Monday, 10 September 2012


One of the things that thoroughly mystify me is the more or less random “hair growth boosting” recommendations that keeps circulating in the long hair circuit. Some of them seems to absolutely random. But I guess the weirdest thing is how absolutely sure and determined people are that their own special little booster is and how fantastic and amazing just their discovery is. It is as if they believe they discovered something truly magical or mystical. Things that people “Swear by!” are everything between particular scarves, tools, foods, techniques and supplements.

Let us take something random I have seen recommended “For super speedy hair growth!!!1”, like water chestnut. It’s not a nut at all, but a part of the root that we eat. It’s a delicious slightly sweet, crunchy thing often found in Chinese cuisine. 

There is nothing special or magical about it though. Here is an in depth analysis of the nutrition value of water chestnuts: Nutrition data
So what would make this crunchy, tasty little “nut” boost someone’s hair growth?
Is it that 100 gram of water chestnut contains 16% of your daily recommended allowance of vitamin B6 and 16% of your daily recommended allowance of copper? Is it the fibre and sugars in combination? Maybe a magical ratio of omega 3 fatty acids to mega 6 fatty acids? Or does it contain something truly magical that science can’t even measure?  


Well, maybe water chestnuts would be a magical hair growth booster if your diet was low on vitamin B6 and copper, sure. Or maybe it is the extra attention it brings to your diet.

But here is my theory:

Of course traditional knowledge about placebo focuses solely on pills and the circumstances surrounding the pills, such as the enthusiasm of the person giving you the pills, the price and appearance of the pills etc.

This is a good and informational little video about it.

These covers a lot of the same but are still worth a watch.

I quite liked this article: Granted, its aimed at beauty products, but I think the authors points can be aimed at ”miracle growth cures” too. Placebo effect: believe your way to beauty results

I spent most of the night on Google looking for factors, but mostly placebo is documented about pills. I guess no researcher ever saw this knowledge used when it comes to women wanting to grow their hair long fast?

However, after way too many years in the longhair circuit I think traditional placebo definitions can be expanded:
The amount of trouble a “booster” causes will increase the effect. Sure massaging for 5 minutes every day will be good for your hair growth and probably cause people to see a growth spurt, but increasing it to 20 minutes and do it standing on your head and taking a special supplement with an expensive drink and incorporating a special food source in your diet will be extra good then, right? It’s basic psychology that humans want to see results equal to the amount of work you put in.
Positive environment and the amount of rave reviews will also “colour” peoples approach. If everyone else are seeing results and swearing by the new booster method, people will be more inclined to be positive towards it. This is also a common and well documented factor in placebo.

Important knowledge
  • It is common to experience a growth spurt if you change something in your diet or handling that your body is lacking.
  • Hair has often been described as “Being far down the body’s natural pecking order” meaning that if something is lacking in your diet, it will be used for the more important functions first. This is bad for our vanity but good for out survival. If you change your diet and will get enough of what was missing, it can temporarily boost your growth. This also applies to things like increasing circulation or decreasing handling damage.
  • It is hard to measure hair exactly. It really is. Most people who measure, will measure several times and either track the average or the number they measured the most.
  • The super fast growth is almost exclusively reported by the new members. This might not be very nice to point out, but those that claim they track several inches in a very short time seems to be gone by the next month anyways. The people looking for some fantastic magical booster and claim they have found it, always seems to just drift on to some other obsession. The only one I can think of with a very high growth rate who has been in the longhair circuit for years is Squiggyflop on LHC who seems to be at a stabile 2 inches of growth per month.
  • (Plus, and maybe its just me being paranoid here, but some times I find myself wondering if hair forums members are using their hair to “assert” themselves. They may not have the thickest hair or the curliest hair or whatever people seems to “compete” about but dang it, they have fast growth and have found the best method in the world because they’re so smart!)

If something really worked such a fantastic magic that you knew for sure, wouldn’t the whole world know by now and thinning, slow-growing hair been completely eliminated?

Just for fun, let’s do a little math here. My personal growth rate has always been 1,5 or 2 cm per month. Not impressive at all, but careful and conservative trimming has taken me from bald to knee length hair in 10½ years. People always assume I have a super high growth rate but I really don’t. I have simply managed to not shred my ends or have my hair butchered in 10+ years (Which is actually a big accomplishment I guess!)
Let’s say I really did get an inch a week, which isn’t actually a high number if you read some of the posts with high numbers people have reported. An inch a week would have gotten me to knee length-ish in just a year if I avoided trims. 
Of course that didn’t happen. In fact, that never happened to anyone. Ever.
Instead it took me about ten years.

