Growing Curly Hair to Shoulder Length: 3 Great Tips

For men, growing curly hair to shoulder length can be quite an experience. Rogelio brings us 3 great tips based on his experience growing his coiled locks into the longer lengths!

 

I still remember my first time growing my curly mane to shoulder length. It didn’t end good. My hair was matted and tangled every single day and I would sport dry locks which resembled hay. About the only good thing that came out of that experience was that I learnt how NOT to grow curly hair to shoulder length.

The above first try was all the way back in 2003. I then chopped my curls and experimented with other hairstyles and approaches, leaving the whole shoulder length ordeal to a side. It was then in 2009 that I decided to give growing to shoulder length another try. This time, with much more accumulated hair knowledge and expertise, I successfully grew my curly locks to shoulder length. In fact, I was so successful that I have continued to grow my curls and they are now approaching my hips when I extend them (you heard right, hip length!). I started from a short length, about 1 1/2 inch on the top of my head with the sides done to a #2, a classic High and Tight hairstyle (my favourite short length hairstyle for kinky hair like mine).

 

Curly Hair growth from short length to long shoulder length hairstyle by Rogelio

The hair growing journey was quite an experience (pic on left: AFTER & pic on right: 2 years before)

 

Growing my curls to shoulder length was a 2 1/2 year experience which was full of obstacles. I learnt even more about my hair (and continue to learn more as my hair continues to get longer) and I carried out a lot of experiments on my hair for the sake of learning. Had I not kept an open mind at all times and insisted on doing this, I don’t think I would have prevailed. I found that growing curly hair long is quite an experience requiring much effort from one’s part as curls knot, tangle, dry and are hard to tame. And while I may have painted a negative picture with my words so far, I will also tell you that growing one’s curls to shoulder length can actually become a relatively easy experience if one knows how to do it.

When I first started growing to shoulder length, I made mistakes and wasted time and energy. I learnt from all of this (and my experiments) and nowadays I spend as much time on my curly hair as I used to when it was short. I no longer see my long curly hair as an inconvenience and I continue to grow my hair for the experience and acquired knowledge; I would not be growing my curly hair longer if maintaining my long mane was an inconvenience, I can tell you that. Thus, I want to bring you today 3 great tips to growing curly hair to shoulder length. They are great tips because they essentially revamped my hair growing journey and changed the experience from negative to positive and I highly recommend you to use them if you are planning on growing your hair to shoulder length (and beyond). The Shoulder Length hairstyle is becoming more and more popular among urban men, and even professional males are rocking it so I am aware that quite a few of you will find these tips of benefit.

 

Tip 1 for Growing Curly Hair to Shoulder Length: Keep your hair moisturized

This is hyper essential for curly hair. It doesn’t matter whether you have short or long curls, wavy or kinky hair, are a dude or a dudette. Your curls must be moisturized at all times and the longer your hair, the more important this tip becomes. The longer your hair grows, the more difficulty your scalp sebum will have in coating the whole length of the hair strands and the higher your risk will be for over-accumulating sebum close to the scalp, which will then break into tiny pieces causing unsightly dandruff (this is one of the main causes of dandruff, especially in curly haired men).

You can keep your curly hair moisturized via several means: by finding your optimal shampoo frequency, by using conditioners and leave-in conditioners intelligently, by mastering the Sebum Coating method (explained in my no poo method article) and/or by avoiding the excessive use of blowdriers and straighteners/relaxers.

The consequences of failing to keep your hair moisturized are devastating: your hair will look dry and hay-like, it will tangle and knot in the most vicious of manners and it will not be pleasant to look at (or what I call, the “dead rat” effect). On the other hand, moisturized curly hair looks great, bounces and flows with a natural and healthy look and is the complete opposite in terms of cosmetic results of non-moisturized hair.

So take the message home, curly dude: keep your hair moisturized at all times!

 

Tip 2 for Growing Curly Hair to Shoulder Length: Know your curly hair type

There are a few hair typing methods around and I have my own hair typing guide too, which I have found to be the best for men with curly hair. Whichever you use, just make sure that you know what your type is but don’t obsess with fitting into a given hair type or curl type. Knowing your hair type is of great use to estimate the amount of time it will take you to reach shoulder length.

