You’ve kept your hair for a few years now. At first, it grew fast, and you loved the thrill. But now, it seems like your hair has stopped growing or, worse still, that it is getting shorter. Well, hair grows about 0.5 – 1.7cm every month, so your hair has not stopped growing.
So what has happened? To understand, you must learn the three 4c hair growth stages. Once you get that, it becomes easy to track your hair growth and know how to grow it faster! Ready to learn? I’ll make it as simple as possible! Let’s start where it’s easy; the structure of 4c hair.
4c Hair Structure and Composition
A few things readily come to mind when we hear 4c hair — tight curls, zig-zag patterns, dense, full hair. Yes, those are typical characteristics of 4C natural hair, distinct from other hair types.
However, the composition of 4c hair is quite similar to every other. 4c hair has two major parts — the hair follicle (beneath the scalp) and the hair shaft (the hair part we can see).
The hair follicle sits underneath the scalp, so you don’t get to see it. Each hair follicle contains a hair shaft, the part you get to see. Basically, hair grows out of the follicles. The number of hair follicles you have determines the number of hair strands and how full your hair will look. And the shape of your hair follicle determines if your hair strands will be straight or curly.
The hair follicle contains the papilla and hair bulb. The papilla provides nutrients to the hair shaft (think of it as the hair root), while the bulb supplies moisture as sebaceous glands to the hair shaft.
The hair shaft is part of the hair you can see. But you may not know that it’s composed of three layers: the cuticle, cortex, and medulla.
The cuticle is the outermost layer of the hair shaft. It serves as a protective barrier for the hair. The cuticle comprises overlapping scales that lie flat and smooth when the hair is healthy. One thing about 4c hair is that the cuticle scales are raised. That’s why it can be easily damaged by harsh chemicals and physical manipulation (forced combing, improper detangling).
The cortex is the middle layer of the hair shaft and is responsible for the hair’s strength and elasticity. It contains keratin, the fibrous protein that gives the hair its structure. In 4c hair, the cortex is tightly coiled and densely packed, making it more prone to chemical and heat damage.
The medulla is the innermost layer of the hair shaft. It is the soft, spongy part of the hair shaft.
Summary: Hair grows out of the hair follicle and is made of the parts mentioned.
But how exactly does it grow? What makes it grow fast and then act stunted at some other point? It’s about the natural hair growth stages!
4c Hair Growth Stages
Your hair grows through three distinct stages: the anagen, catagen, and telogen phases. Once your hair moves from the anagen to catagen to the telogen phase, it repeats the cycle and goes on and on. Here’s what happens at each of these phases.
The anagen hair growth stage is the first stage of hair growth, where the hair follicle produces hair actively. During the anagen phase, the hair follicle readily receives nutrients and oxygen from the papilla (remember, the part of the hair that supplies nutrients). So hair grows rapidly during the anagen phase, usually at a rate of 0.5-1 cm per month.
The length of each person’s anagen phase depends on genetics, age, and other personal factors. Depending on these factors, the anagen phase can last two to seven years. If you experience a long anagen phase, you tend to have longer hair, while those with shorter anagen phases have shorter hair. That explains why some people naturally, effortlessly have long hair.
No matter the genetics, though, the anagen phase eventually ends. That happens because as the hair shaft becomes longer and thicker, the hair follicle has to expand to accommodate the growing hair. In time, the hair will reach its maximum length, which signals the end of the anagen phase.
The catagen stage is the second phase of the hair growth cycle; it starts immediately after the anagen phase. During the catagen phase, the hair follicle begins to shrink and detach from the papilla, so hair growth stops. “Club” hair strands also form during the catagen phase. A club hair is a dead hair shaft that eventually sheds away. The catagen stage is relatively short, lasting only about 2-3 weeks.
Note that the catagen phase is a natural part of the hair growth cycle and is necessary for maintaining healthy hair. After the catagen stage, the hair follicle enters the telogen stage.
The telogen stage is the final phase of the hair growth cycle, during which the hair follicle “rests.” Hair does not grow during the telogen phase; the follicle simply holds the existing hair strands. After some time in the telogen phase, club hairs gradually fall out and shed away. That paves the way for new hair growth when the hair goes back to the first phase, the anagen phase. The length of the telogen phase can vary depending on factors such as genetics, age, and overall health, but it usually lasts for several months.
Summary: Your hair grows rapidly during the anagen phase, which can last many years, depending on your genetics and other factors. Nothing spectacular happens during the catagen phase; your hair stops growing and lies dormant. Club hair forms too. And in the telogen phase, your hair experiences shedding and falling out.
Note that all the hair on your head does not go through the same phase simultaneously. Some hair strands may be in the anagen phase, while some are in the telogen phase (makes sense now, does it not?)
Factors that Influence 4c Hair Growth Stages
Hair growth is a natural process or cycle. But some factors can influence how long your hair stays in the anagen phase (where it keeps growing). Here are some of these factors.
The rate of hair growth is primarily determined by genetics. For example, African women grow hair at an average of 10cm per year, while it’s about 15cm per year for Asian women. You cannot rule out genetics when it comes to hair growth rates.
As we age, the duration of the anagen phase tends to shorten, resulting in slower hair growth. Some hair follicles also become inactive with age, causing fewer hair strands.
A diet lacking essential vitamins and nutrients can affect hair growth, leading to a shorter anagen phase.
Hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause can affect the anagen phase, leading to changes in hair growth patterns. For example, some women experience rapid hair growth during pregnancy.
