Can black women over 40 grow afro textured hair long?

August 5, 2011 Hair and Beauty

Can black women over 40 grow afro textured hair long?
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It’s an exciting time for many black women in the US, UK and around the world. It is like a second wave of African feminism – this new era of liberation from the shackles of European standards of beauty where we are finally embracing, loving and wearing our afro textured hair with pride and some style!

The bloggers and vloggers that provide advice on caring for and styling afro textured hair have finally been acknowledged by the mainstream media and news of the natural hair revolution has appeared in the New York Times, CNN, WPTV and many other mainstream news media outlets, inspiring scores of women to embrace their afro textured hair in its natural condition.

For the young black women in their teens, twenties and even thirties – they still have plenty of youthful years to enjoy their natural hair and to grow it long. But for women like me over forty, the sense of joy and excitement at falling in love with our natural hair is tinged with a little sadness, and anxiety.

I regret that I didn’t go natural years ago when I was younger and when my hair was stronger. I could have enjoyed my natural hair when I was in my prime, instead of hiding my natural beauty under relaxers and weaves.

I am also somewhat anxious about my hair as whilst adopting an effective hair care regimen can help to retain hair length, I am conscious of the fact that as we get older our hair gets thinner. I remember my late mother having thin hair around the temples and on the forehead.

I have seen exactly the same thinness in her surviving younger siblings. Am I destined to lose my hair before I can enjoy it in its natural condition? Will I ever grow my natural hair past my shoulders, where my stretched twists currently reach?

I am both inspired by and immensely proud of the YouTube vloggers that have made a name for themselves whilst helping millions of black women between them to style, manage and grow their natural hair.

KimmayTube, Naptural85, Simply Younique and Curly Chronicles are my favourites. But I can’t help noticing that they are several years younger than me and wonder if their hair success is partly attributable to the fact that they have youth on their side?

There is a plethora of information available in books, blogs and vlogs on how to manage, style and grow afro textured hair – but I can find precious little information about growing afro textured hair when you are over 40! From the research that I have managed to gather, it seems that whilst growing hair for women over 40 presents some challenges, there is still hope!

On the downside, as we age our hair loses strength, moisture and elasticity and then there are the dreaded grey hairs. For afro textured hair this presents greater challenges since the hair is already prone to dryness and breakage.

The best way to combat this is to moisturise the hair every day without fail. When I first went natural in May I compounded these problems by using a permanent colour and using ceramic straightening tongs every day for about three weeks. I am lucky I have any hair left on my head!

I will not be using a permanent colour in my hair ever again and have found a natural alternative called Herbatint, but will be waiting until the end of September to apply that. I have also banned myself from using the straightening tongs and no longer blow dry my hair after washing. These actions have helped me to nurture my hair back to health. Improvement in the condition of my hair has also resulted from adopting a consistent hair regimen

But the biggest improvement I have noticed has been from spraying my hair with a home-made moisture mix twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening before bedtime. This consists of distilled water, vegetable glycerine, aloe vera juice and a little olive oil. My hair feels soft to the touch and breaking and knotting has been greatly reduced.

Protective styling for black women over 40 is even more important, since our hair is thinner and weaker and therefore more prone to breakage. Styles that protect the ends and that do not pull 

the hair too tight will keep more of our hair on our head and therefore reduce the impact of thinning hair.

According to a 2006 article in Ebony magazine, thousands of black women suffer from hair loss due to age, heredity, hormonal changes and alopecia – which we have no control over. Dr R Martin Earles is quoted as saying that hair thinning and hair loss affects up to two thirds of African American women by the age of 50.

But the good news is that by far the most common causes of hair loss are self-induced and not caused by uncontrollable factors such as age. Traumatic alopecia is the term used to describe hair loss from improper use of chemical products, excessive use of heated tongs, hot combs and blow dryers, gluing hair during the weaving process and combining a relaxer with another chemical treatment, such as a permanent hair colour.