Despite the fact that hair growth rate is very similar in all men regardless of hair type (1/4 up to 3/4 inches per month), the time it will take for each curly hair type to reach the shoulders will be different due to the different tightness in the actual curling of each type. Wavy hair will take less time to reach shoulder length than highly tight curls (i.e. kinky hair) as the bending/curling of wavy hair is less magnified meaning that less actual length is needed to reach the shoulders as opposed to, say, kinky hair. If using my curly hair typing guide, these are the approximate time spans that each curl type will take to reach shoulder length when grown from a near-shaved length:

  • Type I: 2 1/2 years
  • Type: II: 3 years
  • Type III: 4 years
  • Type IV: 5 years
  • Type V: 6+ years

The above time spans are approximate and they are calculated using the hair located at the top of the head, so these are the time spans which will take for essentially all of your hair to have reached shoulder length; hair located lower than the top of your head will take less time to reach shoulder length due to closer proximity to the shoulders.

Knowing your hair type is thus of importance so that you can calculate a time span and then evaluate whether you want to commit yourself or not to the experience. A lot happened in my life during my 2 1/2 years of growing my curls to shoulder length and I can assure you that a lot will happen to you too!

 

Tip 3 for Growing Curly Hair to Shoulder Length: Start from an even hairstyle

Not starting from an even length hairstyle was a big mistake I made and which I didn’t realize until my hair reached a long length (6 inches). My hair looked all weird as it would not hang down and I resembled a walking mushroom. I exacerbated this mistake by cropping my sides and back to a #2 again when my hair reached 4 inches which meant that I had created a 4 inch difference in length between the hair on the top of my head and that on the sides and back. This proved fatal, hair-wise.

Start from an even hairstyle if you decide to grow your curls to shoulder length. If it means that you have to cut your hair to get an even length all over your head, then do it. Only cut/trim your hair once all of your hair reaches shoulder length: remember, you can always cut more but once hair is gone, it is gone, so start from an even length hairstyle, such as a jewfro/afro, a buzz cut or a High and Tight (with the top being a maximum of 1/2 inch in length). The point is that all of your hair must start growing to shoulder length from a same length (except the sideburns which you can keep cropped).

Check out the video below showing how David Bisbal’s curly hair looked when grown to shoulder length. A textbook Type III, David Bisbal knew these tips already (rumour has it that we’re related?) and thus got his curls to shoulder length like a king!

 

After you are done watching the videoclip with the dancing and getting yourself all pumped up for growing your curls to shoulder length, make sure that you understand the above 3 tips as they will be of great use to you if you do indeed decide to grow your curly hair to shoulder length. Had I know these tips before I started my journey, I would have saved myself quite some time and effort, so apply them if you want to make your hair growing journey a summer breeze!

All the best.

Rogelio

P.S. if you’re interested in growing your curly hair or just in improving its texture and looks so you can own an impressive head of curls, then look no further and not only keep an eye out for more articles here at Manly Curls (subscribe!) but do also get my bestselling book specifically on curly hair for men, The Curly Hair Book! (click the link to see the book at Amazon)

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Rogelio

Rogelio is the go-to guy when it comes to men's hair. Having embraced his natural curly hair for over a decade while living in 5 countries, Rogelio has learnt a thing or two along the way. Rogelio is the author of the two bestselling men's books "The Curly Hair Book" and "The Men's Hair Book", and his motto when it comes to hair is, "Gentlemen, having a good head of hair should not cost us our testosterone".

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24 comments for “Growing Curly Hair to Shoulder Length: 3 Great Tips

  1. Joshua Gabriel
    September 26, 2016 at 2:46 am

    I want to grow my hair out, even the sides, but my hair is very delicate as it comes out easily but I don’t know if this happens to everyone or if there is a special treatment or something. Maybe you know of any products?

  2. Ron
    July 23, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    Hello Rogelio,

    I have been growing my hair for 2 years and 7 months. My stretched is only about 13 inches. Do you know why my hair is growing so slow? Also it still doesn’t droop unless it is wet. I just stumbled upon this site today so I will be trying some of your methods and looking at your book but I don’t understand why my hair doesn’t droop in the front. I have hair type IV so I guess I still have 2 years and 5 months to go but I just wanted to hear your opinion.

