Why does every one's hair seem to grow faster than yours?
Have you tried a myriad of hair growth pills and potions?
Do you wonder if they really work?
Hair growth pills claim to grow your natural hair longer, thicker and healthier. Is it true, or is it simply a sales gimmick?
Let's first begin with how your hair grows out of your scalp.
Okay, get out your notebook and take this down!
The portion of hair protruding above the level of the epidermis is called the hair shaft, and the portion within the follicle is the hair root. The protruding hairs are composed of three layers, the medulla, cortex and cuticle.
-The medulla - A few rows of the incompletely keratinized cells form medulla, which is in the middle of the hair shaft.
-The cortex - The cortex is built with several rows of completely keratinized cells which gives strength to the hair.
-The cuticle - The cortex is covered with cuticle: one row of flat, keratinized cells arranged like tiles on the roof.
The root of the hair is contained in the follicle. The bottom of the hair root is enlarged and made of cells with high potential for division and differentiation. These cells comprise what is known as the hair matrix. The hair matrix cells divide and move up the follicle, differentiating into either hair cells or inner epithelial sheath cells. Among matrix stem cells, there are melanocytes producing pigment of the hair, melanin. In humans, hairs grows in cycles. Each hair enters phases of the growth cycle at a different time.
There are three phases of the hair growth cycle: anagen, catagen and telogen.
Anagen is the phase of active hair growth - approximately 90% of all hairs are in anagen. It lasts from 2 to 6 years, depending on the skin region where the hair grows (face, head, legs, pits, pubic region etc) and on your genes.
After anagen is completed, the hair enters catagen; during this short phase (2 - 3 weeks) the matrix cells gradually stop dividing and eventually keratinize (harden).
When full keratinization is achieved, the hair enters the last phase of the cycle, telogen. During the telogen phase (3 - 4 months) keratinized hair falls out, and a new matrix is gradually formed.
A new hair starts to grow and the follicle is back in anagen phase.
To put it visually, 6 inches of hair is bra strap length....and that is for the slowest growth!
So if we are all supposed to be walking around with bra strap length hair, why do we still have short hair?
This is where LENGTH RETENTION comes in!
The reason why we can't all walk around with BSL length hair (or longer) is due to...wait for it....BREAKAGE.
If your hair grows an inch from the roots and breaks off an inch from the ends/tips....where do you think that leaves us?
Yep! With stagnant hair length!
Worse still.... if it breaks off two or more inches per new growth... *shudder* you get the point.
So next question is -- WHAT CAUSES BREAKAGE AND HOW DO WE PREVENT IT?
Breakage of the hair can be caused by--
1. Mechanical damage- from combing, brushing, washing, styling and rubbing against materials.
2. Chemical damage- from chemical relaxers, texturizers, gels, harsh shampoos, conditioners, styling products
3. Heat damage- from blow dryers, flat irons, hair dryers and even sun exposure!
4. Structural damage-hair can be weakened from within due to poor nutrition, low moisture, insufficient sebum production, hormonal imbalances, genetics and microbial action making it susceptible to breakage.
It seems like a lost cause right? It's not, though. If you take the proper steps to protect yourself.
So how do you go about this?
Well here are the basic things your hair needs to stay strong and supple to reduce breakage.
1. New cells need to be well nourished to grow into strong hair that is more resistant to normal wear and tear.
This starts with eating a balanced diet rich in protein (building blocks of cells), carbohydrates (energy), minerals, vitamins and water! Some important minerals and vitamins include biotin, selenium, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins A, B, C, D, E ; iron, sulphur , magnesium and zinc. Examples of hair friendly foods includes but are not limited to salmon, walnuts, dark leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, soybeans and whole grains such as oats and brown rice. This is where hair supplements may function.
2. Next, you need to increase blood flow to the scalp as blood transports the nutrients and oxygen needed for cell division and hair growth. This is done by exercising and stimulation of the scalp by massaging or application of natural cell regeneration stimulants such as rosemary, witch hazel, aloe vera , lavender, moringa, coconut oil, peppermint, ginger, garlic, ginseng, castor oil, lemon grass, turmeric...etc. This is where hair growth stimulants may function.
3. The hair strand needs to be moisturized and the moisture sealed in. Naturally, your scalp produces oily sebum to keep the strands supple and moisturized. However, due to the porosity of your hair , the coily nature of your strands and the length, it is difficult for the sebum to go down the strands to the tips. To help out, it is necessary to moisturize your hair with a water based product and seal with oil. Some natural oils have been shown to penetrate deep into the cortex of the hair and bind to the protein. This helps reduce protein loss and help keep the hair fibres strong and supple. A good example is coconut oil. This is where strengthening oils and protein treatments may function.
4. The hair and scalp needs to be kept clean to prevent clogging from dust & residual oils and also to prevent microbial growth which may compete with hair follicle cells for available nutrients leading to poor hair growth. This is where cleansing and antimicrobial agents may function.
5. The hair should be treated like silk. The longer the hair grows, the older it is from tips to roots. Your tips/ends are the oldest part of your hair and the weakest. They need intense moisture to keep them supple and prevent them from breaking. Also mechanical, chemical and heat processes should be kept to a minimum. This is where a good hair care regimen functions.
WHERE DO HAIR PILLS/HAIR GROWTH SUPPLEMENTS COME IN?
1. Do hair pills grow hair?
Hair growth supplements are basically multivitamins with an excess of minerals and vitamins linked to protein formation and keratinization. Hair pills as supplements may provide the nutrients needed for the formation of new hair cells. Note that most of these nutrients are needed in small quantities and are not usually stored in the body. Put simply, once your body has used up the quantity it needs, the rest are flushed out of the system. So, if your hair loss or poor growth is as a result of poor diet, these hair pills may act as supplements. Before you conclude, it is necessary to consult with a physician to know if it's necessary to take these supplements.
2. Do hair pills make hair thicker?
It is possible for the hair supplements to thicken the new growth if the cause of the thinner hair was a result of a deficiency in the necessary nutrients. However, it does nothing for hair that is already grown out similar to how stopping relaxer treatments won't affect the already relaxed hair but will affect the new hair so it grows out curly instead of straight.
Hair pills may thicken up the hair of the new growth if used for a long period (and if the thinness of your hair was due to nutrient deficiency and not genetics) but would have no effect on the hair prior to taking the supplements.
3. Do hair pills cure alopecia?
If your follicles are still active and your hair loss is as a result of nutrient deficiency, hair supplements may help but they have no action on dormant follicles.
4. Do hair pills double the growth rate of your hair?
There's no current research to prove or disprove these claims. However, it is understood that the growth rate and the period of the anagen phase of hair growth is genetically determined. It is unlikely that if your growth rate is 1/2 inches every month, it will double to 1 inch per month taking hair supplements. However if your growth rate is naturally 1 inch per month and due to nutrient deficiency it slows down to 1/2 inches per month, it is possible that with hair supplements, your growth rate may double.
Please note that hair supplements only act on the roots of the hair. It's up to you to take care of what grows out. If the hair supplement helped you grow out your hair and you have poor hair care practices, you are simply wasting money.
As always, please consult your physician before taking any medications.