Hair growth is the name of the game. We want length, we want density, we want elasticity. On the search for all the hair growth hacks, you try to find magical products, techniques or ancient secrets that have been passed down from auntie to auntie and granny to granny. Meanwhile, we don’t even know exactly how the hair on our own head behaves on a daily basis.
Natural hair growth can be a sore subject for some but it really does not have to be! Before you make any decisions on DIY projects or products that promise “fast hair growth”, you must first understand your hair, down to its physical makeup. Sometimes when we dissect something, it’s easier to get to the end result. In this blog, we plan to give you a crash course on the science of hair growth and what we can do to nurture the process.
What Even is Hair?
The anatomy of our hair is quite simple. Your hair shaft is made of two components. A strong protein called Keratin and skin cells. Both the protein and skin cells are technically dead so the hair you see and manipulate every day is really dead. They both live their life in your bulb, way before your hair shaft breaks through the scalp. The structure is broken into 3 parts: medulla, cortex and the cuticle. While the cuticle and cortex hold the pigment of your hair, the cuticle is the most important part. The outer layer, the cuticle, is built in a tight, overlapping, shingle structure. This is where you start to understand your porosity which is crucial for properly moisturizing the hair.
However, the work behind this structure is a little more intricate. Your hair follicles act as a base for your hair bulb, which forms under the scalp. Inside the bulb, skin cells divide. They continue to divide to build your hair shift. Your blood vessels provide nourishment and a healthy amount of hormones to the growing hair shaft. Remember reading natural hair blog after blog emphasizing the importance of blood circulation to the scalp? Yea, this is why. There is an entire system at work to build strong hair before it even pops up from the bulb.
Hair Growth Cycle
Hair growth is an ever-changing, ongoing process. While the actual hair you see on your head is technically “dead”, the process of creating the hair is always happening. It all starts in the hair follicle. Hair growth happens in 3 stages, anagen, catagen and telogen. You can be going through each phase at one time on different parts of the head. For example, the follicles in the center of your head may be in the telogen phase while the perimeter is going through the anagen phase. Which is why many naturals note that they may have different lengths around their head or may experience more shedding during a certain time, not knowing their hair is simply going through its most natural cycles. Each stage is very important in the process and aids in the healthy, thick results you are trying to achieve.
- Anagen: This is when your hair follicle is in its active stage. At the root, or bulb of your hair shaft, cells are rapidly dividing to create the new hair shaft. This is when your hair is pushed past the scalp, pushing the existing resting (or dormant) hair shaft out. This cycle can last anywhere from 2-7 years spending on the individual and can produce up to 1cm every 26-28 days. Some people have shorter anagen phases, or cycles all together. These are people who notice their hair will not grow past a certain length. Opposing to a short growth cycle people with longer growth cycles experience longer hair being that they are increasing the time in which they are literally making way for new hair.
- Catagen: The catagen phase is the transitional phase of hair growth. Cells stop dividing and the act of hair growth ends. Now the bulbs, or root, are shed; the first outer layer of the root is shed. Another is created and now we have what is called club hair. The new layer of club hair attaches itself to the follicle. Normally, this phase lasts for about 2-3 weeks.
- Telogen: This is the complete resting phase of the hair cycle. The telogen phase usually lasts around 100 days and is responsible for shedding. Shedding is a perfectly normal and necessary part of hair growth. For perspective, think about the shedding that you notice when taking down a protective style. While it may seem like your hair is just coming out, this is simply hair that would have shed already, all in one place.
Optimizing Your Growth Cycle
So now that you know a little more about hair, its makeup and activity, let’s get into how you can really optimize and enhance your natural hair cycle and retain some length. Along with the best products and regimens, there are smaller, everyday actions we can take to really get the most out of your hair growth cycle.
There will not be one natural hair blog you will ready that will not emphasize the importance of a healthy scalp. A healthy scalp does include keeping it clear of build up and rubbish but it also includes moisturizing and massaging. The first step in a healthy scalp is a scalp that is clean. Invest in both a trustworthy moisturizing and clarifying shampoo. As you’ll learn, the scalp is all about balance. While the scalp needs to stay clean, it also produces necessary oils that help keep it lubricated. A moisturizing shampoo allows your scalp to get clean without stripping the necessary oils and adding the right amount back to the scalp. Our Hydrating AvoKiwi Shampoo includes kiwi extract which has a double job here. It blasts the hair shaft with hydration and can act as a gentle cleanser for the scalp. A clarifying shampoo, when used correctly, gives your hair follicles and the pores on your scalp the opportunity to be purged of any blockages aiding in product build up. If you have any build up, the hair follicles in the telogen phase will have difficulty shedding hair or the hair that is shed will be replaced with a clogged follicle.
