You can’t change genetics that set hair growth at ½-inch a month. But you can add roots-to-ends encouragement and make the grow-out look good! In this handy post, we show you how to grow long hair the right way.
How To Grow Long Hair (Get Growing!)
If you want to grow your hair long, start with a general strategy, then get specific.
Andrea Shumate, salon owner and a master stylist at Champu in Saint Peters, MO, helps dozens of clients get growing by planning a strategy that includes photos of styling options at different growth stages, as well as product suggestions for different looks and pre-booked maintenance appointments. “We also discuss nutrition,” she says.
In general, start with the Big 4, which acknowledge that hair growth starts on the inside:
1. Eat for Nutrition.
You are what you eat, and hair is mostly keratin protein, plus moisture and lipids or fatty acids. How hair is created: blood flow sends nutrients to the hair bulb, underneath the scalp, so it can generate cells that move up through the root, and emerge from the scalp as keratinized fiber with no nucleus. (Which means that hair outside the scalp is not alive.) Essential nutrients that contribute to this process include fatty acids (omega-3s) multiple B-vitamins (Biotin is B-7), folic acid, zinc and iron. Make it easy: eat a balanced diet. If you want to add to it, says Ted Cortese, owner of diVa Colour Studio in Memphis, TN, add prenatal vitamins: “Many women swear by them for hair growth.” There’s no need to pay for expensive “hair” vitamins because, there is no miracle hair-growth pill.
2. Exercise More.
Remember, hair cells are generated below the scalp, in the dermal papilla to be exact. (In the UK, they’re trying to clone these cells to create hair follicles.) According to Lee Keeling, a hairdresser in Hot Springs, AR, “Exercise stimulates cell production and gets the blood flowing. We all know that improved oxygen circulation around the scalp can help with hair growth.” (The Berkeley Research Institute Guide to Hair Loss also says exercise is the best way to increase blood flow to the scalp.)
3. Manage Your Stress.
Learn yoga, mediation or deep breathing While you’re at it, manage your expectations, and keep them real. Even Rogaine can’t make hair grow faster; it’s for those who are losing their hair.
4. Pamper Your Scalp.
Moving on up from the hair bulb, focus on scalp care. Regularly use a clarifying shampoo to remove build-up. Or try products like Nioxin that block the hormone DHT, which can cause hair loss. A healthy scalp is neither too dry nor too oily, and it’s flexible when you massage it.
Create a Step-by-Step Plan
Lisa Gayle Brady of Salon on Broadway in Marble Falls, TX, says the first step in going for longer locks is to find a stylist who will work with you and listen to your needs. It’s not anti-intuitive to get trims; it’s a must for preventing split ends. “Keep the ends barely trimmed, about ⅛ to ¼-inch every 6 weeks to remove split ends,” says Brady. “As the hair grows, ask about slide-cut angles to help the process of changing shapes.”
Shumate always includes styling lessons after each trim and reshaping. After all, if you end up hating your hair at some stage or find it unmanageable, you might just get mad and cut it all off again.
“Growing out a short layered hair cut is the most frustrating for clients,” she says. “They do fine until their hair hits that mullet stage. For most, it’s a matter of keeping the nape area trimmed until it resembles something bobish. For those who don’t want to lose any length, we work on styling options. By using smart phones and Pinterest, we are able to create step-by-step, visual styling guides to help with the challenges each new length brings.”
Jenny Balding, a Redken styling and grooming expert at Cutler Salon, NYC, says that in addition to suggesting a daily multivitamin, lots of water and trims every eight weeks (depending on hair type/texture), she stresses preventing damage and breakage. Her advice for supporting hair growth:
- Use a heat protectant whenever using hot tools on your hair. It will inhibit the heat from damaging the hair directly and add moisture where needed most—usually mid-strand to ends.
- When combing through wet hair, use a large-toothed comb and be gentle. Hair can stretch and snap if you use a brush or are too rough.
- Avoid tight braids and any hairstyle that involves tugging and pulling. Use cloth ties for ponytails. “The pressure of a band that’s in the same place all the time can cause breakage, especially along the hairline and around the crown area.”
- Air dry your hair as much as possible before blow drying. This helps strengthen hair.
“For a longer look, small changes in the haircut can create big results,” says Balding. “For example, if your current cut is tapered inward at the nape but has slightly longer pieces at the front, wait a few a few weeks longer than usual for a cut. Then, a trim could simply mean bringing up the back into a bob shape, which puts you on track to a longer look. If you already have a long bob, get some soft layers added throughout the front pieces to elongate the entire look. If your hair has is passed your shoulders, now is the time to introduce some soft long layers.”
Also talk to your colorist about changes that work with longer hair, adds Balding. “Color can have a big impact when going from short to longer.”
Practice Roots-to-Ends Smartcare:
By starting on the inside, working with your stylist, and protecting what you have from damage, you’ll be on your way to your
own longer locks, and won’t have to resort to hair extensions. Unless, of course, you’re in a hurry to have it long. Other root-to-ends hair helpers:
- Use the correct shampoo and conditioner for your hair type. Balding says using anything that’s too heavy or not conditioning enough can make damage and breakage worse. Also, shampoo every 2nd or 3rd day, not daily.
- Try a new treatment. Janice MacKay Monahan, the manager and master colorist at L Salon and Color Group in San Mateo, CA, uses L’Oreal’s Kerastase Initialiste. The advanced scalp and hair concentrated claims to “keep hair healthier from roots to ends and allow it to grow longer with less breakage, maximizing the potential length.” Her experience? “Normally I have about ½-inch of regrowth per month,” says Monahan. “Now I’m using the serum, I have ½ -inch of regrowth within 2 -3 weeks. The root area of my hair is much stronger and healthier, and my hair went from just below chin-length to just above shoulder-length in four months.”
- Regularly apply protective serum to the ends. Brady suggests Obliphica Intensive Serum. Shumate says she sees real results from Schwarzkopf’s BC Rescue Repair Sealed Ends, a thermal protector a heat activated conditioner.
- If you aren’t just trying to grow it long, but really think you are losing your hair, try what’s new in science. Most address the male hormone DHT, which plays a key role in hair loss. Easy Grow Lotion from Graham Epps in Australia claims to block DHT. In Japan, Fuji-Sangyo Co. Ltd. offers new raw materials, like specially extracted guava leaf, which it claims has growth effects on the hair follicle and dermal papilla cells. Additionally, supplements like Hairomega DHT) and topicals like Revivogen claim to bock DHT or prevent it from binding to hair follicles. All may add that little extra bit of help you need.