The Basics Of Hair And Hair Growth
What is hair? Hair is a made up of a protein called keratin, which is produced in the hair follicles in the outermost layer of the skin or scalp. As your hair follicles produce new hairs, they are continuously pushing out old hairs at an average rate of 15 cm a year. The hair that you are currently brushing, combing and braiding is dead. On average, you will lose around 100 hairs a day, so finding a few hairs in your brush or comb isn’t any reason to panic because approximately 90% of the hair on your scalp is in the growing phase at any given time. There are 3 phases for the life cycle of your hair:
- Anagen Phase – Active hair growing that lasts between 2 to 6 years
- Catagen Phase – Transitional hair growth that lasts 2 to 3 weeks
- Telogen Phase – Resting phase that lasts 2 to 3 months. At the end of this phase you will shed hair and new hair will replace it. The growing cycle begins again.
Types Of Hair Loss
There a few types of hair loss, called alopecia:
- Involutional alopecia - Hair thins with age. More hair is in the resting telogen phase and shorter.
- Androgenic alopecia – Genetic condition affecting men as early as their teens or early 20’s, and women with noticeable thinning in the their 40’s. Men tend to show this type of hair loss with a receding hairline, and hairloss in the crown and frontal scalp. Women tend to have a general thinning all over the scalp and extensive hairloss in the crown.
- Alopecia areata – Patchy hair loss in children and young adults. May result in complete baldness known as Alopecia Totalis. Hair returns for 90% of sufferers in a few years.
- Alopecia universalis – hair loss all over the body, including the eyebrows, eyelashes and pubic hair.
- Trichotillomania – Psychological disorder mostly seen in children where the person pulls their own hair out.
- Telogen effluvium – Temporary hair thinning over the scalp where a large number of hairs are in the telogen resting phase at the same time.
- Scarring alopecias – Permanent hair loss due to infalmmatory skin conditiones, hot combs, chemicals and tightly woven and pulled hair.
What Causes Hair Loss?
We actually don’t know exactly why hair loss happens, but there are a few factors that can contribute to it:
- Hormones, such as abnormal levels of androgens
- Genes, from both male and female parents, may influence a person's predisposition to male or female pattern baldness.
- Stress, illness, and childbirth can cause temporary hair loss. Ringworm caused by a fungal infection can also cause hair loss
- Drugs, including chemotherapy drugs used in cancer treatment, blood thinners, beta-adrenergic blockers used to control blood pressure, and birth control pills, can cause temporary hair loss.
- Burns, injuries, and X-rays can cause temporary hair loss. In such cases, normal hair growth usually returns once the injury heals unless a scar is produced. Then, hair will never regrow.
- Autoimmune disease may cause alopecia areata. In alopecia areata, the immune system revs up for unknown reasons and affects the hair follicles. In most people with alopecia areata, the hair grows back, although it may temporarily be very fine and possibly a lighter color before normal coloration and thickness return.
- Cosmetic procedures, such as shampooing too often, perms, relaxers, bleaching, and dyeing hair can contribute to overall hair thinning by making hair weak and brittle. Tight braiding, using rollers or hot curlers, and running hair picks through tight curls can also damage and break hair. However, these procedures don't cause baldness. In most instances hair grows back normally if the source of the problem is removed. Still, severe damage to the hair or scalp sometimes causes permanent bald patches.
- Medical conditions. Thyroid disease, lupus, diabetes, iron deficiency, eating disorders, and anemia can cause hair loss. Most times, when the underlying condition is treated, the hair will return unless there is scarring as in some forms of lupus, lichen planus or follicular disorders.
- Diet. A low-protein diet or severely calorie-restricted diet can also cause temporary hair loa