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View Full Version : what exactly happens at terminal length?



pdy2kn6
February 26th, 2009, 04:19 AM
i thought it may be a good idea to list some facts about terminal, to help understand more, especially for those in search of it. I was wondering what exactly happens at terminal? (apart from the fact that hair does not grow any longer than its terminal length). Do all hairs continue growing to a certain length guarenteeing fairytale ends? If you have layers do they naturally disperse and fade away? Does hair get thinner the longer one is terminal length? TIA for the input, and feel free to list any other facts about terminal length locks. :D

embee
February 26th, 2009, 07:56 AM
I think I've been at terminal for over a year now. My hair does not get longer. But there are hairs that come out, shed when combing, brushing, or washing. My hair does not get shorter. There is some breakage, but not a whole lot. (I think my hair was probably at terminal when I did an 8 inch chop right before joining TLHC. It's never gotten longer than it was then.)

My hair is thin anyway, I don't think it's thinner now than 3 years ago, seems about the same to me. I have fairytale ends, have had them a good while, they're what I want. Since I've been at terminal I've had one or two hairs that are *inches* longer than all the others. Now I'm pretty sure they're not the same hair for more than a year, so there must be a small place on my head that grows hairs for a longer period of time. Strange.

trolleypup
February 26th, 2009, 08:39 AM
i thought it may be a good idea to list some facts about terminal, to help understand more, especially for those in search of it. I was wondering what exactly happens at terminal? (apart from the fact that hair does not grow any longer than its terminal length). Do all hairs continue growing to a certain length guaranteeing fairytale ends? If you have layers do they naturally disperse and fade away? Does hair get thinner the longer one is terminal length? TIA for the input, and feel free to list any other facts about terminal length locks. :D
At terminal, each hair grows for as many years as your particular cycle is, then sheds out. Your length is composed of hairs of all lengths, as they grow out from after shedding, so you have a more or less even taper, with fairy tale ends. The very ends are composed of different hairs each month as the oldest ones shed and the newer ones grow to their terminal length. Layers will grow out to terminal length and shed also eventually. Once you reach terminal length, assuming no layers remain, your hair should remain at a steady state, not getting thicker or thinner or changing in appearance from month to month...any changes are probably due to other factors.

EdG
February 26th, 2009, 08:55 AM
At terminal length, the shed rate becomes the same as the growth rate, so over time the hair doesn't change in length or thickness.

Hair naturally tapers since individual hairs are at different stages of the growth cycle. A pronounced taper is a sign that one is near terminal length.

Not all hairs have the same terminal length. I have a lot of hairs that won't grow past waist/tailbone, while others will grow to my calves. :shrug:
Ed

melrose1985
February 26th, 2009, 09:06 AM
Okay i have been trying to figure this out...

So if you are growing to terminal, Say you get there and you know that you are at terminal because it's been that length for a good period of time. So it you cut, say 5 inches off what is your hair going to do? Does it say the same still because there is the whole thing that cutting your hair (unless breakage is happing) doesnt make your hair grow faster.

HairyCarrie
February 26th, 2009, 09:22 AM
Good question. I don't get the science of it either.

EdG
February 26th, 2009, 09:24 AM
Say you get there and you know that you are at terminal because it's been that length for a good period of time. So it you cut, say 5 inches off what is your hair going to do?The 5 inches will grow back and your hair will again be at terminal.

P.S. I need to stop reading the board and get back to work. :o
Ed

melrose1985
February 26th, 2009, 10:04 AM
The 5 inches will grow back and your hair will again be at terminal.

P.S. I need to stop reading the board and get back to work. :o
Ed


I need to get back to work too : )

But still i really dont get it because how does your scalp know the length of your hair. Yes at first if you just let it grow then your hair will grow to was ever is term....I just dont get how your scalp knows that you have cut 5 inches off and that it can grow again.

to me terminal length sounds like each hair can only grow so long (length wise) and i know that will shedding more hair is growing back. how do the strans know when to stop growing?

I'm just so boggled by this.

