Home Beauty Want to Know How I Grew My Long Hair? Tips Inside!

Want to Know How I Grew My Long Hair? Tips Inside!

by Erika Nicole Kendall
this was taken just a couple weeks ago!

I get lots of questions about my hair. I’ve been natural since 2009 and, when stretched, my hair reaches down past my waist. If I were to straighten it at this point, I’m convinced it would take me two days to get through it. Jeez.

this was taken just a couple weeks ago! this was taken just a couple weeks ago![/caption]

But I am constantly fielding questions about my hair, and I don’t mind! I realize that, when I wear my hair out, it’s essentially me broadcasting myself as a pro-natural, an ambassador for kinks and coils, of sorts. If nothing else, I’ve got a good grasp of what it means to grow thick and healthy hair.

Don’t ask me how I style it, though. I’m Team #LazyNaturals. And I for damn sure am not sleeping in bantu knots just to get a curly fro in the morning. I need my sleep more than I need that cute curl.

I wanted to compile a blog post with answers to the most common questions I get about my hair, so that I would have one clear place to direct people who want to know about my fro. Nothing fancy, nothing spectacular, just all the insight I have to share about healthy hair, in hopes that yours can be poppin’, too!

(One day, I’ll get Ed to take a fancy pants photo of me to put in this blog post, so that I can have something other than selfies to share!)

1) What are you doing to that hair?

Honestly, it’s more about what I’m not doing to it. I never style my hair when it’s dry. I mean, never. I also don’t straighten it or use a blow dryer on it, instead opting for towel drying it when necessary. My hair is not very porous and most of the water literally just sits on the outside of my strands, so a few swipes of the towel and I’m good. I am careful and strategic with detangling—first doing it with my fingers, then with my paddle brush. I have no use for a comb and haven’t used one on myself in years, opting to part my hair with my fingers instead.

These two options right here, reducing heat and careful detangling and combing, are enough to stop a good third of all breakage. I rarely have split ends, though I do get a bit of knotting at my ends, but a trim once or twice a year takes care of that for me.

baby sprout and i

baby sprout and i

2) How often do you wash it?

I usually rinse my hair at least 3 times a week, just about every other day, and I towel dry when I do. When I’m not holed up at home with the little one, it can go up to as much as five times a week, and that’s really ideal for me—I have hair that isn’t very porous at all, so regular rinses are good for me. I shampoo maybe 3-5 times a month, though—I don’t use a lot of products in my hair, and I keep the random styling to a minimum, so there’s little point in using a gang of shampoo so often. What’s more, shampoos often just wind up caking more mess onto my hair that I really don’t need. No thanks.

Also, I mix an empty spray bottle with 3 parts water to one part apple cider vinegar and spray my hair with it to remove any caked up stuff. It works as a natural clarifying mixture, and my hair not only feels soft but is more able to absorb moisture afterwards to help it stay soft. I do that once every couple of months or so, or whenever my hair starts looking dry even after it as properly moisturized. That’s a pretty good sign than I’ve got residue from all the moisturizing stuff, so the vinegar helps to rinse it all off.

3) What are you using in it?

When I’m at the gym, I’m using Kiehl’s Coconut Oil shampoo and Formula 109 conditioner. That’s the stuff my gym offers, and it’s free.

Remember, I’m cheap. Also? It’s damned good stuff.

When I’m at home, I use the Shea Moisture Coconut and Hibiscus shampoo that I copped from Walgreens when it was buy one get one free. I also use their Castor Oil leave in conditioner to style my hair after I rinse it.

I also have a homemade hair “grease” that’s fairly similar to Carol’s Daughter’s Mimosa Hair Honey that I use for my scalp and ends whenever I twist or braid it. And, when I’m out of that because everyone in my household has natural hair (or a huge beard that uses about as much of my stuff as I do), I just go with regular ol’ coconut oil.

my husband has a habit of saying ridiculous things before i snap a photo, so that my face looks crazy in the shot. much like how he did, here.

my husband has a habit of saying ridiculous things before i snap a photo, so that my face looks crazy in the shot while he’s looking all angelic. much like how he did, here.

When it comes to keeping my hair moisturized, I generally stick to one rule: Rinse with a liquid, douse with conditioner, complete with a bit of oil. Regardless of the brand, if I stick to that system, I tend to do alright.

4) How do you wear it to work out?sprout and i, hitting the road

It depends on the workout. If I’m practicing yoga, I wear it in two braids on the sides of my head (like pictured above), or in twists that I pin to my scalp to keep it out of the way. I don’t want buns or knots to interfere with me being able to focus 100% on any part of my practice or cause pain while I’m in the middle of something.

Post-workout face. #butigotitdonetho #bgg2wlarmy #scalefreefall #blackgirlsrun #fitfluential

A photo posted by Erika Nicole Kendall (@bgg2wl) on

If I’m running, I’m all about the topknot. I’m lazy, and I’m likely going to be washing it shortly after that, so I just put it in a sloppy knot with a headband wrapped around my edges with a little bit of coconut or castor oil.

