In an age of instant gratification, we not only want immediate results, we’ve come to expect them—when you start to notice thinning hair or what appears to be the beginning of pattern baldness or androgenic alopecia, noticeable improvements can’t come quickly enough. But how quickly can I realistically expect to regrow my hair, and which products can get me the results I’m looking for in six months or less?
We’ve all seen the advertisements over the years for hair regrowth products like Rogaine and its active ingredient, minoxidil, while direct-to-consumer companies like ForHims, Keeps, and Roman offer generic minoxidil and finasteride as part of a discreet, easy-to-use telehealth service.
Supplement providers are always developing the next formulation of vitamins and nutrients promised to grow hair loss, and cosmetics manufacturers seem to always have a new, optimal blend of spa-quality botanicals that promise to improve hair texture, thickness, and growth. Not to be outdone, emerging biotechnology companies like us are entering the space with innovative, targeted solutions to restore your hair to its former glory.
Options can be overwhelming, and we’re all in a hurry—how quickly can I expect to regrow my hair, and which products can get me the results I’m looking for, fast?
Six months as a rule of thumb for hair growth results
When you’re looking for a product that can improve the quality, thickness, and fullness of your locks, many products offer six months as a reasonable benchmark to evaluate any progress in the growth department.
Why six months you might ask? As part of the many, many reactions and processes happening in our bodies at any moment, certain biological rates, are highly multi-faceted and have have minimums and maximums, just like speed limits. Imagine the worst traffic interchange you’ve ever been on, with loops, onramps, and exits galore. During rush hour, removing one bottlenecked exit might help you move through that bit of freeway more quickly, but your total trip time—like your time to see new hair growth—isn’t determined by a single traffic jam along the way.
Let’s take a look at a few of the key factors that impact the six months of hair growth rule of thumb:
Six month hair growth rate
How fast can your hair grow in six months? As much as we might want it to grow back overnight, our hair follicles can’t be bullied into growing on demand! Depending on your hair type and ethnicity, you can expect your hair to grow at an annual rate of 4-6 inches per year. That means each month, you’ll see between one third- to one half-inch of new growth. So six months of hair growth is around 2-3 inches of new hair.
Hair follicle density
Aside from the growth rate of our hair, we have to keep in mind another factor that impacts the appearance of hair thickness and regrowth: hair density. Research into the distribution and density of hair on the human body found that hair sampled from the forehead showed the highest density, around 292 follicles per square centimeter.
Compared to other parts of the body, however, the diameter of the hair shaft itself was on the thin side on the forehead, with the hair shaft diameter ranging from ~270 microns, or 0.270 millimeters, for normal terminal hairs, ~235 microns in volunteers with androgenic alopecia, and ~130 microns for vellus or baby hairs.
If you’re suffering from hair loss, it’s likely that you’re dealing not only with a reduction in the density of active hair follicles—inactive follicles contribute to visible bald spots and patchy hair—but a reduction in the diameter of your individual hairs, as well. As androgenic alopecia, or pattern baldness, begins to set in, the androgen DHT begins to constrict and shrink the hair follicle itself, contributing to an eventual thinning of the subsequent hair shaft.
Reduced density and thickness can be worse than the sum of their parts
If you’re experiencing reduced hair density and hair thickness, it may take even longer than 6 months to feel like you’re seeing real results. But if the dormant hair follicles on your scalp haven’t been irreversibly damaged, solutions that stimulate dormant hair follicles to regrow may contribute to increased hair follicle density, causing your results to arrive quicker than six months.
Think of it this way: Without reactivating any dormant hair follicles, doubling the thickness of any existing hair shafts—or going from a vellus to a terminal hair—quadruples the actual volume of that same hair. Depending on how many hair follicles have gone dormant in the area you’re hoping to address, there could be substantial room for improvements. So if you double the density of active hair follicles in the same phase of growth, the actual volume of that hair would double, as well!
