"If you want to grow your hair, we're going to need to cut about an inch off today..."
"WHAT?! WHY?! NO. I'm trying to g-r-o-w it I don't want it to be even shorter. That's the most counterintuitive thing I've ever heard! Don't cut it, PLEASE."
Welcome to every trip to the hairdressers, ever. This is a conversation that most of us have had a million times before. I had it once ever three months or so as a child and it was probably why I developed such a distinct mistrust in adults for the entirety of my teenage years. It just did not make sense to me. I hated hearing it and would do anything I could to avoid it, namely and most effectively, the minute I was old enough to organise my own appointments: I stopped going to the hairdressers. Why would I pay someone to cut it off when all I really wanted was to grow it.
And for a number of years this actually worked pretty well for me. By the age of 16 my hair was long and thick. Even when left 'natural', curls would fall almost to my waist and if I had split ends I hadn't noticed, I don't remember ever going to the hairdressers during that time, which only reiterated what I already thought I knew to be true: if you want long hair don't cut it.
But then, since a bad decision about seven years ago that lead to me deciding to cut all my hair off and opting for a much lighter hair colour than the natural, darker shade that I was born with, I have to admit that it hasn't grown anything like as long as it was in the days pre-highlights. Although it does grow, it is considerably shorter than it once was and in much worse condition. Obviously the colouring doesn't help, I'm sure my hormones have something to do with it and then of course there is the worry that it simply isn't growing because I get it cut so often, simple science indicates that I'd be better off leaving it alone. Or does it?
I have always wanted to know if there was truth to the rumours: does your hair actually grow 'faster' if you get it trimmed regularly or is this just a line fed to us by hairdressers desperate to stay in business? I've done some digging and I finally know the answers.
As you suspected, cutting your hair does NOT make it grow faster, for the simple reason that your hair grows from the follicles in your scalp and it has nothing to do with what is happening at the other end of the strands... obviously.
However. Cutting your hair makes it look fuller and thicker and healthier, which, in turn, makes it look longer. This is because of split ends, something I was always warned about but never really understood, so what are they? They really are self explanatory; it's a split at the end of the hair which can make it look frizzy and dry. If you take a strand of your hair and look at it, you may notice that at some point it splits into two parts, like a fork in the road. Realistically, you need that to be cut off.
Just as an FYI, you can get split ends from all sorts. One of the things that we are warned about the most is using heat products on your hair and it's true, straighteners, curlers, etc are a main cause. It can also be broken by 'improperly' detangling your hair (brushing it when it's wet) or yanking it out. Weather can play a big part and so can how you tie it up: if you use elastic bands to pull your hair back with, scrunching it up, then you will break it. I have noticed a definite improvement in the condition of my own hair since I started using scrunchies and using a tangle-teezer rather than a regular hairbrush. I also recently got the Dyson Hairdryer which seems to be doing good things, not least of all because it is easier to style it properly with that, meaning that I am considerably less reliant on my hair-straightners, which as we have established, are devil products.
What can start as a millimetre long split end can keep getting longer and longer until eventually you've got split ends a foot long that make your hair look dead and broken and ultimately, short. If you get it trimmed regularly you stop the split ends from creeping too far up and that saves the next haircut needing to be numerous inches being removed rather than the millimetres that could have been removed if you'd gone sooner. The expression: 'nipping it in the bud' seems appropriate here. It will make your hair appear to grow faster because the hair will break less and thus, grow longer in a shorter amount of time.
For a long time I thought that I wanted long hair, no matter the cost. But I realise now that actually I would rather have slightly shorter hair if it means that it can be healthier in the end... pardon the pun. As we come into winter and the air gets colder and everything (apart from the pavement) gets dryer, it's time to get serious about haircare if you want it to be any longer by next summer. My hair never looks, or feels, more unhealthy than it does by January, so this time I'm going to deal with it before it becomes a problem. I'm going to go for very regular trims.
Although there are undeniably some great products promising all sorts of great things on the market right now, and we are desperate to believe in them and spend a fortune on them (because we will do anything for an easy life), there is a cheaper and more effective alternative: drop your pride, do as you're told and cut your god-damned hair.