Can we make our hair grow faster? Can we promote hair growth?

You will have noticed that at certain times of your life your hair grows faster than usual. Besides that, some people believe that hair grows faster in the summer. You only have to see how grass in your garden goes crazily when there is sun and heat, but relentlessly slow in the cold winter, when the sun is so low, you can barely see it. This is because vitamin D boosts immunity and stimulates cell growth; therefore, it is believed to even grow new hair follicles.

Sometimes, however, it doesn’t matter how hot is the weather and how much sun there is; if you have just had chemotherapy or harsh medicines, or if you are suffering from emotional stress, then your hair will always grow at its own speed, and this could be desperately slow, or at least it can seem so.

When I was having surgery and radiotherapy (after having finished chemotherapy) my hair was growing extremely slowly, but as soon as I finished these two treatments, things sped up a little. Nine months after finishing chemotherapy, my hair growth finally reached the normal speed of 1cm per month. 

But let’s have a look at the three phases each of your hair will go through:

1. Anagen – Growing Phase

The anagen phase is when the hair is growing, and it lasts for around six years, although it depends on the person’s genetics.

The longer the anagen phase is the longer the length of the hair can be. This varies from person to person. For some people this phase is shorter, resulting in shorter hair lengths, and for some other people, it can be longer. You probably know someone who always says: “My hair never grows!” an this is because their anagen phase might be shorter than those six years.

An average hair will grow at a rate of around 1 cm per month. However, the rate of new hair growth after cancer treatments is often slower at the beginning. After a while, it will catch up, though.

2. Catogen – Transitional Phase

At the end of the anagen phase the hair enters the catogen phase, where the hair prepares to rest and eventually fall out. On average, this phase lasts approximately ten to fourteen days. During this phase the hair is still held in place in the hair follicle, but it stops growing. The follicle, then, prepares to release the hair.

3. Telogen – Shedding Phase

Finally, the telogen phase is when the hair falls out of the hair follicle. The follicle, then, remains inactive for approximately three months and the entire process is repeated, starting again at the anagen phase.

Fortunately, approximately 90% of our scalp hair is in the anagen phase at the same time. However, sometimes, more than the remaining 10% of our hair enter in the telogen phase due to emotional stress (or after having taken specific medicines), and we might think that we are losing our hair forever, but it will usually come back. We must understand, though, that it can take months, and sometimes even a couple of years, for a hair to start growing again. Understanding these three phases is key; sometimes, when our hair falls, we are concerned about this never coming back, but worrying will only make things worst.

Of course, we have to consider that there are some conditions like deep emotional stress or androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness), which affects more than 70% of men over the age of 50 (this data is different in many different resources; but you get an idea). Besides that, about one third in women also experience hair loss at some point in their lives, due to emotional stress, but especially after menopause, which usually also causes hair thinning. But why does this happen? When we enter the menopause, the levels in estrogen and progesterone drop, and when this occurs, hair grows more slowly. The low levels in these hormones also causes an increase in the production of androgens (male hormones), which shrink hair follicles, resulting in hair loss.


But can we stop and even reverse this process? Can we make our hair grow faster? 

First of all, you won’t have a healthy scalp if your mind isn’t healthy. Emotional stress is the real enemy of any person, and you must try to get to the bottom of your personal issues before considering treating hair loss. It is not about solving all your problems (we all have), but you need to learn how to live with those issues; accept them, do something about the things that concern you; and, ultimately, try to lessen the emotional stress you are suffering. 

Of course, while you are dealing with the causes of your stress, there are certain things out there that we keep on hearing are great to make our hair grow faster and stronger, and when you are desperate to see your hair grow, there is no harm in trying these things, is there? Of course, we might suspect that this person or this particular web recommending a specific shampoo is nothing else than a marketing trick or just the wishful thinking of a person who is suffering hair loss and really wishes to believe in miracles.

But we won’t be talking about any particular brand in here. We will just examine some of the scientific literature available about a particular remedy traditionally recommended to target hair loss.

