The quest for longer, thicker hair can be overwhelming with all the remedies and tricks on offer. Stylist’s junior beauty writer Ava Welsing-Kitcher has found her holy grail products and tips that actually work, after 13 years of searching.
‘How to make hair grow’ must be one of the most Googled questions ever. There are endless supplements, tonics, hacks and diets to turbocharge strands and force them past bra strap-level. In the quest for longer, thicker hair, we’re easily sold the idea that it’s just within reach – all that’s needed is that magic item that’ll cause total disbelief.
Ever since my waist-length hair was cut to my shoulders aged 12, I’ve been on a quest to restore it back to its former glory. After years of straightening, dyeing and bleaching, it’s stubbornly refused to go past my shoulders when curly, and has lost a lot of volume thanks to breakage and trichotillomania. I’ve tried so many supplements, including pure biotin that gave me painful red bumps along my hairline, and marine collagen shots that tasted like rancid fish (with artificial pineapple flavouring on top, mmm).
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I’ve massaged my scalp with my head tipped upside-down every day for a week with gloopy Jamaican black castor oil, rubbed garlic cloves onto my roots as an overnight ‘mask’ (I’ve never told anyone that till now), and wore clip-in extensions (above) religiously for years to fake it – the hard metal clips of which ironically caused sparse patches from all the pulling and rubbing.
Hair growth had been my mission up until a year ago, when I decided I didn’t want to spend so much time and money on longer hair, when I probably would want to chop it into a bob once it got long enough to sit on. And as soon as I stopped caring, products came into my life that actually started to make my hair grow like mad – I haven’t measured it, but the evidence is in the photos, and about seven people who see me regularly have commented on the change. As much as I’ve been wary of promoting the idea that one product really can change your hair growth, my finds have been too good
The science behind hair growth shows that supplements and products don’t actually make that much of a drastic difference to the average rate, which is about half an inch per month or six inches a year. There are definitely exceptions that yield increased growth, such as if your damaged hair is being repaired and no longer breaking off, or if you’re tackling a deficiency in certain vitamins. These products and practices have contributed to my hair growing longer, stronger, and thicker, and each for their own reasons.
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Hair growth tips that actually work
Go longer between trims
I’ve always been terrible at getting my hair professionally trimmed. Anyone coming towards me with scissors has always cut far too much off, and I’ve ‘dusted’ (barely trimmed) my own hair for years. I found that even though inches weren’t being taken off each time at my own hands, my hair was still slow to grow – but you should always consider if your hair isn’t growing because you’re not giving it a chance to, especially when you might barely have any split ends.
Sort out your ‘kitchen’
Most curly and afro haired girls will know what the kitchen is – the hair at the nape of your neck that gets all hot and tangled, especially when you’re tossing in your sleep. As our hair dries, it often becomes held up by our collars at the back (especially in winter when we’re donning heavy coats), creating a little shelf of hair that makes it look shorter overall.
Take the time to carefully detangle your kitchen before bed and in the morning, to avoid it matting and breaking off. While it’s drying, stretch it out from time to time or use a diffuser to help shake it free from your collar – some people even go so far as to wear a silk robe while air-drying at home to let the hair slip down freely, but I’m not
Eat and drink regularly
When I’m stressed or anxious, I often neglect eating and drinking water regularly as a side effect. I really notice a decline in my skin, hair, nail strength, and general body during those spells – it affects my sleep as well. When I’m eating lots of omega 3-rich salmon, avocados, nuts, eggs and berries, I definitely get some major beauty benefits that are too obvious to be a coincidence.
Why? When we’re not nourishing our bodies properly, dead matter such as our hair and nails (which are by-products made of keratin, a dead protein) become a second thought; our system directs nutrients to our organs which are in more need. It’s also common for hair to completely stop growing when people are suffering from anorexia, showing how much diet affects our systems.
Best products for hair growth
Hair Gain Grow Hair Growth Capsules for Hair Loss
I’ve tried way too many hair growth supplements than I’d like to admit, and none have come even close to these. Experts say that people with dietary deficiencies like B12 will see the most dramatic results from supplements; but if you’re not, you most likely won’t see a difference. With that logic, I wouldn’t be deficient thanks to the plethora of pills I’ve taken with all the right hair ingredients, but something in these ones from Hair Gain has seriously worked. “They’ve definitely given me better hair days,” agrees my friend Eleanor. “When I forget to take them, I can tell the difference!”
With vitamin C, panthothenic acid, zinc, biotin, pea shoot extract and vitamin E, they offer so much more than straight biotin (which can sometimes make body hair growth increase and cause acne). Hair Gain recommends taking them for 30 days to start seeing results, which I can definitely attest to. At £35, they’re not cheap – I’d say try a month’s supply box and go from there. They’re also vegan, vegetarian, halal, and gluten free.
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Olaplex No 3 Hair Perfector
If you’ve ever had your hair bleached, you’ve probably been recommended Olaplex by your hairdresser. The in-salon treatment is added to bleach or dye to help repair damaged bonds in your hair that happen as a result of processing, heat styling and everyday wear and tear. It’s now offered as an at-home treatment, used pre-shampoo for ten minutes.
£24 seems like a lot for such a tiny bottle, but you’ll get about four uses out of it and probably won’t need to repurchase for another several months. Use it weekly after your hair appointment - and it’s especially good at reviving weak strands after they’ve been in box braids.
Just one use gave me bouncier, stronger hair that felt like it could withstand anything
Righteous Roots RX Hair Oil
I’d heard about this miracle oil from curly and afro influencers for years, but never got around to buying it. I made my own concoctions using similar ingredients (castor, coconut, argan, avocado and peppermint oils) quickly got tired of having gloopy roots for the sake of longer hair that might never come.
Everything about this oil makes the whole scalp massage ritual that much easier: its nozzle tip gets right to the roots, it isn’t too sticky, and a little (about the size of a 20p coin) goes a very long way. I’ll admit I’m lucky if I remember to use it even once a week, but setting aside ten minutes to lovingly massage my scalp has been doing wonders for my mental health, and my scalp feels less sensitive too. Doing it the day before shampooing means your scalp gets time to breathe, and then gets a light oil mask as a treat.
Images: Ava Welsing-Kitcher
Ava Welsing-Kitcher is Stylist’s junior beauty writer and resident curly girl. She’s addicted to lip balm (who isn’t?!), wearing eyeshadow as blush and lipstick and all things hair.