The Growth Aid Debate: Why I Am Against Using Growth Aids in One’s Natural Hair Journey

In case you missed it, yesterday Judith discussed three reasons why she is a fan of using growth aids to benefit one’s natural hair journey. To summarize, her three reasons were:

1. Growth aids forced her to read articles on hair growth
2. Growth aids made her more open-minded towards other hair possibilities
3. Growth aids increased her growth rate

I too have been silent on the debate about growth aids, but in case you guessed from the title, I think they’re a whole bunch of malarkey, and are counterproductive to a healthy natural hair journey. Here’s why:

1. Growth aids place more value on long versus healthy natural hair

Now Judith and I fundamentally differ on this point, and to fully understand why you’ll have to go and read both of our hair stories. I went natural because I wanted to see what my hair looked like. Once I saw it, I wanted it to be healthy and cute. That’s all I’ve ever cared about. However, because Judith has been striving for (and achieved) long hair, even before going natural, she cares more about length. Not saying she doesn’t care about health, but she cares a lot more about length than I do.

I think for most naturals, especially those new to the journey, caring about length as much as Judith does is a dangerous, slippery slope. People transition for months and months, sometimes damaging their hair in the process through constant blowouts, weaves, or braids, in efforts to have their hair as long as possible when they cut it. Once its cut, they get mad at their shrinkage and throw more protective styles in “until it grows out,” while watching videos of people with longer (and often less kinky but I already talked about that) hair. They don’t spend time learning how to care for their hair because they are too busy trying to have it grow, so they become frustrated and try more and more growth aids rather than just working with their hair! I’m not saying that this is the case for everyone, as it clearly hasn’t been for Judith, but I’ve seen far too many people try to jump on the natural hair train because they wanted long hair, and they often stumble on the tracks.

2. We don’t know what’s really in growth aids

Just as Judith explained when she was saying that Lysol was first advertised as a form of birth control, the fact is that advertisers lie. ALL THE TIME. I find it alarming that thousands of women are taking pills, without consulting their medical providers, when they have absolutely no idea exactly what they contain. Sure, you can make the argument that you don’t know exactly what is in Tylenol, but it is a federally regulated/approved medication, so I trust that it’s acetaminophen plus whatever is needed to stick it together. To my knowledge, growth aids haven’t reached a stage of federal oversight and regulation, because they fall under the category of dietary supplements which do not have to be FDA approved. Ultimately, the combinations of iron, biotin, MSM, and all the other vitamins and nutrients listed in growth pills may have unknown health consequences that we don’t know about. The history of public health researcher in me hopes she won’t have to write an article a few decades from now about how the increase of strange diseases in African American women ages 45-65 can be tied to the prevalent use of growth aids in 2015. And although I trust that Judith has done her research(#Harvardblackalumswag) on what would work for her, I know that most people don’t have the time, energy, or desire to sift through the wealth of information about the potential side effects or dangers of growth aids.

3. There isn’t enough research to show growth aids work

Back to the research tip, has there been a national study with a worthwhile sample size that showed that Hairfinity significantly increases hair growth? I know there’s no study about Monistat because nobody is signing up for that. But while growth aids may seem to make some people’s hair grow more, there are way too many confounding factors. We see before and after pictures of people who took growth aids, but we rarely ever see a photo of what their hair looked like for the 90 days before they started taking the pills. And that’s because they likely weren’t measuring their hair – so how can you compare their “accelerated” hair growth with an unknown hair growth? People also possibly drink more water while taking growth aids, or may consciously or unconciously adhere to overall healthier hair practices during the 30 or 60 day period they are experimenting with the growth aid. All I’m saying is that I need the receipts, and I need them to be signed by the CDC.

4. Growth aids push products over practices

I won’t dwell on this point for too long, but haircare manufacturers capitalize on people’s desires for miracle creams and quick fixes to address whatever hair problem they have. The fact of the matter is that most natural hair products are some mixture of shea butter, coconut oil, aloe vera, and/or glycerin – or a variation of those kinds of ingredients. Yet we buy 20 different moisturizing creams because they each promise to give our hair life. I don’t have research to back this up, but I strongly believe that healthy hair practices – such as occasional protective styling, gentle detangling, effective moisturizing and sealing, and proper diet, water, and sleep habits – are what actually promotes hair growth, not any product, pill, or hanging your head upside down.

Are you for or against growth aids? Weigh in below!

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  1. This is the most intelligent and well thought input I have seen on hair growth aids and I agree with everything you have said. To me it’s just another way for corporations to capitalise on our insecurities on have natural hair!

  2. I don’t take any hair supplements. I take my regular vitamins and supplements where I am deficient under a doctor’s care like vitamin D. The marketing is what bothers me more than anything. It’s designed to make you think that you need to have longer hair to be beautiful. Also, I too am not so certain what’s in the product and if you need these extra ‘vitamins’ in your body.

  3. I tried both hairfinity and The Mane Choice and they both were a waste of money. I bought some hair and nail gummy vitamins from Walmart and have seen more growth with the gummies . I don’t know whether its because of the gummies or just how my hair grows or my hair regimen. I know for fact I don’t eat as healthy as i should, and I barely get the sleep I need. I do drink a lot of water. Growth aids always make me wonder whether they really work. With the gummies I’ve noticed my nails are growing in faster than usual and even my eyelashes are growing. My hair within the two months of taking the gummy vitamins has grown maybe three inches. After reading this article I’m done with it all. After reading the part about the future effects they may can cause shook me up a lot. Lol.

  4. I agree with all the points here. Jumping through hoops to get length is crazy to me. You are so right about hiding in protective styles until maximum length is achieved. Your gonna have all that kinky hair and have no idea how to take care of it. I truly do think that for a lot a black women being short and nappy ( if only for a year or so) is like a blow to their system lol. Its like it can be one or the other but it can’t be both! Like you I went natural because I wanted to see my real hair and keep it healthy as is. Any more complicated than that is beyond my attention span.

  5. “I need the receipts, and I need them to be signed by the CDC.” LOL!

    I was sent a month’s supply of hair vitamins to review. I grew an inch in some places and half an inch in others. The vitamins claimed to double my growth rate so, I knew without a doubt that this is unsustainable. Pay good money for just an extra half inch. No way. I’d rather buy JBCO or HBCO & do my scalp massages. It’s only on the Instagram & facebook pages that you see people with Rapunzel growth.

    When the craze was at its peak, I saw ‘I Am Legend’ for the first time & it got me thinking. Probably exaggerating here but what if Hair Vitamins go starting something? They aren’t regulated. What if these “proprietary essential compounds” deposit things in our bodies that could be problematic for us in the future?

    Anyway. I don’t even like meds. And I’d rather spend that money on setting else. I don’t support it.