True Life: How Extensions Helped My Natural Hair Grow

Chandler Rollins | August 2, 2013 | 8:57 AM
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July 2012- I am still wearing partial sew-in extensions. My leave out sections have reached chin length and are able to blend very well. No relaxer.
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April 2012- As my hair grows, I am able to do more creative hairstyles while wearing my sew-in extensions. This is a halo braid. No relaxer.
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July 2011- My hair has grown long enough to leave the front out and a horseshoe section at the crown. I am now able to wear a partial sew-in. This allows me the ability to wear my hair up in buns and high ponytails. No relaxer.
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September 2010- The start of my natural hair journey. Full head of sew-in extensions with no hair left out.
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June 2013- No extensions, no relaxer, all natural hair. I achieved this look by doing a wet twist-out with Mixed Chicks and DevaCurl products.
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June 2010- The return of the pixie cut but with a slightly longer length. Relaxed hair.
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March 2010- Mohawk with sides shaved on relaxed hair. Relaxed hair.
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November 2009- Short pixie cut on relaxed hair.
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May 2009- Short side fringe cut with additional extension pieces for volume at the crown. Relaxed hair.
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My hair length as of July 2013. I achieved this style by doing a dry twist-out with Mizani True Textures Moisture Stretch Curl Extending Cream. No relaxer.
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I was never blessed with long hair, but I’ve tried every method to achieve it, from fusion extensions to clip-ins. And while I’ve always achieved the glamorous look that I was going for, I was never pleased with my own hair. In 2009, I decided to cut it all off, every inch of it. I spent the year experimenting with my hair, trying looks from the Pixie to the Mohawk.

In 2010, I made the decision to stop relaxing my hair. At the time my hair was cut in a pixie style a la Halle Berry. I grew tired of the constant upkeep with having to relax my new growth every two weeks and I decided I was ready for a major change. So, I embarked on my natural hair journey.

I was excited and a little frightened at the thought of transitioning. Words like the big chop or the awkward or “in-between” phase made me cringe. I combed natural hair blogs and watched hundreds of YouTube tutorials, before I determined what method was right for me. Because my hair was so extremely short, I decided to give sew-in extensions another try.

From September 2010 to May 2013, I wore extensions full-time. Meaning, I never let my real hair out. I would go to the salon and get my extensions taken down and put back in the same day. Many clients believe that this is damaging to the hair, but from my experience, with proper care, you not only can improve the condition of your hair but, also contribute to its growth and thickness.

In May of 2013, I finally relinquished my extensions, ready to see if all my hard work had paid off. I was so incredibly pleased that I felt like crying. My hair had reached mid-back length in just under four years, with no painfully awkward phases in between.


1. Braids Too Tight

Full sew-in extensions can be dangerous if not done properly. Make sure to braid your client’s hair gently and just tight enough to never put stress on the hair. Tight braids do NOT mean your sew-in is going to last longer! If your client’s braids are tight enough to cause them real pain then they are too tight. Your client’s hair should thrive while they wear extensions and not be prone to damage.

2. Baby Your "Leave Out"  

For clients who aren’t receiving a full head of extensions, taking good care of the hair that’s left out is extremely important. Because this portion of the hair is not being braided, it is the most susceptible to damage. Keep all heat styling to a bare minimum in these areas. Putting an excessive amount of heat and oil on your client’s hair will result in breakage.

3. Moisture

Moisture is everything when it comes to natural hair health. Many naturals struggle with keeping their textured hair well-moisturized. While my hair was in extensions, I moisturized daily and even twice a day sometimes. I recommend using an essential oil mix with an eye dropper that will easily allow the oil to penetrate the braids. Be sure that your mix includes oils that both coat the hair shaft like Argan Oil, Moroccan Oil and Macadamia Oil and penetrate the hair shaft like Olive Oil, Coconut Oil and Avocado Oil.

4. Stay Away from Sulfates

Natural hair is extremely gentle. Harsh sulfates that can be found in shampoos and conditioners have been found to have a degenerative effect on the cell membranes in hair, causing the breakdown of proteins. Counsel your clients on choosing the appropriate products for their hair texture that do not contain sulfates.

5. Invest In a Daily Vitamin

Stunted growth and hair breakage can also be a sign that your body is not getting enough of the right nutrients. Recommend a daily vitamin that includes Vitamin A, Folic Acid, Vitamin E, Vitamin B Complex and Biotin to help promote hair growth from the inside out. 

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