Hair Health

“Can you really make your hair grow faster?” is a question every woman asks following the inevitable bad haircut. Do supplements really work? Are there topical treatments? We went directly to Dr. David Kingsley, board-certified trichologist with a doctorate in hair research and author of The Hair Loss Cure for answers.

Can you make your hair grow faster?

Kind of. Your hair is only genetically capable of growing so much, but you can give it a nutrient boost to make it perform at its full potential. Most people will notice faster-growing hair by upping their intake of the right nutrients. “Hair is a non-essential tissue, so if you’re deficient in something your hair will be the last to get what it needs to grow,” says Dr. Kingsley. Before you start taking vitamins, consider your diet: hair is 90 percent protein, so making protein a part of at least two meals a day is imperative for change.

Everyone says prenatal vitamins are the secret. Fact or fiction?

A little bit of both. Taking biotin or prenatal vitamins has become very popular for getting longer tresses, but they’re not really necessary if you’re already taking a multivitamin. Why? Their active ingredients—folic acid, iron, biotin—are found in in the multis below. The one pill that does have a serious advantage is Viviscal’s Hair Nourishment System ($50), the model/editor-approved supplement for thicker, faster-growing hair. The formula’s anchored with AminoMar, a deep-sea fish protein, but it also has a healthy dose of biotin, iron, and horsetail extract (another good hair helper). A box will last you a month and you’ll need to take it for several months to see a real difference, making it a pricey option. Our advice? Try a multi for a few months and see if it helps first.

So what should I look for in a multivitamin?

The nutrients that will help most with growth, thickness and overall health are vitamin D, iron, and B vitamins like B-3 (niacin), B-7 (biotin), B-12 (cobalamin), and B-9 (folic acid). So what’s the best way to get them? In most cases popping a good multivitamin can cover your bases. Now Foods' Eve Women's Multivitamin ($15) and One A Day's Women's Formula ($10) are high in all the above.

What can I do in the meantime, until the vitamins kick in?

Once you’ve started supplementing your diet with the right nutrients, you’ve pretty much maxed out your hair’s growth and thickness potential, but there are products on the market that can temporarily make your locks fuller. Nioxin has a range of products that plump up strands, from thinning hair systems to styling products. We especially love their Diamax Thickening XtraFusion Treatment ($40). Apply to the roots of damp hair before styling for thicker hair. Preventing breakage is also paramount for fuller hair. L’Oreal’s new line of Advanced Haircare helps prevent breakage and soothes damaged hair, including their Ceramide Total Repair Shampoo ($5) and Power Moisture Rush Mask ($7), both of which are great options to boost hair’s health.

While there isn’t an overnight solution for better hair, little changes can result in a big improvement over time. “You really want to blend a few different things to help your hair,” says Dr. Kingsley, and it helps to think of your hair the way you do your skin—if you’re using a cleanser, toner, serum, and moisturizer for the latter, you probably need more than one step for the former. Dr. Kingsley adds, “It’s a whole picture.”