Slow-growing hair is a common complaint amongst pretty much everyone who’s got it. Not only does quick-growing hair mean those bangs you cut on a whim (regrets…) will be a distant memory in no time at all, but it also makes you feel all-around healthy.
Multiple factors influence whether our locks grow like a weed or stay stagnant. That said, you can help things along naturally with a few simple tactics. Here’s a breakdown of the factors that affect your hair growth, plus how to help it along.
All About Hair Growth
Hair, like skin, is primarily made up of proteins, and it’s actually rooted deep down into the layers of the skin, surrounded by the hair follicle, which is a sheath of connective tissue. It’s also constructed in three separate layers: the inner layer (known as the medulla), the second layer (known as the cortex), and the outer layer (called the cuticle), explains Penny James, IAT-certified trichologist (that means she’s a scalp expert!) and owner of Penny James Salon in New York City.
Interestingly, all of our hairs aren’t in a state of growth all the time. “Our hair is in a constant cycle, starting with the growing stage (‘anagen’) followed by the resting stage (‘catagen’) and then the falling out stage (‘telogen’),” James explains. Most people notice about half an inch of hair growth per month when all is said and done, unless something is impacting this cycle.
“Due to the complexity of our hair-growth cycle, the process can be interrupted easily,” notes James. In fact, our hair can be influenced by myriad factors, including medical conditions, hormonal fluctuations, certain medications, and even stress.
Individuals with thyroid conditions, for example, can experience hair thinning or hair loss. The same is true for individuals who have recently been pregnant, because of hormonal changes that occur in the first few months postpartum, explains New York City-based dermatologist Marisa Garshick, M.D., F.A.A.D., member of The Vitamin Shoppe Wellness Council. Physical, emotional, or psychological stress on the body, meanwhile, can cause telogen effluvium, which refers to the abrupt shedding of hair. And when it comes to medications, chemotherapy drugs are perhaps the best-known for contributing to changes in hair growth, as well as hair loss, but certain antidepressants, blood pressure medications, and acne treatments can also impact your hair, Garshick says.
Helping Hair Grow, Naturally
The good news is that many people can enhance the health and growth of their hair through natural methods. Here, dermatologists and trichologists share their best natural solutions.
1. Get enough key nutrients
One of the best and easiest ways you can help your hair grow naturally is by eating a nutrient-rich diet. In fact, research has shown that being short on certain nutrients—especially vitamin B12 and vitamin D, biotin (vitamin B7), riboflavin (vitamin B2), and iron—can lead to hair loss. If you struggle to get ample amounts of these nutrients through diet alone, supplementing can help you meet your needs, says Garshick.
If you’re not sure how you’re doing on these nutrients, talk to a nutritionist who can evaluate your current eats and recommend dietary changes and any supplements that might be helpful. (Sign up for a free consultation with one of The Vitamin Shoppe’s nutritionists here.)
2. Avoid aggressive hair Styling
If you pull your hair back into a tight ponytail or bun every day, your style may be doing harm. “Aggressive tension along the hairline or tight ponytails along the crown cause irreparable follicle damage and prevent proper function,” warns Kerry Yates, trichologist, hairstylist, and founder of Colour Collective. Hair follicles that can do their thing are a must for healthy hair growth, so consider switching up your go-to style to something gentler.
Yates also recommends using round-tip brushes, which tend to be more gentle on your scalp. “Aggressive brushing can cause inflammation, which also leads to follicle damage,” she says.
3. Manage stress
Stress can influence our health in so many ways—and, of course, our hair growth is one of them. Specifically, the stress hormone cortisol has the power to disrupt the hair growth cycle when it’s too high too often, warns James.
Adding stress-relieving activities, such as exercise, yoga, meditation, or journaling, can help reduce stress levels, especially when done consistently. (Short on time? These practices take five minutes or less.) Another helpful addition to your routine: the herb ashwagandha, which has been shown to help regulate the immune system and support feelings of greater balance, per research published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine.
4. Try daily scalp massages
If the only time you receive a scalp massage is in your hair stylist’s chair, it’s time to give your noggin a little more love. In fact, one small study out of Japan has linked regular scalp massages with less shedding and thicker, healthier hair. “Massaging the scalp for a minimum of five minutes daily relieves tension and tightness while improving blood circulation,” adds Yates. That’s all good news for encouraging follicles currently in “grow” mode.
To DIY, simply move your fingertips in small circles around your scalp, working across all areas for at least five minutes.
5. Avoid harsh products
You probably know that not all shampoos are created equal—and many actually contain harsh detergents that over-cleanse the scalp and negatively impact hair follicle function, according to Yates. Her recommendation? Avoid shampoos that contain strong detergents that may be harmful to hair health, such as sulfates, parabens, and PEGs.
6. Use dry shampoo Properly
While it’s tempting to douse your head in dry shampoo and go about your business for a few more days before washing, dry shampoo is really meant to be a short-term solution for grease and grime, according to Yates. “Not brushing or washing it out can cause the follicles to become clogged, leading to inflammation and damage,” she says. “You would never leave your makeup on your face for days without rinsing it, and the same should be true of dry shampoo.” Your mission: Hop in the shower as soon as you’re able after extending the life of your ‘do with dry shampoo.