EdG
February 26th, 2009, 10:13 AM
But still i really dont get it because how does your scalp know the length of your hair. Yes at first if you just let it grow then your hair will grow to was ever is term....I just dont get how your scalp knows that you have cut 5 inches off and that it can grow again..The scalp doesn't know the length of the hair. Rather, each hair follicle is "programmed" to grow for a certain duration of time. Over time, the cut hairs will be replaced by un-cut hairs capable of reaching terminal length.

I really do need to get back to work. :o:o:o
Ed

Morningglory
February 26th, 2009, 10:25 AM
It sounds so beautiful! I want my terminal length hair!

I have always had a shorter underlayer and whispy hairs around my hairline. I have about half of my head hairs that grow long. I am waiting to see how long they will grow. I want to just wait it out and see.

spidermom
February 26th, 2009, 10:31 AM
I think the confusion comes from the fact that we call it terminal "length". It should probably be called terminal "time". For sake of example, let's say that the hairs on your head grow for 6 years before they shed out. Whether you cut them or not, they are still going to grow from your scalp for 6 years, stall for 3-4 months, then shed out.

Complicating this simple picture is the fact that each hair is on it's own time table. We each have hairs that have just started to grow and other hairs that are near the end of their growth cycle. Plus each hair has it's own growth cycle. I shed out hairs that are as short as 2-4 inches, and I know they were shed naturally because there will be a little root sac at one end, which equals a cycle of growth lasting only 3-6 months. I have other hairs that have grown for enough years to be at tailbone length now. If I cut 5 inches off the ends, they will continue to grow for however long it is that they grow, then shed out.

Akiko
February 26th, 2009, 10:31 AM
Please correct me if I am wrong here.
My understanding is that follicles do not know how long the hair is. There is a cycle for each follicle, about 7 or more years of growth, then several months to a year or so of a dormant period.

Obviously each follicle has a different, say a starting point. Cycles are staggered. Otherwise we all have a period of total baldness.

For example, suppose my hair grows 0.5 inch per year for 10 yrs. My maximum terminal length would be

0.5x12x10=60 inches

Suppose my hair is currently at terminal. I cut 5 inches off to 55 inches.

All my hair strands shorter than 55 inches long did not get trimmed off. So they will continue to grow until 60 inches long. Then shed.

Strands longer than 55 inches, but shorter than 60 inches will continue to grow , but will be shorter than 60 inches long.

Example:
57-inch strands before the cut--- did get cut by 2 inches. It was supposed to reach 60 inches. Now these strands will only be 60-2=58 inches long.

Does it make sense????

So after the cut, there will be certain strands which will not reach the terminal length of 60 inches. But they will reach the terminal growth period. So to be truly accurate, "terminal length" is a misnomer. It really should be "terminal growth period." But then, we cannot visualize how long it will be. Besides if you trimmed a strand, terminal length of that strand is shorter than the length without a cut during its growth period.

melrose1985
February 26th, 2009, 10:53 AM
Spidermom, Akiko, and EdG, Thank you....

With al that info i actaully understand it now. I'm glad i asked because everytime i think about it feel dumb because i just couldnt wrap my brain around it. Thanks!!:eek:

HairyCarrie
February 26th, 2009, 10:54 AM
Two very good explanations. I *think* I've got it, by jove. Thanks!

enfys
February 26th, 2009, 11:29 AM
I think it's hard to explain because we don't often see it.

Aso, I don't think anyone has mentioned that terminal can change, can't it? Hair that won't grow past a point will sometimes go way past when you start taking better care of it. So what appears to be termibal is actually breaking point. So most people only find terminal after eating well and so on.

adiapalic
February 26th, 2009, 12:55 PM
I used to have a natural taper, but then I began trimming to get dry/damaged ends off to prevent further breakage of other hairs. I have yet to find my terminal, and my hair is at hips.

pdy2kn6
February 26th, 2009, 01:36 PM
this is really informative info on terminal length hair, i too never understood it before.i think your right spidermom, much less complicated describing it as 'terminal time'

Roseate
February 26th, 2009, 01:52 PM
So is it right to say that you can change your teminal length somewhat but not your terminal time?

As in, your hair will always grow for 6 years (or however long), but if you are getting proper nutrition and care it could grow faster during those 6 years, resulting in a longer terminal length?

spidermom
February 26th, 2009, 01:54 PM
So is it right to say that you can change your teminal length somewhat but not your terminal time?

