You have begged, you have pleaded, wondered what kind of voodoo magic Demi Moore is up to and finally, given up. But there’s no question that countless middle-aged women share the same lament: “Why—really, why?—won’t my hair grow any faster? And is it just me, or does it seem to get slower each year?”
Second, the hair’s anagen phase (aka the growth stage that is crucial to achieving great lengths) is, like everything else in the world of beauty, seemingly wasted on the young. A P&G (makers of such hair care as Pantene and Herbal Essences) report on the hair growth cycle found the following: “As people grow older, the period of anagen shortens. For example, the hair of someone with a five-year anagen can grow to a length of 60 centimeters before it enters the shedding phase. If their anagen period drops to three years as they age, their hair will then grow only to shoulder length before it falls out or is brushed out.” Not exactly Demi territory.
There’s another new, semi-depressing finding on the correlation between hair growth and aging. Biologically, researchers are finding that hair simply changes. Another in-depth study executed by P&G found that sebum (oil) production overall but here, specifically on the scalp, decreases rapidly starting at age 45. When hair becomes less able to keep itself hydrated, it can become coarser-looking and more susceptible to breakage. Again, not exactly conducive to growth.
And that leads us to the TLC factor. In the latter study, a few findings help explain why at some point, hair basically just kind of gives up in protest. First off, the actual diameter of individual hair strands lessens, which simply means your hair may look skimpier—hardly adding to the illusion of long, cascading locks. Additionally, consider a recent Unilever North America study, which spouted the following statistic: Long hair (that is 24 centimeters long, to be exact), will have 19,122 split ends. Lack of conditioning and breakage from brushing means your hair won’t stand a chance when it comes to length. Talk about growing pains.
Then again, the difference between you and some of the red carpet’s finest could simply be a change in your regimen. Heat styling addicts take note: Step away from the hair dryer. The less you damage strands with high temps (heat weakens cuticles), the more you encourage the growth of long hair—healthier tresses more easily withstand breakage. Additionally, with a slew of new heat protectant lines now on the market—Tresemmé makes a new affordable line called Platinum Strength, which contains conditioning agents meant to mimic the natural lubrication strands lose with age—even flat iron junkies have no excuse to not pre-treat hair before turning up the heat. “Any kind of nourishing base will help protect your hair,” says Belkacemi. “I recommend doing a deep conditioning mask (Serge Normant’s Meta Velour is good) once every 10 days. You would do a mask for your face, so why not your hair?” Think of it as applying moisturizer or primer before you apply your makeup. It should be that basic.