Human hair grows approximately a half inch per month regardless of race. Growth occurs as dead layers of keratin are pushed up and out of hair follicles by the living cells below. The genetically determined shape of the follicle forms the hair’s structural shape. African-American women often have thin, elliptical shaped follicles resulting in fine, curly strands that entangle each other easily. This creates fragile hair strands. By following a care and maintenance regiment that protects hair from breaking, African-American women can maximize their hair growth and obtain long, healthy hair.
The first step in reaching your maximum hair growth potential is to eat right. A diet of lean proteins, leafy green vegetables, and healthy fats will provide your body with the fuel needed to produce keratin, the protein building block that makes up your hair, skin and nails. By providing your body with nutritious foods, you ensure that your body has fuel to maintain your important organ systems and the excess fuel to run secondary production systems—like those that produce keratin for hair and nails. Conversely, eating the wrong foods can cause your hair growth to slow because your body does not have the energy needed to fuel any unessential functions.
Taking a daily multivitamin supplement can help give your body a boost of nutrients which can help encourage hair growth. In addition to the multivitamin, consider increasing your doses of B-complex vitamins. The B-vitamins are nine essential vitamins which work together synergistically to support the creation of red blood cells, cell tissue, nerves, DNA, and a variety of other important elements in your body. B-vitamins, especially biotin, are believed to be very important to the mechanisms that create hair. The University of Maryland reports that there is preliminary scientific data suggesting that biotin may be able to affect the strength of hair and nails. Other supplements to consider are omega-3 fish oil supplements for added shine and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) supplements to help build elasticity and strength.
Many of the products and tools used for styling African-American hair can strip the hair of moisture, causing the hair to become dry and brittle. Dry, brittle hair breaks more easily and this breakage can create the appearance of slow growth because you don’t seem to gain additional length. The best way to add moisture to your hair is through regular washing and conditioning. Some experts on African-American hair care suggest performing conditioning washes in which you use exchange your shampoo for a moisturizing conditioner to avoid stripping the hair of natural protective oils. These should be done at least weekly, and can be done as much as every other day. After washing, try adding a leave-in conditioner to offer protection against heat styling, and seal in the moisture by coating your hair with an oil like jojoba or olive oil. These oils are closer to the oils released by your sebaceous glands and won’t clog your pores.