Hair is made up of keratin, which is a protein produced within the hair follicles on the uppermost layer of the skin. The follicles keep producing new hair cells and push out the old dead cells. The hair that you see on your head are compact strands made of dead keratinized cells.
At any given time, 90% or more of the hair on your scalp keeps growing. No two hairs have the same growth pace. In fact, each hair follicle goes through an entire growth cycle of its own, which is influenced by factors such as age, nutrition, illness, and also ethnicity.
It is because each hair follicle goes through a different growth cycle, that you shed only a certain number of hairs per day. If all the hairs on your head went through the same growth cycle, all your hair would fall off at once.
Between starting to grow and falling off, each strand of hair goes through three stages:
Anagen (Growing Phase) – is the hair growing phase, which can last between two to seven years. At any time, about 80% – 90% of the hairs on your head are in the anagen phase. The hairs in this phase grow from one centimetre to half an inch every 28 days. Your genetics determine the amount of time your hair follicle stays in the anagen phase.
Catagen (Regression Phase) – signals the end of the active growing phase and approximately 1% of the hair is in this phase at any given time. This phase of the hair lasts for around 10 to 14 days.
Telogen (Shedding Phase) – this is a resting phase, at the end of which your hair is released and it falls out, i.e., the resting hair stays in the follicle till it is pushed out by the growth of a new anagen hair. At any given time, 10% – 15 % of all hairs are in the telogen phase. The follicle then remains dormant for 3 months and the whole process recurs again.
Hair loss, also known as alopecia or baldness, refers to a loss of hair from part of the head or body.
Typically at least the head is involved.
The severity of hair loss can vary from a small area to the entire body.
Hair loss in some people causes psychological distress.
Symptoms of hair loss include hair loss in patches usually in circular patterns, dandruff, skin lesions, and scarring. Alopecia areata (mild – medium level) usually shows in unusual hair loss areas, e.g., eyebrows, backside of the head or above the ears, areas the male pattern baldness usually does not affect. In male-pattern hair loss, loss and thinning begin at the temples and the crown and hair either thins out or falls out. Female-pattern hair loss occurs at the frontal and parietal.
People have between 100,000 and 150,000 hairs on their head. The number of strands normally lost in a day varies but on average is 100.
To maintain a normal volume, hair must be replaced at the same rate at which it is lost. The first signs of hair thinning that people will often notice are more hairs than usual left in the hairbrush after brushing or in the basin after shampooing. Styling can also reveal areas of thinning, such as a wider parting or a thinning crown
A substantially blemished face, back and limbs could point to cystic acne. The most severe form of the condition, cystic acne, arises from the same hormonal imbalances that cause hair loss and is associated with dihydrotestosterone production.
Seborrheic dermatitis, a condition in which an excessive amount of sebum is produced and builds upon the scalp (looking like an adult cradle cap), is also a symptom of hormonal imbalances, as is an excessively oily or dry scalp. Both can cause hair thinning.
What causes hair fall?
First, your doctor or dermatologist (a doctor who specializes in skin problems) will try to determine the underlying cause of your hair loss. The most common cause of hair loss is hereditary male- or female-pattern baldness.
If you have a family history of baldness, you may have this type of hair loss. Certain sex hormones can trigger hereditary hair loss. It may begin as early as puberty.
In some cases, hair loss may occur with a simple halt in the cycle of hair growth. Major illnesses, surgeries, or traumatic events can trigger hair loss. However, your hair will usually start growing back without treatment.
Hormonal changes can cause temporary hair loss. Examples include:
Medical conditions that can cause hair loss include:
- thyroid disease
- alopecia areata (an autoimmune disease that attacks hair follicles)
- scalp infections like ringworm
Hair loss can also be due to medications used to treat:
A physical or emotional shock may trigger noticeable hair loss. Examples of this type of shock include:
- a death in the family
- extreme weight loss
- a high fever
People with trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder) have a need to pull out their hair, usually from their head, eyebrows, or eyelashes.
Traction hair loss can be due to hairstyles that put pressure on the follicles by pulling the hair back very tightly.
Oily hair, consider washing your hair only every other day. Always pat the hair dry and avoid rubbing your hair.
Styling products and tools are also common culprits in hair loss.
Examples of products or tools that can affect hair loss include:
- blow dryers
- heated combs
- hair straighteners
- coloring products
- bleaching agents
If you decide to style your hair with heated tools, only do so when your hair is dry. Also, use the lowest settings possible.
How to reverse hair loss
You can stop or even reverse hair loss with aggressive treatment, especially if it’s due to an underlying medical condition. Hereditary hair loss may be more difficult to treat. However, certain procedures such as hair transplants can help reduce the appearance of baldness.
Talk to your doctor to explore all your options to lessen the effects of hair loss.