Does it feel like your hair takes forever to grow? You're not alone.
Waiting for your tresses to transform into long, luscious locks can often feel like a painstakingly slow process. It takes a healthy dose of patience.
But whether you’ve been trying to grow Rapunzel locks for years (with no luck), or are just sick of your cropped cut (no judgment here!), there are a few things you can do to help your hair grow a little bit faster. And TODAY Style is breaking them all down with the help of the pros!
How fast does hair grow?
It’s hard to say exactly how fast your hair grows — everyone is different! — but on average, hair grows about half an inch over the course of a month. That being said, it’s not unusual for hair to grow as little as a centimeter or as much as an inch in a month.
A number of factors can influence hair growth, some of which you can control and others you can’t. “The speed at which hair grows is determined by genetics but there are other factors that can affect the growth rate. Age, diet, stress, hormonal fluctuations, scalp health, hair care practices, medications and other health conditions can potentially influence hair growth,” said master hair colorist, Stephanie Brown.
In general, men’s hair grows faster than women’s, but pregnancy can actually speed up the hair-growth process. Even the time of year can affect how fast or slow hair grows.
“Hair tends to grow a little faster in summer and slower in winter,” said Dr. Alan Parks, board-certified dermatologist and founder of DermWarehouse. “An underactive thyroid can also slow down hair growth.”
If you've got damaged hair (thanks, hot tools!), genetic structural abnormalities (they typically cause hair to break off at a certain length) or certain hair types, your hair might also grow more slowly.
“Some people have finer hair that breaks easily, so it just may seem that your hair isn’t growing but it is,” Brown said.
According to Randy Veliky, clinical studies director for HairMax, hair grows faster from the age of 15 to late 20s and slows down considerably after that, especially with the onset of menopause.
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“Hair growth can be described in three cycles, the anagen growth phase, lasting 5-7 years; the catagen resting phase and then the telogen shedding phase. Each follicle goes through these phases independently. As we age or experience pattern hair loss, the anagen growth phase is shortened. This is why it is difficult for women over 50 to grow their hair long like they did when they were younger,” Veliky said.
Before you get frustrated with your hair, try to keep in mind that any number of factors, including hair loss in general, can influence growth. "Hair loss can be caused by many things including illness, medication, poor diet, hormones and over-styling. Any one of these causes can interfere with the hair growth cycle, and can damage hair follicles, preventing them from growing hair,” Veliky said.
Can certain foods help hair grow faster?
Trying to grow your hair longer for a special event? The key just might be your diet. Hair craves nutrition, so a balanced diet filled with lots of nutrients will keep it healthy and happy.
“The foods you eat should contain vitamins and minerals known to support healthy hair growth, such as vitamin C, biotin, niacin, iron and zinc,” Veliky said.
If you want longer hair, stock up on any (or all) of the following powerful foods:
- Sweet potatoes
- Olive oil
- Whole grains
- Foods rich in protein, biotin (vitamin H) and omega-3
How does your scalp influence hair growth?
Believe it or not, your scalp plays a huge role in hair growth, but it takes a beating on a daily basis — harsh brushes and strong products are often the culprit. Considering all that scalps can go through, it's even more important that you treat yours with a bit of TLC.
“Lifestyle, diet and medication can slow down the hair growth process, so a clean, healthy scalp is truly instrumental,” said Angelo David, a hair loss and thinning expert. “Wash hair regularly and don’t overwhelm the scalp with too much product or abrasive chemicals.”
In other words, keeping your scalp healthy is all about taking little steps — like using a sulfate-free shampoo, a filter to remove chlorine from your shower or making sure to thoroughly wash your hair.
“You just need to make sure you cleanse your scalp by shampooing and massaging to get all the dead skin cells off. And brushing your hair once a day will help. But don’t shampoo every day; try to shampoo every other day because this will help you have stronger, healthy hair,” Brown said.
Using hot tools too often or too close to the scalp can also damage hair at the root and prevent it from growing, so try to use them sparingly.
You're bound to expose your scalp to harsh elements sometime, but the good news is, there are a few steps you can take to help protect yours:
- Wet hair is super fragile, so use a wet brush on it to avoid damage
- Condition your hair every time you shampoo
- Prevent breakage by using a light hair towel to help hair dry faster
- Use silk pillowcases instead of cotton
- Use masks and treatments, such as Olaplex, to help strengthen hair
What about vitamins for hair growth?
If you’re struggling to get the nutrients your hair needs through food alone, you might be wondering if there’s any other way to help your hair along.
"Proper diet and nutrition are essential to healthy hair growth," Veliky said. "If you cannot get these nutrients in the foods you eat, try vitamins for hair growth."
There's typically nothing wrong with trying vitamins or supplements to boost your hair growth efforts. At the same time, foods in their original form usually hold more nutrients, so try to incorporate at least a few new foods into your diet before heading right to the vitamin aisle.
If you've worked your way through the list of hair-healthy foods and could still use a little help, you can always try some of these vitamins/supplements:
At the end of the day, hair growth is still a bit of a mystery to scientists and skin experts alike, so no one solution will work for everyone. "We are learning more about how hair growth is controlled at a cellular level, but scientific evidence on how to speed up hair growth directly is still lacking, so certain methods have not been rigorously studied," said cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Sejal Shah, founder of SmarterSkin Dermatology.
But that doesn't mean you can't (safely) try incorporating certain products or foods into your routine to at least see if they give your hair a boost. And when all else fails, don’t underestimate the value of regular haircuts! Frequent trims can encourage hair to grow more if you’ve hit a length plateau.