Traction alopecia is probably the most commonly known, due to the unflattering pictures of super model Naomi Campbell. It results from excessive pulling of the hair usually through braiding and cornrows when used with extensions and weaves.

Whilst we cannot turn the clock back and we cannot change our genetic make-up, there is still plenty that we can do as black naturals over 40 to keep our hair healthy and to retain growth. Does this mean that I can grow my hair past my shoulders towards my waist? That I don’t know, but I intend to have fun trying!

I would be very keen to hear from afro textured naturals over 40 – what works for you and have you managed to grow your hair long?

Related Links

Black women and hair loss: the causes, the remedies, the prevention

Hair care for women over 40

What women can do to stop hair loss

What is hair loss in women?


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28 Comments → “Can black women over 40 grow afro textured hair long?”

  1. dionne 2 years ago   Reply

    Thank you Deborah- at last an article on natural hair for the over 40s!! I currently have natural hair and have been inspired by the bloggers on FB and YouTube but most seemed to cater to the younger generation. Whilst at 46 I don’t consider myself old I was beginning to think is anyone out there over 40 with concerns about how to maintain natural hair and where to get good products? I have tried a variety of hairstyles over the years and done some damage too but as a result of illness when my hair fell out in clumps I decided to go natural, and I can say that I wont be going back.

  2. deborahgab 2 years ago   Reply

    I’m really glad to hear from you – I won’t be going back to relaxers and weaves. Please check out the Goodies page for hand-picked products for natural, afro textured hair that are free from SLS, parabens and harmful chemicals! http://lifestylechallenge.deborahgabriel.com/goodies/

  3. ynl 2 years ago   Reply

    I’m in my mid 40s & have been natural for 7 mths. My hair has grown abt 4 inches, which is terrific considering I hadn’t seen any growth for the last few years while I was relaxed. I had my 2nd child 3 years ago & had lots of thinning & breakage afterwards. I try to avoid products that contain the “no no” ingredients but I’m not a stickler for all natural, 100% organic products. I don’t care about having long hair but I want it to grow back to where it was before my BC, which was shoulder length. I’m going to put my hair away & wear wigs until Dec to see if I can get more growth. I stick to a regimen & moisturize most days, I don’t do anything special. Good luck to you.

  4. Belinda 2 years ago   Reply

    This article was thought-provoking, and I’m glad I moved from your NatSun synopsis of it and came here. So many points resonated with me. Towards the latter years of my mom’s life, her hair was thin, almost non-existent at the temples. At least 2 of my sisters have the same thinning temple line and thin hair, which they’ve now begun to cover with weaves. Primarily, I thought about your comment regarding the young women and their success with their hair journeys. When I began, somewhere on the back burner was this ever-present thought: ‘Am I too old for this?’ Well, I’m still not stepping back, and like you, I’ve changed a number of habits–not just for the sake of hair, but in light of keeping ALL of me healthy and around for the 2nd half of my life.

    Great article!

  5. therry 1 year ago   Reply

    I agree with what everyone has said thus far. I am in my early 40s and although I feel very youthful, I also suffered from thinning at the hairline. I had fibroids (removed via surgery) and suffered a miscarriage. Afterwards, the hair towards the front of my hairline thinned out. At that time, I was still using a relaxer. Now, I have been perm-free for about 7 months and am happy to report that the hair at my hairline is growing back! There is no more scalp showing! I have been diligent with moisturizing that area very well with the L.O.C. method (liquid/oil/moisturizing creme) every morning and every night. I also have used a very stree-free protective style, kinky twists. I’ve gotten about 3-3 1/2 inches of new growth so far. I just want to encourage everyone that even though you are in your 40s, 50s, 60s or even 70s, you can regrow your hair if you take care of it in its natural state. Proof: my mother, in her early 70s, also decided to go natural a few months ago. Her hair has grown like crazy! It has a lot of thickness, too! So, let’s keep the faith :-)

