Poring over confusing medical studies and trying to extrapolate answers can get dry, so we tapped New York City dermatologist and hair loss expert Dr. Doris Day to help make it easy to understand hair growth. Keep reading for the details on how long it takes hair to grow, what to expect out of your mane, and what can be slowing it down.
How does hair grow?If you just cut micro bangs and have taken up residence in front of the mirror to pine for what once was, you’ll have plenty of time to educate yourself on what’s coming. First, it’s important to know that hair growth starts at the scalp. Each hair grows from a root inside a tiny follicle, fed by blood vessels.
Hair grows in three phases: anagen, catagen, and telogen. In normal person speak, that’s a growing phase, a resting phase, and a shedding phase. The first can last anywhere from two to ten years, meaning your hair will lengthen at a steady pace consistently during that time. Once that’s over, your follicles will take a brief rest (usually around two weeks) before starting a shedding phase that usually lasts several months.
Of course, Dr. Day is quick to point out that your body always responds to what’s going on in your life. If you’ve been ill or had a traumatic event occur, it’s possible that those three phases will stretch. Dermatologists say that everyday events like extreme dieting and more major ones like divorce can play a significant role in the growth cycle of your mane.
“[The hair] just pushes into that catagen phase and from there it goes into that telogen phase, which is why it takes around three months after that shock before you start to see that hair loss,” she explains.
Positive hormonal adjustments may also reflect in the length and growth pace of your mane. Pregnancy is often cited as the most common cause of an extended growth phase.
Extreme growth can also lead to excessive shedding, another common concern Dr. Day hears about from patients. Seeing stray hairs on their pillows, clothing, and in their shower drains, they worry about all the hair falling out. Relax! It’s likely very normal.
“You’re supposed to shed hair every day,” Dr. Day explains. “We say about 100 hairs a day, and that’s a theoretical [estimate] based on the assumption that you have 100,000 hairs on your scalp and 10 percent of the hairs are in that resting phase—which means that on any given day 10 percent of those hairs are going to drop out.”
Strand loss aside, the American Academy of Dermatology estimates that your hair will grow about six inches every year. Keep in mind, however, that every head of hair is unique so the benchmark may differ slightly for you.
How does hair growth change over time?Aging has a pesky effect on everything from body shape to skin texture, so it makes sense that hair is another place you’ll see it take a toll. If you feel like your hair just isn’t growing at the pace it did when you were young, Dr. Day backs up your suspicions.
“Your hair does age, and your follicles do age,” she says. “There’s a genetic component to it.”
Slowed hair growth isn’t the only thing holding you back as you age, either. A lifetime of tight hairstyles or braids can also mean the development of traction alopecia. All that tugging on your follicles can cause scarring over time, stopping your hair from regrowing. It’s crucial to work with a stylist who’s gentle on your hair and give it the same treatment during at-home styling.
How does your hair care routine fit into all of this?
If you don't see the growth you’d like and haven’t experienced illness or trauma, breakage may be a problem for you and you don’t even know it. Salon color often requires the use of bleach to pre-lighten for pastel and blonde shades, which damages hair over time.
Blonde addicts, in particular, can benefit from a hair care system that keeps their hair strengthened and looking healthier. From the L’Oréal portfolio of products, we love L’Oréal Professionnel’s illuminating and restoring Blondifier range for all blonde hair. When used as a system of shampoo and conditioner, the line boasts intense nourishment and a 52 percent improvement in smoothness.
For those who worship at the altar of heat styling, a quality heat protectant is a must-have to help guard fragile strands against scorching temperatures. Biolage Thermal Active Setting Spray is a favorite of ours for all things heat-related.
If you’ve poured over every answer and are still not seeing the length you want, it may be time to consult your stylist. The two of you can look into extension options that may be a fit for your lifestyle or discuss a long-term plan. Long hair is a matter of patience (and a little luck). Armed with Dr. Day’s expert advice and knowledge about how hair grows, you’re ready to have a mane that will make everyone else feel envious.
Looking for customized advice about growing super long hair? Use our salon locator to book an appointment with a stylist near you.