by Sister Scientist
Length check! How many times have you seen pictures of women bragging about their amazing hair growth after taking some magical pill? You finally make the investment in your own jar, start poppin’ the magic pills, but don’t achieve the 3 extra inches of length in 6 weeks that you saw some blogger bragging about on Instagram. The hair vitamin craze is all the rage right now with their promises of stronger, longer hair, faster. Based on the amount of questions I receive on this topic it’s obvious to me that a number of people are still skeptical of the claims these products make. In order for you to truly understand how vitamin supplements work and why you shouldn’t compare your hair growth results to the lady to the left or the right, you need to understand the physiology of hair growth.
First, it’s important that you realized that hair growth is not determined by just one factor. Hair growth is the combined result of a variety of attributes such as genetics, age, diet, hormones, environment and hair regimen. If you are only addressing one of these factors, it does not guarantee that you are doing enough to combat or overcome the factors that affect how fast your hair grows or how strong it is. Unfortunately, we don’t have the ability to change some of these factors, such as genetics, so your best bet is to ensure that you are addressing all of the factors you do have control over, specifically diet and hair regimen.
Scientific studies show that each hair grows continuously for 3 – 5 years (on average), approximately 1 cm per month, during what is known as the anagen phase. Once growth stops, the hair follicle enters a transitional phase called catagen for approximately 2 – 3 weeks. Lastly, the hair goes into the telogen phase, which lasts about 3 months, where the shedding of the old hair occurs. Then the process starts all over again with the formation of a new hair fiber in the same follicle starting back at the anagen phase. At any given time, 85% of the hair on your scalp is in the anagen phase, and approximately 15% is in the telogen phase. The length of hair is majorly dependent on the length of time the follicle stays in the anagen phase and the duration of these phases varies from person to person, based on genetic disposition.
Therefore, vitamin supplements are not increasing the growth rate, but rather can help to prolong the anagen phase of a malnourished follicle, allowing the hair to stay in the growth phase longer. Subsequently, the observation is longer hair. In addition, these nutrients are improving the strength of the hair fiber, which leads less breakage over time, also aiding in the ability to retain length and not lose it to premature breakage. However, this benefit is not observed immediately after the intake of the vitamins because the hair you are growing today will be the hair that is at your tips months, if not years, from now.
This proves that there are real benefits in hair vitamins, or any type of multivitamin, because usually our bodies are not getting all the nutrients it needs from just our diet. Just like any other biological function in our bodies, the hair follicle operates at maximum efficiency when our health is at an optimal level. Hair vitamins are merely a method to increase the nutritional level that our bodies are not achieving with our diet alone. However, if your body is already operating at an optimal nutritional level, hair vitamins will most likely not have a huge affect on your hair because the follicle is most likely sufficiently nourished and stays in the anagen phase as long as your genetic disposition will allow it to. The lesson here is don’t compare your results to the girl to your left or right because your starting points will vary from hers— genetically and nutritionally—which ultimately means the results of vitamin use will also vary.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock
Erica Douglas, better known as Sister Scientist, is a formulating cosmetic chemist who earned her degree in Chemical Engineering from Stanford University. She has dedicated her career to developing quality and innovative cosmetic products, and has been the scientific mind behind brands such as ORS Olive Oil, Curls Unleashed, and HAIRepair. She is currently the Founder/CEO of mSEED group, a product development, manufacturing, and business consulting company that specializes in implementing brand innovation and growth strategies for new and emerging brands in the beauty space.
Visit her website.