For a lucky few, enviably long hair just happens. For the rest of us, it requires patience, effort and some very deliberate changes in our haircare routine. If you’ve found yourself getting discouraged because your hair just isn’t growing as long or as quickly as you’d like, don’t reach for the extensions yet. Check out these pro tips to guide you (and your hair) in the right direction.
1. Get frequent trims — yes, really.
It may seem counterintuitive, but if you want long hair that’s actually healthy, you need to get regular trims. “While haircuts don’t make your hair grow any faster, they get rid of split ends that break your hair,” explains celebrity hairstylist Michael Dueñas. “Eliminating the breakage gives the appearance that your hair is growing faster.” After all, a split end that breaks can lead to your hair losing length — not to mention shine, volume, and smoothness. If you want to know exactly how long you can go between trims, follow this guide.
2. Resist the urge to go blonde.
As chic as platinum hair looks, going from a darker shade to light blonde could stand between you and your longest-possible hair. “When the cuticle of the hair is damaged from bleach, you can have more breakage or split ends,” explains Elizabeth Hiserodt, senior colorist at Cutler Salon in New York City. “The fewer chemical treatments, the better your hair will grow.”
3. Distribute your hair’s natural oil.
Going to bed with unbrushed hair may seem tempting when you’re tired, but giving your hair a few quick strokes can be great for its health. “Starting at the scalp, use a boar bristle brush to distribute your scalp’s oils evenly onto your hair so it stays naturally moisturized,” recommends Meri Kate O’Connor, senior colorist and hair educator at Eva Scrivo Salon. Bonus: This simple step each night helps increase circulation, which helps make your scalp healthier.
4. Eating the right foods.
Having long, strong hair doesn’t just depend on which products you put on your hair; it also depends on what you put into your body. “To promote hair growth, you need to ‘feed’ the hair from the inside,” explains Dr. Francesco Fusco, an NYC-based dermatologist. “Try increasing your protein intake with foods like fish, beans, nuts, and whole gains.” If you’re not a meat-lover, you should still aim to maintain a diet high in protein. Dr. Fusco warns that women who don’t get enough of it often experience “more shedding.” GoodHousekeeping.com’s nutritionist Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN adds that foods high in protein as well as vitamins A, C, and E, minerals like zinc and iron, and omega-3 fatty acids can contribute to healthier hair.
5. Avoid heat styling tools.
“Stop over-styling your hair,” warns celebrity hairstylist Ken Paves. If you must use heat, Paves recommends decreasing the temperature and always using a heat protectant — otherwise, you risk damaging your hair, leading to breakage and frizz.
6. Skip the daily shampoo.
By now, you’ve likely heard all the testimonials attributing great hair to going “no ‘poo,” but do you know why it actually helps your hair? “Shampooing your hair two to three times a week allows your natural oils to penetrate your hair, allowing it to hydrate and repair itself,” explains Paves.
7. Add a vitamin to your A.M. routine.
If your diet isn’t supplying you with enough nutrition, a supplement could make a world of difference. “Look for a multivitamin that’s formulated and labeled ‘For Hair, Skin and Nails,'” advises Dr. Fusco. “Those contain important vitamins like biotin and C and B vitamins that support hair health.” Bonus: You may get better skin in the process!
8. Finish your shower with a cool rinse.
A super steamy shower isn’t just bad for your skin — it’s also rough on your hair. “Turn the water temperature down when cleansing,” recommends Paves. “And rinse with cool water to help seal the cuticle and strengthen your hair before styling it.”
9. Be careful when you brush wet hair.
Hair is especially susceptible to breakage when it’s wet, but if you absolutely must get some knots out post-shower, make sure to use a brush that will go easy on your strands. “Using a Tangle Teezer or Wet Brush is key,” says Davey Partain, stylist at Kennaland salon in Brooklyn. He also notes that the technique is just as important as the tool. “Start gently brushing from the ends and gradually work your way up. And don’t just brush the top layer — brush the hair underneath as well.”
10. Start using minoxidil.
Pick up a can of Women’s Rogaine, says April Franzino, Good Housekeeping’s beauty director. “The active ingredient, minoxidil, is FDA-approved and proven to help stop hair loss and promote hair regrowth with continued use according to packaging instructions.”
11. Stop doing trendy “cleanses.”
Diet companies may try to convince you that a “cleanse” will turn your whole life around, but Dueñas strongly advises against them. “Doing a cleanse is terrible for your hair because you’re depriving your body of nutrients,” he warns. “After doing a cleanse even for a week, you’ll notice slower hair growth and lackluster locks.”
12. Sleep on a silk pillowcase.
Getting better hair in your sleep is possible — all you need is to switch up your pillowcase. “Silk is easier on hair — it helps avoid tangles and breakage,” says Jesleen Ahluwalia, M.D., a physician from Spring Street Dermatology in New York City. The less breakage your hair experiences, the longer your hair will be. (Slip’s silk pillowcasescome in a variety of pretty colors.)
13. Pay attention to your skin.
It’s easy to see shiny hair initially and assume a product is working for you, but Dean recommends taking a closer look. “What the formula is doing to your skin is generally what it’s doing to your hair,” he says. “Does it make your skin feel dry, stripped, heavy, waxy, sticky or greasy? Or does it feel soft, hydrated, silky and supple?” Treat your hair the way you would treat your skin — after all, it’s another part of you! If your hair follicles are clogged and congested, there’s no way it can grow as efficiently.