Healthy, thick hair has usually been considered a symbol of good health and beauty, and many people long for a longer and thicker mane. However, the speed at which hair grows and how long your hair can be depends a lot on genetics, but don’t despair: there are ways to stimulate hair growth and ensure your mane grows healthy and as quick as possible. Here is how to make your hair grow faster and healthier.
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How Does Hair Grow?
Hair growth happens at the scalp, in a structure called a hair follicle. The hair follicle itself is where hair is created and grows, and it’s a living structure, unlike the hair shaft which is mostly composed of hard proteins and not living cells. The health of the follicle will determine how much and how strongly hair will grow, and each follicle in your scalp will go through three different phases.
Phase 1: Anagen
Hair follicles in the anagen stage of the cycle are actively growing hair. For a period between two to six years, a new hair is formed in the follicle at a rate of about 1cm every four weeks. If there was an old hair in that hair follicle, the old hair would be pushed out and that is what causes hair falling out naturally. It is very difficult to make hair grow quicker, but it’s quite easy to slow the speed at which hair grows below your natural potential, due to nutritional issues and environmental reasons.
During this stage, hair grows longer. The limit to how long your hair can naturally be comes from how long your genetically given anagen phase is, however there are hair loss medications that can help keep hair in the anagen phase for longer. 90% of your hair is usually in the anagen hair cycle phase.
Phase 2: Catagen
At this stage, the hair shaft stops growing, and during two to three weeks the outer root sheath shrinks, attaching itself to the root of the hair. This is when what most people call the hair root is created: a small whitish bulb at the root of fallen hair. At any point, about 3% of your hair is in this stage.
Phase 3: Telogen
The telogen phase is when natural hair shedding occurs. Hair with a fully formed root bulb goes into a resting phase, and the hair follicle is dormant. This lasts for about a hundred days, until the hair follicle enters Anagen phase again, and the old, dormant hair is pushed by the new growing one. 6 to 8% of your hair is at the telogen phase at any point of time.
If you want to stimulate hair growth, your goal is to maximise the amount of time hair is in the anagen stage, while providing the follicle with all the nutrients it requires to form healthy hair.
Foods That Help Hair Grow Faster
Ensuring your hair follicles have everything they need to build healthy hair is key to stimulating hair growth. This starts with a healthy diet full of hair-friendly foods. At the same time, healthy hair is much less likely to break and the overall effect is that you can recover from that misguided summer chop much quicker if you eat properly.
Some nutrients that stimulate hair growth and increase the overall appearance of your hair are:
- Fatty oils, such as Omega-3, which can be found in salmon, eggs and avocados, will help keep your skin healthy and give your hair extra shine. You can even use avocado as a hair mask, mixing it with sour cream and applying it to your scalp with an stimulating massage to improve blood flow to the hair follicles.
- Vitamins: Vitamins of the B complex, such as biotin (found in almonds), Vitamin A (found as beta carotene in carrots and sweet potatoes, and any orange root vegetables) and Vitamin C (easily found in citrics) help your scalp stay healthy and increase hair growth. Vitamin E, which can be found in sunflower seeds, will increase the blood floor to your scalp and help the hair follicles receive as much nutrients as they need.
- Minerals such as Zinc (found in oysters) and Iron (you can get it from red meat or dark leaf vegetables such as spinach) are vital to prevent hair falling out and will help your mane grow faster.
- Proteins: The hair shaft is mostly composed of protein, called Keratin. Including enough protein in your diet from lean red meats or egg yolk is vital toi stimulate hair growth.
Avoiding Breakage to Grow Longer Hair
There are no two ways about this: if your hair is not treated properly, split ends and breakage will render your hair growing efforts useless. If you use heat styling regularly or colour your hair, you are weakening the hair shaft. Which means you will need to invest in extra hair care to keep it healthy and reduce the damage.
Specialist shampoos and conditioners such as the KÃ©rastase Resistance line or Redken Extreme shampoos and conditioners are developed to return the hair shaft to its former glory, despite heat and chemical treatments. For extreme cases, leave in products and hairdressing treatments with keratine can replenish the hair fibre and help reduce breakage. However, the best cure for weak hair is, without a doubt, prevention.
If you heat style your hair every day but want to grow longer hair quicker, your best option is to either have off-days when your air can air-dry or increase the amount of time in between shampoos. Dry shampoo can become your best friend here, and weekly overnight treatments with castor oil in your hair will keep your hair looking great after a blowdry for longer.
For those who love bright hair colours but need to use bleach or hair lighteners, the breakage problem can be huge. In fact, a bad bleach job can leave your hair falling off at the root! So if you intend to change your hair colour drastically invest in a good salon, who can make sure they don’t re-lighten bleached areas and stick to the roots only. This way you won’t subject your hair to more damage than necessary. Investing in the right kind of products to keep your hair colour for longer can also reduce the need for appointments and further lightening.
Keeping Split Ends At Bay Is Key
Cutting your hair often doesn’t make it grow quicker, BUT removing split ends reduces breakage and makes the ends of your hair look healthier and thicker. The end result is that your hair looks longer and feels better. Ask your hairdresser about hair dusting, which gets rid of split ends without taking away length.
You can’t really fix split ends once they happen, but you can prevent them by using hair masks regularly, avoiding heat styling without heat protection products and being careful when you brush your hair. If you blow dry your hair regularly, products such as the KMS Quick BlowDry lotion can reduce the time it takes to get your hair in shape, and as such reduce split ends.
Hairstyles That Cause Hair Loss
Constant pulling of the hair will not only slow down hair growth, but also can make hair fall out. So wearing your hair in hairstyles that are too tight such as ponytails or high buns can actually do a lot of damage, particularly if you sleep with your hair styled. You may also be suffering from headaches if your hairstyle is pulling the hair off your head during long periods of time. If you love weaves and wear them often, you may end up suffering from hair loss unless the weave is properly removed and the hair is allowed to breathe.
A loose ponytail or braid can keep your hair protected and won’t risk causing traction alopecia, and can be perfect if you are worried about your hair getting tangled while sleeping. If you need to detangle your hair, be gentle and invest in quality brushes that are less likely to raise the hair cuticle and cause damage and frizz.
As you can see, there are many ways to stimulate hair growth, and while we can’t make hair grow faster we can at least ensure it grows as fast as it naturally can, while looking amazing in the process. And if you can’t wait to grow out that unlucky bob… there are always hair extensions and wigs to help you fake it until you make it.