Hair is very fascinating and representative of life. For instance, you know when people tell you to do you? That is what every single hair on your head does. It lives, thrives and does independent of its neighbour, sequestered in it’s own little world where it grows a quarter or half inch per month. More or less. Contrary to the belief that our hair has only three stages of growth, we have four.
The anagen phase
The growing phase of your hair lasts anything from four to seven years. This is an average so your hair in anagen phase could be as short as a year or as long as a decade. The older we become, the shorter our phases. Turns out that at any point in time, 88 per cent of our hair is in this phase.
The catagen phase:
Your hair is taking a moment to enjoy the growth. It is getting ready for the next phase following years of hard work. I told you hair is like a microscopic glimpse into being human. This is a very short phase, however, lasting all of four weeks to four months. Out of all the hairs on your head, only one per cent get to take this vacation.
The telogen phase:
This is the shedding phase that makes us panic the most. You know those hairs that run up inside your comb or through your fingers when you detangle? They were meant to go. They are part of the 11 per cent of hair shedding in their own time.
But if you pull your hair out of its follicles, it will be so traumatised it will only come out to play with the others after some four to five months.
The exogen phase
After shedding and before the growing phase, hair lies dormant. This period is designed to give your hair follicles rest before they can start growing again. The curious part about this stage is that it is optional, and our hair does not necessarily have to go through it. It lasts about five to six months.
This explains why we never actually lose all the hair on our head at exactly the same time, or sprout all of them at once. The cycle of life is replicated in our hair. And again I cannot emphasise this enough — every hair on your head is an individual with its own individual process.
Things that affect your hair, making it not grow are hormones. The perfect example is seen during pregnancy, where the hair goes through the anagen and catagen phase, but not the shedding phase — so it stays thick and voluminous. This is because pregnancy hormones literally block the telogen phase from happening. Once the baby comes, the hormonal tap is released and the post-partum hormones are let loose along with the shedding phase in a bang. Then hair comes off in handfuls. Hormonal issues are also a sign your body is dealing with something that you need to handle.
You have hit what is called terminal length. That is the ‘mostest’ length your hair will ever grow. This is a controversial idea because nearly every black hair blogger with kinky hair swears they have beat this terminal length, groomed past it and earned gorgeous hair. If you let your hair simply grow, do nothing to it, barely doing the barest minimum, which is said to explain locks and to an extent protective styling, your hair will come to rest at a certain length. And like a silly face when the wind blows, sometimes you might think where your current hair is, is permanently at the length where it is stuck. Not so. This is determined by genes.
The women in your family can answer that question for you. Or rather, the women in your family who have developed good hair practices.
To get past your imagined terminal length, do all those things bloggers say to do during your growing phase. Pump your hair with nutrients, whispers and love, then allow it the space to keep doing its own thing.
This article was first published in Daily Nation