Last year I chopped 10 inches off my hair and immediately panicked. What had I done? I’m sure you’ve had a similar, post-haircut moment of regret. I wanted a change, but I didn’t realize just how drastic it would be. As I reeled to figure out how to remedy this now irreversible situation, I recalled reading somewhere that hair grows an average of 6 inches a year...so regrowing those 10 inches could take me almost two full years! (And that’s not factoring in trims and breakage). I felt stuck without my hair and now had a new mission: to reclaim it.
Suddenly obsessed with growing my hair out as quickly as possible, I decided to apply everything I’d learned in nutrition training about hair growth to kick-start the process. It couldn’t hurt.
In addition, I established a beauty regimen that focused on best hair practices and I followed it faithfully for nine whole months. To my delight, not only did I speed up the growth process by a few inches, but I also improved the appearance of my hair from all aspects but specifically its health and feel.
This is the exact protocol I followed and a few extra tips I recommend along the way.
This scalp protocol helped stimulate hair growth.
Often the most neglected yet important aspect of growing healthy hair is the vitality of the scalp. I found that maintaining the scalp and keeping it conditioned, invigorated, and inflammation-free is key. It’s easy to overlook the scalp; after all, it is hidden beneath a mane of hair, so dryness or irritation can be quite literally veiled. But the scalp is also prone to the elements you place on it, so principal consideration is generally to avoid overwashing. Washing two to three times per week was sufficient for me, which also helps maintain the scalp’s microbiome and leaves its natural sebum production intact.
Secondly, I learned to carefully read the labels when purchasing shampoos, conditioners, and styling products—making sure ingredients are chemical-free and made without soap agents or perfumes. These can play a role in inflammation and produce excessive sebum, which clogs the pores on the scalp and suffocates the hair follicle.
I now consider the skin beneath my hair as an important and delicate extension of the skin on my face, and treat it as such.
- Every evening before bedtime, I gave myself a head massage to stimulate circulation and promote hair growth.
- Four times per week, I applied a stimulating essential oil infusion made of 3 teaspoons of castor oil infused with 6 drops of rosemary essential oil or peppermint oil. To use it, massage the infusion into the scalp. Cover your head with a warm towel and let the steam trigger circulation to the head.
- I further promoted circulation by giving myself the time for five full minutes (or, if you’re giving it a go, as close as you can manage) of a yoga inversion pose every day. This might be a headstand, a forward fold, or any other pose that promotes blood to flow to the scalp.
- I exfoliated my scalp once a week with a gentle scrub. I made my own by adding finely ground coconut sugar to my shampoo. Exfoliating is a must, especially if you’re using a lot of styling products.
- The tension you hold in your forehead is also transferred to your scalp, so even though it’s seemingly unrelated, I added some form of meditation practice into my routine to release pressure.
What foods to eat for longer, stronger hair.
If you want to grow strong hair, focus specifically on eating sufficient amounts of clean proteins. It can be quite hard to do this without eating animal proteins, but if you are opting for a vegetarian diet, include plenty of eggs and spirulina. Secondly, eat adequate amounts of vegetables and fermented foods to keep inflammation at bay. Feeding the microbiome with raw and cooked vegetables (especially celery and asparagus) is a plus.
2. Brewer's yeast.
On your vegetables, add 1 heaping tablespoon of brewer's yeast. Rich in B vitamins, this will fortify your hair as well as add a delicious flavor to your dressing.
3. Prenatal vitamins.
For two months (cleared by your doctor, of course), supplement your diet with a high-quality whole-food prenatal vitamin. This one addition will certainly boost your hair growth and hair quality.
4. Go dairy- and wheat-free.
Cut out dairy (particularly cheese) and wheat to lower your chances of inflammation.
5. He shou wu.
In Chinese medicine hair growth is related to a healthy liver and kidneys. The herb that is traditionally prescribed for hair growth is called He Shou Wu. During my program, I added it to my smoothies. I also started every morning with a cup of warm water, half a lemon, and liquid artichoke extract, which I found at the health food store, which is said to detoxify the liver.
6. Avoid dieting programs and stick to healthy eating.
Most importantly, avoid any yo-yo dieting or fasting programs. Any change in diet or low protein intake will unnecessarily weaken the shaft as well as stress the follicle, which can lead to hair loss.
Best practices to avoid hair breakage and increase fullness.
Once a week, I apply a DIY protein mask. To try it, combine an egg white, 1 tablespoon of castor oil, half a banana, 1 tablespoon of honey, and 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt. Mash the ingredients together into a paste-like consistency and apply it to the entire scalp and hair. Leave on for 30 minutes or longer under a warm head bonnet and towel and rinse with warm water and a very small amount of a mild pH balanced shampoo.
- When your hair is dry, do a dry brush from the head downward once every day. Use a wooden bristle brush that stimulates the scalp and pulls the natural oils produced at the top of the head down to the ends. This will naturally hydrate your hair.
- I try not to brush the hair when it is wet, as it can rip easily that way.
- I stopped using hair dryers during the hair regrowth period.
- Adopting the ayurvedic beauty practice of Bhringraj oil could be beneficial, too. Bhringraj is oil made of Eclipta Alba and sesame, which can be bought at an Indian store or can also be made at home. Eclipta Alba has been used for centuries and in studies has been shown to be an effective growth promoter.
For more hair tips, check out celebrity stylist Kristen Shaw's hair oil recommendations.
Want to learn more about how the health of your skin is greatly impacted by the food you eat and the toxins you're exposed to? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Kelly LeVeque.