You are born with about 5 million hair follicles, about 100,000 of which are on your scalp. On average, you lose about 50 to 100 strands of hair every day, a result of each follicle not growing hair at the same time.1 Your hair grows at a rate of about half an inch per month or 6 inches per year. However, that rate can fluctuate based on your age, general health, and certain environmental factors.2 Some studies suggest that hair growth rate may vary based on race, gender, and season.3
As you get older, your hair growth tends to slow down. Some of your hair follicles stop producing hair altogether, resulting in baldness.4 Let’s take a closer look at how hair grows and how you can support faster growth and healthier hair.
Understanding Hair Growth
Hair is made up of long strands of a protein called keratin. Each hair is anchored into the skin by a hair follicle. At the base of the follicle, underneath the skin, is the hair bulb, which contains cells that are dividing and growing to build hair from the bottom up. The hair bulb also contains blood vessels, which bring precious oxygen, nutrients, and hormones that modulate the structure and growth of the hair strand.5
The Phases of Hair Growth
Your hair grows in three different stages. Unlike other mammals that have seasonal or cyclical shedding periods, human hair sheds at random. That also means that at any given point, a random amount of hairs will be in one of these stages:
The anagen phase is the active growth phase during which the cells in the hair bulb are dividing and growing, forming a new hair. This new hair pushes the club hair (a hair that has stopped growing) above it up the follicle, eventually shedding it entirely. During this phase, your hair grows at about 1 centimeter every 28 days with hairs staying active for two to six years. You may have a shorter active growth phase, which often just means that you may have trouble growing your hair out. The hair on your arms and legs only have an active phase of about 30 to 45 days, which is why they are comparably so short.
About three percent of your hairs are in this transitional phase at any given time. During this phase, the active growth period has stopped, and the hair’s outer root sheath has shrunk and attached itself to the hair root or bulb, beginning the formation of the club hair. The catagen phase lasts two to three weeks.
The telogen phase is the hair’s resting phase. About six to eight percent of the hair on a person’s head is in this phase. During this phase, the club hair has completely formed and the hair follicle is at rest, meaning that it is not actively growing or creating a new hair. The telogen phase lasts about 100 days for hair on your scalp and much longer for hair on your body.6
How to Grow Your Hair Faster
How to grow your hair faster often comes down to providing your hair with the right vitamins and nutrients, balance of hormones and good scalp environment for growth. While there are no solutions to how to make hair grow faster overnight, taking the right steps can encourage hair growth and health in the long term.
Home Remedies for Hair Growth
1. Best Nutrients and Vitamins for Hair Growth
While not all vitamins and nutrients directly affect hair growth, the process does require a great deal of energy. Vitamins and nutrients can help to fuel the hair growth process and provide your scalp with the right resources for healthy hair. Some vitamins to incorporate into your diet include:
Comprising a family of fat-soluble retinoids, vitamin A plays an important role in nearly all cells in the human body. It plays a role in the production of sebum, a natural oil secreted by glands in the skin and scalp. Sebum is necessary to moisturizing the scalp and maintaining hair health.7 A rat study also found that dietary vitamin A induced the anagen phase by stimulating hair follicle stem cells, suggesting that the vitamin may help to promote hair growth.8
Oxidative stress, a natural result of exposure to and metabolism of oxygen, has been shown to contribute to hair aging, decreased hair production, and baldness. Vitamin C offers powerful antioxidant properties, allowing it to potentially neutralize free radicals (a product of oxidative stress) and prevent oxidative damage.9
Vitamin D is believed to play a role in the production of hair, though the exact mechanisms involved still require research. Studies show that low levels of vitamin D (as a result of general deficiency, vitamin D receptor mutation, or vitamin D resistant rickets) have been linked to certain forms of hair loss.10
Iron is a component of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to tissues throughout the body, including the scalp.11 More iron allows for more oxygen and nutrients transported to your scalp. Studies have found that iron deficiencies may contribute to excessive hair loss, especially in women.12
Zinc is another essential micronutrient that contributes to various processes, including the regulation of gene expressions and facilitating protein folding.14 Zinc deficiency has also been shown to potentially cause alopecia areata and other forms of hair loss.15 Oral supplementation of zinc has been found to help regulate hair growth cycles for those suffering from hair loss related to zinc deficiencies.16
You can easily obtain many of these nutrients from eating a balanced, diverse diet, but supplements for hair growth can make dosage easier.
2. Best Oil for Hair Growth
Essential oils can be applied topically to your scalp to support hair growth. Common essential oils for hair include:
Lavender oil for Hair Growth
A mouse study found that lavender oil could potentially promote faster hair growth. Lavender oil also possesses anti-microbial and antibacterial properties.17
Tea tree oil for Hair Growth
In one study, a mixture of minoxidil (a common hair growth treatment) and tea tree oil was more effective than using minoxidil alone.18 Topical application of tea tree oil may help to increase hair growth and unplug hair follicles.19
Jojoba oil for Hair Growth
Jojoba oil’s structure and consistency mimics sebum, suggesting that it can help to moisturize the scalp and maintain hair’s health. It also contains vitamins and nutrients to help nourish your hair and scalp, including vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc.20
Argan oil for Hair Growth
Argan oil offers similar moisturizing effects as jojoba, but its potential to support healthy hair comes mainly from its high vitamin A and vitamin E content.21
3. Hair Growth Tips for Damage Prevention
Through styling and general care, you may be damaging your hair, making it fragile and easier to break. This can result in frizzy, unhealthy hair, which may eventually lead to thinning and bald spots.22 To prevent damage:
Choose and use the right shampoo.
Many shampoos contain sulfates. Although these detergent-like chemicals are effective and breaking down dirt and oils, they may dry out and irritate your scalp. Look for gentler formulations that are sulfate-free.23
Avoid washing your hair every day.
Shampooing too much dries out your hair and your scalp, making your more prone to breakage and an itchy scalp. You generally want some oil in your hair. Sebum naturally keeps your scalp and hair moisturized while protecting your skin from bacteria and other microbes. Only a very small population needs to wash their hair daily. For most people, washing every other day or every three days is fine.24
Always use conditioner after shampooing.
Conditioners provide your hair with much needed moisture after washing. If your hair is prone to dryness, you may also consider using a deep conditioner treatment once a week.23
Dry your hair gently
Rubbing your wet hair vigorously with a towel actually damages your hair. Squeeze out excess water and use your towel to blot the water. Air drying is always the preferred method (when you have the time).25
Avoid heat treatments.
Using hair dryers and irons puts your hair at risk of damage from extreme temperatures. Protect your hair before using any high heat tools, and try to give your hair a break from any heat styling at least once a week.
Learn to manage your stress.
Chronic stress can affect nearly every aspect of your health, including your hair growth. Studies suggest that high stress levels can contribute to forms of hair loss, including telogen effluvium (which can push hair follicles into their resting phase), trichotillomania (an irresistible urge to pull your own hair), and alopecia areata.26 Learning to manage your stress can help to prevent hair loss and maintain good overall health.
There’s no magic pill that will make your hair grow instantly, but with the right nutrients and lifestyle changes, you can help your hair grow and thrive.