Growth spurts do exist, but they are only spurts and don’t last. A lot of them are probably just measuring errors combined with too much optimism from putting in too much effort in your hair growth. It’s completely human with wishful thinking, but don’t put any trust in people who claim growth rates that seems too good to be true.

But hey, in the time it took you to read this post, you hair grew like 0,00083673 mm! My post is a magical hair growth booster! Read this 10 times a day to experience truly magical growth!

Of course placebo isn’t always a bad thing. A lot of the things people do in the name of hair aren’t bad at all. Who can object to fresh air and exercise? Or massages? Or paying extra attention to diet? Sleeping with a silk sleep cap?

No one would object to that, but the fact is still that the very best thing for good hair growth is the good old benign neglect and a well-rounded life where you don’t overdo anything to try to boost your hair growth. It’s the only thing that has ever proved effective to boost hair growth and hair quality over time. Don’t fool yourself with expensive, troublesome and time-consuming miracles.

(Pictures shamelessly stolen from someone who put herself out there with her “magical method” and then decided we were all mean old jealous bitches on UTT for disagreeing with her hair-frying methods and posted them as proof to how fantastic and smart she was and how stupid we all are. They make me laugh my mean old jealous head off.)


  1. Fantastic and I agree with every word! I find these " I grew 10" in the last 2 days " posts a little irritating to be honest, of there hair grew as quick as they claimed they would be growing from shaved to floor in a year, yeah right! Fact is if your healthy no wonder food, scarf, hat or hair pin is going to make your hair grow quicker! However you can get better quality hair by being sure your diet isn't lacking!! But overall the best thing is a good dose of patience!!!!

  2. I think people rave about the monistat to validate the embarrasement of not only buying it, but for putting it on their scalp. It's not even that embarrassing, you can get a fungal infection from taking antibiotics and messing up the bacteria in the intestine, people buy those creams everyday. But somehow, a lot of people feel "dirty" simply for buying vagina cream. Go figure.
    I believe this one may have positive results if the person actually has some scalp condition, scalp fungus is more common than we'd like, but then again, there are shampoos formulated for that (I know, my Mom is que queen of scalp conditions) why follow the weirdest path? *shrugs*

    I think the problem with longhair forums, or beauty forums in general, is that everyone wants quick growth and ONE miracle product that will solve all their problems - preferably all in one. And it's never about having a decent lifestyle, it's all about magic potions.
    There are at least two people that insist on sharing some good sense, that it's about having a good routine of gentle detangling/washing/moisturizing when needed, and a healthy lifestyle with proper eating and exercise + protective styling. Sadly this is often ignored and what gets passed around is that you should be using monistat, taking 2x the recommended amount of supplements, showering with fancy tea rinses and eat lots of nuts/sea kelp and fossilized water plant byproducts.
    And you're right about the super fast growth being almost exclusively reported by new members. Nobody likes to hear the boring stuff, that they have to wait for their hair to grow and take good protective measures. And then they try so hard to validate their weird experiments and show how much better they are because their hair grows 3x faster than average (some while bleaching/blowfrying/straightening/keeping hair loose 24/7). And then some feel super smart by sharing this amazing discovery! When in reality, it's because of stupid clueless raves that most of the gurus have given up on the main forum and stick to the blogs.
    Sometimes they haven't even been aroung for such a short amount of time. I stopped talking to at least two people who got into the forums at the same time I did, precisely because I couldn't stand seeing them throw in everybody's face how amaaazing their (deluded) progress is.

    At some point, for many people, growing long hair became a major goal in life - rather than something that happens while you're living a life.
    Places like that make me sad.

  3. I loved this post and I'm always interested in the "placebo" effect. I think the other reason why you might find that some new people experience sudden growth spurts is quite simply from applying what they learn on LHC (or other hair forums/sites/blogs) for example gentler handling, less frequent washing, and common sense like good nutrition, exercise, etc.
    I was probably one of these annoying people when I joined LHC; I got 2 inches growth in a month and thought it was thanks to doing the redbush experiment (both drinking and applying topically), but when I think back on it, it was spring and pretty hot (I grow faster in the hot months) and I'd just started being kinder to my hair. Who knows.

