When it comes to figuring out how to make hair grow faster, it’s important to cut through the hype and myths, not to mention all those marketers out there trying to make a quick buck selling you products that may or may not get the results you’re looking for. In this article, I draw upon only the best sources of information out there in order to give you the truth about many different aspects of hair growth, whether you’re interested in just learning about what makes your hair grow, how to make hair grow longer, or how to make hair grow faster naturally.
Is There a Worldwide Epidemic of Hair Loss?
A recent study by Relevant Research, Inc. for the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery, found the following (source):
Number of hair loss sufferers worldwide seeking professional treatment
Percent of men who will have noticeable hair loss by age 35
Percent of men who will have noticeable hair loss by age 60
Percent of men who will have noticeable hair loss by age 80
Percent of women who will have noticeable hair loss by age 60
Percent of male patients that use a minoxidil (such as Rogaine)
Percent of male patients that use a finasteride (such as Propecia)
Percent of all patients that had a negative reaction to any hair loss treatement
Percent of hair loss sufferers who would spend their life savings to regain a full head of hair
Percent of hair loss sufferers who said they would rather have more hair than money or friends
Clearly, there are a lot of people all around the world who are concerned about the state of their hair as it thins and disappears. I think it’s worth taking a good look at the science of hair growth to find out what’s really happening.
The Science of Hair Growth
What does the medical community have to say about hair growth? You can be sure that doctors all around the world have had to deal with patients concerned about hair growth and hair loss issues. Here is the collective wisdom the scientific medical community has come up with, as found at the WebMD website:
What is Hair Made of? It’s fascinating to think that as of week 22, a human fetus developing in the womb has already formed all of its hair follicles! There are typically around 5 million hair follicles all over the body, with the only exceptions being the palms of the hands, bottoms of the feet, lips and eyelids (except, of course, for the eyelashes). There are a million hair follicles just on the human head, with 100,000 of those found on the scalp. Everyone tends to say that hair is “dead,” but there is a living part to hair, but we can’t see it because it’s below the skin. At the base of the follicle is a bulb of living cells that divide surprisingly fast – every 23 to 72 hours, which is faster than most other cells in the human body. Those bulb cells are fed by the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) of the papilla that the bulb surrounds. It is true that the hair we see growing is in fact dead. It’s made of a protein called keratin.
How Fast Does Hair Grow?
The hair growing from your scalp tends to grow at a rate of about .3 to .4 mm/day, which overall translates into about 6 inches (15.24 cm) per year. You’ve probably noticed that out in nature, it’s pretty common for many animals to grow more hair or shed hair according to the seasons. This is not the case with humans – there is no seasonal variation in hair growth for us! We do, however, shed. In fact, there are three distinct stages in the hair growth cycle. A hair’s active phase is called anagen. Those cells at the base of the follicle are dividing away quite rapidly and pushing a new hair up through the follicle, if there’s an old hair already present that is no longer growing (called a club), it will get pushed up and out of the follicle. This anagen phase can last for 2-6 years, during which time the hair can grow as fast as 1 centimeter every 28 days. The hair on your arms and legs has a much shorter anagen phase, to the tune of 30-45 days, which is why those hairs don’t get very long – and isn’t that a relief to know? Then comes the catagen phase, which applies to about 3% of your hairs at any given moment. In this phase the individual hair has stopped growing and is becoming a club hair. In the final phase of hair growth, the telogen phase, the hair has made the final transition to being a club. It is at rest and will typically stick around for about 100 days before it gets pushed out by a new hair. On average, people lose about 25-100 telogen hairs each day. If you pull a telogen hair out at the root, you’ll find a bit of hard white material around the base of the hair.
At this point, you may be wondering, “What does any of this have to do with how to make my hair grow faster?” What you first have to realize is that there’s no magic solution that will make your hair grow faster or make your hair longer. If you want your hair to be longer, don’t cut it. If you want your hair to grow faster, there are some things you can do that will let it grow at the fastest rate possible, but you’re never going to beat the overall average by anything significant. In other words, your hair may be growing slower than it should, and you can address that. There is also a common myth out there that when you cut or shave your hair it seems to grow faster. This is not true. What is true is that shaving can make hair seem thicker when it grows back in, but it’s definitely not growing any faster.
