The siren call to grow out one’s hair can strike at any time. And in these particularly quiet days the sound can be deafening. Perhaps, you’ve fallen down an IG rabbit hole tethered to the Rapuzel-esque strands of celebs like Ciara and Madelaine Petsch? Or maybe, possibly, you’ve given yourself too-short bangs. (Note to self: read this first next time.) Either way, once the idea takes root it feels like time, and the hair that grows with it, slows to a ridiculous pace.
You see, no one ever wants to grow their hair out. We just want longer hair. And we want it now, please. The good news is there are some things you can and should do to get the ball rolling. Then there are some things that, frankly, ain’t going to happen. To separate fact from fiction, we’ve tapped into advice from experts to bust common myths about how to grow hair faster. You know how knowledge is power, right? Loading up now on the fundamentals can make or break your future transformation.
How fast does hair grow?
So, it depends. “In general, healthy hair grows 1 cm per month,” says Dr. Fiona McCulloch, a Naturopathic Doctor, founder of White Lotus Integrative Medicine in Toronto and the author of 8 Steps To Reverse Your PCOS. “But if there is an underlying health condition affecting hair growth, the correction of that can absolutely make hair grow at a faster rate.” You know how an oncoming period or string of intense days can make your skin freak out? Hair can be equally reactive. “If you feel you have hair loss or slow growth, many underlying conditions can be involved,” she says. The list includes polycystic ovary syndrome (a hormonal imbalance resulting from too much testosterone), as well as perimenopause or menopause, rapid weight loss, hormonal changes, including postpartum or going off of birth control pills, as well as thyroid and autoimmune diseases, anemia, diabetes, scalp infections or significant stress. Yup, that’s a lot to consider. But taking a closer look at each of those factors could lead to unlocking changes that positively impact your overall health.
If zilch on that list fits your current situation, here’s a hard fact: There’s nothing you can do to accelerate the sloth-paced biological process. But, insert sigh of relief here, that doesn’t mean you’re totally powerless. “You can’t really grow your hair faster, but you can take steps to make it grow better,” says David Nadicci, creator of We Are We Are Hair Studio and a L’Oréal Pro Portfolio Artist. Possessing his own shoulder length mane, Nadicci knows first hand what works. “When your hair is at its healthiest, it will absolutely grow out much better. And clients who take my advice have the longest hair,” he says.
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How often should you wash your hair during a growth phase?
Nadicci suggests reducing washing to no more than three times a week and using a leave-in conditioner. “Frequent washing will dry out the hair, and dry hair will cause split ends and more breakage, which means it won’t get longer,” he says. Another essential practice: only using hot tools once or twice a week, and always with a heat protectant. “It’s important to limit blow drying, flat ironing and curling because when you add unnecessary heat, you are compromising the integrity of your hair,” he says, “If you must use a blow dryer, use it on a lower heat setting and if you use a hot tool don’t overheat the section of hair that you’re working with. You should still be able to create your desired look without overheating it.” How to know if you’re in the danger zone? A good rule of thumb is if your hair is too hot to touch, you overdid it, he says. Besides settling in for the long haul (because remember that bit about hair growing only 1 cm a month) pivoting attention to your hair care and styling routine will deliver a lengthy payoff.
Shea Moisture Hemp Seed Oil Lush Lengths Lite Leave-In Conditioner, $14, walmart.ca
How often should you trim your hair if you’re trying to grow it out?
When you’re on a hair growth journey the thought of a trim seems hella counterproductive. Whether you’ve undergone the Big Chop to transition to a natural texture or are transforming your bob into 2020’s shaggy mullet, why give up any of your hard-earned length!? “I find people don’t cut their hair often enough. I don’t mean to change your style, but it’s best to maintain regular dustings to get rid of split ends,” says Nadicci, introducing chic stylist slang that helps reframe the removal task. His ideal schedule is a dusting (aka micro trim) every eight weeks. “Hair grows an average of half an inch each month, but if you’re not dusting your ends, your hair will continually break at the bottom. So it will be growing at the top but you won’t see it getting any longer,” he says, “You need to have fresh ends all the time so that it stays strong.” If length is your long-term goal, make ‘scissors aren’t my nemesis’ your new mantra.
Gnarly ends aren’t the only part of your hair that deserve some R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Your roots, and more specifically scalp, should receive extra care when you’re on a growth quest. “As we age, our scalps get tighter and hair growth slows down. Using a scalp scrub will help keep the surface clean and promote growth,” says Nadicci. As a weekly treatment on wet hair, he suggests using a walnut-sized amount of scrub directly on the scalp. “Massage it in and slowly add more water until you work up a lather before rinsing it out. Don’t use shampoo, the scalp scrub is used in its place,” he says.
Nexxus Clean and Pure Invigorating Detox Scalp Scrub, $17, shoppersdrugmart.ca
To maximize the ritual, Nadicci suggests following up with a rinse-out hair mask applied from mid-lengths to ends. He likes the strengthening boost of the Kérastase Resistance Extensioniste line. Looking for hair care products that contain ingredients like ceramides and creatine will help promote elasticity, retain moisture and prevent breakage, he says.
Kérastase Resistance Masque Extensioniste, $69, sephora.com
Can hair growth products and supplements help?
“Hair supplements should always be looked at critically. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to hair health and many over-the-counter products have not been proven to be effective for hair growth,” says Dr. McCulloch. Nadicci agrees. “When it comes to supplements, you’ll see biotin is a trending ingredient being added to a lot of products to promote hair growth, but it hasn’t been proven to work,” he says.
Still, that doesn’t mean taking one won’t bring something to the table. “In many cases, however, supplements can be helpful, in particular when replenishing a deficiency (including iron, B vitamins, vitamin D, zinc, selenium or amino acids),” says Dr. McCulloch, “It is difficult to get enough Vitamin D from diet alone, particularly in the winter. We find many patients with hair loss benefit from normalizing their vitamin D levels with supplementation.” If you’re curious about what could be a good fit for you, talk to your health care pro first.
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Wherever you land on supplements, there’s one big way the pros want you to invest in what you’re putting in your mouth. “My stance is that healthy hair comes from within your body—vitamins B, D, calcium and potassium are all great to incorporate into your diet,” says Nadicci. To support mermaid-length goals, Dr. McCulloch also recommends consuming a healthy, balanced diet including high-quality lean protein, a variety of colourful, antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruits, and low-glycemic index carbohydrates. “There are many nutrients in our food that are necessary for healthy hair growth. These include critical amino acids that we consume through protein and micronutrients, like iron, zinc, selenium, biotin, pantothenic acid, Vitamins B12, B6 and D, and more,” she says. Start by filling up your Instacart with sweet potato and squash, healthful fats such as olive or avocado oils, and omega-3 rich fatty fish, like sockeye salmon, and you’ll be on the right track to play the long game.