When long hair is your ultimate goal, any kind of cut can seem counterintuitive. However, regular trims are essential, says John Mouzakis, stylist at Mixed Co. Salon in Chicago. "While this won't speed up hair growth, it will keep split ends at bay and prevent them from moving up the strand and causing breakage, which can make it look and feel like your hair isn't growing at all," he explains. Plan on going in for a trim every three months or so, and ask for a dusting (the tiniest of trims that only cleans up the ends). There's another benefit to regular trims, too: "Your stylist can also help re-shape your style, so that it looks good even during the growing out phase," adds Nick Pena, owner and lead stylist at SalonCapri in Boston.
Daily heat styling takes a major toll on your hair, resulting in split ends and breakage that will seriously stunt hair growth, Mouzakis says. The best bet is to avoid hot tools altogether, but if that's just not realistic, be sure to use a thermal protectant each and every time you blow dry, curl, or flat iron. Apply on wet hair, then comb through to distribute evenly prior to styling, advises Mouzakis, who likes Kérastase Resistance Ciment Thermique hair milk ($43; kerastase-usa.com).
Some of the most basic habits can lead to accidental breakage, or even rip your hair out at the root, says Pena. First, rethink how you brush. "Brushing downward, starting at the scalp, turns little tangles into one large knot," says Mouzakis. "Instead, start at the ends, and work your way up." Ponytails can also be an issue. "Pulling your hair back too tightly can cause breakage around your front hair line, creating short hairs that are also especially hard to style as you're growing out your hair," he says. Keep ponies loose, and use soft snag-free elastics.
There's no shortage of supplements that promise luscious locks. Many, such as Viviscal Extra Strength ($49.99; viviscal.com) and Nutrafol ($88; nutrafol.com), contain biotin, which helps metabolize amino acids and increase the production of keratin (the protein that makes up hair). It's not a bad idea to consider taking one, says Mouzakis, though he notes that a healthy diet and regular multivitamin work well, too. (As with any supplement, be sure to consult your doctor first.)
Just can't wait for long locks? Consider extensions, which are great for adding fullness and length, says Pena. Try an at-home, clip-in version if you want less of a commitment, or see a stylist to have them professionally sewn in. Keep in mind that the latter will require some upkeep, since they will start to grow out as your hair does, Pena says.