How to Stimulate Hair Growth (Because Pandemic-Related Hair Loss Is Real)
Nope, it’s not just you—or your imagination. Stress-induced hair loss has risen in the past year. (According to Google, the average number of searches on the topic surpasses 829,000 times a month in the U.S. alone.)
Apart from finding small ways to minimize stress in your day, there are a number of things you can do to get your hair in an optimal state for growth while we ride out this maelstrom of events together.
1. Treat your scalpThis is as simple as taking a few extra minutes to massage your scalp whenever you wash your hair. Apply shampoo to wet strands and using the pads of your fingertips (or one of those fancy scalp massagers) and work it into your scalp with a light pressure. This will help stimulate circulation and encourage blood flow to the area, as well as give you a deeper clean, which is key for overall hair health and growth.
2. Try a topical minoxidil
As the only FDA-approved topical treatment for hair growth, minoxidil works in part by prolonging the growth phase (aka the anagen phase) of hair and increasing the size of the follicles. The caveat? You need to be consistent—and patient. It can take up to four months of daily use before you start to see results, and if you stop using it, the hair loss will likely return.
3. Consider a supplementAs Dr. Sophia Kogan, co-founder and Chief Medical Advisor of Nutrafol, shared with us earlier this year: Given the proliferation of products available to us, "it’s important to note that not all vitamins and supplements are created equal, so you want to pay close attention to the sourcing, quality and dosage of the ingredients contained in the products you are ingesting.”
Some ingredients of note: biotin, saw palmetto, hydrolyzed collagen, antioxidants, flaxseed oil and tocotrienols. (One of our editors swears by Viviscal, stating that it makes her ponytail feel more substantial.)
Remember that supplements can support hair growth and help build healthier hair, but they cannot bring dead follicles back to life. Nothing can. “Any product that claims to cure hair loss overnight or in a number of weeks should be viewed with skepticism,” adds Kogan.
4. Take a look at your Vitamin D levels
If you’re noticing more shedding than usual, you might want to take a closer look at your diet: A vitamin D deficiency and low levels of iron could be the culprit. Try adding more vitamin D-rich foods to your plate (like salmon and eggs; or mushrooms and soy milk if you’re vegetarian) or consider a daily supplement.
5. In-Office TreatmentsFrom laser therapy to microneedling and PRP (aka platelet-replacement therapy), there are a number of in-office options you can try for hair growth. Since this is a costly investment, consider having your dermatologist run some tests first to identify the (ahem) root cause of your hair loss before committing to a treatment plan.
6. Apply Coconut Oil
The beloved oil has many uses and can help your hair. As Dr. Steven Shapiro, a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Shapiro MD, explains: “Coconut oil is loaded with lauric acid, a fatty acid that, unlike other fatty acids, can penetrate deep into the hair shaft. As a result, it can help protect hair against protein loss while providing long-lasting moisture.”
In addition to being an excellent moisturizer, “it can also help fight inflammation around your hair follicles, which is one of the more common culprits behind hair loss,” says Shapiro.
Use it as a hair mask two to three times per week. To do this, simply warm the coconut oil and apply it to dry hair, using a wide-tooth comb to distribute the oil evenly, starting at the midsection of your hair and continuing to the ends. For a quick treatment, leave it on for 30 minutes, then shampoo and condition your hair as usual. For extra hydration, leave it on overnight with your hair wrapped in a shower cap or silk scarf. Then, shower and shampoo in the morning.
7. Or try peppermint oilWhile there hasn’t been enough research to definitively say whether peppermint oil can aid in hair growth for sure, there have been a few promising studies. One 2014 Korean study using mice found that peppermint oil led to more hair growth than minoxidil, a hair-growth commonly known as Rogaine that’s approved by the FDA.
Beyond hair growth, the oil can be beneficial if your hair is on the greasier side. Why? It can clean and clarify hair without stripping it of its natural oils, and it balances your scalp's production of sebum, which leaves your hair hydrated without weighing it down.
One precaution: the type of peppermint oil you’re using matters. Undiluted versions (like most essential oils) can be super harsh on your skin and cause a burning sensation. If you’re working with pure peppermint oil, make sure to dilute it with a carrier oil like coconut oil, olive oil or avocado oil before using it on your skin.
8. Apply black seed oil
Also referred to as black cumin or nigella sativa, black seed oil is thought to naturally restore hair growth in thinning areas thanks to its high concentration of thymoquinone, a powerful antihistamine. Yep, antihistamines are often prescribed to alopecia patients to help regrow hair, and get this, it’s actually an essential oil.
That means it’s not thick like olive or coconut oil, and it has added therapeutic benefits. It also means that 100 percent pure, unrefined and cold-pressed black seed oil has to be diluted in another carrier oil (such as coconut or olive), because it’s too potent on its own. And when diluted, it can be used directly on the scalp to reduce inflammation, stimulate hair growth and reduce flakiness and sensitivity.
9. Or try grapeseed oilGrapeseed oil has become a staple in the beauty community because it’s odorless, weightless and boasts a clear finish that works for any hair or skin type.
But can it actually make your hair grow faster? Yes and no. A Japanese study tested this theory on mice, but there aren’t many human studies that indicate that grapeseed oil helps with hair growth. However, the components found in the oil suggest that it might be a possibility. “Grapeseed oil has the potential to aid in healthier hair overall,” says Ebony Clark-Bomani, master cosmetologist & product educator for The Mane Choice.
She highlighted that the oil contains antioxidants and omega-6 fatty acids that have been shown to boost hair growth. Key ingredients like linoleic acid, polyphenols, oligomeric proanthocyanidins (aka OPCS) and vitamin E stimulate circulation, improve elasticity and repair collagen.
10. And don’t forget castor oil
Castor oil contains omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids, both of which are useful for encouraging healthy hair growth. It’s also effective at treating dandruff, since it has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Rubbed into the scalp, it deeply moisturizes and can help stimulate circulation to promote hair growth.