By Kim Robson:
In this age of instant everything, there’s still no quick way to grow long hair. It’s so unfair: whattakes years to grow out takes only seconds to cut short. Aside from getting hair extensions, the only route to long hair is time. But there are some tricks and tips that can help you grow out a long, luxurious mane of hair.
Genetics Play an Important Role
On average, hair grows about a half-inch per month — faster in the summer and slower in the winter. But hair doesn’t grow nonstop; it grows in cycles. At any given time, approximately 85 percent of your hair follicles are in the growing (anagen) phase. The other 15 percent are either in the transitioning (catagen) phase or the resting (telogen) phase. The length of the growing phase can vary, depending on genetics. Some lucky people have growing phases as long as seven years; for others, it’s as short as two years. When the growing phase is over, the hair falls out and the follicle rests for about three months. Then a new hair sprouts, starting the whole process over again. If your hair never grows past your shoulders, chances are you have a shorter anagen cycle than average.
Ways to Avoid Damage
Even if you are blessed with a longer anagen phase, long hair may be elusive for a number of external reasons:
Split Ends – Trimming your hair regularly can actually help it grow out to its full potential. The ends, being the oldest part of the hair, have been the most exposed to damaging styling products, bleaching and coloring. Ends can split right up through the hair shaft and break off, even when it’s still in the growing phase. If split ends become bad enough, then hair actually getting shorter as it grows out can be possible. A ¼-inch trim every eight to twelve weeks is all you need to keep those ends healthy. If you have fine or curly hair, which is more prone to split ends, cut it bluntly. “Razor cuts,” which create thinned-out layers, can exacerbate the condition.
Hair Extensions – Whether you prefer the glued-in type or the more expensive and longer lasting sewn-in extensions, both place a lot of stress on your existing hair, causing permanent damage and slowing growth. Consider temporary clip-in pieces to get that longer look without causing further damage.
Bleaching – Peroxide, ammonia, and other oxidizers used to lift the hair’s cuticle and remove pigment also allow moisture to escape, leaving hair brittle. If you chemically treat your hair, use a deep conditioner at least three times a week to help retain moisture. Also, consider skipping the shampoo every other day to allow your hair’s natural oils to penetrate the cuticle.
Stress – Anxiety and chronic stress increase levels of the hormone cortisol. This, in turn, causes nerve cells to release chemicals that, in addition to affecting eating and sleeping, can “switch” follicles from the growing phase to the resting phase. Result: your hair falls out more than normal.
Medications – Some antidepressants such as Zoloft can shorten hair’s growing phase. Other prescription drugs like contraceptives and medications for thyroid or cholesterol conditions alsocan compromise the growing phase. Ask your doctor about alternatives.
Ways to Promote Growth
Long hair = healthy hair. In addition to avoiding damage, try these tips to help your hair reach its potential:
Diet – Our hair follicles are among the top cell-turnover sites in the body, and therefore require many vitamins, nutrients and hormones to function properly. Hair is made up of proteins built by enzymes that are activated by iron. Strive for a diet that includes 46 grams of protein and 18 milligrams of iron a day. (Steak, turkey and black beans offer generous doses of both.) Biotin, also known as Vitamin H, is known to thicken hair and nails, especially in pregnant women. (Eggs, nuts, legumes, whole grains, milk, avocado and salmon are all excellent sources of biotin.)
Supplements – With a healthy diet, you already should be getting all the nutrients your hair needs. Still, some folks are convinced that hair-growth supplements like Viviscal work wonders for thinning hair. If you want to use supplements already in your pantry, go for the Vitamins A, C, D and E; all the Vitamin Bs; plus Iron, Zinc and protein.
Scalp Treatments – Hair just looks fuller, shinier and richer when it’s free of dirt, dead cells and product buildup. Once a week, treat yourself to a clarifying shampoo like Neutrogena’s Anti-Residue Shampoo and a deep conditioning treatment to restore your hair’s natural beauty.
The only thing left to do? Time. Give it time. It’s worth the wait.