In this article:
- Proper blood circulation in the scalp is the foundation of healthy hair as it feeds the hair roots and enables hair cell proliferation, which is required for hair to grow.
- Hair fall is part of the normal hair growth cycle and cannot be avoided. Once a hair strand grows out to its full length, it falls out of the hair follicle to allow a new one to grow in its place.
- Hair growth depends on several factors, from genetics to diet.
- There are medical, herbal, and basic home care treatments that can help improve and maintain healthy hair growth.
A thick head of hair can boost your self-esteem and is one of the most desired beauty traits for both men and women. The concept of good and bad hair days signifies the importance of hair in daily life.
But try as you may, everyone is bound to have their fair share of both good and bad hair days, some more than others.
People of different sexes and races tend to have more or less the same number of hair follicles, but not necessarily the same quality or type of hair. Whether you have curly, straight, or wavy hair depends entirely on the hair follicle.
Only some people are blessed with naturally soft, shiny, and silky hair. Most have to work tirelessly to maintain the health and appearance of their tresses. Even those people who are born with amazing hair cannot take them for granted.
Haircare is a must, especially since there is no escaping the daily hair damage induced by environmental pollutants as well as aging. Thus, the quality of hair care will determine the strength and beauty of your hair.
A lot of metabolic effort goes into the formation of each hair strand, which can be aided and accelerated by a proper hair regimen.
Nearly 100,000 hairs on the scalp grow 0.3 to 0.4 mm longer every day, which collectively amounts to growing a single strand by a length of about 40 m. Most people grow their hair by half an inch monthly.
Haircare routine should be customized according to one’s hair type and the extent of hair damage that needs to be undone. Different types of hair demand different hair care measures to encourage abundant growth.
Every hair care regimen should also include the nourishment, moisturization, and well-being of the scalp. Only a healthy base will sprout a strong, shiny strand of hair. (1)
Multiple factors can impact the rate of your hair growth, which may range from genetic and lifestyle contributors to your age, daily diet, and general health.
To promote fast hair growth, the first thing to do is to familiarize yourself with the basic elements that accelerate or impede hair growth and then develop a hair care routine accordingly.
Well-kept hair reflects positively on your hygiene, health, and social standing. Hair is a vital part of your overall appearance, which affects not only how others view you but also how you view yourself.
Hair is essentially made up of a tough structural protein called keratin, and each strand consists of two parts:
- The shaft that emerges out of the scalp and is visible to the eye
- The invisible root that is embedded inside the scalp, from where it stretches down to the deeper layers of skin
The root is enclosed within a thin covering of connective tissues and skin known as a hair follicle. The hair follicle not only protects the hair root but also provides anchorage to the exposed outgrowing part of the hair, which is the shaft.
This tunnel-like structure is linked to a tiny muscle called arrector pili. When this muscle contracts, your hair stands on end. This hair-raising mechanism is what is commonly known as “goosebumps.”
The hair follicle is attached to a sebaceous gland right underneath the scalp surface. The oily secretions of these glands help to keep your scalp naturally moisturized.
The hair follicle also has several nerve endings that are very receptive to even the slightest hair movement or stimuli. The lower end of the hair root expands to form a bulb-like structure, which is the hub of new hair cell generation.
An indentation at the bottom of the hair bulb, called hair papilla, is lined with multiple capillaries that supply blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the hair root. The hair papilla is primarily responsible for hair nourishment with little to no cell division.
Stages of Hair Growth
The hair growth cycle has three phases, which are:
- Anagen: The growth phase. This phase is not only the most active phase of the hair growth cycle but also the longest, lasting for nearly 2-6 years. During this phase, there is a rapid multiplication of hair cells at the base of the hair follicles, which translates into the development of new hair shafts.
As the cell proliferation continues, the shaft grows in length. The longer the anagen phase, the longer will be your hair.
- Catagen: The transition phase. This phase marks the end of active hair growth and triggers the regression of the hair follicle. During this stage, the bottom of the follicular sheath shrinks and attaches itself to the hair shaft.
As a result, the flow of blood from the papilla and new hair cells from the hair matrix fails to reach the hair root. Thus, the hair eventually turns into a club hair.
Catagen is the shortest phase of the hair growth cycle, which lasts for only 1-2 weeks before the hair enters the final phase. Only 1% of hair is found in this stage.
- Telogen: The resting phase. Once the hair is completely formed, it enters this final stage. At a time, almost 10% of the hair on your head is fully mature. The hair sticks for approximately 3 months on the scalp, before naturally falling out.
