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Understanding The Hair Growth Cycle (And What To Do If You’re Balding)

Hair growth isn’t something that most people think much about – until it stops. But did you know that the average person sheds and grows roughly 80 to 100 individual hairs per day? That’s a lot of activity! And for those who are balding, it’s imperative to understand how and why, so they can slow down the rate of hair loss and possibly reverse course.

The Hair Growth Cycle

By the time a fetus reaches week 22, it’s already developed all of its hair follicles – a total of roughly 5 million covering the body. This number, which consists of all of the hair follicles a person will ever have in their lifetime, includes one million follicles on the head. Roughly 100,000 of these are located on the scalp.

In order to understand the hair growth cycle and balding, it’s helpful to first understand the structure of the hair follicle itself. More specifically, you should know that each hair has two distinct features: (1) the follicle, which is located in the skin, and (2) the shaft, which is the visible portion that’s seen above the scalp.

“The hair follicle is a tunnel-like segment of the epidermis that extends down into the dermis,” WebMD explains. “The structure contains several layers that all have separate functions. At the base of the follicle is the papilla, which contains capillaries, or tiny blood vessels that nourish the cells.”

The living part of the hair can be found at the bottom portion that surrounds the papilla. This part is called the bulb and these cells divide every 23 to 72 hours. (This is significantly faster than any other cell in the entire body.)

Hair on the scalp grows at an average rate of .3 to .4 millimeters per day (or approximately six inches every year). And unlike other mammals, hair growth does not occur on a cyclical or seasonal basis. It’s completely random. At any point in time, each hair on your scalp is in one of three stages of growth or shedding. We call these stages anagen, catagen, and telogen.

Anagen Phase (Hair Growth)

The anagen phase is known as the hair growth phase. Approximately 80 to 90 percent of all hair follicles are in this stage at any given time. And, believe it or not, this phase can last between two and seven years. It’s during this season that new hairs are formed – pushing the hair up through the follicle and out.

People who have difficulty growing hair past a certain length have a short active phase of growth, while those with long hair have a much longer active phase.

Catagen Phase (Transition)

The catagen phase is known as a transitional period. Approximately three percent of all hairs are in this phase any time. It lasts between 10 to 21 days, on average. During this phase, all growth halts and the outer root sheath begins to shrink and attach to the root of the hair.

Telogen Phase (Resting)

Lastly comes the telogen phase, or resting period. Roughly six to eight percent of all hairs are in this stage at a given point in time. It lasts for a little over three months. Somewhere between 25 and 100 telogen hairs are shed on an average day.

After the telogen phase ends, the hair falls out and the process begins anew.

What to Do if You’re Balding

Hair loss, thinning, or balding occurs when the growth cycle is disrupted. This can be brought on by any number of factors, though it’s usually triggered by a metabolic imbalance, improper nutrition, or illness.

While it’s true that the average human sheds roughly 80 to 100 hairs per day, this doesn’t mean you have to settle for balding. With some simple steps, you can encourage the growth cycle to continue.

Depending on the cause of your hair loss, you might try:

  • Dietary improvements and/or supplements. Proper hair growth requires a balanced diet, including plenty of vitamin D, vitamin E, B complex vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin C, and biotin. The only way to get a healthy intake of all these vitamins is to consume a balanced diet of fresh foods (using supplements to boost intake and account for any deficiencies).
  • Low level light therapy (LLLT). Laser cap therapy uses LLLT technology to regenerate hair follicles by giving them increased blood flow and energy. It takes just 30 minutes per day and results can follow within weeks.
  • Medication. There are a couple of medications that you can take to stop balding and/or regrow hair. They include minoxidil (Rogaine) and finasteride (Propecia). These medications are usually pretty effective, though the results are dependent on using the medication. As soon as you stop, balding resumes.

In addition to these remedies, you can lower your risk of hair thinning and balding by maximizing and extending the anagen phase by keeping your body healthy. Make sure you’re staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of sleep.

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