It's a well-known fact that frequent hair clipping accelerates and thickens hair growth. Is this assertion true, though? Is it really an advertising tactic to get you to the salon more frequently?
Answering these questions is not straightforward, as the results of hair trimming can vary based on your goals, hair type, and condition. In this article, we'll examine the science behind hair thickness and growth while also looking at the advantages of hair trimming, according to experts. Additionally, we'll offer guidance on how to trim your hair correctly and care for it afterward.
Understanding Hair Trimming and Its Purpose
Hair trimming entails removing a small portion of hair from the ends, usually less than an inch. It differs from a haircut, which alters the hair's length, style, or shape.
Why People Trim Their Hair
People have various reasons for trimming their hair, including:
Eliminating Split Ends: These damaged, brittle ends of the hair shaft can lead to dullness, frizz, and breakage.
Maintaining Length or Style: Especially when hair grows faster than desired, trimming helps keep it at a specific length or style.
Improving Appearance: Trimming results in a more uniform, smoother, and younger look for your hair.
Understanding Hair Anatomy
Hair comprises two main components: the follicle and the shaft. The follicle, a tiny sac beneath the skin, produces the hair, while the shaft is the visible part growing from the follicle.
Each follicle contains a bulb at its base, where cells divide rapidly to generate new hair. This bulb also houses blood vessels, supplying nutrients and oxygen to the growing hair. Encircling the bulb is a structure called the papilla, which contains nerve endings that sense touch and temperature.
The hair shaft consists of three layers: the cuticle, the cortex, and the medulla. The cuticle, the outermost layer, protects the hair from damage. Comprising overlapping scales that reflect light and provide shine, the cuticle is vital. The cortex, situated in the middle, imparts strength, elasticity, and color to the hair. Long protein fibers called keratin make up its structure, and heat and chemicals can change the bonds holding it together. The innermost layer, the medulla, is present only in thick and coarse hair and is composed of air-filled cells that provide insulation and buoyancy.
The Phases of Hair Growth
Hair grows in cycles consisting of three phases: anagen, catagen, and telogen, each with distinct durations and functions.
Anagen: The active growth phase, during which cells in the bulb divide rapidly, pushing the hair shaft upward. This phase lasts for 2 to 8 years, varying based on genetics, hormones, age, and health. At any given time, approximately 85% to 90% of scalp hair is in this phase.
Catagen: The transitional phase, when hair growth halts, and the follicle shrinks. This stage lasts for 2 to 4 weeks, during which the hair disconnects from the blood supply and forms a club hair – a dead hair remaining in the follicle until pushed out by a new one. About 1% to 2% of scalp hair is in this phase at any given time.
Telogen: The resting phase during which the follicle remains dormant, and the club hair falls out. This phase persists for 2 to 4 months, resulting in the shedding of approximately 50 to 100 hairs daily. About 10% to 15% of scalp hair is in this phase at any given time.
Factors Affecting Hair Thickness
Hair thickness depends on two factors: the diameter of the hair shaft and the density of hair follicles.
The diameter of the hair shaft hinges on the size and shape of the cortex and medulla. A larger, rounder cortex and medulla result in a thicker hair shaft. This diameter can vary from person to person and even from strand to strand on the same head. Generally, individuals with Asian ancestry have thicker hair shafts than those with European or African ancestry.
Genetics play a major role in determining the density of hair follicles, but other factors like age, hormones, health conditions, medications, and environmental factors can also have an impact. Typically, people have about 100,000 to 150,000 follicles on their scalp, but this number can vary and decrease with time.
Is Trimming Beneficial for Hair Health?
While trimming hair doesn't accelerate growth or increase thickness, it does offer several benefits for hair health and appearance:
Removing Split Ends: Trimming eliminates damaged or frayed ends that can cause breakage, frizz, and dullness. Neglecting split ends can lead to damage to otherwise healthy hair.
Maintaining a Suitable Length or Style: A well-suited haircut enhances confidence and self-esteem, aligning with your face shape and personal preferences.
Enhancing Appearance and Texture: Trimming gives hair a fresher, smoother, and more even appearance, promoting natural movement and bounce.
Debunking the Myth
The Myth: Regular hair trimming leads to faster and thicker hair growth.
The Reality: Trimming hair has no effect on its growth rate or thickness.
This myth persists due to two optical illusions:
Trimming removes thinner, lighter ends that make hair appear thinner and duller, creating the illusion of thicker, healthier hair.
Trimming also shortens hair, making it appear longer and heavier when compared to before-and-after pictures, creating the illusion of accelerated growth.
However, these illusions are temporary and superficial, leaving the actual growth rate and hair thickness unaffected.
In actuality, factors outside of your control—such as genetics, hormones, age, health, nutrition, and lifestyle—dominantly determine hair growth and thickness. Trimming does not impact any of these factors.
While the idea that regular hair trimming makes your hair grow faster and thicker is a persistent myth, it's important to separate fact from fiction. Hair trimming offers numerous benefits for hair health and appearance, such as removing split ends, maintaining a suitable length, and enhancing overall texture. However, it doesn't directly influence the rate of hair growth or its thickness.
Biological factors like genetics, hormones, age, and general health play a major role in determining the growth and thickness of your hair. Therefore, it's crucial to manage your hair care expectations and focus on maintaining its health and vitality through regular maintenance. So, while trimming won't make your hair thicker, it can help you achieve a healthier, more vibrant look, which is something to keep in mind for your hair care routine.
Written by: Khushi Bhatiya
Edited by: Aniket Joshi