  6. Cathy 1 year ago   Reply

    I am 48 years old and I have always had fine, thin hair. Now that I am older the problem is even worse. I am natural and have been all my life so the thinness is hereditary and not from chemicals. My mother and all her female relatives have thin, fine hair. Honestly I hate my hair and I do not know what to do with it. I have tried so many of the products for natural hair. The problem is most are for women with thick coarse hair and when I use the same products they weigh my hair down. I can’t do twist or braid outs because of my thin hair and when I wear it loose with water and olive oil it looks old-fashioned like a jeri curl. I am seriously thinking of wearing wigs and weaves. I HATE MY NATURAL HAIR!

    • lifestyle2 1 year ago   Reply

      Hi Cathy, I really feel for you and totally understand where you are coming from. My hair has also always been fine and when I went natural it had more body but I also found it difficult to emulate the natural hairstyles plastered all over the web such as twist-outs, braid-outs etc. Despite the fine texture of my hair going natural still gave it more body but I did not really feel that afros and twist-outs was for me. I have now been texlaxed for the past two months and my hair is a lot more maneabgle. It will always been fine but has gained a bit more body through the supplements I am taking (please see http://lifestylechallenge.deborahgabriel.com/2012/10/15/texlax-update-and-hair-supplements-trial/ ). I can also achieve more body with my hair by using bendy rollers (not curling tongs). I also mix up a setting lotion formula that consists of Lottabody combined with olive oil and coconut oil. Curls are the best way to add more body to your hair without cutting it, which is the alternative as trimmed ends always make the hair look thicker. I used to hate having fine hair but have learned to love it and would prefer to keep working with it rather than getting a weave. In the long run weaves will only thin out the hair even more, whereas nurturing your own hair may require more time and patience but is worth it in the long run! 

  7. paula McIntosh 1 year ago   Reply

    I just wanted to drop you a line and tell you THANK YOU THANK YOU. I am a black women over 40 with natural hair looking for information regarding hair care/styles for women over 40 and I think I found it here. I have found an inspiration from your website and this article that I feel its time for me to create my blog and vlog. I have been on YouTube for three months and finally went to Bing and put in search word and luckily clicked on your site. There's not much out there for older women but I will change that as well as you have. Thank you for the inspiration and information you provide to you us older sistas because now we know we are not forgotten just due to our age. Keep up the good work

    • lifestyle2 1 year ago   Reply

      Hi Paula, I’m so glad you’ve found my blog useful. We are not over the hill at 40+ – our lives are just beginning and the best is yet to come! When you create your blog be sure to join Black Bloggers UK & Int’l Network: http://blackbloggersnetwork.co.uk/ !

  8. Desiree 1 year ago   Reply

    Thanks so much for this post. I am way over 40 and I wear dreads and I’m loving it. I use nothing but natural oils such as coconut oil, shea butter, olive oil or a mixture of all three and it has made a big difference to health of my hair. But another amazing oil that has proven to help hear growth is castor oil. I first found out about its hair growth properties when I was researching how to regrow my eyebrows…it works on eylashes as well.

  9. Sonya 1 year ago   Reply

    I’m 49, will be 50 in October. Thankful to have found your blog…..decided last month that I will no longer telax my hair and go natural. Hair has thinned since I’ve gotten older, I’m assuming it’s hormonal since I was on a healthy hair journey with my hair prior to this decision. September was the last time a relaxer was applied to my hair, hoping to at least be able to hit shoulder length with my hair natural. Wish I’d had done it sooner seeing how I would only telax once a year. I could kick myself……Thanks for the post!

  10. Absolutely Fabulous Natural 11 months ago   Reply

    Hi Paula,

    Thank you for asking this question. I would say with a resounding YES–black women over age 50 can return to our natural hair state and grow it out if we so desire. I returned to my roots at age 58 (I am now 60) and my hair is healthier now than it was in my teens when I first wore an afro. There is much to learn from the younger sisters who blog and vlog about natural hair care. I think we older sisters have a lot to share as well. Now is the time.

