From Selenium to Scalp Massages: My Long Voyage to Healthier Hair

Medically reviewed by Cynthia Cobb, DNP, APRN on November 2, 2017Written by Scarlett Dixon on November 2, 2017
Long and Luscious Hair

Ever since I can remember, I’ve had dreams of having long, flowing Rapunzel hair. But unfortunately for me, it’s never quite happened.

Whether it’s my genes or my highlighting habit, my hair has never quite reached the length I've envisioned. And so, for the past 10 years, I’ve been on a mission to achieve longer, stronger, and healthier hair.

I’ve tried a multitude of old wives’ tales and products that promise hair growth miracles. I’ve dabbled with horse hair shampoo (yes, really — apparently it has magical properties). I’ve tried in-salon treatments that have taken hours at a time to complete, and regular professional scalp massages to stimulate my hair follicles. For four years, I even kept the scissors completely at bay. (Can you imagine the split ends?)

But in recent years, the beauty market has introduced a whole host of incredible products for those of us who dream of long, tumbling locks. Here are the products and practices I’ve tried and tested personally for growing and improving my hair — and whether or not they worked:

1. Hair restructuring

Conclusion: It works!

I was cynical when I first tried it, but I’ve been adding a mix of Olaplex treatments and L’Oréal’s new Smartbond in with my highlights for about two years now. I’ve noticed a considerable difference. Not only is the breakage far less, but the shine, thickness, and general health of my hair has seemed to improve, too.

Admittedly, unlike most hair treatments, these aren’t differences you’ll notice straight away. These products don’t work on the aesthetic exterior of your hair follicles, but rather the inside bonds and structure. My hair is pretty thin and prone to breakage anyway, but the restructuring treatments give it a boost in the right direction, prevent breakage, and minimize the damage done in the coloring process.

Restructuring treatments can be mixed in with your usual color, or you can have it done in between color treatments. The treatment is usually completed in several parts — two in-salon visits and the final step at home. It’s not cheap, and I know some people are tempted to give up since they can’t physically "see” the difference. But I cite this as a major factor in the journey between my before and after pictures.

2. Scalp massages

Conclusion: It worked!

When properly done, scalp massages can increase blood circulation to the hair follicles. They not only lower stress, but also condition the scalp and boost the strength and thickness of your hair. In other words, it’s great for your hair!

I was instantly hooked. And while I did attempt to massage my own hair for a while (which is a great treat in the shower, because you get to enjoy the act of washing your hair, rather than feeling like it’s a chore), I decided the only authentic way to do it was to seek out a professional.

This is when I discovered Aveda’s unique Scalp Detox service. It’s a complete revamp and balancing treatment that provides some TLC to your scalp. Because let’s face it, do we ever actually look after our scalp properly? It’s a haven for dead skin and product buildup.

Aveda’s in-salon treatment was extremely relaxing: a scalp massage with a number of different stages, including exfoliation, cleansing, and moisturizing. There was even a special looped hairbrush designed to help remove dead skin and other buildup.

The treatment was then finished off with a blow-dry. My hair felt lighter and cleaner than it had in years. My scalp was hydrated, healthy, and over the next few months, I noticed a big difference in my regrowth. My hair usually grows half an inch a month (if I’m lucky), but the regrowth at my next color appointment far surpassed previous experiences.

3. Horse hair shampoo

Conclusion: It didn’t work.

So why on earth did I start shampooing with a product formulated for horses? Well, your guess is as good as mine.

I think I’d read somewhere that horses have special shampoo formulated for them to increase the thickness of their mane, tail, and coat. Plus, a quick Google search revealed that Demi Moore, Kim Kardashian, and Jennifer Aniston — three ladies known for their luscious locks — were all fans, so I wasn’t completely misinformed! And it’s clearly caught on. The popular brand Mane`n Tail has now brought out a new collection of their best-selling formula tweaked for human use.

Enriched with olive oil, this protein-rich shampoo promotes gentle cleansing without stripping the natural oils of your hair, encouraging fuller, longer, stronger, and thicker hair. I tried this product a few years ago (when it was still for horses). After ordering from the internet, I gave it a try for a month or so. Admittedly, my hair felt clean and glossy, but I didn’t feel that the hydrating qualities were strong enough for my often coarse and frizzy hair.