  3. Michael
    July 11, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    Rogelio,

    If only I had found this sooner. Great blog!

    I’m growing my Type 3 hair down to shoulder length. Right now, my hair is about 6 inches layered all over and I want all of it one length. Should I keep growing my hair and trim the bottom so that the top can catch up, or get an even cut like you explain on your website? And if I did get an even cut, how could I style my hair when it’s cut like that? I just don’t want to look like a walking mushroom as you call it.

    It’s also very stressful that hair can’t grow fast enough. I have looked for ways to get my hair to grow at a faster rate. Any tips on that?

    Thanks,
    Michael

  4. Gasel
    December 7, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    Hey Rogelio,
    Are there any signals that curly hair is starting to hang?
    My hair is thick and I have type 2 curls, I’m around 5 inches but it only grows upwards…
    I don’t belive it will start to hang in a second, there must be something before it starts to hang.
    Can you help me please?

    Thanks.

  5. Conor
    December 18, 2012 at 6:52 am

    Hey Rogelio,
    Ive got what I guess would be type III curls (somewhere between Adrian Grenier and Justin Timberlake though).
    I’m planning on growing my hair out longer and seeing how it goes.
    Right now i would say my hair is 1 1/2 inches long and basically the same length all around (i had been growing it from a #2 buzz on the sides and 3 on top until recently i got it evened out, which i now realize may not have been a smart idea for growing).
    In the past I’ve never really gone longer than 2 inches or so, and my experience is my hair just keeps growing up and up lol.
    It seems my hair likes forming into a fro and i was wondering if theres any way you’d suggest to help it start growing downward?
    Or maybe that will happen with length?
    Also, regarding keeping hair moisturized, have you heard of or had any experience with moroccan oil?
    My apologies if the answers to my questions are here somewhere already.
    Thanks,
    Conor
    ps thank you very warning me on the dangers of towel-drying, I’ve noticed an enormous difference since stopping!

    • Rogelio
      December 21, 2012 at 10:13 pm

      Hi Conor,

      Having your hair hanging down is a much-desired asset trait by us curly haired dudes, so I understand your question! I’ve talked about this before in my site, but I’m cool answering it again.

      Essentially, your hair will start hanging down with length; the longer your hair, the heavier it will be, and Type III curly hair starts hanging down at about the 12 inch length mark. Remember that hair in males grows at about 0.5 inches per month, so if you have about 2 inches of hair, you’re looking at almost 2 years of growing prior to having your curly hair hanging down naturally.

      Having said the above, you can have your hair hanging down at lengths in which it still puffs out by using a leave in conditioner and a styling cream. Coat your curls in leave-in then add the styling cream. With Type III curly hair, this trick of mine can have your hair hanging down when it is 8 inches long. For what is worth, I cover this exact issue in depth in my book, and I give you the different lengths (there’s 2 types of lengths actually) and tables to work out when your hair will be hanging down according to several factors.

      Yep, I’ve heard of moroccan oil, it’s great for curly hair, utilize it as a conditioning agent on top of your usual conditioner.

      Hope that helped buddy, and I’m glad you’ve seen results from my towel-drying advice!

      All the best.

  6. Sammy M
    November 11, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    Hi Rogelio,
    Great site btw, very helpful articles!
    Ive been growing my hair for about a year now, it grows very fast as its already shoulder length. The only problem I have though is as it gets longer and heavier I feel as if it’s pulling down and creating the illusion of a bald spot. I really want to keep on growing my hair and perfecting the look, I just really don’t want a bald spot at 19!
    Do you have any advice???

    • Rogelio
      November 18, 2012 at 5:21 pm

      Hi Sammy,

      Hope all is well.

      From your words, I can assume that you are talking about the natural bald spot that occurs right at the crown and in the rest of areas of the scalp where parting of the hair strands occurs. You have absolutely nothing to worry about, this is a natural occurrence with long hair; your hair is getting so long and heavy that the hair no longer “hides” the natural distance between hair follicles as otherwise occurs with short and puffing-out hair, thus creating the illusion of a bald spot.