  11. Carolyn Rose 11 months ago   Reply

    I am over 50! I have type 4a hair and I have being natural for over 10 years. I use to get it pressed but for the last year has gone totally natural. No heat at all! I am enjoying my hair and being me!

  12. Cruzinpc 11 months ago   Reply

    I am on the hair journey at 62 ! I wore a TWA & later a huge fro in my 20s, then relaxed for about 20 years. I returned to a texlaxed TWA about 15 years ago and then discovered the YT  Sistahs, ( wow how exciting). I don’t know how I will look with longer natural hair,  but I am trying to restore it to good health. Unfortunately, medication for age related issues have thinned my hair and caused breakage. I am hoping that my daily and nightly hair routine will repair its condition.  This journey is a personal quest and I will patiently work with these old tresses for hopefully, positive results. Wish me luck.

    • lifestyle2 11 months ago   Reply

      What an inspiring story. I definitely empathise with the hair thining – there are many medications and illnesses than can cause hair to lose a lot of its density, even in younger women and it means double the effort to keep the hair as healthy as possible. A daily mositure and seal routine will certainly help to minimise the hair loss. I wish you all the luck in the world – do stay in touch and keep us updated on your progress!

  13. Erica 11 months ago   Reply

    I first went natural 16 years ago. I was in my 20′s then and had locs. In the 8 years I wore my hair that way, my hair was nearly waist length when I finally cut my locs off. My hair had not grown that long before nor has it since then. Since hair thinning runs in my family, I’m much more concerned about my hair looking full. Plus I’m having a lot of difficulty covering my gray hair.

  14. Nita 9 months ago   Reply

    I am forty seven. I decided to go natural. I stop perming and coloring my hair a couple of months ago. I wore a wig and no one knew I was transitioning underneath. In June, I cut my hair low to show my true hair color, “snow white”. I love it! I get so many compliments about my hair. I hear so many women say that they wish they had the courage to wear their natural hair. I am who I am and I love me.

  15. fluffy-in-flight 8 months ago   Reply

    Yes! I think that women of colour over 40 can definitely grow afro textured hair long. No Question about it. I remember distinctly when my grandmother was still alive, she was in her 70′s her hair was definitely long and thick, in fact my hair has always been pretty long, I had no problem whatso-ever growing out my hair, whether natural or otherwise, but my grandmother’s hair was even longer than mine, and she wasn’t even trying. It was thick, it was full, and it was extremely long. Of course our times might make it more challenging because people back then was from the land, they grew their own food, and didn’t eat the trash that we’re eating today. But i’m positive that with proper care and nourishment women of any age, can have a headful of long hair.

  16. Angela 7 months ago   Reply

    Hello my name is Angela.Im 49 and I and used to wear braids because my hair fell out from a chemical relaxer. so I took the braids out and started from scratch a year and a half ago, now my hair is down to my bra strap.now I have texturizer and I always keep my hair moisturized . with my own mixture of water moistrizing cream conditioner and olive oil, my favorite protective hairstyle is a bun. I only comb my hair once a week.I spray my moisture mix on my hair daily to keep my hair smooth and neat.I never use heat when I wash my hair I’ll let it air dry instead of using a blow dryer I only use heat when I do a lenth check which is once every year and a half. and just for the record I’m not bi racial I am truly an African American woman.

  17. Frances Richards 6 months ago   Reply

    I just read your post and I am 55 years old and have been natural for 6 years and I wear a salt and pepper afro over. 4 feet talk, would like to show you a picture.

  18. Betty 5 months ago   Reply

    I am now 60. I have been wearing my natural hair for almost 2 years. My hair is very thick, dry and it would take me forever to comb after washing. The journey to natural have been one of trying many different products. I have a collection of many products that just did not work on my hair. Some very expensive. I just recently found one that works and that is glycerin mixed with water. I use a few other products. Daily use of the vegetable glycerin water mix, leaves my hair soft and moist and my hair do not sheds like before when I wash it. I discovered my hair like water and oils.