    What really annoys me is how competitive people get with growth rate and how, like you say, some people go nuts with things like supplements to try and grow faster. It's sad and sometimes even dangerous.

    I was wondering where you found the quotes you put into your article, because they're kinda hilarious.

    (oh and btw in your previous entry when you mentioned the bleached airhead in H&M, I don't know why but I pictured her as the protagonist for the famous "shoes" video on youtube - if you haven't seen it it's worth a watch! Pretty funny!)

  4. Igor, this post should be mandatory reading for all aspiring longhairs :) You put in words just what I have been musing about, but far more wittily than I could have. (Yeah, I was literally rolling on the floor when I came to the "My post is a magical hair growth booster! Read this 10 times a day to experience truly magical growth!" Love that.)

    On a more serious note - I agree with basically all you say here, as I have noticed much of those things myself. I look upon LHC now and then, mostly for the laughs I get when perusing certain threads (Is that wrong? Reading for the "lulz"?). Repetitive threads, but sometimes remarkably funny, advertising what I call "Harry Potter" solutions. An instant 20 inches of new growth, just by waving the wand! Yay!

    Perhaps it's just me, but I'm skeptical whenever someone starts bragging about miracle products. I always think it's an attempt to sell a product and eventually con people. I guess I'm too careful. But I'm still amazed how can people be easily tricked into buying such stories. I assume it's human nature again; because growing out hair is a process that takes time and determination, and many people are interested only in immediate results. As Rita said, common sense advice like a good diet, reasonable exercise program and gentle handling is boring. It's much more interesting to talk about the overnight growth one can achieve when slathering the scalp with a magic cream :P

    You are probably right about the last bullet in the "important knowledge" paragraph ;) I have been wondering about that myself, when I see those threads about hair growth, where people, relatively new to the whole business of growing out hair, talk about their methods and inches of new growth. I really don't understand the point of such bragging, to be sincere. I mean, aren't people supposed to grow out their hair because they want to, and not because of perfect strangers who happen to be in that hair forum?

  5. I haven't read comments, but I wanted to add something that may be interesting to you.

    I have noticed that, on several different times, when I was very, very ill (high, high fever), I experienced major hair growth. This was also noticeable on my legs, underarms and my fingernails grew. The rate was unbelievable. I was shaving daily and clipping my fingernails daily. I could see the hair growth because the one time, i'd just gotten a color and could see the gray grow in what felt like 2 inches in a week.

    What I wondered is if a faster metabolic rate would increase such a reaction? I found it odd because usually, with a high fever, you tend to shed hair from the heat (I did shed, but nothing out of the ordinary).

    This happened to me when I was stricken with influenza in the 90s, and everytime I had a 'cold flu', and the most noticeable when 4 years ago when I got H1N1 (fever for 10 days).

    Since it's not really a focus when someone is ill to measure hair growth rate, I often wondered if other studies had been done to see if boosting the metabolism increase growth of hair.

    Just curious if others ever noticed this when very ill/had a fever (I'm talking well over 100F)

    1. Every single word is true, Ida! I sometimes go over to LHC to have a laugh and make fun of all the nice new threads over there, and I usually do find one which claims wondrous hair growth just from applying essence of ant-eggs or something similar.
      I must say, I did experience regrowth from monistat. I didn't buy the faster growth stories, but I had a very itchy scalp and thought it could be fungus. I always scratched myself until I bled and after I did that several times, many spots had noticably fewer hair. I waited for it to grow back, but nothing came. Then I went for the Monistat and within a week not only did the itching stop, but I could see a few babyhairs starting to grow. True, might still be coincidence and just a result of treating a scalp condition, but at least it helped.

      Greeting from Gothic Lolita!!!

  6. I read of one member who nearly every post brags about her "cant believe how long im getting 2" this week....." Kinda baloney and i think who are you kidding? You drink whatever and not only do you grow 2" but your thickness doubles....its bullshit, you know and i know but nobody says a thing , were too nice! Ha just thought the posts which make me LOL are the photos of the heads so tilted back you can see their nose......oohh ! "Yawn" seriously feel like saying go away and stop talking crap!