Understand how the hair growth cycle works, length retention and how to retain the maximum amount of length...


First of all, I think I need to clarify that everyone's hair grows (except you have a medical condition/health issues). You might think 'well if this is the case, then why has my hair been stuck at shoulder length for the last 10 years'. I will explain and hopefully this will help you understand how hair growth actually works. 


How much your hair grows and the longest length it can get to is determined by genetics. On average, hair grows between 3-6 inches per year. Yours might be more or less than this. Our hair goes through 4 different cycles:


1. Growth phase: This phase is literarily as the name says. This is the phase where your hair strands are growing. The period of time this phase lasts is down to genetics and can last anywhere between 1-10 years. As you get older, the length of this phase shortens. This lets us know that there isn't a specific length your hair would get to and just stop growing, it is more about the length of your growth phase.


2. Resting phase: At this stage, your hair takes a break and 'rests' while it gets ready to shed. This stage lasts anywhere between 4 weeks to 4 months.


3. Shedding phase: When your hair enters this phase, it's shed time! This phase is when the strands of hair that have reached the end of their natural life cycle fall off. This stage can last up to 4 months.


4. Exogen phase: This is the stage your hair follicles enter after the hair has been shed. It is a form of resting stage before the hair goes into the growth phase again. This phase can last up to 7 months and this increases as we get older.


All your hair strands do not go through the cycle at the same time. They are all at different phases of their hair cycle.


You might be wondering- Does this mean that your current hair length is the longest it can get to?  This may not be the case. There are internal factors which can impact the hair growth cycle and increase shedding during the shedding phase or stunt growth during the growth phase. There are also external factors which can impact your ability to retain length. I'll cover these in more detail below.



As noted above, what impacts your hair growth and shedding phase tends to mostly be internal. It tends to be factors like hormonal changes with pregnancy or birth control pills, thyroid disorders etc. This has been covered in more detail in another blog post on hair shedding. These factors noted are also known to stunt growth during the hair growth phase.


I think this shows us that healthy hair isn't just down to the right products. You also need to be healthy internally. The way the body works is that when all isn't going fine, energy is diverted from 'less important' parts of the body e.g. the hair to more vital activities. 


You need to be healthy internally to try and maximise your hair growth during the growth phase and reduce shedding during the shedding phase.


Let's say you are doing great and you are super healthy. You may have issues with length retention i.e. your hair is growing fine but it is breaking off faster than it is growing or at the same rate. This is why you can find your hair getting thinner and shorter or being stuck at the same length for years. External factors come into play with length retention. You need to have a good regimen in place, have the right products and be consistent to be able to retain length.



Maximising growth:


1. Focus on eating balanced meals rich in vitamins (especially vitamin A, B and C), protein and iron. 


a. Vitamin A, B & C  keep the scalp and hair healthy and prevent issues like dandruff, dry and thin hair. These help promote a healthy environment for hair growth. 


b. Lack of protein in ones diet can lead to the shrinkage of your hair follicle and when this happens, it can impact the length or even the occurrence of the growth phase.


c. Iron deficiency can lead to increased hair thinning as well as very dry and brittle hair.


If you feel like you may be deficient in any of these, it is always best to check with your GP and seek advice if you want to start taking any supplements.


2. Focus on exercising- this doesn't have to be a 1 hr HIIT workout. It could simply be increasing your steps or taking the stairs. Exercise is great for your body and it helps increase blood circulation around the body and scalp which helps encourage healthy hair growth.


3. Perform activities that help you reduce stress e.g. yoga, meditation, practicing gratitude etc


Retaining length:


1.  Have a solid haircare regimen. If you need help with creating a good regimen or just assessing your current haircare regimen, we have a FREE healthy haircare guide for both natural and relaxed hair which helps you understand the main products you need to build your regimen and how often they need to be used.


2. Find the right products for your hair! This can sometimes take some trial and error but you can use our FREE Trichologist reviewed product recommender (click 'help me choose' on the homepage) to help you build your regimen or simply find products for specific hair issues.


3. You need to be able to read and understand the signs your hair shows you i.e. does it need more moisture or protein or does it need to be clarified. Is your hair reacting to a specific ingredient? This all comes down to paying attention to your hair and understanding what these signs mean. You may also find that taking notes of how your hair feels after trying a new product is useful.


4. Make sure to be gentle with your hair for example when detangling- don't detangle dry hair, finger detangle as much as possible then use a wide tooth comb or detangling brush.


5. Protective/low manipulation styles are great for textured hair. They help keep your end protected and also reduce potential breakage from continuous manipulation. You should continue taking care of your hair while in these styles. 


What length is the longest your hair can get to? It may be difficult to say exactly but following all these recommendations above will bring you closer to that length