As someone who’s notorious for chopping off their hair only to regret it immediately, I’ll be the first person to tell you that there’s no way to grow your hair overnight. Like, sure, you can load up on DIY hacks and hair vitamins (pls don’t), but it still isn’t going to change the fact that hair only grows a half an inch every month—and that’s only if your hair is already in a super-healthy state with minimal split ends, says celebrity hairstylist Mark Townsend. The good news? If you feel like your hair isn’t growing fast enough, there are a handful of things you can do to help speed up the process a bit.
The key here is understanding that healthy hair = longer hair, so making little changes that support your hair and scalp (see: maybe skipping that platinum dye job and treating your hair to a super-hydrating mask instead) is a great first step. That’s why I tapped the best dermatologists, trichologists, and hairstylists in the biz for everything there is to know about speeding up your hair growth. Trust me: You’re going to want to take screenshots.
First things first: If you’re concerned your hair isn’t growing fast enough—and/or you’re experiencing hair loss and thinning—book an appointment with a trichologist (a hair expert) or a dermatologist before you try anything. They’ll be able to help you figure out what’s going on and prescribe you a treatment plan, which might include a topical solution or medication (the most common being minoxidil—the common ingredient found in hair-growth treatments like Rogaine).
Also, let’s keep it in perspective: “You lose about 50 to 100 hairs every day, which is about 0.001 percent of your total hair,” trichologist Dominic Burg, chief scientist at Evolis Professional, has told Cosmo. “Now, when you notice that amount doubling or tripling, that’s an indication that your hair cycle is too short.” Try not to worry though—there are a handful of common factors that contribute to hair loss (think: diet, stress, and hormones) and your doctor can walk you through all your options.
Don’t hate me, but consider this your reminder that there’s no such thing as a magic oil that’ll grow your hair super long overnight (remember: half an inch a month is the standard). That said, the majority of hair-growth oils are loaded with hydrating ingredients that help create a healthy foundation for your scalp and hair (aka the key to getting longer, thicker hair over time).
One of the most popular hair-growth oils? Castor oil, which is loaded with vitamin E, fatty acids, and minerals.“Castor oil is not only anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial, but it also helps maintain moisture,” Michelle Blaisure, certified trichologist from Bosley Professional Strength, has told Cosmo. So even though it won’t necessarily grow your hair, it won’t hurt to try either. Once a week, gently massage a few drops of castor oil through your scalp and hair to soak up the benefits.
Turns out caffeine is a really excellent ingredient if you’re trying to grow your hair longer. And, no, I’m not talking about drinking an extra cup of coffee every morning—I mean adding a caffeine-spiked hair product to your styling routine. According to dermatologist Dhaval G. Bhanusali, MD, caffeine not only helps stimulate blood flow to your scalp (which is v essential for hair growth), but it also counteracts DHT, the hormone responsible for hair loss.
Heads up that you won’t see a difference in your hair density or length overnight, though—caffeine usually takes two to three months for results to kick in. So start using one of these shampoos, scalp serums, or leave-ins ASAP if you’re after longer, thicker hair:
If you’re trying to grow your hair fast, you need to pay attention to your scalp. “The two most important layers of the skin in relation to the scalp are the dermis and the epidermis—the dermis contains our hair follicles, glands, nerves, blood vessels, collagen, elastin fibers, and fat cells,” says Bridgette Hill, trichologist and colorist at Paul Labrecque Salon and Skincare Spa. “Introducing proper scalp care into your hair care routine will impact the rate of hair growth and the health of your hair fiber.”
When you take care of your scalp, you’re actually ensuring that blood and nutrients can easily flow to the hair follicle, which then helps minimize shedding and loss, says Hill. So, what exactly does scalp care look like for you? Well, for starters, you’ll want to invest in a scalp oil, mask, or serum.
“I prefer oils or cream-based masks verses grainy exfoliants,” says Hill, “since the rough ingredients in scalp scrubs can actually create micro-abrasions on the scalp, which can lead to the production of harmful bacterias and fungi.” Uh, not ideal at all. “Instead, use an oil or mask with scalp-stimulating ingredients like peppermint, tea tree, or citrus-based oils to help increase circulation and ‘decongest’ the scalp.”
BTW: While you’re at it, go ahead and buy a scalp shampoo to use after your treatment (think: something clarifying if you’re dealing with buildup, something lightweight and hydrating if you’re dealing with excess oil). Hill suggests giving yourself a “proper shampoo” once a week, i.e. where you apply the product directly on your scalp—not just your hair—letting it sit for five minutes before rinsing and conditioning.“You can even buy a hair-color applicator bottle at a beauty supply store to help easily distribute the shampoo through your scalp.”
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 farther up on the strand, which will not only make your hair look way thinner but, you know, also 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 your hair every 10 to 12 weeks to prevent split ends before they even start.
Okay, lemme preface this by saying 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 can claim whatever 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, and E), and doubling (or tripling!) your dose won’t actually make a difference. “Your body only keeps what it needs and then it gets rid of the rest,” says Burg.
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,” says 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:
“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 to cleanse your hair, make sure to choose a sulfate-free shampoo (I swear by Aveeno 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.
According to Townsend, washing your hair with cold water at the end of your shower can give an added boost of hair-growing power. “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?
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.
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 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—and leaving 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:
Pls 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 is 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.
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.
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).
Guess what? 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—it has a softer surface that won’t cause friction with your hair the way that regularly woven cotton does. And, bonus, they look (and feel!) super freaking luxe.
What could be so bad about putting your hair in your super-plush bath towel? A lot, actually. “It causes so much breakage,” Townsend says. “Your hair gets caught in all the woven fibers, and since most people 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.
One wrong 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.
PSA: 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.
Okay, so you definitely can’t grow your hair overnight, 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.