Reasons Why Your Hair May Not Be Growing; Internal vs. External

Disclaimer: This content including advice is for informational purposes only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. These are not an exhaustive list of causes and factors concerning hair growth.

Does it seem like your hair isn’t growing? It doesn't just decide to stop growing— there are lots of things that can stunt hair growth. Hair grows at an average rate of half an inch every month. That means, the average person's hair grows about 6 inches every year. Before I dive into the common culprits behind stunted hair growth I want to touch on a few things that can disrupt the hair cycle.

Internal Causes

Disturbances in the Hair Cycle Can Be Caused By a Number of Triggers Including:

  1. Stress. You’ve probably heard about a possible link between stress and hair loss, but is there any truth to that claim? Stress of any kind whether physical or psychological can have an impact on your hair. It can make your hair more prone to premature graying and can also reduce the strength of every strand. Physical or psychological stress triggers telogen effluvium (a form of hair loss characterized by hair thinning or an increase in hair shedding and is usually triggered by a disturbance to the hair cycle). In this condition, your hair prematurely moves to the telogen phase (the resting phase of hair growth), this is when 30% of your hair stops growing. Also surgery, physical trauma, illness, fever, sudden weight loss could be responsible for this condition.

  2. Poor diet. As with most things health and beauty, diet plays a massive role in not only the condition but your rate of hair growth. One of the most important causes of restricted hair growth and hair thinning is nutritional deficiency. Nutrients like iron, protein, biotin and zinc contribute to healthy hair. However, if you are deficient in these essential nutrients, your risk of restricted hair growth and hair thinning increases. If your hair won't grow, your diet could be deficient in vitamins, minerals, and protein. Hair requires key nutrients including protein, iron, B-vitamins, and zinc to grow. A shortage of these nutrients may affect the quality and quantity of a person's hair.

  3. Sudden weight loss. Weight loss or chronic calorie restriction, such as in anorexia nervosa, can cause the hair to shed.

  4. Pregnancy and childbirth. During pregnancy, more hair is in the growth phase for longer. Hormonal changes that occur 3 to 6 months after birth can cause hair to shed. This is called post-partum telogen effluvium.

  5. Menopause. Hormonal changes that occur during the menopause may also cause telogen effluvium.

  6. Certain drugs. Certain medications and recreational drugs can cause hair loss.

  7. Hormonal imbalance. Everything from thyroid-related disorders to stress, menstruation, and puberty can cause a change in hormones that impact our hair. Estrogen and progesterone are specific hormones that promote hair growth, while androgen and testosterone discourage it. When these hormones become imbalanced, it forces the hair into the telogen phase, causing hair loss and thinning.These can include autoimmune disease, conditions that affect the thyroid gland, anemia, and alopecia areata.

  8. Surgery. Depending on the type of procedure, length of stay in hospital, medications, and overall nutritional status.

  9. Metal toxicity. Contact with toxic chemicals in metal can lead to hair loss.

  10. Some birth control pills. Women who are predisposed to hormonal-related hair-loss, or who are hypersensitive to the hormonal changes taking place in their bodies, can have hair loss to varying degrees while on the pill or, more commonly, several weeks or months after stopping the pill.

  11. Genetics. Sometimes hair growth and health is just dependant on genetics. Everyone has a cycle of hair growth specific to them. Each hair strand has its own growth cycle, which is why we typically have different lengths of hair strands throughout our head. This cycle can last anywhere from two to six years and no matter how well you treat your hair, it cannot be extended simply due to your DNA.

  12. Age. Just like your genetics, your age may also be the reason why your hair just won't grow. A lifetime of heat styling, processing, bleaching, dyeing, and a less than ideal diet may all contribute to your hair weakening as you get older. So, that six year cycle I mentioned becomes a two year cycle, making the hair thinner, as well as unable to grow past a certain point. In addition to this, as you get older, the scalp begins to produce less oil leading to coarser, dryer hair and hair that is more prone to split ends and breakage. To combat this, I highly recommend massaging your scalp every night to stimulate the hair follicles and blood flow, which in turns may lead to more growth.

Note: If you notice excessive daily hair shedding for longer than three months, or you notice increased significant shedding, or you are concerned that it may be medically related, see a trichologist or your doctor, as there could be an underlying factor that needs to be addressed.

External Factors

Here’s a list of the common culprits behind stunted hair growth:

  1. Excessive heat. We all want gorgeous-looking hair, but it should never be at the expense of hair health.

    If you're using heat tools on a regular basis, like a blow dryer on high heat, try to cut down or use the medium to low setting. Heat can weaken your hair so even just alternating or going an extra day without heat can improve the condition of your hair. Styling tools can make your hair dry, brittle, and prone to breakage. Get protein or deep conditioning treatments as needed to fight damage.

  2. Wrong products. When it comes to hair products, sometimes less is more. While some products really can benefit hair health and help make it grow, others cause more damage than good, like harsh sulfates or drying alcohols. Read product labels and buy products that cater to YOUR individual hair needs.

  3. Too Much Styling Stress. Tight ponytails and buns might look nice, but they can cause serious damage to our hair health....trust me I know.

    If you’ve ever used an elastic band, it really grips the hair, causing friction which may lead to fraying and split ends. Tying your hair up loosely is not a problem, but wearing a hairstyle tightly will cause damage over time.

    Braids are another thing to do sparingly if you want to preserve your hair health - if done too tightly, they can physically pull the hair away from the roots and cause splitting, hair weakness, and follicle damage. (See IG post on ‘Tips for Braids/Twists Installation).

  4. Buildup of oil and products on the scalp. It just might be that oil and dirt are suffocating your scalp. Treat hair to a deep cleaning at least once a month.

  5. Dried out hair and scalp. Lack of moisture makes hair easy to break. Moisturize! When washing your hair, be sure to take the extra time to leave your conditioner in for a few minutes focusing on the mid shaft and ends. Don’t rush this process. 

  6. Breakage. If your hair is not receiving the care it needs and is breaking off at the same rate as it is growing, it will stay the same length all year until you change your hair habits.

  7. Overprocessed hair. Too many chemical treatments and dyeing can dry and dull your hair and make it fall out. Schedule treatments far apart and keep them to a minimum.

  8. Lack of exercise and healthy diet. That’s right, these are both important to hair growth. Stay active and eat foods high in omega-3s and drink enough water to keep you and your hair hydrated.

  9. Too many split ends. Just clip up to a half inch of hair off strands every 6 to 8 weeks to avoid this problem.

If all else fails...

Consult your doctor. At the end of the day, your hair may be shedding excessively, leading to less hair growth due to a medical condition like alopecia or an unhealthy scalp. Seeking professional help is always advised to be sure that you've covered all your bases.