A lot of black women wearing their hair natural would like to increase its growth. We often hear about the effectiveness of certain oils, hair products, scalp massages or food supplements to increase hair growth. But are these really effective? I will be providing the answer in this article based only on scientific publications.
Afro hair growth
Hair grows at a rate of 1 centimeter/month on average i.e 12 centimeters each year.
Hair growth is genetically determined and varies according to the individual.
Hair growth has three stages:
– The anagen phase, when the hair grows. This growth period lasts between 2 to 6 years but can be longer depending on people.
– The catagen phase. This is a rest period when the hair stops growing and prepares to fall. It usually lasts between 2 to 3 weeks. During this period the hair follicle stops producing melanin. This is why when the hair falls, its root is white.
– The telogen phase, when the hair falls. This period usually lasts 3 months. People lose in average 50 to 100 hairs/day.
Then the follicles go back to the anagen phase to start producing new hair and the cycle repeats itself.
The majority of our hair (80-85%) is in the growing phase, 2% are in the resting phase and between 10 to 15% are in the elimination phase. (1)
Because a single hair grows on average at a rate of 12 cm/year and its growth lasts 2 to 6 years, the maximum potential length of a hair is comprised between 24 and 72cm. This potential maximum length varies according to individuals.
The factors influencing afro hair growth
Hair growth is influenced by the production of hormones.
As an example, hormones produced by pregnant women will modify the hair growth cycle. More than 95% of hair are in the growing phase during pregnancy. After the birth, the production of hormones drops to 76%, hair growth rate slows down and hair loss increases.
Moreover, when a woman gets older the production of female hormones (estrogen) decreases. This is why hair thins out as we age. The growing stage becomes shorter while the telogen, elimination stage increases.
Hair growth is also influenced by the seasons. This is why hair loss increases in autumn.
Dietary supplements and afro hair.
There are few scientific studies proving the influence of food supplements on hair growth. (2)
People who do not suffer from nutritional deficiency do not require dietary supplements. Indeed, most of the vitamins and minerals that the body needs to produce new hair comes from our diet.
However, dietary supplements can be prescribed by a doctor to patient suffering from:
- Diseases such as malabsorption, chronic condition, neuromuscular disease.
- Eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia.
Furthermore, older people and people following a strict diet (such as a weight loss program) as well as those following a vegetarian or vegan diet can benefit from dietary supplements. (3)
Warning: going over the recommended doses of certain nutrients such as vitamin A, E or selenium can actually cause hair loss. (3),(4).
Oils and butters
There are currently no scientific studies proving that oils or butters can increase hair growth.
Moreover, it is not recommended to apply butter, oil or any other product which hasn’t been prescribed by a dermatologist on the scalp.
Applying oily products on the scalp reduces the production of sebum (oily substance produced by the skin which lubricates hair). This is why more and more women with greasy hair undergo a ‘sebum cure’, in order to self-regulate its production.
Furthermore, for people suffering with dandruff, applying a fatty product onto the scalp can worsen the problem. Indeed, the yeast responsible for dandruff, feeds itself from the components of fatty products. This can increase the dandruff issue.
Head massages are supposed to stimulate the blood flow to the scalp, increasing the nutriments intake by the follicles and improving the hair growth.
Only one scientific study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4740347/) where 9 Japanese men received a 4 minute scalp massage everyday for 24 weeks has shown an increase in the thickness of the hair, but no increase in hair growth.
According to Dr Philip Kingsley, “The health of the scalp is vital to the health of the hair. Scalp massages aid in the removal of dead skin cells from the scalp — and a flaky scalp is known to worsen hair loss in certain individuals. It can be very beneficial to those who suffer from scalp conditions such as dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis.”
How to have long hair
“Miracle” products that increase hair growth beyond its own natural capability don’t exist. Growth is influenced only by your genetics and your hormones.
Caring and protecting your tips will help you retain length.
Here are some advice to increase length retention:
- Wear your hair in protective hairstyles as much as possible. These hairstyles will reduce manipulation thus breakage.
- Be wary of proteins in your hair routine. Applying too much or too often protein-rich products when your hair doesn’t actually need it, can be responsible of breakage.
- Test your hair sensibility to coconut oil. Afro hair sometimes does not react well to coconut oil. It can dry out the hair, make it brittle and easy to break.
- Wash your hair section by section or in 2 strand twists. This will reduce tangle and breakage.
- Moisturize your hair regularly with a water-based product (oils and butters do not hydrate hair).
- Be patient 🙂
What is your opinion on afro hair growth? Do you believe we can increase its growth?
(1) Blume-Peytavi, Ulrike, David A. Whiting, and Ralph M. Trüeb, eds. Hair growth and disorders. Springer Science & Business Media, 2008.
(2) Finner, Andreas M. “Nutrition and hair: deficiencies and supplements.” Dermatologic clinics 31.1 (2013): 167-172.
(3) Goldberg, Lynne J., and Yolanda Lenzy. “Nutrition and hair.” Clinics in dermatology 28.4 (2010): 412-419.
(4) Guo EL, Katta R. Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. Dermatol Pract Concept. 2017;7(1):1.