If you want to try some of these remedies, it’s up to you. You might find out that one really does the trick for you, and if that is the case, please, let us know. Sometimes, when you have faith in something, there is a reward. Read about each of these remedies and see if you are up for trying any of them. Some of the below have really proved to improve the quality and length of hair in scientific experiments.

Sun, oxygen and water

Sun, oxygen and water are things that are proven to make everything grow (vegetation, fauna, humans…). Drink plenty of water, get some fresh air daily and put your head under the sun whenever you can. When I was a teen I used to spend two weeks every summer tanning in the sunny Alicante, and it was the only moment of the year when my nails would grow as if I was a witch. When it is sunny, the grass of my garden goes really high within days, and when plants lack water they die, so it is common sense.

Is there any scientific evidence that sun works? Not a lot, but it is a sensible idea to believe that sun, oxygen and water will help you grow your hair, and some experts explain that this is due to the vitamin D that the sun produces in your body. Read this article to learn more:

https://www.healthline.com/health/vitamin-d-deficiency-hair-loss

Red Light Therapy (like the iGrow helmet, for example).

Red light was created by NASA for astronauts could grow lettuces in the outer space, so if it can grow veggies out there, it could work for hair! I used the iGrow helmet for six months, and then I returned it, as (it was allowed) and I didn’t see any miraculous results. I trust in red light therapy as a collagen booster for the skin, but these helmets have very little bulbs and not enough of them to cover an entire head. I believe that it is much better to go into the sun for fifteen minutes every day, if you have the chance.

What does scientific literature say about red light therapy for hair growth? It says it is definitely safe and it promoted some hair in mice which received chemotherapy drugs. Have a read here:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/lsm.22170

At the end of this post, there is a video where you can actually see quite a difference between the pictures at one month after finishing chemo and two months after finishing. At the time, I must admit hair grow seemed really slow and almost inexistent. But, now, looking at the pictures, it seems to me that there is indeed a difference from that second month after finishing chemotherapy.

B-Vitamins (especially, Biotin or Vitamin B7)

There is not scientific literature that confirms Biotin, specifically, helps with hair loss or hair growth, but there have been some scientific studies in which they are willing to link low levels of Biotin with hair loss, for example this one:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4989391/.

Here it says that “Biotin deficiency was found in 38% of women complaining of hair loss”. Yes, ok but that doesn’t prove anything. However, sometimes the placebo effect really works in people, so let’s believe that Biotin helps promote hair growth.

The recommendation in the intake of Biotin by the Institute of Medicine state that the daily recommended dose for adults would be 30 μg/day. Most healthy individuals meet these requirements through a well-balanced diet, though many still take up to 500–1,000 μg. It is really up to you, as you can see. Botin is something I have taken since I finished my treatment and I still take, but I won’t recommend any particular brand.

According to https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/462981, after reviewing much scientific literature, they found out that research showing the efficacy of biotin for hair loss or to promote hair growth is limited. “In cases of acquired and inherited causes of biotin deficiency as well as pathologies, such as brittle nail syndrome, biotin supplementation may be of benefit”, it says. 

Vitamin C

This common vitamin, which is a powerful antioxidant, helps protect against oxidative stress (caused by free radicals) and helps create collagen, and collagen is an important part of hair. However, according to this, all vitamins and minerals are going to help you to promote hair growth, in the sense that a nutritious diet will of course make your hair grow faster and stronger than if you ate MacDonalds. Agree?

Is there scientific evidence that vitamin C, specifically, promotes hair growth? No, but vitamin C has lots of indirect benefits for hair growth: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/

Vitamin E

Some scientific articles say this vitamin can promote hair growth. An experiement was made in rabbits with topical application of Vitamin E (0.5% α-tocopherol and α-tocopheryl acetate lotions were applied), and within 2 weeks it had visible effects in hair growth, and after 4 weeks, it changed the aspect of the hair. In this experiment, weekly hair growth reached the maximal level, 2.4 times that of the control group.