What you’re really aiming for is to improve the general health and quality of your hair, which will include normal growth. I’m going to take a different approach, and it’s one that you won’t see taken in most of the articles about hair growth you’ll read on the Internet. I want you to understand the following statement very clearly:
You Hair Will Only Be As Healthy As The Rest Of You
That statement is the most basic truth you must accept when it comes to how to make hair grow faster. The healthier you are overall, the healthier will be your hair. But please don’t misunderstand me – you can be as healthy as anything and still have hair problems! There’s no guarantee that achieving optimal health will make for a luscious full head of hair, but it does give you your best shot at it! The reason there’s no guarantee is because there’s more at work here than just overall health – you can inherit hair problems through your genes, which can include both male and female pattern baldness. With that said, I believe that human health in general depends on three simple things:
And the next thing I’m going to suggest is that you can do all three things for yourself in general and for your hair in particular!
Hydration for You and Your Hair
The easiest rule of thumb for hydrating your whole body is the 8/88 rule – drink eight glasses of water each day that are about eight ounces each. If you’re not used to it, it’s harder than you might think, but so worth it in the long run. Those 8/8oz glasses come out to about 2 litres or a half-gallon each and every day. Now, when it comes to specifically hydrating your hair, keeping your whole body hydrated will help. Then, and only if you really need to, you could do a deep conditioning treatment, perhaps once per week if your hair tends to be dry.
Nutrition for You and Your Hair
This is the big one. You’ve probably heard the phrase “You are what you eat.” It’s true, and your hair will reflect it. If you’re more the computer-geek type, back when computers were first being used and everyone had to be a programmer to use one, a common phrase was “Garbage in, garbage out.” This is another one that applies to what you eat. If you eat junky food, then your health and your hair will both decline accordingly. Most everyone knows these days that the best diet of all is one that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (7-9 servings) along with plenty of protein (not necessarily from red meat) and iron. What you want to minimize is all the highly processed food that’s full of fats, sugars, sodium, and all those chemical artificial sweeteners and flavors. Pretty simple, right? It’s not rocket science. But what can you eat that will specifically help your hair? Many people want to know what vitamins make your hair grow, so the following list are the ones that have been linked in some way to hair growth:
- Vitamin A is key to hair growth, shine and flexibility.
- Vitamin B2 boosts overall health of hair.
- Vitamin B5 and B7 help maintain hydration, decrease hair loss, and enhance body and suppleness of hair.
- Vitamin B6 regulates sebum production, a natural scalp oil that protects hair.
- Vitamin C is said to give hair energy, although I couldn’t verify what that means.
- Vitamin E stimulates the flow of blood to the scalp, an essential part of hair growth.
Find foods rich in those items and recipes to cook using them and you’ll be more than on your way to setting the stage for maximum hair growth and health. You can also take supplements, but it’s always better to get your vitamins from the food you eat.
Exercise for You and Your Hair
Do you know the World Health Organization’s minimum guidelines for Exercise? It says the following: Adults aged 18–64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity. If the idea of hair exercise sounds really strange to you, then you’re in for a surprise. Your hair will be healthier and grow faster (or not as slowly), if you take the time to brush or comb it regularly. What this does is stimulate the scalp, which means better circulation of blood to those living parts of the hair, keeping them vital and healthier. It will also help distribute the sebum that is your body’s natural oil for hair protection. And of course brushing and combing your hair many strokes at a time makes your hair look better and feel softer. Another way to get your hair exercise in is through a regular scalp massage.
Things to Avoid
Besides the obvious advice to avoid being unhealthy, I especially want to reinforce how important it is to avoid things that can really wreck your hair:
- Too much stress – It’s not good for your health overall, and anytime you feel like “tearing your hair out” spells actual trouble for your hair as well.
- Hair products with silicone – Check your shampoos and other hair products. They should not have silicone in them, which is known to dry your hair out and cause it to deteriorate.
- Excessive Sunlight – Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you hide completely from the sun, as some skin doctors would have you do. You need to expose yourself to sunlight because it’s the best way to get your vitamin D, and there are many other benefits as well, but when you get too much sun, you not only put yourself at greater risk for skin cancer, but it wrecks your hair as well.
- Harsh treatment – Curling irons, blow dryers, crimping irons, and all the other crazy ways we’ve come up with to bend hair to our will can really damage your hair as well, so use them sparingly. This can even include hair ties, clips and extensions – if they’re always worn in the same place, they can weaken and damage your hair. And should go without saying that bleaching, dyeing, perming is very, very hard on your hair over time.
- Untreated health conditions – If you’ve got health problems, they’re probably affecting your hair. Be proactive to address and solve your health problems to have healthy hair.
