So you want to… grow your hair?

IT seems simple enough — if the hair on other parts of your body grows wildly and bountifully with no stimulation, it should be the same for the hair on your head, right? But no. As we all know, growing hair is an entire different ball game, and while some people have an easy pitch to hit, others fail to make the grand slam, and have to leave the field after blowing the game.

Hair growth will test your resolve, hairstylist Sonya Cohen says, and even experts sometimes fail to see results, even after using methods that have been tried and proven for others.

What's important, she says, is finding a formula that works for your specific hair type, also taking into account other factors you may not have thought about, like lifestyle, ethnicity, genes, diet, atmospheric conditions, and even how you sleep.

“So you will see that it's not as easy as using the right products and then seeing results,” she says. “That's the mistake that many people make when they use certain products that have worked for others — they don't factor in their specific conditions, their bodies, what they eat, how acidic or alkaline their body is, things like that.”

At the base level, certain conditions have to be met to achieve and maintain hair growth.

These include, according to Cohen:

Eating right — A diet rich in protein is essential for hair growth, as these are the building blocks for any kind of growth. “So eat more fish, nuts, beans, red meat, and whole grains,” she says. “In addition to that, up your intake of foods or supplements containing vitamins A, C, and E, zinc and iron.”

Trimming the hair — “Cut off dead ends each time you do processes like a relaxer, as this will stimulate growth,” Cohen says. “This will get rid of the split ends that break your hair, and also encourage new growth.”

Avoiding chemicals — “These include permanent dyes and any other hair treatment that uses harsh chemicals,” she says. “These chemicals damage the hair's cuticle, and when this damage occurs, you get split ends that break off.”

Deep conditioning — Conditioning often, especially deep conditioning, will help prevent and treat damage, Cohen says. “Do this also before activities like swimming, to protect your hair. A good conditioner can stop breakage and help stimulate growth in no time.”

Avoiding heat — Excessive heat literally fries your hair, so air-dry as much as possible, Cohen says. “Think of it as frying your food instead of baking — your hair will be one big mess of frizz if this is practised each time you style your hair. Always style using low heat, and use a heat protectant to protect your hair as much as possible,” she adds.

But what if you have been doing all the above and are seeing no progress? “It means that you have to go deeper — do more,” Cohen recommends. “Because the problem, in that case, isn't just with your hair.”

She suggests that if lifestyle, diet, and environmental changes aren't enough for you to see results, you may want to consult with your doctor to see if it's not an internal issue or something as simple as age-related thinning.

“So make the changes to your diet, avoid tight hairstyles and updos for long periods, avoid glues and dyes, massage your scalp, wash and condition your hair often, avoid too much heat, drink lots of water, and treat your body like a temple,” Cohen says.

“Then, if all those efforts are in vain — and you have to give the process at least three months to see results — acknowledge that there may be underlying causes like genetics, age, conditions like alopecia, and hormonal changes caused by issues like anaemia or thyroid issues that need to be treated by a doctor.

”You'll usually know when something is happening below the surface because many times not only the hair, but the skin, is affected too,” she explains.

She says that the doctor may suggest naturopathic or holistic treatments or modern medicine through pills or creams.

“When you have addressed the issues that can be treated medically, then you would complement these with the base guidelines for maintaining strong, long hair,” Cohen says.

“The fact is, hair growth is possible for everyone, but you have to be realistic about your particular situation, like your curl pattern and such. But thick, healthy hair is achievable, and many times it doesn't require any major, major change in what you've been doing — just some tweaking.”

SUZANNE HILL

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