Literally every time I get my hair cut, I wish I could take it back. Sure, everyone and their mother has decided that short hair is “in” for 2019, but I can’t help but want long, Rapunzel-worthy hair the very second I leave the salon. Which is why I’ve Googled “how to grow your hair really long” legit 20 times in the last month, making me the unofficial expert on all things long hair.
And not to totally crush your hopes and dreams, but, as I’ve sadly learned, you cannot physically grow butt-length hair overnight—or even over many nights. “Hair typically only grows a quarter inch—a half an inch max—per month,” says celebrity hairstylist Mark Townsend, who helped Ashley Olsen grow out her asymmetrical bob to her waist. “And still, getting long hair is only possible if it’s super healthy and doesn’t have a ton of split ends,” he adds. So, you know, totally easy.
But here’s the good news: If you feel like your hair isn’t growing fast enough—at least half an inch per month—you can, actually, speed up the process a bit. Ahead, I broke down everything you should do (get trims!) and shouldn’t do (go platinum!) if you’re trying to grow out your hair.
Every Question You Could Ever Have About Getting Longer Hair:
Do hair-growth vitamins really work?
I hate to be the one to tell you this, but hair supplements are not a miracle cure, and definitely shouldn’t be taken without talking to your doctor. I know, sorry, but hair vitamins aren’t actually regulated by the FDA, meaning they can contain any ingredients they want and claim whatever miracles they want.
If you follow a somewhat balanced diet, your body is typically already loaded with the hair-strengthening ingredients you’ll find in supplements (think: biotin, folic acid, vitamins D, A, C, E), and doubling (or tripping!) your dose won’t actually make a difference. “Your body only keeps what it needs, and then it gets rid of the rest,” trichologist Dominic Burg, chief scientist at Evolis Professional, has told Cosmopolitan.
That said, if you don’t eat balanced meals or you’re in an intense period of stress or trauma, you might not be getting the proper amount of nutrients you need to grow healthy, long hair. If that’s the case, “your body will shut down your hair growth first and redirect nutrients and energy to the organs that need it most,” said Burg, which can leave you vitamin deficient.
If you think you might be vitamin deficient, you could be a solid candidate for supplements, but make sure to first check in with your doctor. You’ll want to make sure you’re taking the right amount (and type) of vitamins, and that they won’t interact with any medications you’re currently taking. If you’re in the clear, these are some of the internet’s favorites:
Does cutting your hair make it grow faster?
Ah, the age-old beauty debate. Even though experts are divided on the concept of trimming your hair to make it grow faster, one thing’s for sure: If you’re after long, healthy-looking hair, frequent trims are a nonnegotiable.
Living with frayed, split ends will eventually cause your hair to break further up on the strand, which will not only make your hair look way thinner, but, you know, keep it from ever getting longer past a certain point. “Your hair will actually be shorter un-cut than it would be if you were to get consistent trims,” Townsend says. He suggests asking your stylist to take just an eighth of an inch off of your hair every 10 to 12 weeks to prevent extreme split ends before they even start.
How often should I wash my hair to make it grow?
“It’s shocking to me how many people skip conditioner when showering, which is the worst thing you can do for your hair—especially when you’re trying to grow it long,” says Townsend. (Hear that? Please, load up on the conditioning hair masks to prevent those split ends.) “In reality, it’s actually shampoo that you should be skipping as much as possible.”
Here’s why: The purpose of shampoo is to wash away dirt and product buildup, but most shampoos are filled with harsh soaps called sulfates, which strip away natural oils you need for long, healthy hair. When you do need cleanse your hair, make sure to choose a sulfate-free shampoo (I swear by Aveeno’s Pure Renewal Hair Shampoo or Ogx Coconut Milk Shampoo) and only lather up at your scalp, letting the suds slide down the rest of the hair as the water rinses the formula away.
Oh, and according to Townsend, washing your hair with cold water at the end of your shower can give an added boost of hair-growing power, too. “Cold water lays down the outer layer of your hair more smoothly, which helps prevent moisture loss, snags, and heat damage,” he says. “You only need to do it for a few seconds, but this one extra step can make a huge difference over time.” Yeah, cold showers suck, but anything for longer hair, right?
Cool. How often should I condition my hair, then?
Let’s just say your conditioner should be your best friend when you’re trying to grow your hair fast. According to Townsend, you should moisturize your hair every single time you get it wet in the shower. Over time, “coloring and heat styling cause strands to get thinner at the bottom,” he says, which can lead to more breakage and shorter lengths.
