Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 05/16/2021
In addition to a lifetime supply of comfortable heels, plus an effective treatment for wrinkles and fine lines, experiencing healthy hair growth is at the very top of many a wish list.
But while wishing is great, the reality of many length checks and thinning hairlines is that the hair sometimes refuses to grow at a rate that you would ideally prefer. This can be for a number of reasons.
We'll be looking at the reasons your hair may not be growing how you would like, and the different ways to help improve hair growth.
To properly understand what it takes for the hair to grow, however, we'll be starting with a quick look at the stages that make up the hair growth cycle.
The first thing to know about hair growth is that it is divided into three stages: the growth, transition and rest phases.
In this phase, the hair follicle puts in a lot of work to get the hair fiber to grow.
This process can last years, with the eventual result being the hair shaft — i.e the part of the hair that you see — emerging from the surface of the skin.
This phase kicks off right at the end of the growth stage. Here, the hair follicles reduce in diameter, and growing slows down for a bit. This process usually takes a few weeks.
Club hairs — i.e hairs that are fully formed and made up of the protein keratin — are usually formed during this period.
Not a lot of action happens in this phase. Growth stalls in the hair shaft, and the hair follicle is dormant.
This phase lasts for about a year for hairs on the scalp, and is usually the default phase the hair is in at any given point.
Hairs remain in the telogen phase until they are pushed out by new anagen hairs.
When these cycles are interrupted at any stage, it can prevent hair growth.
Different factors may be responsible for thinning hairs, or stunted hair growth.
In many cases, it's usually beyond your control, but there are certain practices you may engage in that can affect how well your hair grows. They include:
You can't move two steps without needing your glasses, your back makes new noises every time you bend to pick the remote and your hair loses any interest in growing thicker or longer, much unlike its track record in your younger days.
The changes noticed in your hair may be the result of a genetic/age-related form of female hair loss known as pattern hair loss.
If you're thinking "hey, but that only affects men" then you should know that 12 percent of women first show signs of pattern hair loss at 29, a number that jumps to 41 percent at around the age of sixty-nine.
You can read more on hair growth rate by age in our blog.
At least half of the population of women will experience some form of pattern hair loss by the time they turn seventy-nine (around 38 percent of women above the age of 70 experience hair thinning brought on by female pattern hair loss).
This condition usually shortens the anagen phase of hair growth, and can lead you to produce thin and short hairs that make it hard to notice growth.
If you're over 50 and finally done with periods (congrats!), you may notice that your hair's growth rate has slowed down.
This is usually the result of a drop in estrogen and progesterone brought on by menopause.
If hair isn't growing around your edges or at the back of your scalp, elastic hair ties may be prime suspects in the case of your missing hair strands.
Wearing hairstyles like ponytails and tight braids are no doubt a big plus to your appearance. However, this is only where they are tried every once in a while.
In cases where these are your go-to looks, your hair may experience trauma which leads to traction alopecia — a form of hair loss caused by fragile hair follicles.
Excessive heat, no thanks to straighteners and dryers, or using harsh chemicals from bleach, dye or relaxers may lead to a similar condition known as trichorrhexis nodosa.
Here, fragile hair shafts cause hair loss, slowing down hair growth in the not-as-hairy areas.
When you go through stress, it can sometimes feel as though its effects wear down every part of your body. This may sometimes be the case when it comes to the crown of your head.
The result of a condition known as telogen effluvium, extensive periods of extreme stress can cause your scalp to shed hair, rather than grow them as normal.
It usually takes place two to three months after traumatizing events such as pregnancy, malnutrition, thyroid diseases, poor nutrition, a reaction to birth control pills, etc.
These events cause the scalp to shed a ton of telogen hairs, typically less than 50 percent of scalp hairs.
However, if you notice that you are losing hair in a similar fashion to this, don’t fret too much — you should notice your hair start to grow normally after three to six months.
When your hair doesn’t grow the way you’d like, it can be a big bruise to your ego.
But more than bruising your pride, what stops hair growth could be a sign of a medical condition you may not be aware of.
Diseases like alopecia areata and scalp infections may prevent healthy hair growth, and can cause you to lose your hair.
First things first, if you are feeling a little worried about your hair not growing at the appropriate pace, it's always a good idea to see a medical professional for an opinion.
That said, the following methods are certified options to help with improving hair growth:
Minoxidil is FDA-approved as a go-to for treating pattern hair loss.
It is also used to treat other causes of hair loss like alopecia areata, scarring alopecia, etc.
Topical minoxidil is available in foam or as a solution, and is a tried and trusted way to improve hair growth.
To prevent stunted hair growth, sometimes you have to let your hair free — literally. This means avoiding hairstyles that can lead to hair loss.
However, if you're looking to promote hair growth, we know a thing or two to try to get hair healthier, and by extension, encourage increased length and density.
Cleaning your hair with a gentle shampoo, and conditioning right after can help to strengthen your hair and encourage hair growth.
What you eat could make a difference for your hair growth. Getting appropriate nutrients like iron, magnesium, and calcium may encourage hair growth.
Where a biotin deficiency is the cause of stunted hair growth, supporting your body's needs with biotin supplements is a good way to promote hair growth — but only if you have a biotin deficiency.
For a bunch of dead strands hanging out on your scalp, your hair tends to play a big role in your appearance and self-esteem.
It’s understandable to worry when your hair shows signs of slow or even no growth, and freaking out a little when you start to lose your hair is a perfectly normal reaction.
Hair growth may be affected by everything from age and menopause, to styling methods and medical conditions.
The good news, however, is that hair growth may be improved by tried and tested methods like minoxidil, proper grooming habits, and correct nutrition.