How Can I Make My Hair Grow?

Q: I’m tired of my short style, but it takes so long for my hair to grow. Is there anything I can do to speed up the process?

A: Waiting for your hair to grow sure can feel like an eternity, whether you’re looking to lengthen bangs, layers or your entire ‘do. It’s especially tough when your current hairstyle is hard to work with or you simply don’t care for it. After all, for many of us, the state of our strands not only affects how we look but how we feel throughout the day.

Hair extensions aside, there are a few things you can do to help—first, support the growing process and, second, try to accelerate it. A smart start: paying attention to what can prevent strands from growing at a healthy rate (about half an inch each month).

What Interferes with Hair Growth

Hair Coloring and Excessive Heat Styling

The harsh chemicals in many dyes and high-heat settings on blow dryers, curling irons and straightening tools weaken strands and stress hair follicles. Your hair may be growing, but frequent coloring and heat styling may cause it to break before it gets the chance to add the length you’d like; it can even cause hair loss. Try to space out color treatments (discuss an optimal coloring schedule or other possible options with your stylist) and take breaks from styling tools for days at a time.

Split Ends

These styling options, along with brushing your hair when your strands are wet, can also cause the ends of your hair to crack and “split,” leaving them dry and frizzy. While split ends don’t actually cause hair to stop growing, they do damage the ends of the hair faster than the scalp can grow new length, making it seem as if your hair has stopped growing. Being more mindful about how you’re handling your tresses can help protect them from breakage.

Medications

Certain drugs can interfere with your hair’s normal life cycle—which includes the growth phase (lasting three to four years), the transitional phase where hair prepares to shed (lasting two to three weeks), and the shedding or resting phase where hair stops growing and older hairs are replaced by new ones (lasting about three months). Sometimes, a medication will prompt hair follicles to go into their resting phase early, causing them to stop growing and even fall out too soon. Speak with your doctor about prescriptions you’re taking that may be affecting your hair.

Stress

Feeling frazzled can cause a change in your body’s routine functions—including hair growth. In fact, severe or chronic stress can cause a disproportionate amount of hair to move out of its growing phase and into its resting phase. Working to manage your stress benefits you beyond fixing hair-related problems, of course; you may improve other physical issues you’re experiencing and feel better mentally and emotionally, too.

Hormonal Shifts

Changes that occur during perimenopause, post-menopause or postpartum stages can also lead to hair loss, preventing growth.

Thyroid Troubles

Healthy hair growth depends on the proper functioning of the thyroid gland. When there is too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism), your strands become fine and begin to thin; too little thyroid hormone (underactive hypothyroidism) can not only cause hair loss on your scalp but other places on your body as well. If you’re concerned that your thyroid might be to blame for your slow-to-grow or thinning hair, talk to your doctor.

Iron Deficiency

Low iron levels can contribute to hair loss. If you find out this is the case, discuss why you might suffer from a deficiency with your doctor (people who have gastrointestinal issues and women with heavy periods are commonly affected). Upping your iron stores with foods like dried fruit, beans and leafy greens can help improve your levels and allow your strands to continue growing.

Undernourishment

Inadequate protein and calorie intake negatively impacts hair growth, as your strands need nourishment just like the rest of your body.

What Accelerates Hair Growth

Diet Adding these foods to your diet can encourage your strands to grow faster:

  • Biotin This vitamin, commonly found in nuts, carrots, brown rice and oats, has been shown to support hair and scalp health by producing proteins that help hair grow.
  • Essential Fatty Acids The healthy fats found in walnuts, flaxseeds, fish, avocado and hemp can help keep your hair and scalp hydrated, which, in turn, encourages growth.
  • Vitamin C As we get older and collagen (a protein that surrounds hair strands) breaks down, our locks become more vulnerable to breaking. Loading up on citrus fruits, strawberries and red peppers, which boost collagen production, can help keep hair strong and growing.

If you’re considering a supplement, speak with your doctor or dietician before taking one.

Scalp Massage

Stimulating the scalp brings fresh, oxygenated blood supply to the hair follicles, which nourishes them and boosts growth. It can also remove dead skin cells that can inhibit new strands from sprouting. Try a simple self-massage:

Starting at the hairline around your temples, knead your scalp with your fingers in a circular motion. Apply pressure, but not so much that you feel pain. Gradually make your way around your head, massaging the sides, top and back of your scalp.

More: Essential Fatty Acids: A Healing Nutrient Profile
Vitamin C: A Healing Nutrient Profile

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