Walk into your local hair shop and you'll see shelves heaving with products that promise to help your hair grow. But which ones work and which ones don't?
It's all in the ingredients...
Both nature and science have provided us with a wealth of ingredients that can work to promote hair growth. Surprisingly, the ingredients that boost growth are not always the ones that actively stimulate the growth process. When it comes to longer hair, stimulation of lackluster roots is only part of the solution. Just as vital are those ingredients that remove barriers to growth. Health conditions aside, the main barriers are:
To get you over these barriers, an ingredient needs to have at least one of the following kinds of properties:
Apart from essential oils and herbs, ingredients harnessed in the lab have also proven their worth in increasing hair growth. Many of these compounds are themselves extracts of plants. Look for curcumin, an anti-inflammatory extract derived from turmeric, and oleanolic acid, a powerful antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, which is found in a number of foods, from olive oil to garlic to cherries.
And when you're selecting a product to grow your hair, always remember to check the ingredients list; for a growth-enhancing ingredient to work, it has to be at the right position in the ingredients list and the product has to be free of barrier ingredients.
What's the right position?
We've touched on it in previous blogs; the spot where an ingredient sits on the list is crucial to knowing if that ingredient can have a real effect on your hair. When it comes to growth-enhancing ingredients, most of them are extremely concentrated, so do not need to be at the top of the ingredients list to work. In fact, many of them, and this includes natural ingredients like essential oils, are irritants when used at high levels. Just a little is quite enough. The same goes for plant-derived compounds like oleanolic acid and curcumin; it's fine if those are towards the end of the ingredients list, just make sure they are not the very last.
On the flipside, when it comes to products in which the main growth-boosting ingredient is a carrier oil, such as sesame or castor oil, they would need to be towards the top to be effective. The same goes for herbal infusions. Some ingredients, e.g., rosemary, can show up in a product as a herbal infusion, a concentrated extract or an essential oil. The herbal infusion would need to be close to the top, the latter two towards the end. But as the INCI name, Rosmarinus Officinalis, is the same for all three, you need to look for other clues on the label. For example, sometimes manufacturers will write “Rosemary herb” for the infusion or “Rosemary oil” or “rosemary essence” for the essential oil.
Watch out for ingredients that block the scalp. This includes not just comedogenic ingredients, which block the pores, but also ingredients which work as barriers, preventing the absorption of growth-enhancing ingredients as well as the basic moisture your scalp needs. While good barrier ingredients are excellent for sealing moisture in on the strand—petrolatum and beeswax are prime examples of this—make sure you don't use them to seal moisture and helpful herbs out of the scalp; apply them to your hair only.
Ready to sort the true growth-boosting products from the rest? Take this handy table with you to the hair store!
DHA Hair Care Experts