In the 1970s, toy manufacturers tapped into a nearly-universal women’s wish with Chrissy, the doll whose hair “grew” if you gave it a yank. If it were only that easy in real life, who wouldn’t trade a momentarily painful pull for a lifetime of long, luxurious locks?
You may be suffering the regret of a haircut gone wrong, or dealing with fragile tresses that break if you look at them sideways. It’s a common (and maddening) problem, and it’s enough to make you want to tear out the hair you have. So how do you coax reluctant roots to do their job, and keep fragile ends from failing?
We hear your plight, and it sounds an awful lot like the opening lyrics to Hair, the Musical; you want a head with long, beautiful hair. To that end, our team has looked into the main issues that plague underachieving locks, and found honest-to-goodness solutions that give real results. Forget about old-wives tales and purported miracle cures. If you’re serious about embarking on a regimen that’ll help your hair reach its full potential (healthy hair can grow a whopping half-inch per month!), check out our findings. Your follicles will thank you.
We’ve divvied up our hair-growing tips into four categories to address the subject from top to bottom, or more accurately, roots to ends.
1) The root of the problem
If your hair is growing very slowly (or not at all), your follicles might be the problem. These are the openings in the scalp that hold your hair roots and stimulate their growth. How best to help follicles perform at their peak? First, you may want to appraise your diet: key nutrients to encourage hair growth include Vitamins A-E, as well as folic acid. If your diet’s lacking in the building blocks for good health, is it any wonder your hair’s struggling?
And while you’re fine-tuning the menu for your mane, look to foods rich in omega-3s. This will further encourage your follicles on the path to glory. Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, and anchovies), flax seeds, and walnuts contain large amounts of these nutritious fatty acids, which have a host of physical benefits – including shiny, strong hair.
Biotin, which is sometimes referred to as Vitamin H (though it really belongs to the B-complex family – confused yet?), is another powerhouse component of a healthy hair diet. To boost your biotin intake, indulge in foods like eggs, spinach, mushrooms, and cheeses. Omelet, anyone?
Okay, we know: one cruise through the supplement aisle at the drugstore will show you tons of supplements that’ll claim to do the hard work for you. And if you consult with your doctor to make sure you’re not overdoing it, a vitamin pill or gummy certainly won’t hurt. But can we be frank for a sec? If you go the hair-growth supplement route, you could very well be peeing your money away, literally: your body will dump excess water-soluble nutrients through the kidneys, so that uber-expensive hair growth formulation winds up a waste. And if your desire to make like Rapunzel leads you to ditch the junk food for a more nutritious diet, hey, you’ll save money and reap the assets from head to toe.
The bottom line? Poor hair growth is a hallmark of many vitamin deficiencies. Listen to your tresses; they may be trying to tell you something.
2) The scoop on your scalp
Now that you’re an expert on the care and feeding of your follicles, it’s time to move into massage mode. Your scalp is home to a huge network of blood vessels, all very close to the surface, so a gentle rubdown can boost circulation and inspire your follicles and roots to get in gear. The increased blood supply delivers more nutrients, including oxygen, to your follicles. There are gadgets out there designed specifically for scalp massages, but you can also simply rub your scalp with your fingertips.
To create a spa-style experience, consider adding a drop of essential oil to coconut or jojoba oil. We like lavender for an evening treatment, and peppermint oil will perk you up in the morning. You’ll probably want to reserve the oil for pre-shampoo massages, especially if you’re prone to greasy hair.
In addition to improving overall scalp health, a few limited studies indicate that dry or oil massages may increase follicle size, which can lead to thicker hair shafts. The jury’s still out on this theory, but massage definitely does stimulate your scalp. Plus, it’s super relaxing (and bodifying, too!). Shoot for a scalp massage of at least five minutes; that’s the time it’ll take to really get your blood flowing.
Move your fingers in small circles and go lightly, especially if the skin on your scalp is irritated. You don’t want to inflame sensitive spots. If you decide to shop for a scalp massage device, look for silicone bristles that are designed to work with your hair type. Some models will boast cleansing power as well as scalp stimulation, and those are great options if you’re dealing with our next scalp-related issue:
Sebum buildup. That’s the oily secretion that creates blackheads on your nose and also can plug up pores and follicles on your scalp. In truth, sebum buildup may or may not significantly inhibit hair growth – there truly are partisan internet debates on absolutely every topic – but we hold these truths to be self evident: a clean scalp feels and looks good.
To remove sebum and product buildup naturally, try a little apple cider vinegar or baking soda the next time you shampoo. They’re gentle on your hair and skin, but tough on gunk. You don’t want to strip your hair or scalp of all sebum, because, in small doses, the oil does wonders for both protecting and conditioning both strands and skin.
While you’re working on your scalp’s clean bill of health, note that dandruff, dead skin, and product buildup may be working to block your pores and follicles, as well. If that’s the case, seek out hair care formulations that address scalp issues while tending to your hair’s needs as well.
3) Tressed for success
When it comes to the health of your hair, you probably already know that banning the blow dryer and shunning the straightener are key things to keeping your locks strong and healthy – but we’re going to remind you anyway. The number one cause of end breakage and damage to the hair shaft is heat styling, so if you’re set on growing your hair out quickly, opt for air drying. We know, we know. It takes forever, especially if you have thick, full hair (especially in humid, warm weather).
But take heart – severely damaged hair tends to dry very quickly, so if drying your tresses takes an eternity, it may be a sign of hope. To move things along, gently squeeze your hair, comb through the strands with your fingertips and wrap it in a microfiber towel. Clumped hair holds water longer, so keep separating the strands every few minutes or so. Don’t use a brush on damp hair; opt for a wide-toothed comb, and go gently, detangling the ends first.
Once you’ve done the work of air-drying, don’t undo the progress you’ve made by torturing your hair with heat stylers. Remember: hair is essentially a textile, not unlike the threads of a delicate fabric. Applying heat can fray the cuticle (the outer layer) of your hair, and once that happens, frizz and breakage are nearly inevitable. If you must use heat to tame your hair while you’re trying to grow it out, use products that contain heat protectants, and keep your styling device on low.
Your hairstylist may have a hard time convincing you of this next tip, but it’s the truth. Regular trims will help you in your quest to grow out your hair. Trims will eliminate frayed ends, preventing the split from continuing up the shaft of your hair (where it will eventually break). A little snip every four to six weeks is all it takes, and you’ll make up the difference with healthy, robust growth in no time.
4) Product dos and don’ts
In addition to seeking out heat-friendly and scalp treatment products, you can also boost your hair’s growing power with concoctions that will nourish and nurture. Whether you DIY it with homemade masks and oil treatments, or select a product off the shelves, look for ingredients that will supercharge your tresses. Avoid ones that can compromise hair health by drying or even damaging the shaft.
Pro tip: if you’re struggling with extremely damaged, brittle hair, you may want to explore the world of treatment systems that work to repair and protect your fragile locks. Chemists have carefully formulated hair care products that will give the hair you have new life, while you encourage new growth.
For a convenient, quick home treatment, they’ll effectively tackle dry hair, raid the fridge: mash half an avocado and add an egg yolk, then apply to damp hair. Massage and leave in for three to five minutes, then rinse hair until the water runs clean. Finish with a gentle shampoo, preferably one without harsh chemicals, and that’s maybe even made with organic ingredients (and remember, you’ve banished the blow dryer).
You can also raid store shelves for products formulated to facilitate hair growth. Look for ingredients like rosemary, which, according to some studies, will encourage your slacker follicles to kick it up a notch. Coconut oil also is a great additive to seek out – it nourishes your hair strands both inside and out.