An abundance of thick, long hair. People seem to have it, but how? It’s a question that eludes many of us and, try as we might, it can be a difficult mountain to climb. But where there is a will, there is always a way – numerous ways, in this case – to encourage hair to grow faster, longer and stronger.
The American Academy of Dermatology reports that hair grows an average of around half an inch each month, which amounts to six inches over the year. But this is a ballpark number that varies from person to person, as it’s governed by our genetics. “However much your hair grows per month, there is not much you can do to speed this number up,” says Anabel Kingsley, a leading trichologist at the Philip Kingsley clinic in London and New York. “But you can certainly take steps to ensure your strands are growing at their optimal rate, are resilient against breakage, and don’t fall out before they should.”
From ensuring your hair is healthy from roots to ends to nourishing it from the inside out and caring for it properly, you can optimise your hair’s ability to grow longer and stronger at the fastest rate possible for you. Here Vogue brings you a step-by-step guide to growing your locks long – as quickly as possible.
Does a healthy scalp mean strong, healthy hair?
“It is becoming common knowledge that hair growth is reliant on the condition of our scalp,” says Kingsley. “The scalp is skin and should be given similar care to the skin on our faces.” For hair to grow longer and stronger, it needs a healthy place from which to thrive, so neglecting your scalp will come at a price.
Kingsley recommends shampooing regularly – you should be aiming for most days – to effectively remove dead skin cells, sweat, environmental pollution and oils that accumulate on its surface. “If you don’t shampoo enough and they remain on the scalp, this can lead to flaking and irritation. And when the scalp isn’t healthy, the health of your hair can be affected. In fact, a flaky scalp can actually cause hair loss.”
The past year has seen a huge surge in scalp care, with brands finally cottoning on to how important the scalp is to nurture healthy hair. Sachajuan’s new Anti Pollution shampoo and conditioner work to create a barrier against external aggressors while Hair Rituel by Sisley’s Pre-Shampoo Purifying Mask, which is designed to be used before you shampoo, contains white clay to absorb impurities and balance the scalp. For those who really suffer from flakiness, Philip Kingsley’s Scalp Toner should be used daily. It’s formulated with oil-absorbing witch hazel and sodium salicylate that take down inflammation and irritation.
Does diet affect your hair growth?
A healthy diet is as vital to the health and appearance of your hair as it is to your skin’s. “Protein and complex carbohydrates are key to maintaining a good hair growth cycle,” says Kingsley, “so make sure you are including both of these in your diet. I recommend a palm-sized portion of protein – think fish, eggs, lean meat, pulses and quinoa – at breakfast and lunch. These are the most important meals of the day for your hair as that is when energy expenditure is greatest.”
Don’t cut the carbs either. Your hair follicles need to receive enough energy to grow, so include a portion of complex carbohydrates, like brown rice, wholewheat toast, or oatmeal, with each meal.
“If you drink too much alcohol and smoke, you’re likely to be affecting your vitamin C levels,” says hairstylist Luke Hersheson, who points out that it helps the body absorb iron, which is necessary for hair growth. He recommends taking it in supplement form, or incorporating kiwis, oranges, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts into your diet.
Vitamins D (found in leafy greens and kale) and E (found in almonds, sweet potato, and avocado), will also promote healthy hair, Hersheson says.
Will taking supplements boost hair growth?
The answer is yes. “Being a non-essential tissue, your hair has especially high nutritional requirements, which can be difficult to meet through diet alone,” says Kingsley. “Supplements can be very handy in that they provide hair with easily accessible nutrients.” Ensuring healthy levels of certain minerals in particular will encourage hair growth and help prevent breakage.
What are the best supplements for longer, stronger hair?
There are six key nutrients we need to help hair grow longer:
Studies have found that iron deficiencies affect nearly 25 per cent of the world’s population, and it’s an essential for healthy hair. “Ferritin, which is stored iron, is needed to maintain a healthy anagen (growth phase) of the hair growth cycle,” says Kingsley.
Helping our bodies to break down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, a biotin deficiency can result in hair loss.
Zinc and Vitamin B12
“These two are hair essentials and a B12 supplement is especially important for vegans as it’s only found in animal products,” says Kingsley. Both help produce and repair new hair cells – cue longer locks.
Essential Amino Acids
Our bodies can’t make these on its own: “Amino acids are proteins, and our hair is made of protein, so I really recommend a protein supplement for a great daily hair booster,” says Kingsley.
“Vitamin D has a profound impact on the hair growth cycle as every hair follicle contains a Vitamin D receptor hormone,” says Kingsley, who says that vitamin D deficiency is also very common.
The best supplements to incorporate all of the nutrients we need are Philip Kingsley’s Tricho Complex, a brilliant all-rounder that contains them all, with the exception of Vitamin D. For that, look no further than Dr Nigma Talib’s Vitamin D Sun Capsules.
Which products will enhance hair growth the most?
If hair is breaking off, it won’t grow past a certain length. That’s why it’s important to use products that help minimise breakage. Kingsley recommends a pre-shampoo conditioning treatment, like Oribe’s Gold Lust Pre-Shampoo Intensive Treatment, to keep the hair shaft hydrated to help improve elasticity and strength. Another great product for keeping hair bonds intact and restoring hair’s structure is Olaplex’s No.3 Hair Perfector, a treatment that also leaves hair shiny and smooth.
What can you do to prevent hair breakage?
“Avoid crash dieting or fad diets,” says Kingsley. “Restrictive eating deprives your hair of nutrients and energy, both of which can cause excessive hair shedding.” She also recommends steering clear of tight ponytails (they can cause traction breakage and pull hairs from their follicle) and limiting your intake of high-mercury fish like tuna and swordfish as they can cause hair fall.
How should you brush your hair to promote hair growth?
Ensure you choose a brush that doesn’t damage your hair’s outer cuticle, which will leave strands vulnerable to damage. Opt for rounded, plastic prongs and a cushioned base, and avoid boar bristle brushes. Plus, never brush your hair from the roots as this can cause friction on the hair shaft and damage it. Start at the ends and gradually work your way up.
How often should you cut your hair if you want it to grow out?
Hairstylist George Northwood, who styles the Duchess of Sussex’s hair, says, “Have an invisible trim every three months. This is where we skim the ends without taking off length. Follow this with regular strengthening treatments to prevent it breaking and always use a thermal heat protection product on your hair when using hot tools. I also love a keratin blow dry as it adds protein to the hair.”
Hersheson agrees that while frequent trims aren’t vital, it’s important not to swerve the salon altogether. “What tends to happen when you don’t cut hair at all is you get these really nice, soft, buttery ends, and it looks boho and great,” he says. “But then it gets to the point where it snaps. I’m not one of those hairdressers who thinks you have to have a cut every six weeks, but even just getting the ends snipped every three months will prevent it breaking off.”