Normally, people lose around 100 strands of hair per day, and new hair starts forming in their place instantly. The empty hair follicle becomes a place for rapid hair cell proliferation for the growth of new hair.
This continuous cycle of hair growth is sustained by extensive stem cell division at the base of the hair follicle (root bulb) in order to produce keratinocytes, which are epidermal cells. Keratinocytes turn into specific keratinized cells at the end of their cell cycle.
Keratinized cells are structurally durable and elastic and can withstand unfavorable environments. They line the outer surface of the skin to form a protective line of defense.
Their structural durability makes them effective building blocks of hair shafts, which are tough protein filaments made entirely out of keratin.
Factors that can Slow Hair Growth
Negligent hair care is not the only factor responsible for weak, unhealthy hair. Numerous other things can contribute to stunted hair growth or excessive hair loss, such as:
- Unhealthy or nutritionally deficient diet
- Side effects of certain drugs
- Elevated stress
- Exposure to environmental pollutants or radiation
- Hormonal imbalances
- Increased stress levels
Conditions related to hair loss include:
- Androgenic alopecia, or male pattern baldness, is a genetic disorder that is brought on by the activity of the male hormones called androgens. Women also have trace amounts of androgens in the body and can suffer from this condition, especially if it runs in their family.
The level of androgens in the body changes as one grows older or due to other factors such as menopause, ovarian cysts, and taking androgen-based oral contraceptives.
A hormonal imbalance of this kind can lead to the shrinking of hair follicles, which renders them incapable of growing new hair when the old strands fall out. While men suffer from noticeable patterns of baldness, women tend to have a more gradual and diffused thinning of hair.
- Alopecia areata is an autoimmune skin disorder wherein the immune system launches an attack on the hair follicles, thereby suppressing hair growth. This condition is characterized by hair fall that occurs in patches. (2)
Medical Treatments for Hair Growth
If you are suffering from hair loss, talk to your medical provider. The following treatments may be prescribed to promote hair growth:
- Medication: Certain medicines may help reduce hair loss and promote hair growth to a certain extent. However, these effects are largely limited to the top of the head. Most patients report experiencing an improvement in hair coverage over the scalp but not around the forehead area.
Thus, there is not much these drugs can do to address one’s receding hairline, and they generally promote a patchy growth of new hair. Moreover, the hair that is already present on your head may become thicker than before with continued medicinal use.
Note: Pregnant women and those with heart conditions can suffer dangerous side effects from these medicines and are therefore advised to stay off them. Consult your healthcare provider before considering such medical intervention for your hair problems.
- Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy: PRP therapy may be an effective treatment strategy for hair regeneration. This intervention involves injecting the patient’s own blood into the scalp to promote natural hair growth.
The blood is drawn from some other part of the body, such as the arm, and the plasma containing the platelets is separated from the rest of the contents. The PRP concentration is then administered into the balding areas of the scalp.
According to a 2015 study, PRP therapy can help improve hair growth and texture by stimulating follicular and perifollicular angiogenesis, which refers to the formation of new blood cells (3). More studies are needed to confirm the effectiveness of PRP therapy against hair loss.
- Surgery can be considered as a last-resort treatment when all other measures fail to bring the desired hair growth.
Home Treatment and Good Hair Care Habits
Healthy eating and proper hair care are the first steps toward strong and long hair. A number of home remedies are worth trying as well, before resorting to more serious interventions for reducing hair loss and promoting hair growth.
1. Maintain the health of your hair
- Oily hair tends to attract more dust and grime, which necessitates the need for daily hair washing. Thus, people who have naturally greasy hair should consider washing their hair more often than those who don’t.
- Many people make the mistake of slathering shampoo on the hair ends while ignoring the scalp region. Given that most of the dirt and dandruff settle on the scalp, it is important to apply a generous amount of shampoo on the head and scrub it well for deep cleaning.
Doing so helps unclog the pores on your head and allow your hair to grow better.
- Applying conditioner after every shampoo wash can help soften your tresses, thus making them easier to untangle and reducing hair breakage.
- Different hair types have different needs, and this should be kept in mind when choosing your hair care products. Use a shampoo and conditioner that is formulated to address the demands of your particular hair type and condition.
For instance, a shampoo meant for straight hair may not suit people with curly hair, and vice versa.
- The chlorinated water in swimming pools can severely damage and dry out your hair. Wear a swimming cap before venturing into the pool to keep your hair covered.
