At one point or another in a woman’s life, we all have the dream of having long, flowing locks of hair. Sometimes, though, that dream gives us a quick reality check when we encounter things like slow hair growth, split ends, chemical damage and dry, brittle strands.

If these are the kinds of things that you personally battle with while trying to make your hair grow longer and faster, we have some proven tips that can correct those issues and get you well on your wall to that shiny and bouncy ponytail that you’ve always wanted.

Watch your diet. Sometimes we forget that the hair that we are actually looking at is already dead in the sense that it has no nerve endings or blood circulating through it (that’s why we can cut it and it doesn’t hurt when we do). However, as a dead fiber, hair is still pretty resilient and fragile. Therefore, we have to keep in mind that while it is preparing to grow out of our scalp, there are some vital nutrients that it needs. This means that it’s important to eat right by getting plenty of protein, fiber and leafy green vegetables. Take a multivitamin daily that contains biotin and B-complex. And drink plenty of water to moisturize your scalp.

Deep condition. Your hair needs plenty (we mean, lots and loads) of moisture and this would require some consistent and intense conditioning. Now, depending on the kind of hair that you have, there are different ways to approach this. If you are Caucasian or Asian, a hot oil treatment once or twice a month may suffice because your hair already produces quite a bit of natural oils. If you are African-American or you have a naturally tight curl pattern, your hair tends to be drier. Aside from deep conditioning it when you shampoo (or co-shampoo with conditioner) your hair, you also might want to purchase a light leave-in conditioner as well.

Keep the heat to a minimum. When the heat is too high on your iron and you run it across a silk shirt, what happens? It singes, right? This is how you should look at your hair every time that you pull out your blow dryer or flat iron. When it comes to styling, these tools may seem to be more convenient, but again, you hair is a type of fiber and so it needs to be handled with extreme care. If you can let it air dry, that’s the preferable option. If you don’t have the time, make sure to get a heat-protecting spray and to spray your hair thoroughly with it before using any kind of heating tool (and make sure that it’s set on low if at all possible).

Get a trim. It’s a popular myth that getting your hair trimmed helps it to grow faster. The actual truth is that getting it trimmed keeps the split ends at bay, which, in turn, causes your hair to growth healthier; the better care that you take for the ends of your hair, the greater chance that you will have for it to reach its full length potential. A lot of people don’t want to follow this particular tip, but even if you eat right, use a hair plus shampoo and style your hair without heat, there’s going to come a time when you will still need to get a ½ inch or so cut off of your hair’s ends (even if it’s just 2-3 times per year). Don’t stress about it too much. Ultimately, you’ll be glad that you did it.

Keep the pressure off. Low-maintenance styles are best as you’re trying to grow your hair out. That’s because the more pulling and tugging and chemical use and coloring, the more stress that you end up putting on your hair, which leads to having to do a lot of damage control, sometimes before it’s too late. Try your best to take a really simple approach to your hair by keeping it as natural as possible and using as few tools and products as possible too. If your hair feels free and natural, it will start to look that way too.