Yes, You Can Actually Make Your Hair Grow Faster—Here's How
Hard to believe, but in this era of quick tans and almost insta-dry nail polish, there's still no easy way to grow hair faster (extensions aside) than your genetics allow. Trim and brush all you want, but your hair...prefers...to take...its time.
Exactly how much time it take for hair to grow depends on genetics. On average, each strand grows about a half-inch a month. But hair doesn't grow like that nonstop; it grows in cycles. "Fortunately for many, hair is in the growth phase over 80 percent of the time, meaning the opportunity is there," says William Yates, MD, FACS, a board-certified hair loss surgeon based in Chicago, Ill.
At any given moment, about 85 percent of hair follicles are in the anagen (growing) phase. The rest of the follicles are in either the catagen (transitioning) phase or the telogen (resting) phase. For some lucky individuals, the growing phase lasts as long as seven years; for others, it's as little as two. At the end of this stage, the strand falls out, and its follicle remains dormant and hairless for about three months. After that, a sprig of hair finally sprouts, and the hair growth process starts again. "If your hair never gets past your shoulders, chances are, you have a shorter anagen cycle than others do," says Francesca Fusco, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.
From how to choose products that promote healthy hair follicles to external factors that could be affecting your hair growth, experts offer their top tips for taking your locks to greater (healthier, stronger, shinier) lengths.
How to Grow Hair Faster
Hair grows faster when it's healthy. Consider these factors and learn how to make your hair grow faster.
1 Choose the right shampoo.
One of the easiest ways to streamline your hair growth is to make your shampoo work for you.
When reviewing product labels, look for ingredients that are known nourishers. "Pumpkin seed oil, yucca root, and saw palmetto are my favorite ingredients for promoting hair growth," says Dr. Yates. "Pumpkin seed oil extract and saw palmetto have been shown to help stop hair loss and regrow hair. They block the action of 5-alpha reductase, which converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT)—the culprit of male pattern baldness. Yucca root, a gentle and natural ingredient popular in Native American culture, has high concentrations of saponins (create a suds effect without sulfates) and is a natural anti-inflammatory, which helps with itchy scalps in addition to promoting hair growth."
Yates says to avoid products and fads that seem too good to be true, and allow three to four months after starting a new regimen before you see any change in growth.
2 Don't forget conditioner.
If you're not using a conditioner every time you shampoo, you're not doing it right. Dry hair hinders growth by increasing the chances of breakage, so it's important to moisturize your strands to restore growth proteins back into hair follicles. Look out for hydrating formulas that include growth vitamins such as zinc and biotin.
According to Penny James, IAT, a trichologist and founder of Penny James Salon in New York, it's best to avoid heavy formulas, especially when it comes to conditioners. "The use of a lightweight conditioner helps smooth the cuticle that has been swollen while shampooing," she says. "Additionally, there is always a difference in the pH in shampoos and conditioners, so you also want to stay in the range of 3.5-5.5. Anything over pH7 and your cuticle will over expand."
3 Add a clarifying shampoo and booster.
Hair looks more voluminous when follicles are not blocked by dirt, dead skin cells, and product buildup. Once a week, treat your scalp to a clarifying shampoo that also moisturizes.
With your scalp wet, James says it can also be helpful to integrate a topical solution to your haircare routine. "For more volume and density, my go-to is Virtue Flourish Density Booster ($48; bluemercury.com), which is a drug-free alternative perfect for anyone who has not yet seen a trichologist to determine why their hair is falling out," she says. "It is packed with peptides, along with other nutrients for nourishing the scalp and hair, and the spray lightly coats the surface area without leaving any buildup behind."
4 Get a trim.
It may seem intuitive to skip snips when you're trying to elongate your strands, but Cheryl T Bergamy, a celebrity hairstylist and founder of Contents Haircare, cautions it can have adverse effects. "Getting a trim every six to eight weeks prevents split ends and damage, making ends stronger and leading to faster growth," she explains. "I recommend trimming 1 to 2 inches at each appointment to avoid fraying ends and keep hair healthy."
5 Switch up your diet.
Diet can take the backseat when it comes to hair growth, but James says there are some important amino acid forms that shouldn't go ignored. "The big ones for keeping hair stronger and fuller while growing in the hair cycle are proline (avocados, beans, broccoli, and soybeans), lysine (salmon, cod, nuts, and broccoli), and cystine (keratin-rich foods including pork, whole grains, chicken, and fish)."
6 See a professional.
Last, but certainly not least, if you're experiencing excessive hair shedding or loss, experts recommend seeing a trichologist, dermatologist, or physician who can help. "Look for one that specializes in hair loss so they can properly assess your condition and recommend the best plan of action," advises Dr. Yates. "There are certain diseases that are associated with hair loss and can be corrected. Having a hair transplant can also be a good solution for a certain subset of patients (men and women)."
What to Avoid to Promote Hair Growth
If you come from a family of women with Rapunzel-like locks but yours are not, the problem may be external. Here are some factors affecting hair growth (and ways to counteract them).
As for what to look out for, Dr. Yates suggests avoiding alcohol-based products that can dry out hair and cause breakage. "Similarly, sulfates used to create the sudsing in shampoos can cause drying and strip color-processed hair. Phthalates are chemical substances that can be added to shampoos and conditioners to soften the formula, but have been shown to damage the kidney, liver, lungs, and reproductive organs," he adds.
Over time, both the types that are glued in and those that are sewn into tight braids can pull on follicles, injuring them and slowing hair growth. Consider temporary clip-in pieces to get a longer look if your hair breaks easily.
Peroxide, ammonia, and other oxidizers used to lift hair cuticles and remove pigment may also allow natural moisture to escape, leaving strands brittle. So condition at least three times a week to keep it healthy and help hair grow faster.
Anxiety increases your level of the stress hormone cortisol. This can cause nerve cells to release chemicals that, in the case of chronic stress (which affects eating and sleeping habits), may shift follicles from the growth phase to the resting phase.
"Some antidepressants, such as Zoloft, may shorten the anagen phase," says Alan Bauman, MD, a hair-restoration physician in Boca Raton, Fla. Other drugs, such as certain contraceptives and medications for thyroid or cholesterol conditions, can compromise hair growth as well. See your doctor for alternatives.