Score longer, healthier hair in less time with these six easy tips—no extensions required.
Whether you want to grow out a bad haircut, finally get rid of those bangs, or sport a longer style, waiting for your hair to grow can be a seemingly tedious task. And figuring out the best way to get longer locks clearly isn't so cut-and-dried (excuse the beauty pun): "How to make hair grow faster?" was one of the most searched beauty questions of the year, according to Google. Ahead, the expert lowdown on six factors that really affect hair growth—and what you can do to speed it up.
1. Eat Healthy
"Nutrition is the number-one thing that affects hair growth," says Gregorio Ruggeri, co-owner of Salon Ruggeri in NYC. Ensuring that you're getting the proper nutrients internally can make a big difference externally, namely in how your hair looks and grows.
What to do: Talk to your doctor about incorporating an oral supplement like biotin, a B vitamin, which strengthens the hair, says Mona Gohara, M.D., associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine. Ruggeri says his clients have also seen great results from taking Nutrafol for Women ($88; nutrafol.com), a supplement that contains biotin, along with a variety of vitamins and antioxidants. Regardless, be sure to give any oral supplement some time to work. "It's going to take at least three months to see any results, and this is contingent on taking it diligently every day," he notes. And of course, a healthy diet outside of supplements is also important, especially incorporating iron-rich foods, since an iron deficiency can make hair thin and lackluster, Ruggeri adds. Dr. Gohara also recommends loading up on foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins. (Psst: Here's what hair experts and nutritionists have to say about gummy vitamins for hair growth.)
2. Adjust Your Styling Habits
Sure, hot tools can give you the exact style you want, but heat is a major cause of hair damage, leading to potential breakage and stunted growth, says Ruggeri.
What to do: Try to cut back on blow-drying, curling, and straightening as much as possible. Granted, that may not be entirely realistic, so if you can't quit your tools, make sure to coat strands with a heat protectant each and every time, advises Ruggeri. One to try: Briogeo Rosarco Blow Dry Perfection Heat Protectant Crème ($24; sephora.com). Ruggeri also says to be wary of blow-dry bars. Since the goal is to get people in and out, the likelihood of the stylists using extreme temperatures and not being cautious ups the likelihood of damage. His advice for blow-out regulars? Stick with one stylist who you know is careful and takes her time (and BYO heat protectant if you have to). Another tip? Opt for newer, safer hot tools that won't do as much damage.
3. Avoid a Situation On Your Scalp
Healthy hair can only come from a healthy scalp. "You need to keep the follicles clear and healthy in order to ensure healthy hair growth," says Ruggeri.
What to do: He suggests using an exfoliating scalp scrub weekly to remove product residue and excess oil, creating an environment optimal for hair growth. He likes the Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt ($52; sephora.com). (Or, try a pre-shampoo clay hair mask to absorb excess oil at your roots.) And while we'd never knock dry shampoo, Ruggeri points out that OD'ing on the styling staple can lead to buildup on the scalp that can clog hair follicles. Always brush out dry shampoo after spraying. Dr. Gohara also advises giving yourself a weekly scalp massage: "This increases circulation to the scalp, keeping hair soft and healthy," she says. Do so using jojoba oil (it absorbs well into your skin) for several minutes before shampooing.
4. Color Less Frequently
Coloring appointments can also take a toll on your hair, particularly if you're constantly lightening it, since this requires lifting the cuticle and exposing hair to all kinds of damage.
What to do: "If you're trying to grow out your hair, consider going as long as possible in between coloring, ideally every 12 weeks," says Ruggeri. And ask your colorist about incorporating a treatment along with your color, like Olaplex, which can help minimize the damaging effects. At home, stick with moisturizing shampoos and conditioners to keep hair healthy and hydrated. Try Pantene Pro-V Daily Moisture Renewal Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner ($6 each; walmart.com).
5. Change Your Brushing Technique
Brush the right way and you can actually encourage healthy hair growth. Brush the wrong way, and it can have the opposite effect.
What to do: First, pick the right brush. Ruggeri likes cushion brushes with boar bristles, which are gentler on both scalp and hair than their plastic or nylon counterparts. If hair is especially snarled, mist with a detangler, and always start brushing from the bottom. It may seem counterintuitive, but starting from the top just pushes all the tangles down, so you end up with one big knot at the ends, where hair is already the oldest and most damaged. And Marcia Brady was onto something: Brushing your hair nightly helps distribute the natural oils from root to tip and stimulate the scalp to encourage healthy hair growth, says Ruggeri. But don't worry, there's no need for 100 strokes, even 15 to 20 will do the trick.
6. Continue Cutting
We totally get it: Why would you cut your hair when you want it longer? Still, skipping the salon altogether is a no-go. "Split ends can extend up the hair shaft, forcing you to cut off way more than you want to," says Ruggeri.
What to do: See your stylist for a "dusting" every six weeks: Often complimentary, this involves taking off the tiniest amount of hair–we're talking milimeters—but keeps ends fresh and healthy, says Ruggeri. He also advises going in for a trim every three months or so, not to take off any length, but to reshape your style so that it looks as good as possible as it's growing out.