So to get your ends back to good health, load up on conditioner, which helps replace the lipids and proteins inside the hair shaft, as well as seal the outer cuticle. Basically, it’s your first defense against the damage that threatens your long-hair goals.
Should I use masks or deep conditioners?
If your hair is shoulder-length or longer, it’s already about two to three years old (weird, right?), which means it likely needs more TLC than a normal conditioner can give. And that’s where DIY deep-conditioning masks come in. “I make a natural oil treatment and give it to all of my clients to use pre-shampoo,” Townsend says. And trust me: It’s very easy to do at home. Just mix together the following ingredients for his easy hair-oil recipe:
Because oils can leave behind a residue, Townsend recommends applying it to damp hair—rather than soaking-wet hair—then leave it on for 10 minutes before shampooing and conditioning to remove the oil. “These oils are able to fill strands with fatty acids, even after they’re rinsed out,” he says, and those fatty acids help strengthen and protect your hair as you grow it out.
Not into DIY? Try one of these pre-made oil treatments, instead:
The Answers to All Your Heat Damage Qs:
Can heat damage slow down my hair growth?
Put the hot tools down for a hot sec, k? Hair straighteners, curling wands, chemical relaxers, or any other treatment or style that causes a lot of damage will not help your long-hair cause. The healthier your hair is, the longer it will grow, and overuse of these tools are not conducive to long hair. And if cutting down your heat-tool use isn’t a viable option, make sure you’re using a heat protectant every time you style.
Can bleached hair grow long?
I’ll give it to you straight: When you bleach your hair, it opens up the cuticle of your hair strands, causing significant damage—especially for those with darker hair—every single time. And hair that’s been color- or chemically treated is more likely to break off or split, which means more trims and less length for you (sensing a theme here? Healthy hair = longer hair). If you want your hair to grow longer and faster, you might want to reconsider that platinum dye job.
And Now for All Your ~Maintenance~ Questions:
Will brushing my hair make it grow faster?
Brushing or combing your hair is essential, obviously, but just keep in mind that aggressive brushing can cause physical damage to your hair that will prevent it from ever looking long. Basically, if you can hear the sound of the brush crunching through your strands, you’re being too rough. And be especially careful when your hair is wet and more susceptible to breakage.
“When you detangle wet hair, be sure to start from the bottom and work your way up slowly,” says Townsend. “We often instinctually brush from the scalp down, but that just pushes small tangles into one large knot and can cause you to lose a lot of hair.” Instead of using whatever janky comb you’ve had since high school, Townsend suggests reaching for a natural boar-bristle brush, which helps gently distribute your scalp’s natural oils down the hair shaft (which means healthier, more moisturized strands).
What’s the best pillowcase for long hair?
If you wake up with matted hair and tangles, your cotton pillowcase could be the culprit. Townsend recommends switching to a silk or satin pillowcase instead—it has a softer surface that won’t cause friction with your hair the way that regularly woven cotton does.
And what could be so bad about putting hair in your super-plush bath towel? A lot. “It causes so much breakage,” Townsend says. “Your hair gets caught in all the woven fibers, and since most women almost always wrap it too tight around their head, all those tiny, fragile strands around your hairline are pulled taut and prone to breaking.” Opt for a T-shirt or a super-thin, microfiber hair towel instead (like this Aquis microfiber hair towel), which are much safer for wrapping.
Are hair ties safe for long hair?
Well, not exactly. One ponytail–one!–can give you what stylists refer to as a “chemical cut.” This might sound like a new, edgy cutting technique, but it’s actually what happens when your hair breaks off at the point of tension where the elastic hair tie is wrapped. YUP. But that doesn’t mean you’re banned from ever wearing your hair up again. Just switch out your hair elastics for claw clips, bobby pins, or larger pins instead.
Wearing your ponytail or topknot in the same place on your head every day causes your hair to break over time from the constant tension. Frequently changing your pony or bun placement is an easy move that can help maintain the strength of your strands, which means they’ll continue to grow out strong and damage free.
Ok, so you definitely can’t grow your hair over night, but you *can* change up your routine to make sure your hair is as healthy as humanly possible. Keeping it nice and hydrated, minimizing heat-tool use, and staying away from harsh hair dyes is essential if you’re looking to grow out your hair. And if you’re really concerned about your hair growth, make sure you talk to your derm or see a trichologist.