As in, your hair will always grow for 6 years (or however long), but if you are getting proper nutrition and care it could grow faster during those 6 years, resulting in a longer terminal length?

This or not break off as much.

s_tresses
February 28th, 2009, 12:34 PM
I dont get it. (I am reallly slow)

But, do new hairs come out after you've reached terminal length? If yes then how is thickness not affected after reaching terminal length?

freznow
February 28th, 2009, 12:57 PM
I dont get it. (I am reallly slow)

But, do new hairs come out after you've reached terminal length? If yes then how is thickness not affected after reaching terminal length?

You know those playdoh things where you put the playdoh in and the hair all comes out at once? That's NOT what happens.

Okay, so imagine that we have a playdoh person, and its has never been cut. If the playdoh person were a real human, ther would be one or two hairs just about to grow. There'd be a few hairs growing in between, then there'd be one or two hairs that are very long. ~time passes, the playdoh's hair grows~ Yet there is still the same basic number and length of hairs. Why is that? The long hairs shedded, and turned into the short hairs. The short hairs grew into medium length hairs, and the medium length hairs kept growing and a few are at long now.

Cutting changes this. If you cut the long hairs, it will still fall out after it has given forth the amount of hair it would had you not cut it. But other hairs will continue to grow, and those medium length hairs will very soon replace the cut long ones.

Für immer
February 28th, 2009, 01:37 PM
... no clue

Feline
February 28th, 2009, 01:54 PM
I have been at terminal for, well, a number of years. It seems to stop naturally at hip length, however, I have had a number of individual hairs go as far as the thigh. The taper starts about the top of the hip bone. I try to keep it even, so if it is going to get longer, it's going to be a really slow process. I really don't think it will get any longer, it's been more or less that length too long.

Charli800
February 28th, 2009, 02:30 PM
That's really useful! Thanks. :flowers:

Does that mean that you'll only get severe taper and fairytale ends when you're nearing terminal length (due to damage or genetics)? And would that make them pretty much impossible at BSL? (I calculate BSL at 70 cm to be about 1/3 of my terminal length, though I'm not sure that's right!) TIA

trolleypup
March 1st, 2009, 12:02 PM
That's really useful! Thanks. :flowers:

Does that mean that you'll only get severe taper and fairytale ends when you're nearing terminal length (due to damage or genetics)? And would that make them pretty much impossible at BSL? (I calculate BSL at 70 cm to be about 1/3 of my terminal length, though I'm not sure that's right!) TIA
At terminal length, you should have an even taper through your whole length (from full thickness to 0), with visible fairy tale ends (more or less visible depending on hair type).

The only way to get fairy tale appearing ends when you are far from terminal is to cut/thin the hair at the ends (aka layers).

rhubarbarin
March 2nd, 2009, 10:21 AM
I shed out hairs that are as short as 2-4 inches, and I know they were shed naturally because there will be a little root sac at one end, which equals a cycle of growth lasting only 3-6 months

This assumes though that all hairs on your head grow at the same rate, which I don't think is a given.
Maybe those super-short hairs were there for years, but they grow much more slowly than the bulk of your hair..

spidermom
March 2nd, 2009, 10:55 AM
This assumes though that all hairs on your head grow at the same rate, which I don't think is a given.
Maybe those super-short hairs were there for years, but they grow much more slowly than the bulk of your hair..

It is my understanding that hair grows for however long its cycle dictates, rests for 3-4 months, then sheds out as the follicle pushes forth a new hair. So 2- to 4-inch long hairs wouldn't have been on my head for years but only a few months.

Of course there could be a gap in my understanding.

Charli800
March 2nd, 2009, 11:31 AM
Spidermom, I think rhubarbarin is saying that the hairs might have been on your head for years, but only being growing at less than an inch per year - so only a couple of millimeters per month.

trolleypup
March 2nd, 2009, 12:47 PM
I don't think all the hairs last the full years long cycle...I shed way too many otherwise normal hairs at short lengths for that to be true (for me).

Also, hairs on different parts of the scalp will have different terminal lengths (times).