For added protection, you can put a generous amount of olive or coconut oil in your hair. This greasy coating keeps the chlorine from sticking to your hair.
- Chemically treated hair is drier and more brittle than normal hair and therefore requires greater and gentler care. Frequent washing can further strip away the moisture from it, resulting in a great deal of hair breakage. Thus, wash your treated or colored hair less often.
2. Massage your scalp
There is nothing more relaxing than a gentle head massage, which can work in favor of improved hair growth as well. Stress is a primary trigger for temporary hair loss.
High levels of the stress hormone, or cortisol, can compromise the functioning of the body in numerous ways, which includes impeding the hair growth cycle.
Increased stress is known to induce a premature end to the active hair growing phase (anagen). It inhibits the generation and multiplication of hair cells, thereby impeding the ability of hair follicles to grow hair.
Massaging your scalp can help offset this stress-induced hair loss by aiding relaxation. Not just that, gentle kneading helps warm the scalp skin and dilate the blood vessels underneath. This kind of physical stimulation, thus, improves the blood circulation in the targeted area.
As the blood vessels expand, a greater amount of blood reaches the hair follicles, therefore increasing the supply of oxygen and nutrients.
This enhanced blood flow in and around the hair root leads to easier and greater nutrient absorption by the hair follicles, thereby reviving hair health.
Consider using essential oil to further magnify the hair-growing benefits of a head massage. These oils are credited with stress-busting capabilities and significant nutritional merits.
How to massage your hair with essential oil:
- Mix some drops of any essential oil of your choice (peppermint, lavender, lemon, rosemary, argan) in a carrier oil to dilute its potency.
- Warm the mixture slightly, but make sure it is not too hot for your skin before applying.
- Gently massage your head with the oil mixture for about 20 minutes so that it is nicely absorbed into the scalp.
- Leave the oil on for another half an hour.
- Rinse out the oil with tepid water.
3. Drink more water
The importance of drinking enough water throughout the day cannot be stressed enough. The human body needs around 2-3 liters of water per day. If this requirement is not met, dehydration can set in, and hair growth will be directly affected.
The shortage of water takes away the shine from your hair, leaving them rough, lifeless, and highly prone to damage. Dry hair is also increasingly susceptible to split ends.
Thus, you must try to maintain an optimal fluid intake throughout the day to keep your hair cells healthy and well functioning.
Although there is no substitute for plain water, you can diversify your fluid intake by including juices, broths, and succulent fruits or vegetables to your daily diet.
4. Recognize stress triggers
Stress is a major detriment to your mental, emotional, and physical health and should be treated as such. The hectic lifestyle patterns that have become the norm today have contributed significantly to the global disease burden by triggering several health issues.
Aside from health complications, stress can affect the texture, appearance, and quality of your hair. Increased stress prematurely initiates the resting phase of your hair follicles and keeps your hair from growing long and strong.
People who take a lot of stress or go through some extreme trauma often experience excessive shedding of hair, and the only way to counter this hair loss is to bring the stress levels under control.
Thus, even though living with stress seems like an inescapable reality, you must make concerted efforts to minimize it in the interest of your hair health and general health.
The first step toward managing everyday situational stress is to record your stress patterns. This involves keeping tabs on your major stress triggers and avoiding them to the best of your ability.
You cannot avoid stress completely, but you can definitely learn to work around it. Bear in mind that stress management can address all kinds of anxieties and tensions, be it physical, emotional, or mental.
5. Avoid damaging styling tools and techniques
Trying out different hairstyles is something everyone likes to do. A simple change in how you wear your hair can instantly alter your overall look. However, excessive hairstyling does more harm than good.
To minimize hair damage, exercise discretion, and moderation when styling your hair. Hair tools such as the hairdryer, curling irons, rollers, or hair straighteners can be a leading cause behind hair loss if done recklessly or repeatedly.
The bending, twisting, and heating that go into hairstyling can exert undue strain on your hair follicles and scalp. The application of high-velocity heat to your hair in a concentrated and prolonged manner can severely damage its structural integrity.
When blow-drying your hair, use a lower velocity and temperature to minimize hair damage. Drying your hair this way may take longer but will help preserve its strength and health in the longer run. Also, avoid using a dryer every day as it builds undue stress on the hair follicles and strips them of moisture.
Similarly, the excessive use of other hair styling tools such as straighteners and curlers can burn your hair and scalp. Apply a protective spray on your hair before exposing them to such concentrated heat.