High stress levels can disturb hair growth, leading to a shorter anagen phase.
Certain medications can affect the anagen phase, leading to changes in hair growth patterns.
How To Grow 4c Hair Faster In a Month
If you’ve been searching for this, let’s start by refining your search. As mentioned, 4c hair grows at 0.5-1.7cm per month in the anagen stage. So there are two things involved in growing 4c hair faster:
- Make sure your hair stays longer in the anagen phase (avoid factors that can shorten your anagen phase) and;
- Retain the hair that grows during the anagen phase as much as possible. Hair grows at least 0.5cm per month, so multiply that by how long you’ve kept your hair — that’s how long your hair should be. If it’s not up to that length, then you’ve not been retaining your hair length.
So, leave the one-month magic hair sprout. Focus on growing your hair naturally and healthily. The tips below will help you do just that!
Moisture is the number one key to long and healthy hair. You must give your hair moisture whether you’re improving its length, elasticity, porosity, or any other property. The primary reason is that 4c hair is very dry because of its curly pattern, making it harder for moisture to penetrate the hair shaft. You can provide moisture to your hair by applying water and water-based leave-in conditioners and moisturizers. Enough moisture will prevent your hair from breaking, so you can retain the length it gets during the anagen phase.
Sealing moisture goes hand in hand with moisturizing. As I mentioned in one of my posts, applying moisture to your hair without locking it is like filing a gas cylinder and leaving its valve open. You can seal in the moisture you apply to your hair by using hair oils after moisturizing. Coconut oil, olive oil, and Jamaican castor oil are all excellent sealants.
I know you’ll need to detangle your 4c hair often. Because of the curly pattern, 4c hair is prone to knots and tangles. But detangling your hair gently is essential so you don’t lose or weaken it. First, use your fingers to detangle instead of dipping in a comb at every chance. Slowly, gently loosen knots and comb through with your fingers when you need to detangle.
Reduce Heat Styling
Are you a fan of heat-styling tools? Perhaps you love straightening, heat curling, or blow-drying your hair regularly. Heat tools damage the hair cuticle, and for 4c hair, whose cuticle is naturally prone to damage, they cause more significant damage. Cutting back on heat styling tools is best to grow your 4c hair faster.
Eat For Your Hair
Of course, you eat to get full and stay healthy too. And that’s it – when you eat good meals, you make your body healthier, including your hair. Your hair follicles will be equipped to grow hair healthier and longer. The right meals for your 4c hair are rich in protein, minerals, vitamins, and omega-3.
Wear Protective Styles
Protective hairstyles are very important to grow your 4c hair faster. Protective styles keep your hair tucked in so the weather doesn’t damage it, and you don’t have to comb it daily. A few examples are twists, braids, and cornrows. Here are a few tips that have helped me use protective styles to grow my hair longer:
- Don’t wear tight protective styles. In reality, a style is no longer “protective” when tight and puts much tension on your scalp and edges. So when you make your braids, twists, or other protective styles, make it as loose as it can be on your scalp. It may not look as “neat,” but you’ll be doing your hair a whole lot of good.
- Keep your hair moisturized. While you have your protective styles on, apply leave-in conditioner and oil regularly to keep it moisturized. A spray bottle makes it easier for you to do this. Simply mix water, conditioner, and oil in the bottle and spray on your hair daily.
Trim Hair Ends
The hair ends in 4c hair are likely to break or split (called split ends). You should trim split ends off as soon as you notice them so they don’t worsen. That way, you’ll have healthy hair all around. I have a complete guide on trimming off split ends here.
Wear a satin/silk bonnet to sleep
Cotton pillowcases and bed sheets strip the hair of moisture when you rub your hair against them at night. No, you don’t have to remove your cotton pillow case or bed sheet; just wear a satin/silk bonnet cap to protect your hair while sleeping.
Care for Your Hair After Washing
Each time you shampoo your hair, make sure you apply a conditioner. Most shampoos remove moisture from the hair, but a conditioner will replace the lost moisture. Shampooing without conditioning will leave your hair unhealthily dry over time.
After washing, dry your hair with a microfiber towel or a T-shirt. Rubbing the usual towel on your hair will roughen your hair ends and cause breakage.
Frequently Asked Questions About 4c Hair Growth Stages
Do you still have more questions about the 4c hair growth stages? This part is for you!
How long does it take for 4c hair to grow?
4c hair grows at about 0.5 to 1.7cm (half an inch) monthly.
Does 4c hair grow the slowest?
No, 4c hair grows at the same rate as other hair types. But it may not be evident because of the hair’s curly pattern, which causes it to shrink quickly.
How often should I wash my 4c hair for growth?
Wash your every one or two weeks. After shampooing, ensure you condition your hair and dry it with a t-shirt or microfiber towel.
What are the signs of new hair growth?
To know if you have new hair growth, look out for these signs:
- Dark spots on your scalp and hairline; you’ll see this well under good lighting
- Fine, light-colored hair on the scalp (also known as “peach fuzz”)
- New, short hair strands, especially around the edges
- Fewer hair strands on the comb after combing your hair
It’s been a long ride down the road of understanding 4c hair growth stages. You even made stops at factors that influence hair growth and the structure of 4c hair.
You’ll find it much easier to care for your hair and track its progress now that you understand its growth stages. You’ll even find your 4c hair journey more fun. Enjoy growing in love with your hair as your hair grows!