LittleOrca
March 2nd, 2009, 01:00 PM
Can you increase your terminal length with vitamins? If you give your hair more nutrients aimed at it and it increases growth, that would increase terminal length right? I am still grasping this concept, and I think I have it down, but that little question nagged and begged me to ask it. :)

spidermom
March 2nd, 2009, 01:30 PM
Spidermom, I think rhubarbarin is saying that the hairs might have been on your head for years, but only being growing at less than an inch per year - so only a couple of millimeters per month.

Might be possible; I don't know. If only I could somehow mark one hair and find out. haha

Altocumulus
March 2nd, 2009, 02:49 PM
I marked all of my hairs with henna, lol. Growing it out has revealed that there is a wide variation in growth rate. The hair at the crown/back of my head grows almost 1.5 as fast as the hair at the front and sides of my head. I haven't seen any hairs that grow only millimeters per month, though. I did grow and shed short hairs that were completely blonde, so I know their entire lives took place post-henna.

spidermom
March 2nd, 2009, 02:56 PM
I did grow and shed short hairs that were completely blonde, so I know their entire lives took place post-henna.

I think my short shed hairs have short growth cycles too.

EdG
March 2nd, 2009, 06:03 PM
Can you increase your terminal length with vitamins? If you give your hair more nutrients aimed at it and it increases growth, that would increase terminal length right? Not likely. Terminal length and growth rate are determined by genetics.
Ed

TammySue
March 2nd, 2009, 06:39 PM
I know I have to be close to terminal since my ends are thin. I really should stop the trims just to see how much longer it would get. I would love 4 more inches, even if they are fairytale ends!

Ed, are you at terminal? :)

EdG
March 2nd, 2009, 06:44 PM
Ed, are you at terminal? :)Yes I am. :)
Ed

edensapples
March 2nd, 2009, 07:57 PM
Hijack!

What would happen if someone at terminal length used vag cream on their scalp? What if this could affect terminal length?

Magicknthenight
March 2nd, 2009, 08:13 PM
I have had a question as well....what if you keep cutting your hair short for years. Then decide to grow it out. Once you grow it out will it take longer since the hair that's been there will only grow to a certain length because much of it has been cut off? Then you'll have to wait for it to shed out and start over again?
That you have been cutting it most of the hairs life time. So you think your at terminal this time without cutting any off...but then as new hair slowly comes in and since your not taking away any...and the time they grow will be more (result of no cutting) until they shed again...would they grow longer? I hope that made some sense :p

freznow
March 2nd, 2009, 08:27 PM
I have had a question as well....what if you keep cutting your hair short for years. Then decide to grow it out. Once you grow it out will it take longer since the hair that's been there will only grow to a certain length because much of it has been cut off? Then you'll have to wait for it to shed out and start over again?
That you have been cutting it most of the hairs life time. So you think your at terminal this time without cutting any off...but then as new hair slowly comes in and since your not taking away any...and the time they grow will be more (result of no cutting) until they shed again...would they grow longer? I hope that made some sense :p

I have no idea if that made sense or not (sorry!), so I'm going to say that sometimes hair can stall, and I think that half the time it's a result of cutting. Some people can spend a year at waist length, come to believe that it's terminal, but then it starts growing again. The longest hairs at that point would be at their terminal time, they've just had their length cut short, and they're waiting a while before they fall out. And the shorter hairs are still growing, but aren't quite that long yet, so it appears to be terminal when it's really just stalling. (At least, this is my theory, and it makes sense to me.)

edensapples I'd be curious about that, too. I don't think, to this point, anyone *really* knows what happens to the hair when growth treatments like monistat or Mega-tek are added. Does the increase in growth shorten the cycle length? Or does the cycle length stay the same, which would then mean a longer terminal?

