If you’ve ever gotten a bad haircut, dye job, or perm, everyday feels like an eternity until your hair grows back out. It’s like groundhog day…on a really bad hair day.
I’ve definitely had my share of cringe-worthy cuts and perms (thankfully no dye jobs) that have seen me putting my hair into a ponytail for weeks. And gnashing my teeth every time I look into a mirror.
While there’s no miracle cure to grow hair overnight, there are a few things you can do to help speed up the process. Because when it comes to growing out a bad ‘do, every centimeter counts.
How Fast Does Hair Grow?
On average, hair on your head grows about ½” per month max, or about 6” a year. The speed of growth depends on various factors including genetics, age, overall health, as well as your hair type.
There are roughly 100,000 follicles on your head, each of which produce one hair. To understand hair growth, it’s important to know that there are 4 different stages in each strand’s lifecycle:
- The anagen phase is the active growth phase. Roughly 90-95% of your hair is in this stage at any given time, which lasts between 2-8 years.
- The catagen phase is a transition phase where hair stops actively growing and the hair follicle shrinks. This stage lasts around 6-8 weeks.
- The telogen phase is when your follicle rests, with the hair still in place but detached from the root. Approximately 5-10% of the hair on your head is in this stage, which lasts around 2-3 months.
- Finally, the exogen phase occurs when the old hair is shed completely, pushed out by new hair growth at it’s base. The 100 or so hairs you lose a day is in this phase.
What Affects Hair Growth?
No one factor alone determines the speed at which your hair grows. Like most things, it’s a combination of factors, some of which you can control, some of which you can’t.
The things you can’t do much about:
- Your ethnicity and genetics. Asians have the fastest growing hair, followed by Caucasians, with those of African descent having the slowest rate of growth.
- Your age. As you get older, you’ll naturally have slower hair growth, as well as thinning of each individual hair.
- Some health conditions. Hormonal changes/imbalances, alopecia, and some medications can cause hair loss. Stress and lack of sleep can also affect your overall health, which in turn affects hair growth.
Things you can control:
- Your diet. Eating a balanced, healthy diet is good for your entire body, including hair, skin, and nails.
- Your styling regimen. Overstyling your hair, especially with heat, damages your locks, which can cause them to break off and shorten your overall length.
- Your hair care routine. Using the right products in the right way for your hair type can keep your hair stronger and healthier.
How Can I Make My Hair Grow Faster?
Let’s be real. Your hair is not going to grow inches overnight no matter how well you baby it, take supplements, or slather it with oils, conditioners, and hair growth treatments.
Having said that, there are things you can do to maintain strong, healthy tresses and give your hair follicles the best chance of producing hair during the growing phase.
Get Regular Trims
Yup, you’ve heard it before. Get regular trims every 6-8 weeks if you want to grow your hair out faster.
Wait, what? Cutting your hair makes it grow faster?
Not exactly. Hair grows from the roots (not your ends), so cutting it doesn’t actually affect how fast it grows.
However, keeping hair in good shape is key since there’s only so much you can do to grow it quickly.
Though you’ll be taking a bit of length off each time, fewer split ends means hair won’t fray as easily and will be less prone to breakage. In the end, less breakage = longer hair.
Wash Hair Less
We all want clean hair, but it’s better not to shampoo too often. Daily shampooing strips hair of natural oils that keep it moisturized and pliable.
Use sulfate and paraben-free shampoo, which is gentler on hair.
On the flip side, do be more liberal using conditioner. When applying, work it through your ends up to mid-length, avoiding your scalp.
Leave the conditioner on for a few minutes before rinsing with cool or cold water to flatten the outer cuticle layer against the shaft. A closed cuticle helps protect the inner cortex by sealing in moisture, making it stronger, shinier and healthier.
If your hair is super dry, use a deep conditioner or hair mask to further condition and repair brittle strands before jumping in the shower.
Take Care of Your Scalp
With all the focus on healthy, beautiful hair, one overlooked area that deserves attention is your scalp. With hair follicles embedded in your skin, the health of the skin on your head affects the strands of hair it produces.
To that end, you’ll want to reduce clogged pores on your scalp, which blocks hair follicles. Clogged pores occur when sebum, the natural oil produced by your skin, mixes with dead skin cells.
While it might be tempting to use a clarifying shampoo to rid your scalp of oil and dirt, too much cleansing actually stimulates your pores to produce more sebum.
It’s important to maintain your skin’s natural pH level to avoid an itchy, flaky scalp. Your scalp’s pH is about 5.5.
This means that your skin and hair is actually a bit acidic (on a range of 0-14, 0 is totally acidic, 14 is completely alkaline).
Lots of shampoos and other hair products are more alkaline than acidic, so a good way to restore your natural pH levels is with an apple cider vinegar rinse.
If you’re too lazy to make an ACV rinse, try washing your hair with an apple cider vinegar shampoo. It doesn’t have to be an expensive one – I like Aveeno’s Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo. It helped soothe my itchy scalp within a few washes.