And, as for hair growth, I didn’t notice much difference. So, I stopped horsing around and went for a different shampoo. I now use Aussie, which is super hydrating, and their 3 Minute Miracle masks are incredible for hair recovery. I also use Kérastase. Their products are fabulous at protecting color while also hydrating, softening, and balancing out the oils.

4. Banning the scissors

Conclusion: It didn’t work.

At age 16, I was convinced that my hairdressers were lying to me. I had visions of them all plotting against me, advising regular trims as a means of keeping them in business rather than fulfilling my goal of miracle hair growth. Each time I thought my hair had grown, they’d snip it off, and we’d be back to square one.

I couldn't fathom why on earth they were putting me through such turmoil time and time again. So, to prove that I was “right,” I banned the scissors from coming near my hair for four whole years. In fact, it wasn’t until I turned 21 that I finally let my hairdresser trim my ends.

I’d let four years of split ends plague my hair health. I was convinced the sacrifice would start to pay off. Unfortunately, it never did.

While I’m sure a trim every six weeks is only necessary if you’re maintaining a specific look, I now have a good cut twice a year, and I don’t look back. Trims don’t make your hair grow faster (despite my dad’s analogy that hair is just like grass), but regular trims do improve the look, condition, and feel of your hair.

By trimming away the unhealthy split ends, hair will have less breakage and flyaways. This makes it look much thicker and shinier — and even longer! And it’s super important for maintaining your hair health, which is paramount if you want to grow it long. Because, while you want Rapunzel’s hair length, you also want it to look and feel like her hair.

Find a good hairdresser you trust, who also has a mutual interest in improving your hair. I go to Neville Salon in London every couple of months. Not only do they have a wonderfully friendly team of hairdressers on hand to help you fulfill your hair dreams, they’re also pioneers in hair coloring processes and techniques.

Your hair is such a big part of you. You don’t want to scrimp on making sure it’s in the best hands.

5. Selenium supplements

Conclusion: They work!

Again, I was very cynical when it came to taking supplements. My IBS journey didn’t give me an awful lot of faith in medication, which was probably my reasoning for not trusting oral capsules very much. But still, I figured it was worth a try.

I set to work researching which would be best. Along the way, I came across a supplement called selenium, which is a component of proteins that are linked to hair growth. Selenium is found naturally in foods such as Brazil nuts, oats, tuna, spinach, eggs, beans, and garlic.

If you’re on birth control pills (as I am), they can cause a minor selenium deficiency. After reading this, I found a relatively natural and basic supplement (not bulked out with lots of other things I hadn’t heard of) in my local pharmacy and stocked up on 60 days’ worth. Sixty days turned to 90, and 90 turned to 365.

I was hooked on how shiny, thick, and luscious my hair felt. And while I do appreciate that hair health is relative (and therefore, the selenium supplements may be a placebo), a few months after I stopped taking them, I noticed a drastic decline in hair health, an increase in breakage, and a stagnation on hair growth. So, it’s now something I take on a daily basis and swear by!

6. Homemade hair masks

Conclusion: They work!

During my student years, I couldn’t afford the excessively expensive hair masks that promised miracle growth, regardless of how badly I wanted to try them. So, I put Google to good use (again) and got to work making my own hair masks and putting them to the test.

I mashed up olive oil, avocado, mayonnaise, eggs, vinegar, and even beer. (For weeks after, I smelled like a hangover.) Castor oil, olive oil, and avocado ultimately came out on top as my favorite and most successful combination. I noticed a huge difference in the glossiness, texture, and strength of my hair after just a few uses.

They’re easy to make, too: Mix it up, apply to wet hair, leave for 20 minutes, and rinse. If you’re out of your favorite hair mask, I’d definitely recommend giving this a go. You might never look back!

Takeaway

So there we have it. Six slightly wild and wacky things I tried in a bid to get my hair to grow. Now, 10 years on, I have much longer, healthier, and shinier hair, and I haven’t had to sacrifice getting my hair highlighted every few months, either.

Keep in mind: There’s also no substitution for a good diet and minimizing heat treatments, both of which substantially affect how your hair looks and feels. In fact, I banned all heat treatment on my hair for a year, and it made a vast difference.

Regardless of what you try, it’s worth remembering that genes do play a big part in how your hair looks. When it comes to loving your hair, a lot of that comes with accepting the hair you have and working with it. Try letting go of what you don’t have and working out ways to ensure that what you do have complements you!

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