Dear Daniela: How Can I Make My Hair Grow?

Illustration: Anna Sudit
Dear Daniela,
I’m bored of always having shoulder-length hair. Okay, not always, but I cut my hair late last year after convincing myself that a lob would really suit me. It feels like forever! It’s not that it looks really awful or anything…but I just really miss my long hair. Is there anything I can do to make it grow back faster?
Lily, 28
One day, when I finally publish my memoirs of my time as a beauty journalist (working title: Will There Be Food At This Press Launch, Or Just Canapés?), I will dedicate whole swathes of the book to the most egregious products in the industry. Cellulite creams will be up there, ‘detox’ teas, and any lotion that claims to defy gravity and ‘lift’ your arse or tits. You know what else will be in there? Shampoos that claim to make your hair grow faster. They’re the emperor’s new clothes of the beauty world.
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"You can never make your hair cells grow faster than they naturally can," confirmed trichologist Iain Sallis. If you weren’t lucky enough to be born into a particularly Rapunzel-esque gene pool, you have to accept the rate of your hair growth, however protracted it may be. That being said, there’s a glimmer of hope – if your diet or routine is lacking, there may be some obstacles in the way of your hair achieving its full potential.
"The health of your body is inextricably linked to the health of your hair," added Sallis. "I try and tell my patients to think of their hair as a delicate piece of couture that can wear out if not treated properly." You wouldn’t throw a Brora cashmere knit on a boil wash and hope for the best – so why would you abuse your hair and expect locks like Samson?
If you want to maximise your hair’s growth potential (and keep the hair you already have strong), it’s about taking a three-pronged approach: diet, scalp care and styling. "If you lack in certain minerals, vitamins, proteins, your hair will start growing slower. To make hair grow at its optimum level, you need a lot of protein and iron!" explained Sallis. That’s right – yet another reason to grin and bear a morning protein shake. "Red meat, oily fish and eggs are fantastic for hair, as they all have the sulphur-rich amino acids your body uses to make new hair cells," added Sallis. I can remember a conversation I had as a junior writer with a trichologist who told me it was especially important to get your protein servings in at breakfast ideally, as the energy your cells have to make new hair is at its lowest first thing in the morning.
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Obviously, the supplement question comes into play here. Who among us hasn’t been tempted by an influencer touting pills, their mouth slightly agape to reveal what looks like a sweet between their teeth? Personally, I’ve taken pretty much every specialist hair supplement under the sun and almost all of them made me feel positively queasy, even when I took them with food. All that biotin will do that to you. The only one I found I could stomach – and which made my hair feel incredible – was that supermodel favourite, Viviscal. "Most women lack sulphur-rich amino acids, which you can find in Hairjelly. That and a basic iron supplement is all you need," was Sallis’ take. Make sure you take the iron on its own on an empty stomach, as lots of foods and drinks like coffee interact with it.
Then it’s onto your scalp. "Scalp health is so crucial," explained Sallis. "There’s evidence to say if you have inflammation on the scalp it may induce excessive shedding." A clean, healthy scalp is a happy scalp, so take the time to get yours scrupulously clean and free from irritants. "Wash your hair regularly, it’s a myth that it dries the hair out. Seriously, just washing hair and scalp more regularly will clean about 70% of all issues up!" added Sallis. "For problematic or sensitive scalps I would say, you need to use a medicated shampoo or a product for sensitive scalps – something with no colours or perfumes in it, as these are the main culprits of irritated scalps (ed note: Try Redken Clean Maniac Shampoo, which uses micellar technology for a thorough, gentle wash). If your scalp is itchy or flaky, however, don’t ignore it – you need a medicated shampoo."
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Finally, styling. I’m sure we could all sing the golden rules of haircare (use heat protection, don’t brush too hard when wet, avoid too much styling) in a two-part harmony by now – but it bears repeating. "Heat styling is a way of life now so I would never ask anyone to give up their straighteners or hairdryer, but there are ways to avoid damaging your hair. When you use a hairdryer, don’t press it right on your hair or brush or the heat will jump exponentially within seconds," said Sallis. In practical terms, move the hairdryer away a little rather than laying the nozzle right on your hair, and consider investing in wooden-handled brushes. Metal ones will just keep on heating up as you dry, and thus damage your hair more. I have Philip B’s incredible, but eye-wateringly expensive one at home – at a lower price point, Philip Kingsley’s are brilliant too. In terms of tongs and tools, ghd are the superlative stylers. All of their devices only heat to 185 degrees – any hotter and you’d damage the hair; any lower and you wouldn’t get a lasting style.
Long, strong hair is built, and the foundations are these. Tweak your diet, clean your scalp, pop a pill (if you like) and ease up on the heat. Hang in there! I promise it’ll be worth the wait.
Daniela
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