If I’m lifting, I just make sure it’s up on top of my head and out of the way.

The overall point here, is to ensure that there’s no interference with my workout. The more out of the way I can put my hair, the better.

5) Do you protective style?

I guess it depends on how you define “protective style.” Do I wear weaves or wigs? No. I don’t have the patience to sit to get them done, nor do I have the patience to deal with hair that high maintenance. Do I wear braids with fake hair? No. Again, patience. I considered getting boxed braids with silver tips when I was pregnant, but then I remembered that’d be more high maintenance than I already am, and decided against it.

mommy and baby serious faces

mommy and baby serious faces

I do wear my top bun, but I’m likely to stop doing that now because Baby Sprout has this uncanny habit of rubbing my forehead and hairline, and it’s screwing with my edges. I can’t have that. It’s bad enough that my eyebrows are so messed up from overtweezing in my 20s. I can’t be out here with wild eyebrows and edgeless.

I wouldn’t wear any style that would prevent me from washing my hair often. I also wouldn’t wear a hairstyle that resulted in constant and consistent pulling and tugging on my hair. I absolutely wouldn’t wear any hairstyle that did both.

Everything I do my hair is designed to be able to be undone in 10 minutes or less, preferably in the shower because—remember?—I don’t mess with my hair when it’s dry.

6) What is your secret?

Collard greens and avocado and water. No, seriously.

I know that lots of women swear by supplements and special sulfur compounds and eye of newt and chicken blood to make their hair grow, but here’s the thing: all of the things your body needs to produce healthy hair (and, healthy skin and nails, too) are found in collard greens, which are quite possibly nature’s most nourishing food. (So, the next time y’all throw shade at your Meemaw’s pot of collard greens and hamhock, remember: in that pot is everything you’ve ever needed to thrive.)

I talked about this in my blog post about loose skin, but the vitamins that contribute to healthy blood flow and healthy hair, skin, and nail growth—vitamins A, E, and K—are available in abundance in dark and leafy green vegetables like greens (collard, mustard, turnip, and beet greens), broccoli, kale, and spinach. Those vitamins are best absorbed when consumed with dietary fat, so adding different fat sources like avocado, peanut butter or any kind of oil like peanut, sesame, or olive is your best bet.

post-spin class!

post-spin class!

Why is water important? Nutrients are likely not getting through your body the way they should if you’re not drinking enough water. I know it’s important for numerous reasons outside of merely hair, but if your goal is to grow your hair out healthily and reduce damage, hydration counts.

There are women who’ve experienced great rewards from taking supplements, but there aren’t any supplements that will offer the kind and quality of nutrients that a proper diet can. Real talk.

7) Did you experience any shedding after you stopped taking your pre-natal vitamins?

Yes, but it was minor. Often, what happens is the sudden drop off of nutrients in the body results in mass breakage and shedding, so finding other ways to get those nutrients and keep them in your daily diet makes a positive difference. I slowly reduced the number of pills I took each day—my particular pre-natal pill was a 3-times-a-day one—and increased the amount of dark and leafy greens I ate each time. Because I make sure to incorporate greens in every day, this was pretty easy for me.

The things that make the largest difference to my hair growth?

  1. drink lots of water regularly
  2. dark-and-leafy greens
  3. lots of guacamole—okay, maybe not guac, but healthy dietary fats
  4. rinse hair thoroughly often
  5. keep hair moisturized often
  6. skip as many tightly-pulling hair styles as possible
  7. paddle brush and finger-combing
  8. careful detangling
  9. don’t mess with it when it’s dry
  10. don’t really mess with it at all

Eat your veggies and leave your hair alone, and watch—it’ll grow like roses!

Ask me questions! If I missed anything, let me know and I’ll include it!

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26 comments

Chantelle June 30, 2016 - 3:20 PM

When you say you rinse your hair, does that mean water only? Or is that with a conditioner or another product?

Erika Nicole Kendall June 30, 2016 - 4:53 PM

Water only, no co-washing. If I put conditioner in my hair, I’m leaving it in.

Sara June 30, 2016 - 3:36 PM

Hi Erika, I think your hair is absolutely beautiful. When you say you rinse it, what exactly are you doing afterward for styling? Do you simply wash and go, even when it was shorter?

Erika Nicole Kendall June 30, 2016 - 4:53 PM

I often wash and go, or I put it up in a bun, or braid it the way you see in the photo. It largely depends on the weather. I’ve always been this way, too.

Reesa Carr June 30, 2016 - 3:43 PM

You hair looks, amazing! I can’t take care of my natural hai . I just don’t have it one thing I can’t do. Any who I have a wave nouveau and finally my hair is growning. Its the only way I know how to take care of it. My sisters did great but I got skipped lol.

Udeme June 30, 2016 - 4:02 PM

Love the tips. And lol @ eye of newt and chicken blood to make hair grow! Your hair looks great.

