So many of us are feeling like there is a discrepancy between the amount of time and attention that we put into our hair routines and the improvements that we end up seeing in our slow hair growth rate.
Perhaps you’ve invested in hair growth products and followed all tips on how to make hair grow faster, but you are seeing no difference: you still see slow hair growth.
What to do?
If you find yourself in this situation, don’t let frustration take over and make you neglect your healthy hair care routine.
It’s important that you maintain consistency, but still, take the time to understand the changes that you will need to make in order to really supercharge your new hair regrowth rate.
We believe that in order to make real, noticeable changes in the condition of their hair, people need to get informed about the science behind hair health.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the science of healthy hair growth, what causes reduced hair growth, and what you can do to remedy it.
The Science of Hair Growth
Let’s start from the beginning and look at where your hair grows from.
Your scalp and body have a tube-like small hole called a hair follicle. When hair is healthy, at the bottom of each of them you will find active hair-growing cells made up of protein. The root of your hair gets nutrients through small blood vessels which of course helps with hair growth.
As the head and body hair grows, it pushes from the root and out of the follicle, eventually breaking through the skin surface. The part of the hair that you can see is called the shaft and is filled with dead cells.
At this level, what might be causing slow hair growth is:
- Poor circulation of blood in the scalp;
- A lack of the right nutrients in your diet that your body can use to produce healthy hair
- A build-up of hair products on your scalp hinders your hair from actually breaking through the skin and clogging it up;
- Your genetic “makeup” (more on this later).
Your hair goes through a hair growth cycle that varies in time from person to person and is influenced by age, genetics, and even season. The hair growth cycle has three phases: anagen, catagen, and telogen.
Let’s go through each of them one by one, and see how each stage can be aided to improve hair growth.
The Anagen Phase of Hair Growth
The Anagen phase (“ana” meaning “up” and “gen” meaning “type”), is the active phase of the hair, the state in which it grows. The average rate for hair growth is 0.5 inches per month, or 1 centimeter every 28 days.
So if your hair grows at about that rate, then it’s healthy and you have nothing to worry about. The amount of time that this phase lasts is different for each person, but the most widespread estimation is that it’s around 3-6 years for scalp hair.
This, however, is different for people facing hair growth issues such as androgenetic alopecia.
This is the name by which the most common form of hair loss in both men and women is known.
It’s a hereditary hair loss that you would easily be able to identify in people who have hair loss and thinning hair just above their temples.
For these individuals, the hair follicle creates more hair thinning than normal, and a hormone called DHT shortens their phase causing them to eventually wither away.
If you’re noticing any of these symptoms or your hairline looks like the one pictured below, it could be that you are suffering from this condition.
Other lifestyle factors such as stress, fluctuating hormone levels (PCOS hair loss for example), lack of sleep, and poor diet can cause the growth phase to be shorter, and of course, aging is also a huge influencing factor
What can be causing slow hair growth at this stage in the hair growth cycle:
- Stress can have a huge impact on the flow of oxygen to the scalp, not giving it what it needs to build healthy hair;
- A poor diet can deprive your hair of the nutrients it needs to grow healthy;
- If you are finding that with age you experience slow hair growth then this is a natural phenomenon and it is to be expected.
As this phase ends, the catagen phase begins.
The Catagen Phase of Hair Growth
The catagen phase (“cata” meaning “down”) is the period of time when the hair detaches from the blood vessels that we mentioned it was attached to earlier.
At any time, around 3% of all hairs are in this phase, and it lasts from two to three weeks. The hair stood growing, deprived of blood flow which brings it the oxygen and nutrients it normally needs.
The Telogen Phase of Hair Growth
After the hair has fallen, the telogen (“telos” meaning accomplished) phase begins. During this time of approximately 3 months, the hair rests before re-starting the anagen phase.
In rare cases, some people suffer from a condition called Telogen Effluvium, which is a condition characterized by long severe daily shedding periods and a longer telogen phase. This can be a result of lifestyle factors such as stress, poor diets, or a deficiency in essential vitamins and minerals.
What Causes Slow Hair Growth?
Now that we have established the hair growth cycle, we understand that slow hair growth has to do with what takes place in the anagen phase.
If you’re facing severe hair loss that sounds similar to the symptoms of Androgenetic Alopecia or Telogen Effluvium, you should speak to your dermatologist about your concern.
If, on the other hand, you are only struggling with a rate of hair growth that is slower than the average of 0.5 inches per month, then you may find these pointers helpful.
A poor diet and vitamin deficiencies
This is of course one of the factors that everyone talks about, and that everyone knows they need to pay particular attention to when it comes to the condition of their hair.
A high-fat, high-sugar diet can lead to a plethora of health problems, and one of them is a slower hair growth rate.
Blood sugar spikes affect your hormones, including insulin – if through a poor diet you’ve become insulin resistant, then it’s not taken into the cells as it normally would.
