1. Remember that it can’t grow overnight. Unless your scalp unleashes new strands like a Chia Pet, gaining new length is going to take time. “Hair typically only grows about a quarter of an inch — to a half an inch max — a month,” says celebrity hair stylist Mark Townsend, who helped Ashley Olsen grow out her asymmetric bob to past her waist. “And that’s only if it is super-healthy and doesn’t have a ton of split ends.” The bottom line: Practice patience.
2. Ironically, scissors are your friend. Although getting regular trims to snip splits won’t make your hair actually grow faster, it will keep tips looking healthy and prevent splits from working their way up strands, requiring you to chop hair off more often. “If you wait so long that splits are causing your hair to break off high up on the strand, your hair will actually be shorter than if you get consistent trims,” Townsend says, who suggests asking your stylist to take around just an eighth of an inch off every 10 to 12 weeks to prevent extreme split ends before they start.
3. Use conditioner every time you shampoo. “If your hair is wet, that means you have to condition it,” Townsend says. “Over time, from coloring and heat styling, strands start to get thinner at the bottom.” Conditioner helps replace the lipids and proteins inside the hair shaft, “as well as seal the cuticle to help prevent more damage from happening so that you can get your hair to grow longer and look healthier,” he says.
4. And don’t shampoo every time you shower. “It’s shocking to me how many women skip conditioner when showering, which is the worst thing you can do for your hair — especially when you’re trying to grow it long — and it’s actually shampoo that you should be skipping as much as possible,” Townsend says. Here’s why: The purpose of shampoo is to wash away dirt and product buildup, but it can also take essential natural oils that keep strands soft and healthy along with it. When you really do need shampoo, be gentler on your hair by only lathering up at your scalp and then simply letting the suds slide down strands, hitting the rest of the hair as the water rinses it away.
5. Do a cold-water rinse at the end of each shower. “This really does help to grow hair and keep long hair healthy for longer,” Townsend says. “Cold water lays down the outer layer of hair more smoothly, which helps prevent moisture loss, snags and heat damage — you only need to do it for a few seconds, but this one extra step over time can make a huge difference.”
6. Apply an oil or mask treatment weekly. Hair that touches your shoulders or beyond can be several years old and most likely needs more TLC than normal conditioner. Townsend suggests using moisture-based masks and oils weekly. “I make a natural oil treatment and give it to all of my clients to use pre-shampoo,” Townsend says. (His easy recipe: 1 cup of unrefined coconut oil mixed with 1 tablespoon each of almond, macadamia, and jojoba oils.) Because oils can leave a residue on hair, he says to apply it to damp hair, leave it on for 10 minutes, then shampoo and condition like normal. “These oils are able to fill strands up with fatty acids and then, when rinsed out, using regular shampoo helps seal them inside hair,” Townsend says, adding that Kate Bosworth, Diane Kruger, and Ashley and Mary Kate Olsen are fans. Not into DIY? Try an oil-based hair treatment instead.
7. Consider trying hair-boosting supplements. Your body requires many vital nutrients to create new hair, from ample protein to a slew of essential minerals. So take a look at your diet — because while eating a balanced diet helps, you may not be getting the proper amount of all the hair-building nutrients needed to create healthy hair that can grow super-long and withstand damage. “I take Viviscal Extra Strength andevery day and tell my clients to do so as well — especially if they want to grow their hair and make it healthier as soon as it comes out of the follicle,” Townsend says. Before starting to take supplements, it’s best to check in with your doctor to make sure that you take the right amounts and that they won’t interact with any medications you’re currently taking.
8. Brush your hair like it’s spun from gold. Constant brushing can cause physical harm to your hair. “When you detangle wet hair, be sure to start from the bottom and work your way up — we often instinctually go from the scalp down, but that just brings small tangles into one large knot and can cause you to lose a lot of hair,” Townsend explains. He also suggests reaching for the Sheila Stotts Natural Boar Bristle Brush, as boar bristle brushes are good at distributing your scalp’s natural oils down your hair and being extra-gentle on strands too.
9. Ditch your cotton pillowcase. Townsend recommends switching to a silk or satinfabric, because it has a softer surface that won’t cause friction the way that regularly woven cotton does with your hair. That way, you’ll wake up with fewer tangles.
10. Never, ever wrap your hair in a massive towel again. What could be so bad about putting hair in your super-soft bath towel? A lot. “It causes so much breakage,” Townsend says. “Your hair gets caught in all the woven fibers and since most women almost always wrap it too tight around their face, all those tiny, fragile strands around your face are more prone to break.” Opt for the super-thin and soft microfiber hair towels instead (like Aquis microfiber hair towel), which are totally OK to wrap into a turban.
11. Switch up your pony placement. It’s an easy move that can help maintain the integrity of your strands wherever you tend to secure your ponytail all the time, which means they’ll continue to grow out strong and damage-free.
12. If you have bleached (or dry, super-fragile) hair, skip putting it up with a hair tie at all. One ponytail — one! — can give you what stylists refer to as a “chemical cut.” This is where your hair literally breaks off at the point of tension where the elastic ends up being wrapped around your hair to hold it into place. Instead, if you’re looking to work out and want your hair off your neck, gently twist your hair into a bun and clip it with a tiny claw clip, bobby pin, or larger pin.
13. Give your hair a break when it comes to hot tools, chemical relaxers, or any other tool or service that causes a lot of damage to your hair. The healthier your hair is, the longer it will grow.