      In any case, as a male you should be keeping an eye on the temples of your head to spot any regression (this is true balding) as well as any wild hair thinning that may occur.

      All the best.

  7. Mike
    November 4, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    Hey man i could really use your help. I changed my hairstyles a few times in the last 6 months. My hair now is 2″ on top 1″ on the sides and 3″ on the back. If i just let it grow would it look bad in the long run and what would you recommend. Since im actually losing hope on it. I would grow it out half a year and cut it. I don’t really wan’t to cut anymore off so its’s last resort.

    Thanks in advance

    • Rogelio
      November 18, 2012 at 2:31 pm

      Hi Mike,

      Don’t lose hope on it, hair grows relatively fast. I would say that you have the correct lengths as I always recommend a maximum of 2 inches difference between the longest and shortest hair segments on your scalp to be able to grow to shoulder length. If anything, I would cut the back to 2 inches so that it is level with the top, but you are good to go to grow it.

      All the best.

  8. Ben Cooper
    July 7, 2012 at 3:14 am

    Yo Rogelio, your curl definition is out of this world and your locks look thick like ropes. I was reading one of your other articles on styling and this is what I have understood from your words: apply leave in conditioner first after showering and then small amounts of natural oil or shea butter to the tips of the curls (when damp not dry) to enhance the curls, is this correct? Also, what do you mean by “mid-shaft” as I have read this with regards to applying the styling products?

    Man, seriously, your curls look damn alpha, I even showed this article to my gf and she totally agrees too lol. I have never wanted to grow my Type IV curls because everyone with the same hair type as mine that I’ve seen trying to do so looked like a wuss. You however have managed to pull all of this neatly and have made me want to reconsider growing my curls to at least medium length so long as I know what I am doing.

    So yeah, please let me know about the curl definition and mid-shaft thing. I am reading the rest of your articles and I am learning a lot. I know you probably have been told this a lot already but THANK YOU for this site.

    Ben Cooper

    • Rogelio
      July 8, 2012 at 6:04 pm

      Hey there ben,

      I’m glad my words are of benefit to you! With regards to your questions, yes, get a leave-in conditioner to act as a base then play around with coconut butter (melted previously in your hands) or shea butter. Apply to the tips after adding the leave-in conditioner.

      Mid-shaft refers to the section of a single individual hair strand. The shaft is the structure of the hair which we see, thus mid-shaft refers to applying the product from about mid-way of the individual strand up to the tip. Never close to the scalp as this will lead to product build up and makes things worse for us curly haired heads.

      Let me know if you have more questions and keep me updated as you grow those curls!

      All the best.

      • Ben Cooper
        July 9, 2012 at 4:18 pm

        Rogelio, thanks dude, I’m trying that and already seeing an improvement which is awesome for a change. I’ll let you know how my curls fare as they grow. Thank you again.

        Ben Cooper

  9. Roger
    July 4, 2012 at 12:38 am

    Hi Rogelio

    I was wondering about the maintenance. Do you have to go to the hair dresser every now and then for a small clean up, or abandon the hair dresser for the next few years? And, what about thinning the hair to remove excess weight? I’m type 2 hair.

    Thanks.

    • Rogelio
      July 4, 2012 at 3:05 pm

      Hi Roger,

      No, you don’t go to the hairdresser anymore as you grow to shoulder length. Trimming healthy hair only undoes any efforts and time spent growing it. Pay careful attention to the term “healthy” though; if you follow the advice I give here at Manly Curls you will have healthy hair as you grow it.

      However, if you prefer to use relaxers/straighteners or treat your hair badly, you will have to go for trims to take care of split ends. Hairstylists, particularly, recommend to go for frequent trims when growing hair but that’s because they already assume that you will damage your hair.

      You can go for some trims if you decide so but it certainly isn’t necessary. Likewise, learn to give yourself trims, it will pay off.

      And no, do not go for thinning hair until your have achieved the length. “Thinning hair” involves trimming hair. Your curls are going to look somewhat awkward regardless until you achieve shoulder length so just get to that length and then do any trimming or thinning you think you may need.

      Feel free to keep me updated as you grow your hair.

      All the best.