It’s challenging to put any well-regulated process of the body into overdrive, so the growth rates we listed above of 2-3 inches are likely the ceiling of what’s possible for six months of hair growth. There could also be a variety of unhealthy habits or portions of our daily diet or personal routine that could be causing unnecessary stress, restricting nutrition, and inhibiting growth.
Talking to your doctor about any concerns can help to identify any unhealthy patterns that, when addressed or eliminated, could lead to healthier, stronger hair.
The hair growth cycle
In other articles, we’ve discussed that separate from the growth rate of the hair shaft itself, the underlying hair follicle follows a predictable pattern of growth. That observable growth rate of nearly three inches every six months occurs during only one phase, the anagen phase. At any given time, each follicle on our scalp can be in one of these three phases:
Lasting between 2-7 years for each follicle, roughly 85-90% of the hairs on our head are in the anagen phase at any time. During the anagen phase, our matrix cells are hard at work, dividing nearly every 18 hours to push the hair strand up, up, and away through the skin. While in this phase, our hair grows roughly half a millimeter each day.
In contrast to the anagen phase, the catagen phase takes up a literal hair of the hair’s lifespan, lasting 2-3 weeks on average. Because the phase is much shorter, fewer of our hairs are normally in the catagen phase at any given time.
While hair growth still occurs during the catagen phase, it begins to slow down: By the end of this phase, hair stops growing altogether, becoming what’s known as club hair. Catagen phase represents the transition to the following period of rest, known as…
The telogen phase represents the part of the growth cycle when your hair rests and resets. Believe it or not, 10-15% of your hair follicles sit dormant in the telogen phase for 2-4 months at a time! Once this brief hibernation is complete, the follicle can cycle back to the anagen phase, push out the old hair shaft, and begin anew.
Shifting the phase of the hair follicle and growth phase realignment
While roughly 85-90% of our hair follicles may be in the anagen growth phase at any given time, certain scenarios can cause a larger proportion of hair follicles to enter into the shedding of telogen phase in concert.
In terms of topical treatments, like minoxidil and finasteride, the initial six months of hair growth can seem to mimic telogen effluvium and actually hair shedding instead. Why does this occur?
As part of their mechanism of action, minoxidil and finasteride encourage hair follicles to reenter anagen phase. While this is certainly a good thing in the long term, any follicles that might normally be transitioning to the catagen or telogen phases may start doing so ahead of schedule. It seems discouraging at first, but it’s a natural part of the hair’s regrowth process.
While these medications begin to work as soon as they enter the body, the processes they impact may contain several steps, with each step adding an extra barrier and delay in the hair regrowth process as the body adapts.
Keep in mind, as well, that the average length of a scalp hair follicle has been found to be 4.16mm, roughly one sixth of an inch. That means that even once the hair follicle sheds its previous hair shaft following telogen phase and returns to growth in the anagen phase, that sixth of an inch of hair remains beneath the surface of the skin.
Depending on your hair’s own growth rate, that length beneath the surface could take around one to two weeks, adding to the time to see hair regrowth results, sometimes taking it pass six months.
Getting hair follicles in line takes time
Because of the numerous steps involved in hair regrowth—as well as the numerous causes that could be contributing the underlying hair loss—it can be challenging to know when to evaluate your own progress along your hair growth journey.
Because of the nature of how our hair grows—including its growth rate, the duration of each stage of the follicle’s growth cycle, and the distribution of hair follicles on the scalp in the anagen phase at any given time—results can take time (sometimes longer than six months, sometimes less) to build upon each other to yield visible results.
Medical treatments, like minoxidil and finasteride, work in such a way that the initial months may prove challenging, but initial results can be seen within six months. For many customers, that early uncertainty can be a tough hurdle to overcome.
Other products, like Revela’s Hair Revival Serum and Growth Concentrate, work differently by targeting the hair follicle and encouraging the dermal papillae cells to grow. That extra growth has been shown to lead to the appearance of thicker, fuller hair in clinical trials in six to eight weeks. Subsequent maintenance in the following months can help lock in that regrowth, as well as continue to encourage any other dormant hair follicles to reawaken.