Whether you're eagerly awaiting the results of a new hair care regimen, recovering from a daringly short haircut, or simply marvelling at the wonder of the human body, understanding the journey of hair growth is an enriching experience of understanding.
Our hair has its own life journey, punctuated by periods of growth, transition and rest. By understanding the stages of this cycle, we can better support our hair's health, be patient with its pace of growth, and appreciate the fascinating biology at work.
So join us as we delve into the mystery of hair growth and unlock the secrets of healthier, stronger hair. Remember, it's not just about the destination — appreciating the journey can make the entire process that much more rewarding.
What is the Normal Cycle of Hair Growth?
As we embark on this exploration, it's crucial to understand that our hair doesn't grow all at once. Instead, each hair on our heads is at its own unique phase in the hair growth cycle. Yes, every single strand of hair you see in the mirror each morning is on a journey of its own!
1. The Anagen Phase: The Growth Stage
The anagen phase, or what we might call the "growth stage," is when our hair is actively growing. This phase can last between two to seven years, which means a single hair could potentially grow anywhere from 18 to 30 inches long during this period.
However, everyone is different, and our genetic makeup largely determines the length of our anagen phases. For some of us, our hair grows more quickly or for longer periods, while others might have shorter or slower-growing anagen phases.
2. The Catagen Phase: The Transition Stage
Next is the catagen phase, a shorter transition period lasting around two to three weeks. During this phase, our hair follicles shrink and detach from the dermal papilla, which provides it with nutrients.
This detachment will end the active growth of the hair; this is a natural and essential part of the cycle.
3. The Telogen Phase: The Resting Stage
Finally, we arrive at the telogen phase — the resting stage. Lasting about three months, this phase involves minimal activity.
The detached hair remains in place until new hair starts to grow, and eventually, the old hair is pushed out and shed. Understanding this cycle brings a new perspective to our daily hair care routine – as we stand in front of the mirror, brushing or styling our hair, we witness hundreds of thousands of these tiny, individual journeys.
Each strand of hair is at a different stage of the growth cycle, so we don't lose all our hair at once during the shedding stage. Isn't that amazing?
How Fast Does Our Hair Typically Grow?
So, now that we know the journey of hair growth and the stages involved, let's get to the core question at hand— how fast does our hair typically grow?
Most of us will see our hair grow about half an inch per month, equating to approximately six inches a year. But remember, this is an average — some of us might notice faster growth, while others might find their hair takes a little more time.
The difference is usually the result of the following factors:
- Biological Sex. Add hair growth speed to the list of key differences between men and women. Typically, women's hair tends to grow faster than men's, but the difference is usually slight and may not be noticeable.
- Age. Our age also has a significant impact on hair growth. You've probably noticed babies and young children seem to have hair that grows at lightning speed! This growth slows down as we age, with our hair growth rate considerably dipping as we move into our later years.
- Health. Our overall health status is another factor that weighs heavily on our hair growth rate. Healthy individuals with a good balance of nutrients in their diet often experience better hair growth. In contrast, people with health concerns may find their hair growth is slower.
- Genetics. Every person has a unique genetic sequence that plays a major role in hair growth. Some of us are simply born with a faster hair growth cycle, thanks to the genetic material that we inherit from our parents.
What Can Impact Our Hair Growth?
We often think about our hair in terms of appearance, style and colour, but it's easy to forget that our hair is a part of our body. It reflects our overall health and can be significantly affected by both internal and external factors:
- Stress. High levels of stress can have a dramatic impact on hair growth. The resulting imbalance in stress hormones may shift more hairs into the resting stage, leading to noticeable hair shedding a few months later. It's a phenomenon many of us have experienced during particularly stressful periods of our lives.
- Diet. Poor nutrition can also slow down our hair growth. Our hair needs a range of nutrients to grow well, including proteins, essential fats, vitamins and minerals. When we're not getting them from a balanced diet, our hair can be impacted.
- Lifestyle. Certain lifestyle choices like smoking can negatively impact the blood flow to our scalp, resulting in slower hair growth.
- Hair care. The ways we care for our hair can have a direct and significant impact on its growth. Overuse of heating tools, harsh chemical treatments and tight hairstyles can lead to damage and even breakage, making it seem like our hair isn't growing at all.
- Health conditions. Certain health conditions and medications used to treat them can also influence hair growth. Conditions like thyroid imbalances and anaemia can slow down hair growth, while some medications, such as chemotherapy drugs, can cause temporary hair loss.
Our hair growth journeys are unique and shaped by a variety of influences, but understanding these factors can help us support our hair's natural growth cycle and maintain healthier, stronger hair.
How Can We Support Healthier Hair Growth?
Now that we understand the complex journey our hair embarks on as it grows, let's explore how we can support healthier hair growth. Remember, it's about providing the right environment and nourishment for our hair to flourish.
- Eat a balanced diet. Following a balanced diet that’s rich in whole foods can do wonders for our hair. We're not talking about counting calories or following fad diets – instead, embrace each mealtime as an opportunity to nourish our bodies with nutrients. Our hair thrives on protein, vitamins and minerals, so including a mix of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats in our daily meals can provide these essential nutrients.
- Take proper care of your hair. It’s essential that you’re properly taking care of your hair and not acting as its worst enemy. Minimising heating tools, avoiding harsh chemicals and opting for gentle, natural hair care products can help keep our hair healthy. Our hair needs some TLC to thrive!
- Use vitamin supplements. As mentioned above, certain vitamins and minerals can help support hair health. Biotin, for instance, is known for its role in enhancing hair health. Vitamin D plays a part in hair production, while vitamin E helps maintain a healthy scalp. Using supplementation can ensure you’re getting the recommended daily amount daily.
Now, these might seem like small steps, but when taken together, they can make a big difference in the health and growth of our hair. It's about holistic care — because our hair is a part of us, and taking care of it means taking care of ourselves!
The Bottom Line
We’ve uncovered the fascinating stages of the hair growth cycle, from the active Anagen phase to the resting Telogen stage. On average, our hair grows about half an inch per month, but this can be influenced by factors such as genetics, age and overall health.
External and internal factors, from stress and poor nutrition to how we care for our hair, can impact its growth. We’ve done the heavy lifting for you and outlined strategies to actively support healthier hair growth, from nurturing a balanced diet rich in whole foods to proper hair care and essential vitamins.
Remember, the key to healthier hair growth isn't a secret or a quick fix. It's a commitment to a balanced and holistic approach to wellbeing. Nurture your body with the right nutrients, care for your hair gently and approach the hair growth journey with understanding and patience.
At JSHealth, we understand that lasting beauty starts from the inside out, and nurturing our hair is just one part of the journey toward overall wellness.