6. Avoid the bun
Although hair buns are very convenient in keeping hair out of your face, you may want to rethink its pros and cons. Tying up your hair for a long time can pull back your hairline while exerting undue pressure on the scalp and hair follicles.
High ponytails and tight buns may be the reason behind your stunted hair growth. Also, tying up the hair too often on the same spot can weaken the hair shafts in that particular area and later cause breakage.
It is recommended to experiment with new hairdos rather than sticking with a single style –do ponytails, pigtails, and buns alternatively. Also, tie your hair a little loose to relieve the pressure on the scalp.
Do not forget to let down your hair once in a while to get the blood flowing back at full speed toward the hair follicles.
7. Practice yoga
The merits of yoga are far-reaching. So, it is no surprise that certain yoga asanas can promote better hair growth as well. They serve the dual purpose of easing your stress and solving your hair problems.
Asanas such as Hastapadasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, and Sarvangasana are especially helpful in this regard. These asanas, when done to the calm beats of deep rhythmic breathing, enable the body to let go of pent-up stress.
These yoga positions involve bending your body forward, which directs blood flow toward the face and head by the natural force of gravity.
Increased blood supply to the scalp not only stimulates nerve activity in the region but also enables an increased supply of oxygen and nutrients to the hair follicles.
The mechanism behind the stress-busting effects of yoga is that the increased oxygen switches the body from a sympathetic to a parasympathetic mode, which brings down stress. This, in turn, helps reduce stress-induced hair fall.
8. Get proper nutrition
A wholesome, well-balanced diet fulfilling all the nutrient requirements of your body is an essential prerequisite for healthy hair.
Cosmetic hair treatments can lead to short-term improvement in terms of hair growth and quality, but a nutrient-rich diet helps nourish your hair from within and produce enduring effects.
Besides, you cannot expect any hair treatment to produce sustainable results unless it is supported by healthy eating habits. Make it a point to include essential minerals, vitamins, and proteins in your diet.
Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients and are needed in minuscule quantities. Nonetheless, their deficiency can have negative implications for hair growth and texture.
For instance, not getting enough vitamin E and zinc can accelerate hair thinning and hair fall. Some other essential nutrients for healthy hair include:
- Vitamin A: Foods like spinach, collard greens, broccoli, kale, carrots, and black peas are all rich sources of vitamin A and should be included in your diet.
- Vitamin B complex: This includes eight B vitamins, all of which can help promote healthy hair growth. People usually derive most of their vitamin B needs through diet alone but sometimes fall short of one B vitamin, in particular, that is, B7 or biotin.
Biotin can help reverse the hair damage caused by daily sun exposure and hairstyling techniques. Major sources of biotin are walnuts, peanuts, almonds, avocados, spinach, cheese, sardines, mushrooms, etc. You can also go for biotin supplements but consult your doctor first.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is required to maintain the collagen structure of hair strands to keep its elasticity intact. Also, vitamin C can prevent premature hair whitening to an extent. Tomatoes, winter squash, black currents, thyme, and various citrus fruits are the main sources of vitamin c.
- Vitamin E: There is no denying the popularity of vitamin E when it comes to taming those unruly, frizzy locks. This vital antioxidant can be found in high amounts in nuts, leafy greens, olive oil, etc.
- Minerals: Minerals, including iron, zinc, copper, magnesium, and selenium, are necessary to prevent hair breakage and promote long and strong tresses. Missing out on these micronutrients can make your hair thin and sparse. (7)
9. Address underlying medical issues
The “root” of your hair problems can sometimes be traced back to some undetected health issues. In such a case, any random hair treatment will most likely yield little to no positive results.
You have to seek proper diagnosis and treatment for the underlying cause before you can expect any noticeable improvement in the state of your hair.
Hair problems can be symptomatic of a thyroid imbalance, dysfunctional hormones, severe infections, or chronic illnesses, and these problems need to be treated accordingly.
People who are on certain medications can also face hair thinning and extensive hair fall as a side effect. Some common classes of drugs that can affect your hair are:
- Birth control
- Anabolic steroids
10. Protect your hair from the sun
Prolonged sun exposure damages your hair more than you realize. Ultraviolet radiation negatively affects the hair protein structure and can give you dry, brittle hair.
To minimize sun damage, use proper hair protection when stepping out. You can apply a hair-protective serum to block out the radiation. Also, consider wearing a cap, hat, or scarf to cover your hair.
Some General Queries
Is hair growth different during and after pregnancy?
Yes, pregnancy does affect hair. A large number of endocrine functions go for a complete toss during pregnancy. However, not all hormonal changes are undesirable.
