The most commonly understood step in the hair growth process is the emergence of new hair from the scalp. Hair has two distinct structures - the follicle itself, which resides in the skin, and second, the shaft, which is what is visible above the scalp. Each hair grows from its own follicle independently of the ones next to it. The average hair grows from ¼ inch to ½ inch per month, and because this growth rate is average, some of us may experience more or less growth than this each month. Dominant growth factors include the time of year, the part of the body from which a particular hair grows, and your personal hair practices, diet, age, and genetics.
Image Source: @naturallycurly of @aureefabienne
Every strand on our head goes through 4 growth cycles, and a phase cannot be skipped or go backward:
1. Anagen- This is the active phase of growth. The cells in the root of the hair divide quickly. A new hair is formed and pushes the club hair (hair that has stopped growing or is no longer in the anagen phase) up the follicle and eventually out. During this phase, the hair grows about 1 cm every 28 days. Scalp hair stays in this active phase of growth for two to seven years.
Note: Some people have difficulty growing their hair beyond a certain length because they have a short active phase of growth. On the other hand, people with very long hair have a long active phase of growth.
2. Catagen- This phase is a transitional stage, and about 3% of all hairs are in this phase at any time. This phase lasts for about one to three weeks.
3. Telogen- This is the resting phase and usually accounts for 6% to 8% of all hairs. This phase lasts for about one to four months. During this phase, the hair follicle is entirely at rest, and the club hair is completely formed.
4. Exogen- This is the shedding phase. About 25 to 150 telogen hairs are shed typically daily.
Common misconceptions about hair growth:
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1. Trimming My Hair Frequently Makes It Grow Faster. Trimming your hair has no effect on the speed with which your hair grows.
The Truth. Trimming your hair is great for keeping your hair in check and is also important to prevent split ends. Cutting these portions off will prevent them from damaging the rest of your hair.
2. Supplements Will Thicken All My Hair. While there are many supplements that do improve your hair (biotin is one of the most common), many people believe, however, that these supplements will make their current hair look amazing after taking them for only a few days or weeks.
The Truth. The truth is that biotin and other supplements target your hair follicles rather than your existing hair. They do strengthen your hair from that time and for as long as you use them. However, they do not affect your existing hair.
Once your hair is visibly coming out of your scalp, it is already dead
3. Shampooing My Hair Daily Makes My Hair Fall Out. A lot of people assume that when they use too much shampoo, it causes their hair to fall out.
The Truth. The truth is that we all lose hair daily. Your hair controls itself by releasing a certain number of hairs every day. New strands of hair, however, grow in their place just as quickly, assuming you don’t have a hair loss problem.
Hair Growth Tips
Image Source: @naturallycurly of @stylefeen
The bread and butter to length retention is about how well you care for your hair after it’s grown out. Your ends are the oldest, thinnest, highest in porosity, and weakest part of your hair. It will thin out if you’re not careful. The best way to keep your hair as healthy as possible is to slow down the rate of damage.
The length of your hair will depend on three things:
- The duration of the anagen growth phase
- Hair retention (how good you are at keeping your ends from snapping, splitting and breaking off)
- Hair growth rate
- Avoid towel-drying your hair. Towels cause friction, which can increase split ends. Instead, use an old t-shirt, microfiber towel (DevaCurl DevaTowel Anti-Frizz Microfiber Towel), or let your hair air dry. Do not rub your hair because this can cause the cuticles to open and make your hair frizzy.
- Handle your ends with care. Moisturize and seal them, because they tend to be the most fragile since they are the oldest section of your hair shaft. Therefore, they need to be adequately hydrated to prevent breakage and splits.
- Water and water-based products are the best moisturizers, while oils and butters are great for sealing in that moisture. Coconut oil (Difeel Premium Coconut oil), castor oil (Tropic Isle Living Coconut Jamaican Black Castor Oil), grape seed oil (Cococare Natural Grapeseed Oil), or a combination of oils like @righteousrootsoils are the top sealants used by many.
- Protect your hair while you sleep. Low thread count cotton pillowcases could be the culprit behind your stagnant hair growth. Cotton is a highly absorbent material that robs your hair of moisture while you sleep. Furthermore, the weave of cotton fibers can cause individual strands to tangle and break. Satin/silk scarves, bonnets (Donna Black Satin Sleep Cap or Grace Eleyae Black Adjustable Slap Satin-Lined Cap), and pillowcases provide a smooth barrier that hair strands can glide across to reduce hair damage and friction.
- Use protective or low-maintenance styles, especially in the winter, to protect your ends. The lower the maintenance is, the less you have to trim. When it comes to length retention, less manipulation is always best.
- Know your ingredients. The key is to use products specifically made for curly hair, which means, products free of harsh sulfates, drying alcohols, etc.
- Take inventory of your hair accessories. While clips and headbands can add pizzaz to your hairstyle, these accessories could also pose a threat to your hair strands. If you notice any broken clips or teeth on your accessories or bobby pins, these sharp edges can tear your hair out or cause nicks and scratches on your scalp, which could lead to follicle damage. Tight plastic headbands can also cause hair loss around the edges, so be sure to use cloth-covered headbands when possible.
- Beware of wearing hair in tight hairstyles. Braids and twists can be ideal as length retention styles, but they defeat their purpose if done with excess tension. You should never feel headaches or soreness during or after getting your hair done. Another red flag is if you see bumps or irritation along your hairline- these are tell-tale signs that your hairstyle is too tight and could lead to hair loss or breakage.
- Treat your scalp with TLC. Healthy hair growth starts with a healthy scalp. While cleansing your hair, make sure to massage your scalp with your fingertips instead of using your nails. You can also stimulate hair growth with weekly scalp massages with essential oils or your favorite combination of oils.
- Get rid of scraggly ends. If you’re holding on to scraggly ends for the sake of longer length, stop it. Split ends will continue to split up the hair shaft and can even begin to tangle onto nearby hairs, which will cause even more breakage. And don’t buy into the claims that your split ends can be, somehow, magically repaired by creams, pomades or conditioners. The only way to make them disappear is to cut them off.
- Be gentle when detangling. One of the best tips I’ve learned from @honeyblondegigi is to detangle your hair gently. Don’t rush through it. Detangle hair in sections if you have to, making sure to start at the ends and work your way up to the roots. Using the proper tools to detangle is imperative, so be sure to use a seamless wide-tooth comb, detangling brush or, your fingers.
Have some tips or information of your own to share about hair growth? Share them with us in the comments below!