  10. Jay
    June 27, 2012 at 1:22 am

    This is going to be an interesting journey, but I wanna try it before it’s too late. I have never extremely enjoyed my hair in the past 8 years (my hair was straight until I was about 13). I cannot wait to see how it’ll look.

    Q’s for you, Rogelio:

    Currently, my hair is ~2.5″ on top and ~1″ on the sides and back. Does this defy tip 3 by a lot, for me, in order to grow my hair to shoulder length? I had a longer High and Top haircut a couple of months ago, and it took me a while to get here. Should I go for a buzz cut as it’s summer anyways?

    Is wearing a hat during this journey a good/bad? (mainly for college and work purposes)

    Does your hair get a bit lighter as it grows as well?

    Right now, I think my hair is very similar to your “semi-serious” photo. A bit longer on top, if you haven’t gelled up there.

    Thank you so much!
    J

    • Rogelio
      June 28, 2012 at 5:51 pm

      Hello Jay,

      Replying to your questions

      1) That’s just about the limit. I normally say that if you want to grow your hair to shoulder length, your hair length discrepancy should not be longer than 2 inches. However, if you want to go for a buzz cut, go for it. That way you will ensure you will grow new healthy hair (your current hair might have been damaged due to improper care, happens a lot with curly haired guys!)

      2) Wearing a hat is not a problem. Just make sure you don’t fit it too tight as tightly fitted caps can cause breakage (hair strands breaking) at the line where the cap fits. Wearing a cap won’t make you go bald, as the annoying myth goes.

      3) Hair gives the illusion of being “lighter” as it grows when it starts hanging down. This is very much so in the case of curly hair. However, longer hair is actually heavier as there is more length thus more mass. In fact, it is this “heavy weight” of longer hair that ultimately causes the curly locks to hang down.

      4) My hair is not gelled in that picture, just one of my kitchen sink blends that I experiment on my curly hair! LOL

      If you got any other questions, feel free to let know.

      All the best.

  11. Nate
    June 13, 2012 at 4:38 am

    Damn. I love this blog….so much useful info :)
    Great job.

  12. Alex
    June 5, 2012 at 3:17 am

    Hey Rogelio, are you using anything on your hair on the shoulder length picture?
    Glad I found your website and you, I just cannot get my shoulder length curls nowhere near as tamed as yours. Each day is a different day with my hair and I would like more consistency when it comes to getting my hair to look like yours. Ta! (Alex)

    • Rogelio
      June 7, 2012 at 1:51 pm

      Hi Alex,

      Inconsistency is common with curly hair. In my case, and as I have replied in another comment, it is all about keeping the hair strands moisturized. Build yourself a solid grooming routine (look around Manly Curls as I have talked about this and continue to) and allow the hair to express itself. if you have done your homework when it comes to keeping the curls moisturized, the inconsistency will be tamed and your hair will look great.

      Any more questions, feel free to let me know.

      All the best.

  13. Elisa
    June 4, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    That’s a lot of hair you have Rogelio, it’s not only that photo either, I’ve seen your natural hair experiment and your locks are incredibly thick. You could even remove one third of your hair and it would still look thick!! LOL
    I’m a natural hair girl and have long kinky hair similar to yours. Did you use a blowdrier to get that fullness in your hair? My main issue is not getting enough thickness so can I ask you for tips to get hair as thick as yours?
    Thanks!!
    Elisa

    • Rogelio
      June 7, 2012 at 1:49 pm

      Hi Elisa,

      Thanks for the comment. No, I don’t use a blowdrier, I allow my hair to air dry alone, which is sometimes a bit inconvenient especially if I wear my hair loose and not tied.

      Tips to have thick hair? Moisturize! Keep your hair strands moisturized, that solves about 99% of the problems us curly heads have.

      All the best.

  14. matthew
    June 4, 2012 at 4:09 am

    been looking for something like this as everytime i try to get my hair beyond a few inches it gets all crazy, do you use or recommend using a leave in everyday?

    • Rogelio
      June 4, 2012 at 9:20 pm

      Hi Matthew,

      Yes, a leave in every day is a good option. It is both a styling and moisturizing agent hence it is great for everyday use.

      All the best.

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