Ancient Chinese Wisdom for Hair Care
Everything I relayed so far is really coming from a traditional Western perspective on health and sicence. In an effort to give fair play to both Eastern and Western approaches to healthy hair, I thought I’d include what some of my research has revealed for hair care practices in Chinese culture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). I’m particularly indebted to Joanna Burton, a holistic health and beauty practitioner in Australia for providing me with much of the research she put into her own book on the topic of healthy hair and skin via TCM. After all, the Chinese culture is one of the oldest in the world, and the women are renowned for their silky black tresses.
In TCM, human health is governed by groups of major organ-energy systems. Before getting into the details of that, however, there are several simple practices you can incorporate if you want the kind of beautiful hair often associated with traditional Chinese women.
Rice water is a common and very important aspect of Chinese hair care. Rice is such a basic staple in Chinese life that it’s not surprising to see that they’ve discovered how it can be used for hair. Soak the rice in water for 20-30 minutes, strain out the rice and voila! You now have a lovely hair rinse that you can use like a conditioner, leaving it in for a few minutes after a regular shampooing. This will both strengthen each shaft of hair as well as give it great shine. The really traditional Chinese women actually wouldn’t even use regular shampoo. They would only wash their hair every few days with the rice water!
Combing one’s hair in China is like a sacred ritual. 500 strokes is the standard. The ultimate TCM comb would be one made out of rhino horn, but that’s no longer acceptable given the endangered status of the species. Sheep and ox horn combs can be used to achieve the same types of effects, just not as strongly. The horn material is known to aid in the removal of excess heat and toxins, both of which can impede hair growth.
Other items that can be applied directly to the scalp to encourage hair growth include camellia nut oil, which you would use like a conditioner, as well as ginger. You can use either ginger juice or freshly sliced ginger put directly onto your scalp to stimulate growth. Using ginger in this fashion results in a tingling sensation that is the sign of enhanced blood flow to your scalp that will help you hang on to more of your hair as you age.
Now for the various Chinese dietary guidelines you can take advantage of for getting fabulous hair:
Certain dark nuts and legumes can help prevent or even reverse premature graying of the hair, especially for dark-haired people. You would want to focus on adding plenty of black beans, black sesame seeds and walnuts into your diet. Other foods that can help with graying and/or thinning hair include a number of different oils, including flaxseed, sesame, virgin coconut oils as well as avocado. It is both the liver and kidney organ-energy systems that relate to hair quality, thus any treatments that address those organs’ energy will be helpful as well (such as acupressure, acupuncture, moxibustion and detoxification). Signs that you liver system’s energy needs boosting would be having a pale complexion, experiencing dizziness, having dry, dull skin and hair, and suffering from fatigue. If the kidney system is in need of attention, than can manifest as weak bones, poor teeth, deafness, impotence, infertility, exhaustion, and poor quality hair. As the energy of these organ systems decline with age, that’s why hair thins, gets weak and brittle, goes gray or falls out altogether.
Perhaps the most fascinating of all Chinese herbs for anti-aging and hair is one called Polygonum multiflorum, or He Shou Wu. The Chinese name literally translates into “Black-Haired Mr. He.” There are many similar folk tales that relate to this herb that all follow the same basic idea: Mr. He began taking a wild herb he found growing in the forest. After a time, not only did his graying hair turn back to its original black, many of his other health problems vanished and he lived to be 160 years old, so the herb is named after him. Not surprisingly TCM classifies this important herb as a kidney, liver and blood tonic, which explains why it is applied for both hair issues and longevity. However, its potency requires that you only use it with the direction of a qualified TCM practitioner.
Other herbal medicines that can help hair by bolstering kidney and blood energies include Rehmannia root, fo-ti root, dong-quai root, quince fruit, and Gastrodia rhizome. Foods that can be eaten to aid in the same process would be Hijiki seaweed, blackstrap molasses, black sesame seeds, nettles, wheatgrass and chlorophyll.
If you are suffering from hair loss, you can be very proactive by acupuncture geared towards tonifying the kidney organ energy system as well as a specific form scalp acupuncture using a 7-star plum blossom needle. This is an instrument that holds multiple needles in a star pattern that can be used to tap the scalp. In 2004, the Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion reported that among 110 balding people who underwent 7-star needle acupuncture therapy, the treatment was 99.1% effective and resulted in total cure rate of 83.6%. That is very impressive!
This article has given you a solid summary of everything you need to know from both Western and Eastern perspective to achieve the healthy head of hair you’ve been wanting. You’ve even found out how to make hair grow faster, which really means getting your hair to grow as fast as is humanly possible, by focusing on your overall health, which is the key to healthy hair as well.