Enhanced levels of estrogen in childbearing ladies are known to give the pregnancy glow. Along with the skin, your hair also gets its share of estrogen-induced benefits during this period.
An estrogen hike disrupts the normal hair cycle. Instead of advancing from one stage to another, estrogen keeps hair in the anagen or growing phase longer than usual.
Hair fall is reduced to a substantial extent, and you may experience abundant hair growth during the gestational period. Improved hair texture that makes your hair shiny and luxurious is an added bonus. Healthy pregnant women especially have the most pronounced hair growth during this time.
However, these hormonal effects are rather temporary and are quickly reversed once the pregnancy is over. After childbirth, the female body goes back to its original mechanisms. As estrogen falls back to its original prepregnancy levels, hair fall suddenly increases. This is your body’s way of returning to the normal hormonal cycle.
Thus, the extended growth phase abruptly enters into the telogen phase, wherein the hair follicles are pushed into a state of rest.
As many as 60% of the hair that was actively growing throughout the pregnancy enters this resting stage at once and eventually fall out to make room for new hair.
The hair fall is at its worst 3-4 months post-delivery before things get better. The shedding of hair is an essential step in the normal hair cycle. Once the hair has grown to its full potential, it falls out, and the hair follicle starts growing new hair.
Thus, suddenly losing bulks of your hair might seem worrying, but the problem is mostly temporary and usually resolves itself within 6 months to a year.
Can split ends stop hair growth?
Split or frayed ends are symptomatic of undernourished brittle hair, but they do not inhibit hair growth. Hair growth is the job of the hair follicles.
Split ends trigger excessive breakage at the ends. When the ends break off rapidly, it may appear that your hair is not growing fast enough. However, it is the hair follicle that fails to produce new hair length rapidly enough to keep up with the breakage at the ends.
The breakage induced by split ends also makes your hair appear thinner and shorter. It is generally advised to go for a monthly trim that can make your hair look fuller and voluminous.
Nevertheless, your follicles will ultimately define the amount and rate at which your hair grows.
How does chemotherapy affect hair growth?
Cancerous cells replicate rapidly, which is also true of hair follicle cells. Chemotherapy cycles are directed toward controlling this uncontrollable proliferation of cells and destroying the cancerous ones.
Because chemotherapy indiscriminately targets all kinds of rapid cell division in the body, it inadvertently hinders the hair follicle function and thereby the hair growth cycle as well.
The hair cycle is temporarily halted for the duration of the chemotherapy, which is why patients with cancer lose a lot of their hair. However, normal hair growth tends to resume once the treatment is over.
How does biotin help hair grow?
Vitamin B7 or vitamin H is a member of the vitamin B complex and is commonly known as biotin. It is required to produce the hair protein keratin.
A biotin deficiency can make your hair look drab and dull while rendering it susceptible to breakage and shedding. Biotin rejuvenates the already growing hair follicles. Healthy hair follicles produce better, revitalized, and voluminous hair growth.
Biotin is required in your daily diet. Try including egg yolk, nuts, and dark green leafy vegetables in your meals to make up for any biotin shortage.
Do omega fatty acids promote hair health?
Omega fatty acids, especially omega -3 and omega -6, are healthy fatty acids that can help lock down the moisture in your scalp and hair. A diet rich in omega fats makes your hair silky and smooth and increases its elasticity.
Because omega-3 and omega-6 are not naturally produced in the body, they need to be obtained through your regular diet.
Food items like walnuts, chia seeds, sardines, and fish oil are all recognized as good sources of omega fatty acids. They should be included in an overall healthy diet to maintain proper hair function and health.
Do home remedies help in hair growth?
Few things can be as satisfying as sporting beautiful and bountiful hair. Attractive hair seems to have a life of its own and adds an extra zest in your personality.
Everyone wants the best possible version of their hair, but only a few have it. For the rest, a lot of time and energy go into solving daily hair problems that impede their growth.
Adopting some healthy and sustainable lifestyle and food habits can save you a lot of future hair trouble. A balanced diet and healthy hair care routine are the first steps toward achieving the tresses of your dreams.
When it comes to hair care, you have to focus on both the inward and outward well-being. Consciously making favorable dietary choices and using suitable hair products will give your hair reach its maximum growth potential.
Hair issues tend to get worse with age and environmental damage. It is not possible to reverse this damage completely.
However, certain lifestyle changes, such as healthy food habits, stress control, and proper hair care procedures, can optimize hair growth.