Hair is more than just something to keep our heads warm in the winter. In nature, the fur or plumage a creature is sporting often sends any number of messages to other birds and animals, from “stay back I’m dangerous!” to “I’m ready for romance.” In humans the same is absolutely true. Ever since the beginning of human civilization, the way people wear their hair has signaled their status, their profession, certainly their gender, and even their emotional state.
These days, an accepted part of regular hair care is getting a trim. Generally considered as a maintenance step in between actual haircuts, a trim is just that; either the owner of the hair, or a barber or hair stylist trims the ends off of your hair. The belief is that trimming your hair in between haircuts helps to keep it healthy, but exactly how is up for debate. Some people claim it makes it stronger, some believe it makes your hair grow faster, but in either case, the consensus is that it’s just the smart thing to do. But does trimming your hair really help it be healthier?
One theory of why trims can help improve the quality and health of your hair relates to the well-known phenomenon of the split end. Split ends happen when the outer keratin sheath on each hair, made of thousands of cuticles each (yes, just like your nails), splits and begins to expose the soft inner core of the hair. This inner core is supposed to hold moisture and keep your hair flexible, which can prevent breakage. Additionally, the sheath itself can begin to flake and curl which leads to frizz and more fly-aways, preventing you from getting that perfect sleek blowout. Since hair isn’t alive, it won’t repair itself, and once the hair end is split there’s no turning back.
Making sure to keep your hair trimmed regularly, even when you aren’t planning on changing your look, helps to eliminate those split ends before they get out of control, and helps prevent moisture loss across the length of the hair. Since the hair cannot repair itself, this is the only option to eliminate split ends, besides costly protein treatments which create an artificial barrier around each hair and mimics the properties of the hair sheath where it may have begun to split.
The evidence behind this one is a little bit less clear. The average person’s hair grows by a few centimeters a month, on average. Some conditions, like pregnancy or certain genetic disorders, can lead to accelerated hair growth of inches or more. For many years, common advice has been to keep your hair trimmed regularly as it promotes hair growth. But is this really the case?
The only factors which can affect how fast hair grows at a physiological level are internal to your body. Vitamin-rich diet, medical conditions, how much sun you get, and how much water you drink can definitely all have an effect on your hair growth. Trimming your hair may make it look healthier by eliminating frizz, but cutting off the keratin growth that makes up your hair isn’t going to influence how fast your hair follicle pushes that keratin out.
The origins of this belief may go back to the fact that trimming your hair gets rid of split ends. When a split end happens to an individual hair, if the split end isn’t addressed, it can travel up the hair, leading to brittle ends on each individual strand. During normal hair washing and brushing, these ends can break off, shortening your hair by a small amount. Each individual bit of breakage may not be very much in terms of length, but it can add up over the weeks or months, resulting in hair which appears to grow slower, as the ends of the hair are breaking off and negating new growth.
When you get regular trims, the split ends don’t have a chance to travel, and your overall hair length is preserved. This can lead to the appearance of faster growing hair, especially if you had previously not been getting regular trims.
Splitting hairs about hair trims
Of course, all of these factors depend a lot on individual circumstances. We’ve all been to hair appointments where we ask for an inch off the bottom and end up with our hair up by our ears (or a very close cut, for the men in the audience). Hair stylists need to understand the growth pattern of hair to appropriately address any concerns you may have about your individual hair health. For any individual person who has concerns about the health of their hair, the best option is always to develop a relationship with a good hair stylist, who will have the knowledge and skills to give you the best advice for your hair and lifestyle.
The last word on trims
Hair trimming is probably a good idea, and it does offer some benefits in terms of the physical health of your hair, but the most important effect of regular hair trims may just be knowing that your hair looks exactly the way you want it to. Expressing control over your physical appearance can lead to more confidence and a better self image, so go out there and seize the trim, and promise yourself a better hair future.