12 Tricks for Growing Your Hair Really Long
When I was on vacation one day as a child, I saw an older woman (she was probably in her 60s or even her 70s) with the most gorgeous hair I had ever seen.
She had long, flowing locks that stretched down almost to her knees with beautiful waves and a wonderful, silky sheen. Her hair was grey, just as you’d guess at her age, but wow—!
The fact she’d managed to get it that long and keep it in such beautiful condition made her look so much younger than she really was! I decided right then and there that I wanted to have hair like hers. I asked her what her secret was and she replied that she’d never cut her hair.
It’s funny, because that’s contradicting advice with a lot of what you hear. How many hairstylists at various salons had told me time and again that I had to get an inch off of my hair every six months if I wanted it to grow? I’d tried that, and it didn’t work for me. Then again, I’ve tried the lady’s advice and skipped haircuts completely, and that didn’t really do the trick either.
So I set out to find out exactly how to grow my hair long!
The reality is, there is a lot of different advice out there, and a lot of it contradicts. This shouldn’t be too shocking, even though at first it might make you wonder. There are so many different hair types—wavy, curly, straight, thick, thin, dry, oily, damaged. You are not going to get a one-size-fits-all solution.
But after doing a lot of research, I have come up with a lot of things you can do to encourage your hair to grow (if you’re curious, my hair is down to my hips, and I am around my terminal length). Check it out.
Let’s Talk About Trimming
There is some disagreement about how often you should trim your hair, but it seems like most advice points toward every three months or so. Paradi Mirmirani, MD, is quoted on Oprah.com as stating that cutting the ends of your hair has no impact on your hair follicles, and thus in no way determines how fast your hair grows. This is a really important distinction!
What it will do is get rid of your split ends. This is helpful, because if you leave them in place, they will tear apart your hair at the bottom, effectively undoing the extra length you have added. If you let them get too carried away, it can seem like your hair has stopped growing completely (this happened to me when I tried never cutting my hair, so I am speaking from experience here).
There is no point in doing it too often though, and if you do, you will reduce the length of your hair.
Basic fact: Your hair grows at around a quarter of an inch per month.
That is true whether you are trimming it or not.
Your goal is to optimize your trimming to preserve the ends of your hair. What works for me? I usually just check the ends of my hair to see whether split ends are starting. When I see a significant amount of them beginning to appear, I cut my hair. I don’t schedule it.
I just cut it when it needs it, and avoid it when it doesn’t. This tactic has worked best for me so far!
Now Let’s Talk About Brushing
We have all heard that you should brush your hair with 100 strokes a day in order to make it grow. Supposedly this will help distribute the oils from your scalp to the rest of your hair, improving shine and moisturizing your ends. Basic Fact: It doesn’t work! Worse, it damages your hair.
That’s right, excessive brushing will actually cause your hair to break. Instead of getting strong, shiny, beautiful long hair, you will get frizzy, dull, broken hair. Since your hair is weak and fragile, you will get even more split ends. It will be really hard for you to add any length to your hair since it keeps breaking.
Your best practice here? Brush your hair as little as you need to in order to detangle it and style it. Stay away from those boar-bristle brushes. They are quite harsh and don’t do a good job. I use a wide-toothed comb, and it works so much better!
It is strong enough to get the job done, reaches through all of my hair to the bottom, and it isn’t harsh.
Even though you want to brush as little as possible when you do brush, you do not want to skip days!
Every day you skip brushing your hair, it will get more tangled. The more tangled it gets, the more hair you are going to pull out when you do finally go to brush it. If I make the mistake of not brushing my hair for more than two days or so, I end up pulling out so much hair in my comb you would think it was a week’s worth or more!
This is very damaging and a really bad idea.
Avoid Pressing on Your Hair
Another thing I have learned from experience is that you have to be super careful not to press against your hair. This gets more and more challenging the longer it gets. When you sit down to watch a movie, you have to lift your hair out of the way so you aren’t pressing it against the seat. And when it gets really long, you have to make sure you don’t sit on it on the couch or in the car! I have also found it very helpful while sleeping to lift it up over my head so that I don’t end up lying on top of it.
This prevents damage and keeps my hair from splitting at the ends.
Here’s a simple tip: drink water, and lots of it! If you don’t drink enough water, you will get dehydrated. And that means more than a headache and fatigue. It means that your skin and scalp will dry out, and your hair will too. Dry hair is always more fragile than hair that has plenty of moisture. It is prone to breakage.
If you drink plenty of water, your scalp will maintain a better balance of oils and your hair will be stronger and healthier.
Do Not Blow Dry
Another thing I have learned from personal experience is the evils of a blow dryer. When I was a teenager, my mother made me blow dry my hair every day. I grew up doing this without blinking an eye. It never occurred to me not to. All through high school, I wondered why I had dry, straight, scraggly, limp, dull, ugly hair. My friends joked that I had an old woman’s hair (not like the old woman with the amazing hair of course). I had tons of split ends and damage. I completely agreed with them without a bit of rancor.
