The Hair Growth Cycle
Have you ever wondered how the hair on your scalp appears, grows or falls out? Understanding your natural hair growth cycle is key to your journey to combat hair loss. Think of it as a simple cycle of growth, rest and death. This tissue is then replaced by a healthy new tissue. Likewise, hair undergoes a natural cycle of growth, rest and fall, only to be replaced by a new healthier shaft. Let’s dive deep into different stages of hair growth while understanding multiple factors that disturb this natural cycle, causing abrupt hair fall.
THE STRUCTURE OF HAIR
Hair is made up of two separate structures: the hair follicle, which exists below the skin, and the hair shaft, which is the hair that we see.
The Hair Follicle is the living part of the hair containing cells and connective tissue. The papilla exists at the base of the hair follicle. It contains tiny blood vessels (capillaries) that nourish the cells. The bulb surrounds the papilla and is home to several types of stem cells that divide and produce cells which grow the hair every 23 to 72 hours, faster than any other cells in the body.
The Hair Shaft is the hair that we can see and is actually dead. It’s made up of a hardening protein called keratin. There are around 100,000 hair follicles on the scalp, which is why it is normal to lose up to 100 hairs a day (because there is plenty more where they came from!).
THE 3 STAGES
The normal hair growth system consists of three phases. Anagen – the growing phase, catogen – the transitional phase and telogen – the falling out stage.
THE ANAGEN PHASE
The growth, anagen phase, lasts in-between 2 - 6 years. However, in some people it is much less, resulting in shorter hair lengths, and in some people much longer. The length of this phase is dependent on your maximum hair length, which varies between people due to genetics, age, health and many more factors. An average hair will grow at a rate of around 1/2 an inch per month.
THE CATAGEN PHASE
At the end of the anagen – the growing phase of the hair enters the catogen – the transitional phase, where the hair prepares to rest and eventually fall out. On average this phase lasts approximately 10 – 14 days. During this phase the hair is still held in place in the hair follicle but stops growing. The follicle slightly collapses in preparation to release the hair so it falls out. These hairs are named club hairs.
THE TELOGEN PHASE
Finally the telogen phase is when, the hair is released and falls out of the hair follicle. As part of this phase the follicle then remains inactive for approximately 3 months and the whole process is repeated, starting again at the anagen – growing phase. Approximately 90% of our scalp hair is in the anagen – growing phase at one time. This is why we can have a regular hairstyle because, although each hair follicle acts independently of each other, the majority are in the same phase.
KEEP IT NATURAL
Hair needs to be in the Anagen phase for as long as possible in order for maximum growth. This can be aided by a balanced diet and lifestyle, the use of hair-care products, and the avoidance of preventable damage that may cause your hair development cycle to be disrupted.