Tabitha June 30, 2016 - 5:03 PM

Yea so my comments would be slightly pointless since i fell fully off the weight loss and healthy lifestyle lol. But i found out that i have non scarring alopeia on my scalp. They habe given me some medicine to help woth growth and inflammation on my scalp. So hopefully i can get my thick hair back.

On the other note….yea weight loss failure but i at least know partially why its a constant struggle i have to care andbe consistent about it

Tabitha June 30, 2016 - 5:10 PM

So lol you do not put food in your hair?

Erika Nicole Kendall July 1, 2016 - 1:16 PM

LOL No, ma’am.

Lisa B June 30, 2016 - 5:32 PM

I sooo needed to read this today! I’m trying to decide if I want to grow my hair out again to the length it was (shoulder blades) before I went to a buzz cut. I went to the “best” natural hair salon in the city for a consultation, but I was disappointed that the stylist kept pushing protective styles that include weaving in hair. She didn’t ask about my hair’s current condition although I showed her a year’s worth of pictures showing my progression from a blonde buzz to a red TWA to my current black Afro. She never even touched my hair!

I went ahead and made an appointment, but now I’m going to cancel it. I’ll keep going to the barbershop for trims ($15) and do the rest myself (I’m a little thrifty, too). I pop on wigs sometimes for fun and because I’m an entertainer/model, but I’m not going to pay $85> for a “protective” style that’s not good for my hair, takes up too much of my time, gets in the way of my workouts, and might last two weeks. Nope; can’t do it!

Amaka June 30, 2016 - 10:32 PM

I have locs so my situation is different but this clarifying spray is intriguing. Are you spraying then rinsing? Washing? Rocking acv hair? I need to get a better plan going for clarifying

Erika Nicole Kendall July 1, 2016 - 1:16 PM

I spray, let it sit for a half hour or so, then rinse! The smell of rocking ACV hair would be crazy, and I’d hate to have it drip in my hair while I’m working out!

Amaka July 1, 2016 - 8:31 PM

Lol yes. I thought it was a rinse or wash. Can’t smell like salad all day. So you rinse and that’s it? Moisturizer or leave in after?

Erika Nicole Kendall July 5, 2016 - 9:02 PM

I spray it on my hair and leave it on for a half hour or so, then rinse it out in the shower then go on with my shampoo/moisturizer routine.

Candice July 1, 2016 - 4:31 AM

Can you recommend natural products for babys hair..my son is 11 months old and his hair stays dry, I am a believed in coconut oil but it seems like his hair drinks it and is dry within minutes.

Erika Nicole Kendall July 1, 2016 - 1:19 PM

That Mimosa Hair Honey? If his hair is like mine (and my son’s), that’s golden.

aquilah July 14, 2016 - 4:57 PM

hey so you said you have a homemade version of the mimosa hair honey. care to share its ingredients???
im glad i read this ive been natural since 2011 and it seems my hair one growth sprout which was when i absolutely nothing to it. im going back to that as soon as i uninstall these faux locs!!
thank you

Erika Nicole Kendall July 17, 2016 - 11:40 AM

I intend to share it soon, I promise. <3

Tabitha Talon July 21, 2016 - 8:53 AM

Is there a such thing of eating too much leafy greens?

Erika Nicole Kendall July 21, 2016 - 9:58 AM

There is, but because dark and leafy greens are so filling because of the protein and fiber, you’re likely to become nauseous before you reach that point.

Tabitha Talon July 21, 2016 - 10:11 AM

LOL ok. I ask because hopefully no offense. I went a long stretch of like a month or so eating green leaves in all my salads and yea my stool was green. I was a little concerned about that and though I was having too much. But then I was hoping the leaves wasn’t fake later as a while ago I had some cake with blue icing and my stool was blue for a long while.

Erika Nicole Kendall July 21, 2016 - 10:15 AM

Well, green stool is normal and generally healthy. Fresh produce does have color to it that can be transported through your stool. Beets, under the right circumstances, will turn your stool and urine different colors. Carrots, too.

Turning it BLUE, however? IDK about that. LOLOL

Tabitha Talon July 21, 2016 - 10:20 AM

LMBO, well you know most color icing has dye in it. so that may be why. But ok about those greens, as long as it is safe.

E September 26, 2018 - 9:39 AM

So, you recommend trimming twice a year?

My hair growth was completely stunted a couple of years ago and it was dry and unmanageable. Got a trim and I couldn’t believe how nice it felt. I trim every four months, so three times a year. Last time I went in, the stylist said I didn’t have any split ends. So now I’m wondering if I could stretch it to twice a year.

Erika Nicole Kendall October 6, 2018 - 1:22 PM

Split ends are about hair not getting enough moisture to carry all the way through to the end of the strands, causing the drying-out and splitting at the ends. Find new ways to incorporate moisture in your hair, and you’ll need fewer trims.

Florence November 9, 2018 - 1:33 PM

Love this. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. In regards to box braids being high maintenance…it’s not suppose to be. That is, if they’re done properly, and the edges are projected. Keeping the braids moisturized, the scalp oiled and wearing a silk scarf at night should be the only care routine until it needs to be washed.

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