Nearly every woman dreams of long luscious locks. And there is no shortage of ‘instant long hair’ solutions out there, from semi-permanent tape extensions, clip-in extensions, microbeads and wigs. The global hair wigs and extensions market size was valued at USD 5.8 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 13.3 billion by 2026, growing at a rate of 13% during 2021–2026.
But these aren’t natural or permanent ways of making your hair long, on the contrary, they can do permanent damage to your hair.
You’re probably wondering if there’s anything you can do to make your hair grow faster naturally. There are so many products and hair gummies out there that it’s hard to know where to start.
Do they even help grow your hair? Can dietary changes speed up growth? And what about medications or treatments? Minoxidil?
Keep reading, and we’ll dive deeper into answering the questions a lot of women have.
We’ll also take a closer look at what can impair hair growth and some steps you can take to improve the growth of your hair. And no, it’s not a quick fix and you will have to practise patience.
First, let’s look at how hair grows. Simplified, your hair begins growing from a root in the bottom of the follicle. Blood from the blood vessels in your scalp feeds the root, which creates more cells and makes the hair grow. The hair gets pushed up through the skin as it grows, passing an oil gland along the way. The hair dies by the time it is long enough to poke out through the skin.
Yes, the hair on your head is dead. That’s why it doesn’t hurt to get a trim occasionally.
It’s important to note that a normal healthy person loses about 50 to 100 hairs a day. That’s because the follicles don’t grow hair at the same time. Each scalp follicle grows hair for a few years and then takes a break. When a follicle is on a break, the hair in the follicle falls out. Because the follicles take breaks at different times and the other hairs keep growing, you probably don’t notice when you lose hairs.
Any more than 50-100 strands falling out a day and you should see your GP.
Now that we know how hair grows, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how to speed up that hair growth:
- Say no to overly restrictive and yo-yo dieting! Dr. Lindsey Bordone, a dermatologist at Columbia Doctors and assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University Medical Centre, says “that we can’t control everything that affects our hair growth. But there are things we can avoid that may cause impaired growth and increased shedding. Restrictive dieting can decrease resources and nutrients needed for hair growth, and since hair growth is a relatively low priority compared to other bodily functions, hair growth is halted quickly when your body is placed under stress due to restrictive dieting,” she explained. “Even after resuming a healthy diet, hair shedding usually goes on for a period of months,” said Bordone. So, ladies, easy on the weight loss shakes. Aim for a diet of ‘everything in moderation.
- Assess if you’re getting enough protein in your diet- Consuming adequate protein is essential for hair growth because hair follicles are composed of protein. A lack of protein in the diet has been shown to promote hair loss. Biotin is essential for the production of a hair protein called keratin, which is why biotin supplements are often marketed for hair growth. Aim for 50g of protein a day.
- Assess your diet- Are you getting enough nutrients, vitamins and minerals from food? – Specific vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids are especially important for your overall health and also play a key role in providing your body with the energy needed for hair growth. This includes biotin, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, zinc, iron, omega-3 and omega-6. These are where hair vitamins come into play. Data from a study conducted on hair loss insinuated that lower zinc levels can play a key role in hair loss. While the investigation confirming the effectiveness of biotin is poor, a review of this study found 18 reported cases that showed clinical improvement in both hair and nail health after biotin supplementation. Some hair vitamins that have been proven to work are:
- JSHealth Vitamins – Hair and Energy Capsules-Women have reported amazing hair growth using these capsules.
- Sugarbear Hair Vitamins are vegan gummy supplements that contains vitamins A, C, D, E, vitamins B-6 and B-12, folate, zinc, biotin, pantothenic acid, and more.
- LesLabs Hair Health contains all the essential nutrients to support hair growth. This dietary supplement contains vitamin A, vitamin E, thiamine, biotin, pantothenic acid, zinc, zinc, pumpkin seed extract, MSM, and bamboo stem extract.
- Check if you’re over-bleaching and dyeing your hair- This one’s big. Dyeing your hair can just seem like a routine, and for many of us, our monthly root touch-ups may be causing hair loss without us knowing. Hair loss after hair dyeing is common due to the manipulation of the hair shafts during the dyeing procedure. The porosity of the hair shafts is increased when the hair is bleached or lightened. This is why brown hair dyed blond tends to experience more hair loss from breakage than brown hair dyed brown. Most hair dye contains both ammonia and hydrogen peroxide, which also loosens telogen hairs.
- Watch how often you style your hair- The heat from curling irons, hairdryers, and straighteners can damage your hair and cause breakage. What does heat do to your hair?
- Can break the S-S or disulphide bonds within hair strands that give hair its strength and vitality
- Damages protein in the hair shaft
- Can make your cuticles completely dry
- Fades your hair colour quickly.
While avoiding heat styling altogether may not be an option for most of us, you may want to think about limiting how often you use these tools. You should always be using a heat protectant spray before styling hair. Try out these ones:
- Pump 300° Heat Protection. The Pump 300° Heat Protection has a tropical smell to die for and creates a gloss feel on your hair. A must-have for anyone using heat on their hair. Protects hair stylers up to 300 degrees.
- HSI Professional Argan Oil Thermal Protector is a weightless mist that can help protect your hair from heat exposure up to 450ºF (232.2ºC).
- Kenra Platinum Blow-Dry Spray is a pricier option that can decrease the blow-dry time and protect your hair from heat at the same time.
Tip: Try decreasing the temperature of heated styling tools can also help reduce hair damage.
There’s no magical pill or remedy that will result in instant hair growth, but there is a lot you can do to improve the speed of your hair growth.
While genetics do play a major role in maintaining healthy hair growth, several other factors also come into consideration.
Consuming a wholesome diet that includes key nutrients as well as adequate protein is key when it comes to hair growth. Using certain products such as heat protectants and hair masks may promote hair growth, while really dialling back those daily blow-dries and monthly hair dying will greatly assist your hair follicles too.
On a farewell note, try massaging your hair with castor and coconut oil that’s been heated once a week. This worked for me.
If you’re concerned about hair loss or after trying these tips, are still finding it difficult to grow your hair, you may want to have a chat with your doctor or medical professional.
Despina Karpathiou is an accredited makeup artist, beautician and lifestyle writer based in Sydney, Australia. She is currently studying Skin Health and Nutrition and is passionate about makeovers and healing skin (and health) conditions from the inside out. Follow her here for all things skin, health and beauty.