Curl guru Christo has a friend who illegally imports tiny bottles of tiger bone marrow from China -- at $300 each -- to make his hair grow faster. Some people hang upside down. Others buy vitamins, sprays and creams that promise to jump start the follicles. "There's no magic potion," says Karen Shelton of HairBoutique. Shelton says that the most frequent question she receives every month is how to make hair growth faster. "People say 'I want to grow my hair six inches over the next six months," Shelton says. "I tell them to get extensions or get a wig." The reality is that genetics determine how tall you are, your eye color, your hair texture and the "predetermined maximum growth rate" of your hair. Typically, hair grows at a pretty consistent rate of one-third to one-half an inch per month. Half a millimeter per day is good average. What this means is that the maximum growth rate for hair is about six inches (15 cm) per year. Hair tends to grow faster in the summer than in the winter. It also is affected by such factors such as pregnancy, stress, medications and exercise.
Although there is no miracle treatment, there are steps that can be taken to ensure optimal hair growth. "People along the way abuse their bodies," Shelton says. "They drink too much alcohol, too much caffeine and they smoke. The don't drink enough water. They live stressful lifestyles. This may throw your hair out of balance." Proper nutrition is key to the hair growing at its optimal rate. Make sure you're getting enough of Vitamins A, D and E, which are essential for healthy hair. Several companies, including Phytologie, JF Lazartigue and Folicure, make vitamins specifically for the hair and skin. Many curlies swear by Shelton's HairTopia, a supplement with vitamins, minerals, amino acids and herbs designed to provide the vital nutrients for hair growth. The vitamin was developed over a five-year process after Shelton became dissatisfied with the hair vitamin she was taking because it wasn't being properly absorbed. She got together with a chemist and came up a formula that is absorbed quicker. "It's not a cure all," Shelton stressed. "If you're expecting six inches of hair growth in six months, don't take HairTopia. But if you stick with it, it does help." Hair and nail growth depend on the circulation of blood in the body, says Jonathan Torch of the Curly Hair Institute in Toronto, Canada. Regular scalp massages can help stimulate hair growth by increasing circulation to the scalp and the hair follicles. Christo recommends a scalp exercise treatment. Using mint oil or bay leaf oil, the scalp is massaged for 15 to 20 minutes every other day. "The scalp is the only part of our body that doesn't get a lot of exercise," Christo says. "If the scalp is healthy, the hair will grow healthy." Make sure you care for your hair. Dry, fragile hair breaks, which can reduce length. Use high quality styling tools to reduce the wear and tear on the hair. Make sure you keep the hair conditioned and trimmed regularly - every eight to 10 weeks for long hair and six to eight weeks for short hair, says Dr. David Cannell, vice president of research and development for Redken. And style your hair in a way that doesn't stress it. Styles in which the hair is pulled tightly can stress the hair shaft, causing hair loss and breakage. "Those growing out a relaxer should use natural sets, flat twists or rod sets," says Diane Da Costa, author of "Textured Tresses." "Also, braids and some weaves -- if done properly and taken care of -- can help the hair grow in the interim." If you do have chemical services performed, make sure they are done professionally, and ask your hairdresser for the right products. There are certain ingredients that help promote healthy hair growth, such as sesame oil, shea butter, rosemary and cloves. "Any ingredient with a soy protein can help stimulate the scalp," says Christo. Removing product buildup also is critical to the growth of healthy hair. Products with a lot of waxes, gums and heavy oils can suffocate the scalp and can inhibit hair growth. There are drugs that can help stop hair loss and promote regrowth in those with thinning hair. Rogaine and Minoxidil are the only over-the-counter drug recognized to promote hair growth and stop hair loss. And Propecia (finasteride) is a FDA-approved pill proven to treat male pattern hair loss. But these are serious drugs. They aren't designed to make hair grow faster. Patience, says "Curly Girl" author Lorraine Massey, is essential for hair growth. "Just zen out of your regularly scheduled program," Massey says. "Just live through it, don't poo it, extra One Condition it, extra Angell it, enjoy it, and most importantly love it. As long as you're alive, your hair will grow. Trust me."