The Basics of Hair Growth

General Hair Loss

From the day we are born we have hair on the scalp and over the body. This post explains the basics of how hair grows, and how best to maintain hair over the course of your lifetime

Individual pigmentation will dictate the colour of hair. A baby can be born with a lot of hair which will gradually fall out during the first year and change its colour. Care needs to be taken with hair from the beginning in order to keep a good head of hair through life. Gentle washing and massaging the scalp to stimulate the blood vessels is a good start.

To keep a healthy head of hair the follicles need to receive plenty of vitamins and minerals and so a good well-balanced diet is required. During illness, shock, surgery, pregnancy, hormonal problems, accident, depression etc. the body will use these nutrients elsewhere and the hair can become dull, limp and in extreme cases fall out. For the majority of these conditions hair will return to normal once the condition has been treated and cured.

In order to grow the hair has a constant three stage cycle which it can go through about 20 times in a normal life time. The first phase is the anagen phase and is the growing stage when the hair will grow around 1 cm a month and can stay in this active stage for up to 7 years. Next is the catagen phase which ends the active stage and is known as the transitional phase. This lasts for around 2-3 weeks during which the hair forms into a club hair ready to die and fall out. When this is fully formed the telogen phase is entered also known as the resting phase and can last for up to 3 months. As the club hair is finally dead it will fall out. When the body is under extreme stress more hair goes into this phase than is normal and this is when a greater hair loss can be seen.

These stages will be repeated over and over throughout a life time. The formation of the hair follicle is known as the follicular morphogenesis and will start before the growing cycle. At any one time there is normally 90% of hair follicles in the anagen phase, 10-14% in the catagen and 1-2% in the telogen phase. If the body is in extreme distress as much as 70% can go into the telogen phase and this is why hair loss in great numbers can be seen after major incidents to the body. It will eventually settle down, the cycle resume and hair restored.

Sometimes help may be need in order to cover balding patches or thinning hair until it can get back to normal. There are two medications that can sometimes help those with genetic hair loss but also those experiencing temporary loss. Minoxidil can be used by both men and women, applied directly onto the scalp on a daily basis it helps to dilate the blood vessels around the hair follicles so encouraging more minerals to reach the follicles. Propecia can only be used by men over the age of 18, is taken orally, and works by inhibiting the male sex organ DHT which damages hair follicles. Propecia users should however be aware that the active ingredient finasteride has been linked with some serious side effects in many users.

Once these treatments are stopped the hair will resume its normal pattern. Hair is open to all the elements from both the inside and out. The environment plays a big part in the condition and growth of hair. Hot sunny days can leave the hair dry and brittle as the sun dries up the hair’s natural oils, sweat and dirt can block the hair follicles which could cause damage. Wearing a hat can help as can washing the hair in a good mild shampoo and conditioner which will help to restore the hairs natural balance. The wind and rain can leave residues on the hair shafts, strip them of their oil and moisture and leave the scalp feeling gritty. Again washing and caring for the hair is essential.

Hair styles can cause harm to the hair particularly those that pull the hair back tightly and tied at the back of the head. The constant pulling will put a strain on the hair follicles and cause them to shrink until they can no longer hold hair.

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