Sleep on Silk…And Towel Dry With Microfiber
Who doesn’t love a little luxury? If you have fragile hair that tangles easily, sleep on a silk or satin pillowcase. (Or bamboo-microfiber.)
The smoothness of silk is gentler on hair, reducing tangles and breakage. Even your skin will benefit, making this one a no-brainer.
Also, towel dry your hair with an old cotton t-shirt or microfiber towel instead of your bath towel. The fibers in standard bath towels rough up the hair cuticle, particularly if you vigorously rub your hair dry. Your tresses becomes frizzy and prone to breaking, and some strands get pulled out completely.
Instead, gently wring as much water out of your hair after you’ve showered. Then, use a blot-and-squeeze technique versus rubbing when towel-drying.
Eat Your Way To Better Hair
Of all the things you can do to grow your hair faster, getting the right nutrients in your diet is perhaps the most important.
Since hair is made of a protein – keratin – you’ll want to get enough protein in your diet. You’ll also want to get enough biotin (or vitamin B7), which helps keep hair healthy and strong.
Good sources of protein and biotin include lean meats, milk, cheese, eggs, nuts, avocado, salmon, sweet potato, and cauliflower.
You’ll also want to get enough vitamin A, Bs, C, D, and E. Basically get the first five letters in the alphabet, plus iron and zinc for good measure.
Gelatin is also great for hair, both by ingesting or by adding gelatin powder to shampoo and conditioner and applying directly to hair.
(I had heard about gelatin being good for hair, skin, and nails, so it was news to me that actually applying it to your hair also makes a difference!)
While you can take supplements to boost hair growth, you should be getting enough vitamins and minerals already if you eat a balanced diet. Additional amounts over what your body can use won’t be stored so it’s best to just get your nutrients through food.
Consider supplements if you don’t have a balanced diet or are going through a stressful time in your life. Your vital organs get priority over your hair for nutrients, so vitamins and supplements can help make up for nutritional deficiencies that may be leaving your hair dull and lifeless.
Brush Your Hair Properly
For healthy tresses, be gentle when brushing your hair, especially when it’s wet or damp. If you have a lot of length, work out any tangles at the ends first before doing a full length comb out from your scalp.
For wet hair, use a wide-tooth comb to work gently through your strands and unsnarl any knots.
On dry hair, boar bristle brushes are frequently touted as being the best. They’re gentle on hair and spread the natural oil your scalp produces to your strands, acting as a natural conditioner.
They also give your scalp a little massage, stimulating your follicles, and give your hair a nice sheen.
Natural boar bristles are particularly good on fine hair, but if you don’t want to use an animal product (or shell out the $$ for a natural bristle), vegan versions made of nylon are also available.
Lastly, brush your hair before going to sleep at night. This helps prevent tangles so you have less of a bed head in the morning.
Doing the aforementioned things will give you a good chance at growing your hair as quickly as your body can. There are also a few things to avoid to maximize the health of your hair.
To give your hair the best chance at staying strong and healthy, reduce or eliminate heat styling altogether.
This includes all hair appliances like blow dryers, curling irons, flat irons/straighteners, crimpers, or any other tool that involves applying direct heat to your hair.
This is because heat opens up the cuticle layer of your hair shaft, exposing and drying out the inner cortex as you style your hair.
Less Heat = Healthier Hair
If you need to blow dry, allow your hair to air dry about 75% of the way before finishing it with a hair dryer on the low setting.
Likewise, if you want some curls, try a non-heat method that doesn’t require a curling iron or any other styling tool.
If you absolutely must style with heat, make sure to evenly apply a heat protectant first.
The only thing worse for your hair than heat is chemically treating it. Avoid perming, coloring, bleaching, or relaxing your hair at the salon or at home.
All chemical treatments, whether they are meant to change your natural color or texture, weaken hair’s natural makeup. Harsh chemicals such as hydrogen peroxide or ammonium hydroxide are used when bleaching hair, stripping it of moisture and causing each strand to be brittle and easy to break.
Perms and dye jobs also do a number on your locks, as they break down the outer protective layer to penetrate the hair shaft. They can also burn or irritate your scalp, especially if mixed incorrectly.
(I remember the distinct smell of the solution my stylist would drizzle over the curlers when I used to perm my hair. It even smelled harsh.)
Remember, the healthier your existing hair is, the more of it will stick around while you’re trying to grow it out!
When tying your hair into a ponytail or other updo, try a looser version so you’re not subjecting it to a lot of tension.
Additionally, if you put your hair up in the same way everyday, the portion that’s held together with an elastic band gets weakened by tightness and tension, making it more likely to snap and break.
A good alternative to tight elastics are claw clips, pins, or even your own hair.
Hair won’t grow overnight no matter what you do. However, you can preserve the health of the hair you already have and give your roots the best possible conditions for producing healthier, stronger strands.
Before you know it, that unfortunate cut or ‘do will be long gone and you’ll be loving your hair again.