Every day, your hair fights damaging UV rays, follicle-clogging pollutants and other factors that keep you from getting the length you need for your perfect cut. Encouraging hair growth takes a multipronged effort that starts with your breakfast and ends with the products you use before you turn in for the night. While some nutritional and lifestyle techniques are universal, black men should pay extra attention to moisturizing and accommodating the cuticle structure of African-American hair to promote growth.
From the Inside Out
No matter your skin color, a good diet is the foundation for healthy hair. Focus on colorful fruits and vegetables full of vitamins A, C and E, and greens such as kale, spinach and broccoli. Vitamin B-rich foods are also key, as are those with plenty of protein, iron and zinc. In addition to a balanced diet, always stay hydrated to promote growth and discourage breakage. Speaking to Ebony, nutritionist Dr. Ro Brock recommends taking in half of your body weight, only in ounces -- so, 90 ounces for a 180-pound man -- of water per day, as well as taking biotin and multivitamin supplements to encourage hair growth.
Although exercise helps any type of hair grow, it's particularly important for African-American hair growth. A minimum of 30 minutes of exercise per day stimulates healthy blood flow to the hair follicles, according to Real Health magazine. This helps deliver more essential nutrients to the scalp, which in turn offsets the naturally thin cuticle structure characteristic of black male hair. You'll also need to add a healthy dose of patience to your regimen; Live Science and the International Journal of Dermatology report that African hair grows slower than Asian or Caucasian hair, at a rate of about 4 inches per year in African females.
The Oil Factor
Real Health Magazine recommends applying oil nightly with a 20-minute scalp massage, which helps oils and hair-growth products penetrate the coiled structure of black hair while simultaneously exfoliating the scalp. The oil moisturizes, balances hair pH and prevents UV damage, fraying, splitting and breakage, all detriments to growth. Oils that contain additional ingredients such as stimulating caffeine, circulation-increasing cayenne pepper, biotin and zinc may particularly target increased hair growth.
Choose a scalp-cleansing shampoo with ingredients such as lemon extract, peppermint, salicylic acid or tea tree oil; a clean scalp is essential for healthy hair growth. View growth-promoting products specially formulated for black hair as a supplement to the hair-healthy foods and vitamins you put into your body; while the former can help the process along, the latter is essential. Avoid using too many products, which may result in growth-reducing buildup. To clear and prevent buildup, use an exfoliating pre-shampoo scalp treatment.
Dan combines his decade-long experience as a freelance writer and small business owner with hands-on experience in fashion, mixology, media production and more. Previously, he's published with Chron.com, Charlotte's Book, LIVESTRONG, Civilized Life, Hunker, Fortune, Salon.com, Out East Rose, Samsung, USA Today and others.