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The 3 Phases Of Natural Hair Growth, explained by our resident expert Dawn Oliver.

We cut it, colour it, curl it and crimp it, spray it and straighten it, yet it's often only when it starts falling out that we wonder exactly how, and why, our hair grows! In fact this fundamental biological function, taken for granted from birth, is a marvel of nature - and just how our hair evolved has scientists puzzled even today.

Understanding the cycle in which our hair grows is not only fascinating, it's also reveals what each of us can hope to achieve in terms of personal growth rates - we're not all born relatives of Rapunzel, and for most of us, the dream of flowing tresses grazing the base of the spine will remain precisely that without the assistance of some serious extensions.

In light of which we've enlisted the help of one of The Chapel's resident experts (our Sevenoaks salon director Dawn Oliver) to explain 'the science bit', along with some essential tips for promoting healthy hair growth.

"Although it obviously varies from person to person, our scalps are estimated to contain an average of around 100,000 hairs," Dawn explains, "and while it appears that hair is confined to our heads and a few other scattered locations, it' actually uniformly distributed across the entire body. However most of body is covered in the tiny translucent hairs called vellus hairs - while the pigmented hair we can see is known as terminal hair. The only places on the body that are truly hairless are your palms, your eyeballs and the soles of your feet (so find any growing in these areas and its probably time to seek a different sort of professional advice - or at least avoid the full moon!)"

"The active hair growth stage of the growing cycle for the terminal hairs on the scalp is known as the anagen phase, and depending on who you are this phase can last anywhere between two and seven years. Although our hair grows faster in summer than winter, over a year we tend to average around six inches of hair growth (so about half an inch per month), and once you know this you can work out with some rudimentary maths that if you can't ever grow your hair longer than say eighteen inches, then that's because your anagen cycle only lasts three years, which means that no matter how hard you try you're never going to emulate the Crystal Gayle look. However, if say, you are of Asian origin, then you stand a much higher chance of enjoying a seven year anagen cycle, so if left uncut your hair could potentially grow up to three-and-a-half feet!"

"The next stage in the cycle," continues Dawn, "is the transitional stage know as the catagen phase. Lasting around two weeks, this is when the follicle gradually shrinks and as it does moves out of the dermal layer, detaching the papillae at the root and removing the supply of blood that has been nourishing the hair and allowing it to grow. One percent of the hair in our scalp is always in the catagen phase "

"After the catagen phase comes the third part of the cycle, known as the telogen phase. This is the resting stage, and at least ten percent of the hair on our head is permanently at this stage, dormant and no longer growing, yet still attached to the scalp for anywhere between one and four months. Eventually the follicle will begin to grow again, softening the hairs root so the hair is naturally shed, then around two weeks later a new hair shaft begins to emerge and the cycle is complete."

"The condition and quantity of the hairs we shed is a valuable indicator of how healthy we are inside as well as out," Dawn explains, "and if you find yourself suffering from rapid, mass hair loss this is not natural shedding raising the tempo, the reasons will either be related to a medical condition, or an underlying problem such as stress or trauma."

"We obviously recommend that everyone keeps their hair in the best condition possible, but for those can make the most of a long anagen cycle and are sporting tresses of serious length, we have some specific advice for caring for longer hair. "

"Firstly we recommend that you try to resist the urge to shampoo daily and reduce your hair washes to no more than three times a week. Remember that in fact the oils your hair makes are natures own proactive conditioner, and stripping them away too frequently leaves long hair especially prone to damage. Also bear in mind that curly hair can go longer between washes than straight hair as the natural oil takes longer to permeate through the length of each fibre. Oil travels faster through super straight hair, so in these instances we recommend using a dry shampoo between wet washes (try Redken Powder Refresh 01)."

"When you do go for a wet shampoo, the secret is to be gentle in everything you do. Comb your hair before washing to avoid wet tangles, only massage at the scalp then simply let the lather run down your strands. Always wash using warm water, never hot, as this makes hair porous and encourages frizz, and for those brave enough, try a final cold water rinse as this will help your hair retain moisture, which improves natural shine."

"Once it's washed, try patting your hair dry rather than rubbing, and never, ever brush or comb wet hair - it's one of the most damaging things you can do to long hair. Blow dry on cool or let hair dry naturally. You should also seriously consider treating your locks to a quality hair masque once a week, and I'd recommend Kerastase Masque Force Architecte for revitalizing very dry or damaged tresses."

"When it comes to long hair its no good simply being able to grow, you need to be in the know, so apply these common sense tips to the lengths of your locks, and before long you should be enjoying fairytale hair for fairly little effort!"

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