Your hair isn’t going to grow, get over it.
Scrolling Pinterest almost daily, I see scam after scam of pills, products and DIY treatments promising results for faster hair growth. I click on every single pin that offers this in hopes that I will stumble upon at least one honest and educated post, but alas, I had to write my own…
So here’s the deal: The average person will grow ¼” to ½” of hair every month. This is the average growth per month, which means that out of the hundreds of people scientists studied in a controlled environment, this is what the middle number was. So once again, to all women out there who are obsessed with growing out their hair and are desperate to try anything, it’s possible that your genetics are the reason your hair only grows 1/8” a month, and an easy fix isn’t available on Pinterest.
Let’s start with the very basics: You have skin on your scalp that harbors tiny little pockets called hair follicles. The inside of each follicle contains a papilla, or hair matrix, which is where excess cells collect from your body to produce the start of a hair strand. The papilla is fed by surrounding capillaries and blood vessels, and if the blood vessel is active (see below), it will stimulate growth, with the help of a connected sebaceous (or oil) gland. This oil gland is what produces a welcoming (oily) environment for your hair to grow, and it is also what will make your hair look like a grease ball after so long without washing it.
So where are these cells coming from that magically turn into hair? Our hair is made up of 51% carbon, in the amino acid form of keratin, a hardened protein product, 21% oxygen, 17% nitrogen, 6% halogen and 5% sulfur (this is why burning hair stinks so much). Your hair is essentially a bi-product of excess proteins from your body. So logically, if you are lacking sufficient protein in your diet, your hair will slow in growth rate, but we will get in to that a little later.
The average person has about 100,000 hair follicles on their scalp, with normal shedding of 50-100 hairs per day. Once again, this is average. Some people have can have 50,000 hair follicles, and if your half middle eastern like I am, you could have 500,000 hair follicles on your scalp and still be perfectly normal according to science.
There are three phases in a hair follicles life, and all of your hair follicles are on different time zones when it comes to what stage they are at and when. There is the ANAGEN phase, which is when your hair follicle is getting good blood supply through the blood vessels at the base of the follicle (this is why your follicle can bleed if you wax, tweeze or pull out hair anywhere on your body) so the actual mass of your hair is being produced, which is when your hair is “growing”. The ANAGEN phase lasts and average of 2-3 years, but can last as long as possible until the blood supply diminishes (this is why some people can grow hair down to their feet and others can’t). About 90% of the hairs on your scalp will be in the ANAGEN phase, although once again this is average. The ANAGEN phase also decreases duration as hormones increase or decrease, so puberty can make your hair grow like crazy, while menopause will reduce the length you are able grow your hair to at all.
So let’s put this together so far; if your hair grows about ½” a month, and it has a 3 year growing cycle, how long will your hair grow before it caps out?
.5*12*3=18 that’s it! 18” This being said, the average person won’t grow hair below their shoulder blades, and it has nothing to do with anything but genetics.
The second phase is the CATAGEN phase. In beauty school they nicknamed this the “cat-nap” phase, because your hair is essentially resting, and your blood supply is dormant. 10-14% of your hair is in this phase at any given time, although on average it only lasts 1-3 weeks.
The last phase is the TELOGEN phase, which is when your hair follicle ejects the strand as blood supply rates increase within the follicle, and a new hair starts to grow. This phase can last an average of 3 months while your cat-napping strand inches its way out of the follicle until there isn’t anything skin wall holding it in. This is when your hair sheds, and it accounts for 1-2% of all the hair on your scalp at once.
People who suffer from hair loss typically are dealing with a dead blood vessel, and once it’s dead, it usually won’t come back without seeking professional treatment or solving the underlying condition that is causing it.
On top of all this science-y mumbo jumbo, there are 3 different hair types on the human body:
1. Lanugo, which is the super-fine hair that covers all the places on your body that aren’t covered in visible hair, with the exception of your palms and soles of your feet
2. Vellus hair, which is similar to lanugo, but darker, as the follicles are just big enough to produce melanocytes, which is what gives your hair color. This is also the type of hair that babies have until they reach the average age of 2-4.
3. Terminal hair, which is what is on your head, eyebrows, eyelashes and nether regions.
So that being said, there is some truths to what I see on Pinterest, but only to some degree:
PIN: Coconut oil treatments on your scalp will make it grow faster
Reality: Coconut oil’s molecule is much bigger than the oil molecule produced in your follicle, so it’s incredibly hard for your scalp (or hair) to absorb it entirely. If you rub it on your scalp and hair, you will only get the same effect that you could get rubbing a really moisturizing lotion on your hair and scalp; it will be greasy, but theoretically it can help your ANAGEN hairs have a more welcoming environment while they are producing. However, you could get the same effect that would be much more natural to your body if you stopped washing your hair so much and let the natural oils do what they’re supposed to do.
PIN: Prenatal vitamins will make your hair grow faster/thicker/longer
Reality: Like explained briefly above, your hair is essentially an amino acid bi-product of your body, so a balanced diet will send excess amino acids that your body isn’t using to your papilla to be digested. If your body isn’t getting enough nutrients through your diet, your body will retain as much of those amino acids as it can, causing your hair growth to slow (similar to how your body retains water when you are dehydrated, but when you’re hydrated enough your body has to expel the excess). If you have a complete diet, and you are taking vitamins on top of it, it is possible that the excess nutrients will become digested, and if you’re taking the right ones (amino acids are in the b-vitamin category, proteins, as well as some minerals), they could speed up hair growth; but they won’t increase the length of your hair, or amount of follicles (thickness) you have- this is purely dependent upon your genetics and your hormone levels. I often see people with poor diets taking prenatal vitamins without seeing any results in their hair growth, and this is because the nutrient gaps in their regular diets are being filled by the prenatal vitamins, so there is ultimately no excess to be digested.
PIN: Putting homemade concoctions on your scalp will make hair grow faster/thicker/longer
Reality: Like I just spent an hour typing out to explain to you, your hair grows from the INSIDE OUT, so putting something topical on your scalp (with the exception of doctor-prescribed treatments) won’t do anything, besides potentially benefiting the skin around your hair follicles (but not washing your hair so much will yield much better results than this). You have to eat the avocado mask, not saturate your scalp with it!
Your hair isn’t going to grow, get over it.