Across nearly every human culture, hair is an important attribute. The hairs on our head can symbolize strength, power, freedom, spirituality, or physical attraction, to name a few. Connotations and beliefs surrounding hair date back to ancient times, making this facet of the human form seem to have innate meaning. Undoubtedly, we’ve all seen or heard some of the stigmas, stereotypes, and gender norms surrounding hair: blondes have more fun, brunettes are sultry and smart, redheads are feisty, bald men are loud and obnoxious, women with long hair are sensual, and so on.
It’s no surprise that hair loss or stunted hair growth can make us feel down and out. Our hair is a part of our identity and therefore can affect our mood greatly; even a reversible tragedy, like having a bad hair day or winding up with an unfavorable haircut, can be enough to put us in a funk—or bring us to tears, if we’re really not feeling it. When it comes to preventing hair loss and increasing hair growth, there are a whole host of tips and tricks out there, 8 of which are curated below to help you get through your hairy situations.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT, FROM YOUR HAIR TO YOUR FEET
The first two modifications on the list both prevent hair loss and increase hair growth, and both focus on our consumption. Making changes to our diet (meaning what we eat, generally, rather than an attempt to cut back) has been shown to make substantial differences in our overall hair health.
A diet containing lots of raw vegetables, leafy greens, fresh herbs, nuts, fish, and complete proteins will provide our bodies with all the vitamins and nutrients needed to promote healthy, growing hair. Each of these staples provides different necessities; for example, sweet potatoes and spinach are rich in Vitamin A, while nuts, beans, and lean meats or fish will help us meet our protein quotas. A whole host of vitamins have been proven to positively affect hair growth, so balance is key.
Certain diets, such as vegetarianism and veganism, may need a bit of a supplement to provide the body with all it needs for luscious locks, which is where vitamins may come in to play. For some, a multivitamin may be the easiest route, while others may need specific hair vitamins or a biotin boost. When dealing with dietary supplements, it’s important to note that these products are not regulated by the FDA, so doing research and finding a reputable manufacturer is of the utmost importance.
How we care for our hair is also worth examining. When dealing with hair loss, or working to prevent it, the general rule of thumb is to wash hair daily but with a very mild shampoo. It’s important to keep the scalp clean in this situation, but over-drying hair with an intense shampoo/conditioner is also unfavorable. For those looking to increase hair growth, skipping a few days between washes can help natural oils treat hair, protecting it from breakage and other damage that will slow or stop long growth.
While you’re washing away, don’t skip the opportunity to give yourself a nice scalp massage. Research shows that using your fingertips to palpate in circles around the scalp improves circulation to the area, which helps to promote new hair growth. The massage also functions as a stress reliever—and stress can be a huge contributor to hair loss!
STYLIN’ AND PROFILIN’
For all heads of hair involved, being gentle in the styling process is always a good idea. Heat treatments, color treatments, and products will damage hair. Some folks have strands that are more resistant and can handle more processing stress, but the healthiest tresses will always be the ones most left to their own devices. Let your hair air dry as often as possible, work to avoid hairsprays and gels, and ditch the hats for a while.
Next, try experimenting with different oils. Coconut oil and olive oil have been found to help condition hair, protect it from damage, and potentially even slow genetic hair loss. A wide variety of essential oils can also target conditions you may be looking to treat in your effort to prevent hair loss and/or increase your hair growth. Be sure to apply oils as directed, as a little goes a long way and can make hair look greasy in a hurry, especially with fine or typically oily hair.
On another note you may have heard before, getting regular hair trims is encouraged. While it may terrify us to think about giving up some of the precious hairs we’ve worked so hard to grow, trims remain important for both looks and growth. Hair can take on a stringy and lank look as it grows out, and a good professional trim can help create an optical illusion of fullness in its place. Furthermore, hair naturally develops split ends and endures environmental damage over time (and even more damage for those who style regularly), all of which will eventually cause hair to break. Trimming halts this process and gives your hair a chance to grow long and strong.
Our nighttime routine can also impact our hair growth and loss patterns. Research shows that there are a number of things we can do to protect our mane overnight. Before bed, healthy, natural oils that have accumulated throughout the day will build up around our scalp, and we can harness these to our advantage; invest in a boar bristle brush to help distribute oil down from the scalp into the shaft of hair strands and detangle styles before sleeping on them.
Although it may seem extra, sleeping on a silk pillowcase has also shown to protect hair as we toss and turn throughout the night. Other pillowcase fabrics can cause our hair to snag, knot, and tangle, which promotes early breakage and bedhead that might take some serious elbow grease to fix come morning time. Sleeping on silk may be a hoity-toity move, but the hair benefits are down to earth.
MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE
There’s no shame in reaching for a product that is proven to prevent hair loss and increase hair growth. We constantly see marketing for shampoos, conditioners, sprays, and leave-in products that allege to do just that, so why not go for the FDA-approved, truly tried and tested option? Minoxidil may not sound familiar to you, but Rogaine likely does. Minoxidil is the active ingredient in Rogaine products, which are made both for men and women and are available over the counter.
There may be a stigma or discomfort associated with bringing hair growth products through the checkout line, but only because hair is so important to us! I think it’s well worth five minutes of discomfort to be able to walk around daily with a head of hair that doesn’t give you the blues every time you touch it, think of it, or see it. This treatment can be used all over, or to help in patchy areas, specifically—just be sure to read and follow the package directions.
GOOD TO KNOW
Finally, keep in mind that there is a myriad of reasons why each of us may be experiencing hair loss or slow hair growth. Stress levels, cancer treatment, styling choices, diet, medical conditions, pregnancy, hormones, and medication changes can all be factors at play. We naturally lose 50-100 strands of hair each day, but if you’re experiencing greater hair loss, thinning patches, or other noticeable issues, you may want to consult your doctor to find the true cause of the issue before trying to treat it alone.
by Violet Knight