lived in Ptbo for awhile now, but I did have an excellent stylist in Lakefield who was also a curly girl. She OFTEN wore her hair straight, which I rarely do, but she still knew enough about how to maintain curls. Her name is Denise, and you can see a photo of her (and her similar curl type!) here: It might be worth having a chat with her. She doesn’t seem to specialize specifically in curls, but because she is a curly, we could always talk about her own routines and the looks we both wanted.

        The main reason I have never tried the relaxing option is fear of messing up a good thing. I am terrified to lose the curls, because I am usually pretty happy with them. I would definitely agree with you: not likely worth it. Also, I would not suggest a move to Halifax, though it will also help with length 🙂

  6. sch100

    I couldn’t agree more! When mine gets very long it tends to pull my curls out as well but not in the good ‘mermaid hair’ way that you suggest! The trials and tribulations of curly hair…

    • Jess A

      Oh, mine doesn’t seem to stretch at all…it actually seems to get curlier and more ringlet-y the longer it is (not that anyone can tell how long it is!). What’s the longest you’ve grown yours?

      • sch100

        I have grown it to below my bra line before but the upkeep was horrendous. It look so long to dry and style so I would rarely have the opportunity to wear it down. How about you?

      • Jess A

        Right now when it’s straight it’s around my bra line but you can see how it bounces up. I’d say this is the longest I’ve had it since high school, when straight it was over halfway down my back. It was all one length then and the curl was a bit different. It has never looked long, unfortunately.

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