Dorothy
March 2nd, 2009, 08:47 PM
Charli800, you asked if one could have terminal length at BSL, and I would say that sadly for me yes I can. I am pining for more inches, and toward that end am CWCing, using a bakelite/bone comb, treating my hair like delicate antique lace, dusting, etc. at this point since joining LHC Oh...about a month ago. However, I haven't really cut my hair in any significant way for 15 years or so, never taking off more than an inch a year at any point, mostly less. I did use chemical dye 10% peroxide every month or so, and brushes, but no blow dryers or other heat treatments, no curlers, no excessive brushing, no real ripping or tearing. And my hair has never been beyond roughly BSL in all my 40 years, AND I have taper and fairytail ends. I gaze with envy at the luxurious tresses I see here....and I radically accept that by switching to henna instead of chemicals and following all the other sage advice, I can at least make my BSL more lovely to look upon. But I harbor serious doubts I'll ever hit classic.

Lady Jo
March 2nd, 2009, 09:16 PM
Whenever i grow my hair longer near my waist it grows dry so
that's terminal for me. It seems like your hair grows healthier when you trim the tips.

Charli800
March 3rd, 2009, 01:45 AM
freznow, that stalling theory makes a lot of sense to me. I'd guess frequent trimming prior to growing out would result in a shorter stalling length, too.

Lady Jo, is your hair becoming thinner and tapering at the ends, or just getting dry? If it's the latter, you could probably grow it longer by babying it a bit - if you want to, of course.

I'm very curious about the monistat thing. Maybe I'll go ask on that thread.

Nat242
March 3rd, 2009, 03:12 AM
Hijack!

What would happen if someone at terminal length used vag cream on their scalp? What if this could affect terminal length?

I doubt it. Certain topical treatments may boost hair growth rate and thickness, but hairs that have reached their terminal time have stopped growing and entered the "resting phase". Application could boost how fast and how thickly hair that is still growing grows, but I doubt it would affect hairs that have reached their terminal time.

Keep in mind that you can reach a "false" terminal length if you trim a lot or have breakage. Hairs have a certain time they can grow for, and if you trim frequently and substantially or if your ends are breaking off, your hairs can't reach their full length potential in the length of time they have.

Nat242
March 3rd, 2009, 03:15 AM
Whenever i grow my hair longer near my waist it grows dry so
that's terminal for me. It seems like your hair grows healthier when you trim the tips.

Welcome to LHC! I used to think the same thing about my hair (except it was barely BSL), but since I started to use henna instead of conventional dyes, stopped heat styling, changed my washing regime, included deep treatments and catnip rinses, and began wearing my hair up most of the time, I pushed past that point and am now at about hip length. It takes time, but don't give up!

JamieLeigh
March 3rd, 2009, 07:47 AM
When I was younger, I had major taper. The sides were nearing waist-length, while the middle back was dusting the backs of my knees. I don't know if that was my terminal length or not, since at the time that I cut it back about 3 feet or so, I don't remember whether it had stalled out. :confused:

spidermom
March 3rd, 2009, 10:40 AM
I once had a friend who did not have her hair cut in 8+ years, and it was about BSL and stayed there. She was my roommate for 2 years, and her hair never got any longer. She didn't have thin, fairy tale ends, either. It looked thick all the way to the ends. She didn't have any particularly damaging habits that would have been breaking it off (that I can remember) - no dyeing, bleaching, heat styling. Hair growth patterns and potential length are highly individual.

eresh
March 8th, 2009, 08:57 AM
My plan is, when I reach ankle (maybe next year), to cut back to knee.
But will my fairytale ends come back if I don't trim (like now, I only trim once a year or S&D)....
I like my fairytale ends I don't want to maintain a blunt hemline but I do want to try and thicken it up a bit.
Is this possible??

trolleypup
March 8th, 2009, 09:56 AM
My plan is, when I reach ankle (maybe next year), to cut back to knee.
But will my fairytale ends come back if I don't trim (like now, I only trim once a year or S&D)....
I like my fairytale ends I don't want to maintain a blunt hemline but I do want to try and thicken it up a bit.
Is this possible??
Not really. Each time you make a cut, you will have a blunt hemline that will start growing back to terminal...it will thin out as it approaches terminal, giving a more fairlytale look, but there will remain a distinct end as the longest remaining hairs grow out at the same rate.

The further you are from terminal when you cut, the thicker and more distinct the blunt ends will be...and for longer.

However, lighter colored finer hair will appear more fairytaled in these situations than darker coarser hair.

eresh
March 8th, 2009, 03:19 PM
Thanks for your reply!
I have another year to think about it :o