“My hair doesn’t grow” and the variations “my hair takes so long to grow” or "how can I get my hair to grow" are very common complaints among most women. But before becoming desperate, you should know that the process follows a three-phase cycle throughout your life.
The cycle is divided into the anagen (birth and growth), catagen (stabilization) and telogen (shedding) phases. The duration varies from person to person, but can take from two to seven years.
“From 10% to 15% of a person’s hair strands are in the telogen phase, which means that most of them are in the anagen or catagen phases”, says the doctor Valcinir Bedin, president of the Brazilian Society for Hair Studies.
The three phases are repeated throughout our lives, which means that hair never stops growing, except in the cases of disease or dysfunction. The hair strands grow on average 1.2 cm per month. “But everyone has their own speed, which is heavily influenced by their genetic heritage”, Bedin adds.
What affects growth
Although hair growth follows the same phases in men and women, in women it grows faster and in greater quantity. “Hormones have a strong influence on this process”, says the specialist. Generally speaking, female hormones are more favourable for the process than male ones.
In addition to the differences between men and women, the way the hair grows may be jeopardized by a number of factors. The hormonal alteration caused by diseases such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism (alterations in the thyroid gland) is one of these.
Chronic diseases – such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and lupus (chronic skin inflammation) – can also make the hair grow less.
Pregnancy and menopause
This is why women perceive significant changes in their hair when they become pregnant or enter menopause. During pregnancy, when women are flooded with oestrogen and progesterone – female hormones –, the hair tends to grow more and gain volume.
The only problem is that from two to three months after the baby is born - precisely because of another brusque hormonal alteration –, the mother starts to shed hair profusely. Called postpartum telogen effluvium, in most cases the phenomenon is temporary.
In the menopause, when the woman stops producing oestrogen and progesterone, hair growth may slow down and volume may be reduced.
“After the age of 50, for both for men and women, the speed of growth is reduced by half”, states Valcinir Bedin.
The importance of diet
“Making hair costs the organism a lot”, Bedin explains. This is because the strands are made of keratin and melanin (two types of protein).
To produce them, the body has to mobilise more protein, mineral salts and vitamins. “Since a person can survive without hair, at the slightest sign of a problem, these substances are diverted to the affected organ”, Bedin explains.
Thus, nutritional deficiency is another factor that may affect how the hair grows.
Two common factors may be behind the lack of nutrients in the organism: illnesses such as Crohn’s disease (an inflammation in the intestine that jeopardises the absorption of important substances from foods) and very restrictive diets, such as those which cut out entire groups of foods or concentrate on only one of them.
“Micronutrients like zinc, vitamin A and iron have an impact on hair growth”, says Adriana Benito, a dermatologist at the Senses Clinic in Brazil, and associate professor on the aesthetic dermatology course at the Higher Institute of Medicine, also in Brazil.
Iron and protein are other essential nutrients for hair growth. To ingest these substances, specialists recommend a diet rich in meat, grains - like beans– and dark green vegetables such as kale and broccoli.
How to make your hair grow
The treatment begins with a clinical evaluation in a doctor’s surgery. In the consultation, the specialist might ask for a hemogram, vitamin and mineral salt dosage and hormone tests and specialized examinations such as a scalp scan – which amplifies the region by up to 20,000 times – and an examination of the capillary bulb by electronic microscope, which enables evaluation of whether the structure is healthy or not.
“When there is an underlying disease [such as diabetes], it needs to be treated in association with the dermatological treatment to re-establish growth”, Adriana Benito declares.
Patauá: oil from the Amazonian fruit
Generations ago the local Amazonian women discovered that the Patauá fruit is a major ally in hair growth.
The fruit comes from the Patauá tree, a palm that can reach 25 metres in height. An oil that stimulates hair growth is extracted from it. Based on this oil, we developed the Patauá product line, which comprises shampoo and conditioner (for daily care), a strengthening mask and concentrated oil capsules (deep treatment), strengthening oil (finalization) and capillary tonic (accelerated growth).
The benefit of the last product, which acts from the first application, is acceleration of the growth of the existing strands and the strengthening of the hair. It is recommended for women with dry, weak and brittle hair.