Little difference was observed between α-tocopherol and α-tocopheryl acetate, but the former seemed to have a rather higher immediate action. Read all about it here:

https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jnsv1954/11/1/11_1_1/_article/-char/ja/

Capsaicin and isoflavone

Capsaicin is the active ingredient of hot chilli pepper. Isoflavone is the main ingredient in soy. There is an interesting scientific study in which they proved that administration of these substances for five months with a specific dosage helped 64% of people with alopecia. Read the article, if you are interested in trying this. It sounds doable, but who knows if it is going to work for you or not.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1096637407000639

This article also mentions the power of Capsaicin and Isoflavone together:

http://www.jddtonline.info/index.php/jddt/article/view/4406/3343

In this scientific article below it says that capsaicin induced significant hair growth (anagen) in the back skin of telogen mice.

https://europepmc.org/article/med/7518880

So it seems there is quite a lot of scientific literature out there about capsaicin.

Saw Palmetto


It is a botanical extract with antiandrogenic properties, and it has gained quite a lot of commercial popularity. But is it true that it works?


Five clinical trials and two prospective cohort studies showed positive effects of topical and oral supplements containing Saw Palmetto (100–320 mg) among patients with androgenetic alopecia. 60% improvement in overall hair quality; 27% improvement in total haircount; increased hair density in 83.3% of patients, and disease progression among 52% were noted with use of various topical and oral Saw palmetto supplements. The herb was well tolerated and not associated with serious adverse events in alopecia patients. I think it is worth a try!


Pumpkin Seed Oil


In a placebo-controlled trial to investigate the efficacy and tolerability of Pumpkin Seed Oil in men with mild to moderate androgenetic alopecia it was seen that this supplement during 24 weeks had a positive anabolic effect on hair growth, and it was due to the possible efects of 5-reductase inhibition in patients with mild-to-moderate male pattern hair loss.


https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2014/549721/

Some drugs

Androgenetic alopecia is the most common cause of hair loss in men and affects up to 70% of men in later life and especially those aged over 50 years. There are obviously drugs out there that help with hair loss, and these are used mainly by men but also by women. Minoxidyl (Rogain or Regain are some of its brand names) and Propecia/Finasteride (used by Donald Trump; and I tell you this so you can judge if it works or not, although each person is different). Usually drugs work, but to different extent in different people, and what is really important to know is that these medicines have risks associated with them (some of them really serious), so if you want to follow a natural way of promoting your hair growth, maybe you should not try this approach. One of the scariest side effects of these drugs is that, at the beginning of the treatment, more hair than usual will fall. And, then, when you stop taking these drugs, more hair will fall again. So, basically, only take these drugs if you are desperate for saving the hair you still have, and never stop taking the drugs (which, as I said, I find it scary). Only 30% of the men who try these drugs continue to use them after a year of treatment.


Can a specific shampoo really help?


Yes; a good shampoo with the correct ingredients will help more than a cheap shampoo full of silicones.


So, along with the vitamins, minerals or herbs you are taking, you should invest a little bit and apply some helpful ingredients topically as well.

These are the ingredients you should look for in a shampoo:

Biotin 

Read here about some shampoos with biotin:

https://www.byrdie.com/best-biotin-shampoos-4693692

Caffeine

Drinking coffee won’t make your hair grow faster, but applying caffeine in your scalp might!

This study from 2007 (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17214716/) says that caffeine is a great stimulator of hair growth: “Significant growth suppression was found in hair follicles treated with 5 microg/ml testosterone. This was counteracted by caffeine in concentrations of 0.001% and 0.005%. Moreover, caffeine alone led to a significant stimulation of hair follicle growth”. 


There are other studies that proved topical application of caffeine in hair follicles help with hair growth. This is one of them: 

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-4632.2007.03119.xQuinine

Quinine

Quinine is a bitter compound that comes from the bark of the cinchona tree.

The alcoholic extracts of cinchona succirubra (bark), dictamnus dasycarpus (root bark), brassica juncea (seed) and sophora flavescens (root) promoted hair growth in mice. Read all about it here:

https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Bioassay-of-crude-drugs-for-hair-growth-promoting-a-Tanaka-Saito/733d64d4713ef908e0d2d0b4573928db7e3fcf4c?p2df

There are many lotions you can try with quinine, like this one, made with quina bark natural extract, an effective and natural stimulant that acts directly on the hair root. It won’t matter the brand, as long as it has this extract in alcohol.

