That pixie cut seemed like a good idea at the time. But now you’re staring in the mirror, and the reflection looking back is more, “Eek!” than chic.
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Is there anything (anything?!) you can do to speed up the growing-out process? Dermatologist Wilma Bergfeld, MD, gives us the long and short of it.
Hair growth 101
The hair on your head grows in cycles. At any time, about 80% of your hair is actively growing. The remaining strands are either in a resting state or preparing to die and fall out.
If your hair is shedding like crazy, see a doctor to rule out any illnesses or nutrient deficiencies that might be responsible. But if scissors — not shedding — are at the root of your problem, you’ll have to summon some patience: Hair grows a measly 4 to 6 inches per year.
Tips for hair growth
When you want your hair to hurry up and grow already, Dr. Bergfeld recommends these tips:
1. Get healthy
“Take care of your health issues,” she says. Hormonal abnormalities, anemia and other nutrient deficiencies can short-circuit the growth pattern. Before experimenting with supplements and vitamins, Dr. Bergfeld recommends having your doctor do some tests to identify any possible deficiencies.
2. Eat a balanced diet
A well-rounded, nutritious diet is important for head-to-toe health, including the hairs on your head. Avoid diets that cut out entire food groups, Dr. Bergfeld cautions. And if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, make sure you’re getting all the protein types and nutrients your body needs. A doctor or dietitian can help you create a well-balanced eating plan.
3. Protect your tresses
Hair that’s weak and damaged will break long before it reaches great lengths (or even medium lengths). Avoid bleach and chemical treatments that can damage hair.
4. Keep it cool
Like chemicals, heat styling can damage your hair. Try to avoid frequent blowouts and step away from the curling iron. If you can’t resist, use a heat protectant before you style.
5. Know your hair
Fine, coarse, curly, colored — different hair types have different needs. If your hair is dry, for instance, wash it less frequently and use a heavier conditioner. If your hair is fine or very curly, it can be easily damaged. Avoid brushing while it’s wet and use products designed for your hair type.
6. Get trims
Scheduling a haircut can feel counterproductive when you want your hair to get longer. But regular trims keep hair from breaking and getting even shorter, Dr. Bergfeld notes.
“Split ends run up the hair fiber like a rip in your stockings. You need to clip those off.”
7. Pamper your scalp
Look to the root of the problem, Dr. Bergfeld suggests. “If your scalp is itchy or flaky, that translates to inflammation, which turns off hair growth.” To keep your scalp happy, try anti-dandruff shampoos or avoid heavily fragranced shampoos and conditioners, which can irritate sensitive skin. “If your scalp is healthy, your hair will be the best it can be,” she says.
Dr. Bergfeld adds that it’s best to skip shampoos and serums that claim to contain hair-growing vitamins. “Those don’t penetrate the hair,” she explains.
Sadly, there’s no magic formula to transform you into Rapunzel — at least not yet. “Major cosmetic houses have some of the best chemical scientists in the world,” she says. “Lots of researchers are working on this.”