  19. Debra 2 months ago   Reply

    Deborah, I am so glad I found this article. I too have felt sort of alone in my natural hair journey amongst my peers 50+. My daughter and I began our natural hair journey together a year ago and we have been LOVING it! It's true the YouTube videos, bloggers and vloggers have been mostly geared toward the younger women. It's refreshing to know there are many women out there just like me. So thank you for the article and the encouragement as I have been seriously considering doing my own video and or start my own blog. Debra J.

    • Deborah 2 months ago   Reply

      Dear Debra, I would definitely encourage you start your own blog and do and you incorporate your videos in it. I also encourage you to join Black Bloggers UK & Internmational Network, which is a directory of blogs. 

  20. Iris 2 months ago   Reply

    I am 58 years old and have been rocking with colored treated natural hair for 12 years. I have done 2 BCs and my hair is below my shoulders. It's all about nurturing and giving tender loving care to your hair.

  21. Kathy 2 months ago   Reply

    Deborah, I am so happy I found your site! I am 57 and have been natural for 4 years now. In those 4 years in spite of purchasing literally hundreds of dollars in products and hours of trying different techniques, I have only retained about 2 inches of growth. I have been searching for a site for more mature women that could maybe speak to the issues I have with my hair. Many of the women I know say I was their inspiration for going natural yet they all are surpassing me by leaps and bounds as far as length goes. I work in Senior Management at a very, shall I say, conservative company. Thus far my transition to my natural hair has been received without much controversy. However I do not want to push the issue much further. Everything I read tells me my length retention problems are the result of me twisting and rolling my hair EVERY night so that it will be acceptable to my co-workers. I am not sure how well the protective styles I see on the internet would go over here and I want to keep my hair as "low key" an issue as possible. I am so happy to finally find a group of women in my age group and look forward to gleaning wisdom and knowledge on how to care for and style my "mature" natural hair! Thanks millions!

  22. gean 1 month ago   Reply

    I am a 49 year old woman. I have been covering up my hair not intentionally for as long as I can remember to begin with at first braiding when I was aged 16 I then moved on to relaxers but because I was conscious of the length of my hair I went back to braiding and I went though a stage of back to back weaving with and without glue for years. I remember when braiding my hair the hairdresser, to justify the extortionate prices would tell oh you can keep these in for 6 mouths or more believe me, I tried to sometimes go even longer without really looking after what I had underneath. In my 40+ I discovered lace wigs and wigs which I also wore back to back by then I was so ashamed of my hair and didn't want anyone to see how damaged that it had become. In 2012 I lost my beloved son and something changed in me. I looked at life differently. I has always taken care of myself physically and wanted to be able to live and be free with myself. I decided to do a big chop straight after I came back from holiday with my husband. I had left him behind by the time he came back I had a TWA and I was scared,  relieved I was finally me. I know that years and years of abuse, ignorance and self neglect has taken its toll on my hair but I believe my hair will recover with a lot of tender loving care.

  23. Rosemary 3 weeks ago   Reply

    Thanks Deborah, thank you very much. I am in my mid forties and like all the others seeing younger women with styles that really doesn't fit my age made me despair a lot. Today I found your site and now know I am not alone. After multiple attempts to go natural in the past 10 years.succeeding for a year and reverting, I am proud to say for the past 4 years I have succeeded. I have been braiding my hair, but now I wish to stop the braids and go Afro no braiding. Betty glycerine and water I shall try and feedback here. Thank you all. My greatest happiness is when my daughter (16) who relaxes her said, Mum because of you I have no worries going natural same day!

    • Deborah 3 weeks ago   Reply

      Hi Rosemary, so glad that hea that you have succeeded with natural hair and are now inspiring your teenage daughter. Congrats and may we continue to be a source of inspiration and support to each other!

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