‘My hair won’t grow’ is a frequently brought up concern in my consultation rooms. However, even though both frustrating and upsetting, there is always a cause for hair failing to reach past a certain length – many of which are quite easy to remedy. In this article we will address two of the most common causes.
CAUSE: HAIR BREAKAGE
Hair breakage is a common reason why your hair may not seem to grow past a certain length. However, this does not mean your hair isn’t growing! It’s simply that the rate of growth is not exceeding the frequency and extent of snappage. Reasons for hair breakage include: over processing, over-use or incorrect use of straightening irons and blow-dryers, hair extensions, tight uncovered elastic bands, sun exposure without protection, vigorous brushing and combing, and using the wrong styling aids.
Use a weekly pre-shampoo deep conditioning treatment. This will help to restore moisture and elasticity to your hair and so reduce breakage. If you’re sitting in the sun for a prolonged period of time, shield your hair and scalp with a hat, or use a protective swim cap Cream.
Keep the use of heated styling aids, such as hair straighteners, to a minimum. And try not to go over the same area of hair twice, leave them on too long, or put too much traction on your hair as you pull the straighteners through. If you only use a blow dryer to style, stop when your hair is ‘just dry’ – over drying can take precious moisture out of your hair and cause it to snap very easily. For added protection, always use a conditioning heat-protective spray and/or a heat protective straightening gel. Protein spray is a great product to use, even on those days when you’re not heat processing, as it helps protect your hair from daily environmental wear & tear.
Style gently and use vented brushes that contain rounded tips that will not scratch your scalp, or hair. Boar bristle brushes can be especially harmful as they can actually tear the outer cuticle, leaving your hair vulnerable and brittle.
CAUSE: LOW FERRITIN LEVELS & INADEQUATE PROTEIN.
In some cases, your hair actually may not be able to sustain growth past a certain length due to nutritional deficiencies. One of the most common of these being a ferritin (a stored iron that helps produce hair cell protein) deficiency. 90% of women who come into the DHD Clinic concerned with hair loss have low ferritin. Ferritin levels are easy to have tested by your doctor, although they are not usually checked in a routine blood test. The optimum ferritin level for hair growth for women should be at least 100 micrograms per litre (100 ug/L) – and if they are much below this, your hair can enter the shedding phase prematurely and before it reaches the desired length. Not eating enough protein with breakfast and lunch can also cause your hair growth to suffer. Your hair, after all, is composed of protein!
The best way to increase and sustain healthy ferritin levels is to eat red meat at least once a week – and if your levels are just under 100 ug/L, this is usually enough to get them to where they should be. However, if your ferritin levels are way below normal, or diet alone is not working, nutritional supplements may be needed. While many good ones are available over-the-counter, it is essential you check with your doctor before taking an iron/ferritin supplement as high levels can be dangerous. In terms of protein intake, you should include at least 120g with breakfast and lunch. You may also want to take a protein supplement for an added boost. If you are a vegan/vegetarian, it can be especially difficult to include adequate protein in your diet. Have a look at my winter diet food for inspiration.