This insulin resistance has been directly linked to hair loss, making the hair prematurely transition from the anagen into the catagen phase.
If you’re thinking that your diet might have a role to play in your hair loss, consider cutting off at least some of the sugar and fat in your diet and replacing them with a balanced, varied intake of foods that provide your body with many different nutrients and minerals (especially iron, vitamins A, B, C and D, niacin and zinc), and plenty of protein.
Something that most of us don’t want to hear because it’s largely unfixable, is that how long does it take for hair to grow is largely dependent on genetics. While the hair growth cycle isn’t solely determined by genetics, the length of each phase is indeed influenced by them.
As we mentioned previously, the anagen phase can last anywhere from 3 to 6 years. If you find that your hair falls out after it reaches a certain length that you consider too short, then it might be the case that your genes are working against you.
Periods of high stress
You most likely know the saying ‘he’s making my hair fall out,’ referring to someone who is causing a large amount of worry. There’s some truth in it, as high levels of stress do have a negative effect on hair loss, as well as many other processes in the body.
How does it work? High stress changes the way in which we breathe, making it more shallow and more difficult for our bodies to get the proper amount of oxygen that they need. If you’re that highly stressed, the little amount you do get goes to the vital organs first and the hair follicles only get what’s left over.
Many people aren’t aware that a lot of the common medications have side effects that include hair loss and thinning. Some of the antidepressants, beta-blockers and blood thinners you may be taking are on that list.
That’s why many people often experience hair loss after surgery.
Chemotherapy medication and radiation also cause the two conditions we mentioned earlier, Anagen Effluvium and Telogen Effluvium.
If you suspect that your medications may be the cause of your hair loss, speak to your doctor about what might be done to lessen these side effects.
How Can You Fix Slow Hair Growth?
Essentially, it’s how can you grow your hair faster.
Now that you have an understanding of the most common factors that influence your hair growth rate, let’s dive into the most impactful things you can do to improve it.
Perfect your hair care routine
In order to give your hair the support it needs, you will need to make sure that you are using adequate shampoo, conditioner, and hair growth oil. If you are the type of person who just picks up whatever is on sale, you will need to change your approach.
The reason why €5 shampoos are so cheap is that the ingredients they use are cheap – and will do more damage than good.
Give your hair products shelf another look over and make sure that you’re using high-quality products that are aiding rather than hindering your hair goals.
With the right products, slow hair growth is going to be the past.
Don’t needlessly put your hair under strain
What do we mean by that? The myriad of ways through which people damage their hair without realizing it: overwashing it, brushing it roughly, massaging the scalp too harshly when the hair strand is wet and sensitive, putting it up on a heavy towel turban that puts strain on the length of their hair.
You can induce hair breakage or even traction alopecia hair loss by doing this.
The rule of thumb is: to be gentle and pay attention to the way in which you’re handling your hair.
Increase your protein intake
As your hair is mostly made of keratin, which is a protein, it’s important to support it with adequate levels of protein.
You can easily do this by eating enough meat, and for vegetarians and vegans, there are always lentils, tofu, and peanut butter (amongst many other foods!).
Reduce stress levels
This one is easier said than done, we know, but it’s so important for your hair health that you at least try to lower your stress levels. Meditation, breathing techniques, and even positive thinking can make a world of difference when it comes to your hair growth rates.
Increase blood flow to the scalp
Try the inversion method: bend over and, with your head close to the ground, start a scalp massage. Do this for a few minutes (just be careful not to get too dizzy) every day, and you will see an improvement in the speed of your hair growth.
Make sure you’re getting the right vitamins and minerals
The ones you should focus on are Vitamin A, B-Vitamins (such as Biotin), Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Iron, and Zinc.
Use hair growth or hair loss treatment products
There are several ways you can amplify your hair growth and combat alopecia areata (hair loss):
Finasteride and minoxidil
Finasteride is especially effective in the early growth phase of male pattern baldness. It helps by blocking the transition of testosterone into DHT, thus stopping the hormone that causes hair loss.
Minoxidil can also work, depending on what your goals and conditions are: see finasteride vs minoxidil comparison.
Hair extensions are only cosmetic, but it’s very versatile. You can switch hairstyles like wicks hair, hair colour, and hair length on demand.
Hair removal creams or waxing is another option you can consider. Aside from removing unwanted hair growth, it can also be attractive to sport a bald look.
Hair transplants are costly, but hair transplant results are indisputable in restoring hair and improving hair growth. However, this might seem like overkill if you’re simply just having slow hair growth.
There are effective non-surgical hair restoration methods, too.
Hair growth is more complex than people usually think. Great hair with fast growth rates comes as a result of a healthy lifestyle, good genes, and proper care. With time, attention and the application of our tips, the condition of your hair will improve.