I was 15, but my hair belonged to a woman who was 95! Gross, right? I didn’t really have a reputation for being the most beautiful girl in my class, that’s for sure. My hair alone probably caused a lot of my classmates not to look at me twice.
Then one week I was staying over at someone else’s house without access to a hair dryer, and I made the most amazing discovery by total accident! When I didn’t blow dry my hair, the scraggly, dry, dull texture went away. My hair became smooth and shiny and retained its moisture. I also discovered I had wavy hair and not straight hair! Let me tell you, that was a shock.
Ever since I quit blow drying, I’ve had normal hair instead of dry, damaged hair, and it grows so much faster! So do not blow your hair dry unless you are in a rush! Just let it air dry!
Don’t Overdo the Shampoo
In January, I talked about how you can go shampoo-free! You don’t necessarily have to give up shampoo altogether, but I would definitely recommend that at the very least you change out your commercial shampoo product for an all-natural organic product, and also that you only shampoo your hair several times a week. Some people may need more, some may need less; it depends on your hair type.
Commercial shampoos contain sulfates, which are chemical compounds that strip the moisture out of your hair and scalp. That’s why you need conditioner—you are actually buying conditioner to undo the damage of your shampoo. You can see the kind of vicious purchasing loop that hair product companies are getting you into.
When you purchase a sulfate-free organic shampoo, you do not strip nearly as much moisture out of your hair, so it is a much better alternative.
As I mentioned, you may want to stop shampooing every day too. “But won’t my hair get all greasy and gross?” At first, it probably will. But once your scalp discovers you are not shampooing daily, it will adjust, and your production of sebum will become more consistent. Your hair will stop trying to over-produce oils to make up for the damage done by your shampoo. That means that oil production will become more balanced, and you will not have nearly as many greasy hair days.
I have actually gotten to the point where I can shampoo twice a week with an all-natural shampoo and skip washing my hair the rest of the week without it getting greasy. It isn’t dry either, and that is a huge improvement, because it is so much stronger now! And that means it grows faster!
Do Something about Your Hard Water
Hard water is a problem. What is hard water? It is simply water which is rich with mineral content. Some areas of the country have hard water and some areas have “soft water” (which really is just less-hard water). Those mineral deposits are responsible for the soap scum that builds up around your sink and in your dishes.
It also is responsible for depositing that nasty gray gunk in your hair! You probably find it stuck to the prongs of your comb after you have been brushing for a while, and if it is really bad, you may even find it in your hair!
When those deposits get stuck in your hair, they usually start forming little tangled knots, which over time grow into bigger tangled knots, which then end up becoming matted. This makes it really hard to comb your hair.
As you struggle to get those knots untangled, you will inevitably end up damaging your hair. I cannot even tell you how much hair I have managed to pull out trying to get rid of that gunk and those knots! There is nothing worse than pulling out half your hair just to get rid of a knot. Or worse, cutting it, as I once did.
So if you can, do something about your hard water problem and try to avoid that nasty buildup in your tresses. Clarifying and chelating shampoos can be helpful, and so can an apple cider vinegar rinse (yes, I recommend them for just about everything, because they are that amazing).
Taking care to brush your hair regularly will also prevent buildup problems from getting worse and will keep small tangles from turning into big, damaging ones.
The main building material in the hair shaft is keratin, which is in turn made up of protein. If you want your hair to grow faster, it makes sense to give your follicles the building materials they need to create new keratin. Remember, hair grows at the roots, not at the tips!
You want to take care of your tips so your hair does not break, but you should do something to actually promote growth at the roots. Protein will not only help your hair grow faster, but will also make it stronger, smoother, and silkier. Oh yeah—and protein provides your body with a ton of other benefits too, especially if you work out. So while you are becoming more beautiful on the outside, you will be getting healthier on the inside, and that is always a plus!
Biotin is considered one of the best supplements you can take for hair growth! It helps to boost your metabolism and is great for strengthening your hair. It boosts in the production of protein-rich tissues and also protects those proteins so they do not break down as quickly.
This helps your hair to stay strong and grow longer before it starts to split. Other helpful supplements include vitamin B complex, zinc, selenium, stinging nettle, green tea, horsetail extract, and saw palmetto.
Condition Your Hair
Even if you stop using a commercial shampoo and damaging your hair, you can still benefit from some kind of a conditioner. You do not necessarily need to go out and buy an expensive commercial conditioner, however. You may do fine using a completely organic solution.
One of the best conditioners you can put in your hair (and it’s all the rage these days!) is coconut oil. Coconut oil is relatively inexpensive; you can purchase a jar for around $10-$20, and it will last you forever. You literally only need a tiny pinch of the stuff.