Ginseng

Ginseng is a herb that grows in America and Asia. It is widely use to boost energy and manage sexual dysfunction in men (not a joke), but it is also proven to be helpful with hair growth.

A 70% methanol extract from red ginseng had superior activity to that of white ginseng “in a hair growth promoting assay using mouse vibrissal follicles in organ culture”. Read everything about it below: 

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ptr.1241

In this other article it says that ginseng has been shown to promote hair growth in several studies, but it also says that its effects on human hair follicles and its mechanisms of action have not been clearly explained.

https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/jmf.2013.3031

In this other scientific text, they did an experiment with red ginseng oil to promote hair growth and protect skin from UVA. The results indicated that topical application of red ginseng oil promoted hair regeneration by inducing early telogen-to-anagen transition and significantly increasing the density and bulb diameter of hair follicles. 

The data from this experiment suggested that red ginseng oil may be a potent agent for treating hair loss and protecting skin against UVA radiation.

Capsaicin

It is difficult to find capsaicin in a shampoo but, you could open a capsule and add it to your shampoo.

Argan Oil 

Argan Spinosa is a thorny tree from the arid regions of Morocco and Algeria. It is cultivated for its oil. You might have been to Essaouira, in Morocco, and see the amazing image of a bunch of goats spread on the brunches of these trees, like if they were birds. I had never seen anything like that before. No, I am not going to say that Argan Oil is the reason why goats are hairy, but I had to mention those goats, so you realise what tree we are talking about.

Argan oil is principally composed of mono-unsaturated (up to 80%) and saturated (up to 20%) fatty acids. As minor components, it contains polyphenols, tocopherols, sterols, squalene, and triterpene alcohols. I could not find any strong evidence of argan oil promoting hair growth but it is definitely helpful for hair and skin restoration.

Black castor oil

Again, I could not find any strong evidence of black castor oil promoting hair growth but it is definitely helpful for hair restoration. I tried this for months in my eyebrows and hair and did absolutely nothing for me, plus it is extremely sticky. I know some people want to have faith in black castor oil, but, after having used it regularly for a year, I don´t.

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.2042-7158.2010.01190.x

Rosemary oil

Some people seem to believe that rosemary oil can promote hair growth. Whilst I haven’t found any strong evidence that proves such a claim, rosemary oil is antibacterial and antifungal and this can indeed help with hair growth, if your scalp has dandruff, for example. Besides that, it has been used for centuries in hair care in India.

https://www.healthline.com/health/rosemary-oil-for-hair#TOC_TITLE_HDR_1

Sage oil

Sage oil (as it occurs with rosemary oil) is antibacterial and antifungal. It is used as an antidandruff agent, and dandruff could cause hair to fall. So a few drops in your shampoo, along with the rosemary oil won’t hurt you if you have a problem with dandruff.

http://www.dspace.uce.edu.ec/handle/25000/6674

But what shampoo do I buy?

Unfortunately, there is no shampoo in the market that is made with all these ingredients. It would be extremely expensive and nobody would buy it. 

After some research I found this one, which has biotin, ginseng, saw palmetto, vitamin E, soybean and some extract from Maca powder from Peru. But I have not used it myself, so I cannot comment on its efficiency.

Some people say Nioxin helped them a lot, but I also refused to try this one in my times of need. It only has Biotin and other vitamin Bs, an I thought that wasn’t enough reason for me to buy it. It also has some ingredients that can cause you irritation:

https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/product/684652/Nioxin_Scalp_Therapy_Conditioner_for_Fine_Hair_System_2%3A_Noticeably_Thinning/

Tip

Find a good biotin and caffeine shampoo and add on it a few drops of rosemary oil and capsaicin powder from a capsule. After you wash your hair, massage your scalp with a quinine tonic.

Do you have any other trick that you believe it makes hair grow? Tell us!

2 responses to “Can we make our hair grow faster? Can we promote hair growth?

  1. Pingback: Okay, just finished chemo. Let’s talk business: when is my hair coming back? | Healthy Anatomy·

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