Along with a clean scalp, you need a scalp that has proper blood circulation. As mentioned before, your blood vessels provide the hair follicle nourishment and hormones needed for the cell division to run smoothly. Without this fuel, your hair follicles won't be able to produce a strong hair shaft. To help this process, you can add one simple step to your hair care regimen. Daily scalp massages help promote blood circulation. While you can do this morning or night we recommend doing a scalp massage with our Original Lavender Jamaican Black Castor Oil every night. This blend of oils not only add nourishment to the scalp, lavender is antifungal, which helps with keeping that scalp clean ;)
The Inside is What Really Matters
I’m sure you’ve heard this before but we’re here to remind you! What is happening inside your body has a major effect on your hair growth rate and the quality of hair that you do grow. Being that about 90% of hair growth is happening before we even see the hair shaft, it is safe to say you have to nurture the process of hair growth rather than the desired result.
The process of your hair growth cycle is mainly determined by genetics, age, ethnicity and environment. So you want to think about these factors and how you can make changes accordingly. For example, if you suffer from a dry scalp, you may want to see if this is a genetic trait or a result of the dry air in your city. Knowing the source will help you develop a solution. Once you take care of your dry scalp, you eliminate an issue that is hindering you from a healthy growth cycle.
Your diet has an amazing impact on your hair growth. This a line of defense that you can easily control by just providing the right environment for this natural cycle to flourish in. Balancing your diet allows your body to go through its natural phases and cycles with all the energy needed. A diet rich in vitamins such as biotin and vitamins A and C are always associated with hair growth but not as direct as you would expect. Biotin is great for turning food into fuel. This also fuels your metabolism which aids in the building of necessary amino acids that will turn into proteins. If you remember, hair is mainly protein, meaning you need a healthy supply of it. The body is so connected and reliant on itself that a balanced diet is crucial for all systems to work harmoniously.
Focusing on Retention v. Growth
Good grip on hair growth, check. Healthy scalp, check. Balanced diet, check. Now that you’ve taken the time to understand how hair grows, you’ve mastered your diet to the best of your ability and you’ve got a healthy thriving scalp; it is time to really care for and foster the right environment to retain the length your body will produce. The act of hair growth will ultimately do as much as it can in the right settings so it becomes your job to finally reap the benefits. In the best conditions, the average rate of hair growth is roughly a ¼ inch a month. You can use this as a rule of them to see how your rate compares. Once you have an estimate to compare with, you’ll start to understand what methods are working overtime or not.
The first step to retaining the length you’ve begun to see is a method we at NaturAll live by. The LCO or LOC- In method. This is the method of providing your hair with the balanced environment of moisture, nourishment and protection. Applying products in layers help to create a nourishing barrier around your hair strands.
- Leave In: After you have thoroughly washed and cleansed your hair and scalp, provided it with nourishment in the form of deep conditioning or a hot oil treatment, it is time to apply a leave in conditioner. Leave in conditioners are formulated to introduce long lasting conditioning properties to your hair shaft. A reliable leave in conditioner is lightweight and contains ingredients that penetrate the hair shaft such as the avocado oil or kiwi extract that is highlighted in our Hydrating AvoKiwi Leave-In Conditioner.
- Cream or Custard: Next you want to apply a thicker but not heavy custard or cream to the hair. The decision on which to use will be determined on your hair’s porosity and its ability to absorb products. This layer is another introduction of moisture and hydration. It is helpful that the product has ingredients that penetrate the scalp but it is important to note that this step is also for help in definition and elongation of your curls.
- Oil: The last and crucial part of this method is sealing all of this hydrating goodness with a lightweight oil. The basic action that the oil is performing when we say “sealing” is preventing water vapors from the hair shaft from escaping into the air. We emphasize that it is a lightweight oil so your hair and more importantly your scalp is not weighed down or becoming clogged.
Using this method helps you to retain the length of your hair in two ways. This method keeps the hair moisturized. Dryness can lead to brittle hair strands, split ends, premature hair loss and breakage. This is a result of the protein in your hair not receiving the balancing nourishment to maintain its strong structure. The other way is this method allows vitamins from your products to be absorbed over time for continuous nourishment to the scalp and roots.
Believe Science, Trust Your Instincts
Listen, at the end of the day, we know hair growth is a natural, recurring process that we all go through. As NaturAllistas, we want so badly to put the reins on this process and have full control over the results. The real truth is, we will never be able to have full control of our hair’s growth. We can nurture the growth, help retain it and fuel our bodies properly and that is where we must direct our energy. Knowing the cycle our hair goes through and what our hair needs to enhance the quality of our hair cycle is about as much as we can do. The rest is up to your genetics and the environment around you.