At one point or another, all of us have looked in the mirror and thought, “Ugh, why the hell won’t my hair grow?” But can hair really stop growing, or is it all in our inpatient minds?
While it’s true that your hair probably hasn’t stopped growing altogether, there are some factors that can slow the growth or make it seem like the growth has been stunted. We checked in with experts and they gave us this master info, as well as some tips on how to help things along.
Are You Getting Trims Often Enough?
“Some women try to hang on to as much length as possible by avoiding haircuts, and yet they gain no length,” says Shab Aghajani, senior stylist and extensions specialist at Julien Farel Restore Salon & Spa. “We all have a maximum length our hair can reach according to our current regime. This is where your ends simply begin to break instead of continue to remain strong and healthy. Until you change your existing habits and products used on your hair, nothing will change about your hair. Trim the split ends, use thermal protection and safe thermal tools, and use the right hair mask and treatment to nourish your hair, because clearly you’ve plateaued and nothing will change unless you make some changes yourself!”
Whether we have pinpointed it or not, we all have an individual hair cycle growth phase in which their hair has potential to reach its longest. This is the maximum length that hair could possibly reach without being cut or damaged.
“This does not mean that hair always stops growing once it reaches a specific length, but once a certain amount of time has passed. The growth phase is largely determined by genetics and typically lasts between two and six years,” says Dr. James C. Marotta, plastic surgeon and hair restoration specialist.
Aging brings with it a host of life complications, not the least of all is our hair. As we get older, chances are our hair is weaker. Years of heat styling and bleaching can build up to create major damage.
“Studies have shown that the biology of hair can change, and the growth stage may shorten. This means that hair could begin shedding faster, making it appear thinner and shorter,” says Dr. Marotta. “For instance, if you have a five-year anagen [growing] period, a single strand of hair will continue growing for five years before it will go into ‘resting’ phase. However, as we get older, the anagen phase is known to shorten, meaning hair will grow for less time before it enters the resting phase and ultimately sheds to make room for new [short] strands. Additionally, oil production on the scalp often begins to slow down after age 45, so hair may be less hydrated and appear coarser, making it more susceptible to damage and breakage.”
Sorry to break it to you all: Your hair may appear to be not growing, but in reality, it could be breaking once it reaches a certain length. Showering, brushing, styling and bleaching hair can all lead to major split ends and breakage. Handling hair too roughly, using uncovered hair elastics and brushing too often can cause dryness and brittleness. Bleaching and chemical processes can cause hair to be overprocessed and lose elasticity and moisture.
“Since hair grows about half an inch each month, if it is continuing to break off at about that same rate, you will see little to no growth,” says Dr. Marotta.
See Your Doctor
When hair appears to stop growing it can be extremely stressful.
“I always recommend a trip to the doctor to rule out allergies, dermatitis, hormonal disorders such as hyper thyroid, and general health issues,” says Stephanie Scuoppo, hairstylist and hair extension specialist at Oscar Blandi Salon.
The most common cause of hair thinning in women is a hereditary condition called androgenetic alopecia or female-pattern baldness.
“It is called a ‘pattern’ as this type of hair thinning develops in patterns from the interaction between genetics and hormonal factors when certain sex hormones trigger a particular pattern of permanent hair thinning in genetically susceptible people,” says Dr. Lars Skjøth, founder of the Harklinikken Hair Restoration Clinic. “This results in hair changing its characteristics. It grows slower and becomes drier and more dull/brittle as each strand becomes thinner and thinner.”
Diet and vitamin deficiencies can spell serious hair drama.
“It is important to have the proper levels of ferritin, zinc and vitamin B12 to maintain desirable hair length and quality,” says Dr. Marotta. “Adequate iron and protein are necessary for hair strength and to prevent brittleness and breakage. A lack of ferritin can cause hair to move out of its growing phase and to shed too quickly. An overactive or under active thyroid has also been shown to have an effect on hair growth.”
Skin Conditions of the Scalp
According to ABC News, an unhealthy scalp can cause inflammation, in turn making it difficult for hair to grow. Seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff), psoriasis and fungal infections, like ringworm, are skin conditions that can lead to hair loss.
Change Your Hair Routine
Stack the odds in your favor by switching up your hair care for the better. Decrease the chemicals and heat. Try to not make it worse by styling, coloring or bleaching, and go easy on the hair dryer and flat iron.
A version of this article was originally published in January 2014.