And I am saying this as a gal with long hair! Get it in your hands and rub them together so that it melts into a liquid, and then work it into your hair. Usually I start a ways down, so that I am getting the dryer parts of my hair, and then I work the remaining oil into my roots at the end. This also makes it less likely I will overdo it at the top (which is very easy to do).
Try a Warm Oil Scalp Massage
I have personally never tried this, but I see it recommended time and again. Heat up some oil (the coconut oil I just talked about would work for this, as would an alternative like olive oil or argan oil), and then just massage it into your scalp or ask someone else to do it for you.
Do this for about 10-20 minutes, then finish drawing the oil down toward your roots. Wait for half an hour (you may want to wrap up your hair while you wait), and then get in the shower and shampoo and rinse.
This process stimulates your scalp. There are a lot of variations on how you can do this.
What about the “Inversion Method?”
One of the biggest trends I’ve been seeing for growing out hair long is the “Inversion Method.” If you look on YouTube, you’ll see dozens of videos for this, where women claim they’ve managed to make their hair grow 1-4 inches in a week. As a reminder, you can expect your hair to grow around a quarter of an inch per month.
That is of course just an average, and you can obviously do things to speed it up (as I’ve discussed), but you can’t expect to make your hair grow 4-16 times faster than the average person’s! If you really could put on 16 inches in a month, something would be terribly awry with your biology.
Anyway, what is the inversion method? Supposedly if you hang your head upside-down for a while and let all the blood flow to your scalp, your hair will grow faster since nutrients will be delivered to your hair follicles. Inversion therapy is used to treat all sorts of conditions, and it does make a kind of sense, but will it make your hair grow 1-4 inches per week?
I looked on the long hair care forum to see what real people had to say about the inversion method for hair growth, and found a pretty mixed bag with the responses. Some of the women on the site said they had seen results, while others said they noticed no difference at all, even though they’d tried the therapy for a couple of months.
Judging from this, as well as the totally unrealistic projections of 1-4 inches per week, I am guessing that inversion for hair is a lot of hype. If you do feel like trying this method, massage some warm oil into your scalp, and then hang your head upside-down over the sink for about 4 minutes.
Pull your head back up, but leave the oil in for a couple of hours. Do this each day for about a week, and see if you have results. Do not use this method over the long term though, and do not use this method if you have a health condition which could be exacerbated by it. And if you feel dizzy or faint, stop immediately. Personally I think you’d be better served skipping this method entirely and taking a good multivitamin for hair growth.
Is Terminal Length a Reality?
If you have ever had really long hair before, you probably have encountered a point where you seem to just run up against a wall. Your hair refuses to get any longer, no matter what you do. This can be an incredibly frustrating experience.
Maybe you’ve heard of “terminal hair length.” Supposedly, your hair reaches a certain maximum length, and once it does, you’re done growing your hair out. Is there any truth to the “terminal length” claim? It turns out there is, but it isn’t really about length, as much as it is about time. “Terminal time” would probably be a better phrase. Why? Human hairs don’t last forever.
They go through cycles of growth, resting, and shedding. Your genetics determine the length of that cycle. Once you get to the shedding phase, your hair falls out. So your terminal length is determined by your terminal time. It is however long you can get your hair before it falls out.
How long that is depends not only on your hair type, but on how you care for your hair. If you follow all the best practices I’ve outlined in this article, you can probably get your hair to grow longer before it falls out. Even if you do a really great job, though, you will have a hard time getting all of your hair to its terminal length. Most people who can get there hair that long really only can get a few hairs that long.
The rest fall out before they get to that point, so the hair has a “tapering” effect.
Some people don’t like this look, some do.
If you’re curious about calculating your approximate terminal length, there’s a great blog entry here which will teach you how to do it. The method is rather complicated, so I won’t reproduce it here. You can go over there to check it out and read some other great information about terminal length. One thing I like about that blog entry is that the author never attempts to give sure answers to questions which don’t have them.
She acknowledges the limitations of our scientific knowledge about hair growth. For example, during the “Anagen” active growth phase, hair is said to grow for 3-6 years. Not only is this a really wide margin for error, but even this estimate may not be entirely accurate. There is just not enough solid research on the topic.
So now you should have a pretty good idea how to grow your hair out as long as possible. Yes, you do have a terminal length, but you can extend it to some degree simply by taking steps to take care of your hair.
Nourish your hair with a healthy diet and a multivitamin for hair growth.
Avoid hard water and harsh chemicals, use a comb to gently detangle your hair, don’t blow dry or lean on your hair, and condition your hair regularly. Trim your split ends when you need to, but don’t trim your hair when you don’t have to.
Experiment and figure out the best practices for your personal hair type. Over time, you should be able to grow your hair out to a beautiful length. Just remember, the biggest key is persistence and determination!
Growing your hair out long is a commitment. Don’t give up, and you should see some amazing results, just as I have!