If only hair would grow faster it’d be great, wouldn’t it? So how can you stimulate hair growth without spending a fortune on pills and potions of dubious origin and efficiency?
While there is no “miracle” that leads to spectacular hair growth, you can still obtain some good results following a few clever tips. Not surprising really – strong hair growth begins with good hair care, and the better you care for your hair, the faster it will grow!
Understanding how your hair grows
To manage your hair growth expectations, it’s important to understand the lifespan of a strand of hair.
A hair starts growing from the root, developing under the scalp in a miniscule envelope called the hair follicle.
The hair comes through the root from the papilla, situated at the bottom of the follicle and through which blood flows. This is the “raw material”, containing the blood that nourishes the hair to keep it growing.
Subsequently, blood flows from the papilla to the hair’s matrix where the growing cells that make the hair are situated. These cells are the fastest reproducing cells in the body.
The length of time a hair lasts (its lifespan) is genetically predetermined. For men, this is three years, on average, and for women it can be up to around four or five years.
What factors affect hair growth?
Hair growth depends on the blood supply to the root, and consequently on our diet as well. To encourage hair growth, we recommend the following:
Iron-sulphur proteins that can be found in chicken, sole, tuna, cheese, egg yolks, beans, lentils, and also in almonds and pistachios.
Oligo-elements zinc and magnesium that can be found in bananas, cocoa, oysters, prawns, egg yolks, soya, grain and wholemeal bread.
Iron, found in mussels, egg yolks, oysters, soya flour, grain, almonds and hazelnuts.
As well as vitamins A, B and C present in many types of food.
You also need to take into account how healthy the hair root is. Its development must not be reined in by impurities that stick to the base of the hair and can choke growth.
The rate at which hair grows also depends on the “genetic programming” in each individual and also on ethnicity. This means that for Caucasians the rate of hair growth will be around 1cm per month, while this would be 0.8cm per month for someone of African origin and 1.5cm per month for someone of Asian origin.
Hair growth also depends on the secretion of sex hormones carried by the blood, so if you’ve got plenty of them, your hair is likely to grow a bit faster!
Finally, seasonal changes have an influence on hair growth. In summer, the sun energises growth, unlike in winter and autumn when this mechanism is slower and growth is not so noticeable.
[See also: Help coloured hair survive winter]
Stimulating hair growth
Hair growth is linked to your lifestyle, so if you are getting good, regular sleep as well as a balanced, healthy diet, your hair will feel the effects. In fact, bad lifestyle shortens the lifespan of hair, which means it will then be shorter as it hasn’t had the time to grow.
Drinking lots of water and getting a balanced diet, which is rich in iron-sulphur proteins, iron, vitamins A, B and C as well as zinc and magnesium are both highly recommended.
Rather than going for commercial (and often expensive) hair-growth stimulators; you can try and stimulate growth through taking dietary supplements, which can be more effective. A cocktail of vitamin B, amino acids and zinc is a good place to start. You could also use beer yeast, which contains the nutritional elements necessary for hair’s strength (magnesium, and B vitamins). Zinc is also very important. Essential oils, which nourish the hair deeply, are equally recommended as long as they are used in appropriate doses.
Massaging your scalp regularly will stimulate the root and consequently, the hair, encouraging its growth. In fact, massage livens up blood circulation towards the roots and makes the collagen in tissue around the root more flexible, leaving more space for the hair’s activity. Avoid massage, however, if you have a greasy scalp.
Finally, don’t trust “miracle” shampoos that promise increased hair growth. In fact, to activate hair growth, a product needs to reach the root, situated 4mm underneath the scalp, and shampoo does not penetrate beneath the skin.
And in any case, these substances, which are absolutely necessary for hair growth (essential oils, vitamins and minerals), would be infinitely more powerful in more concentrated quantities than those found diluted into the cleansing ingredients in shampoos.
Dos and don’ts for fast-growing hair
Don’t: tie back your hair too tightly, as hairs can break and even fall out due to the continuous pressure exerted on the roots. So be careful! Keeping your hair up all the time won’t slow down hair growth as long as it is not tied back too securely.
Don’t: dry your hair at too high a temperature or too close to the scalp, and even avoid straightening your hair with hair tongs as these can damage the hair and can make it break, thus preventing the hair from growing in a uniform way.
Do: use brushes and combs made out of natural fibres, like brushes made of wild boar hair for example, and wooden combs, so as to prevent hair breaking. It is strongly recommended that you avoid using synthetic brushes. Hélène Clauderer, founder of the Clauderer Centre and hair care specialist, is even against the use of all brushes. She states that, “It’s absurd to advise young girls to brush their hair constantly when vigorous brushing tears out hair.” “Furthermore, static electricity caused by brushing sensitises the keratin in hair. If you have knots, it is enough just to tease them out gently with a comb,” she explains.
Do: get into the habit of applying natural hair masks with collagen protein bases mixed with vegetable oils in order to nourish and hydrate the hair. Be careful especially not to use a mask containing products based on silicon and other substances, which are harmful for the hair.
Don’t: overdo chemical based hair products. You’ll have noticed that hair lacquer damages and dries out the hair, leaving it brittle. In the same way, repeated applications of hair colour and other chemical treatments attack the keratin in the hair and will thin it, causing it to break.
Don’t: wash your hair in hard water. Lime scale is also bad for the hair, especially if the hair is already fragile, so you should wash it in soft water as a matter of preference. If you can't get soft water on tap, then indulge yourself with a bottle of good spring water - at least for the final rinse.