While hair may seem like a small detail in the scheme of things, it is a natural reflex to make a judgment based on the way someone colours and styles their hair, as well as how much or how little hair they have. So, when someone begins losing his or her hair, it can be quite distressing. Unfortunately, hair loss does not become detectable until around 50% of one’s normal hair is lost.
Because of this, oftentimes, men and women don’t seek help until they have lost a significant amount of hair. Thankfully, with the modern hair restoration techniques available today, hair loss can be effectively controlled and reversed.
Hair Growth Cycle
The most important part of hair growth is the dermal papilla, which is responsible for hair growth and the formation of new hair follicles. The hair follicle lies beneath the scalp skin and is the only living portion of the hair. The individual hair strands that emerges from the scalp, are the hair shafts and are considered as ‘dead’ as they have no blood supply. The hair follicles on the scalp are not solitary structures but arranged in groups of 1 to 4 hair follicles or follicular units.
The average human has between 110,000 and 150,000 hair follicles on the scalp. Of these hair follicles, we loss 50-100 of these hairs every day that need to be continually replaced by the ongoing hair growth cycle. The hair grows in an asynchronous pattern consisting of 3 distinct phases, anagen, catagen and telogen.
Around 85 to 90% of your hair follicles are in the anagen phase at any point in time and is the phase where the hair is actively growing. The anagen phase can last anywhere from 2 to 7 years, where the hair can grow at a rate of 1cm per month.
The next phase of the hair growth cycle is catagen, or the regressing phase. In this phase, hair follicles shrinks and detaches from its normal blood supply. The catagen phase lasts 2 to 3 weeks and is a signal for the follicle to shed the hair shaft.
The final phase of the hair growth cycle is telogen, or the resting phase. It affects 5 to 15 percent of your scalp’s follicles at any given time. Telogen lasts for 3 to 4 months, before it re-enters the next anagen phase and the cycle continues.
What Happens During Hair Loss?
For most men and women suffering with hair loss is its due to inherited genetics. While outside factors can and do play a role in hair loss, 95% of men and 50% of women suffer from hair loss due to male pattern or female pattern baldness. In other instances, high levels of stress, hormonal changes or other medical conditions can stress the hair growth cycle, forcing your hair follicles into the resting stage prematurely. While some of these bodily changes can lead to temporary hair loss, such as what happens to women during pregnancy. Other times, however, the hair loss that occurs from these outside stressors is permanent.
Male Pattern Baldness
Over 50% of men will experience some degree of hair loss by the time they reach their 50’s. And for many, hair loss will occur far earlier whilst they are in their 20s and 30s. For most men who suffer with hair loss or baldness, it is due to a condition known as ‘Androgenetic Alopecia’, better known as male pattern baldness.
Male pattern baldness is characterized by the conversion of thick healthy (terminal) hair into thin fine (vellus) hair occurring in a predictable pattern. Men typically see hair loss starting in the crown, followed by thinning around the hairline, before the mid-anterior scalp is affected.
The hereditary condition occurs when a male hormone (dihydrotestosterone) causes specific hair follicles to shrink and produce abnormal hair with a shorter life. In male pattern baldness, the hair follicles on the sides and back of the head are usually resistant to hair loss. This means that there is still a large quantity of hair follicles that can serve as donor hair follicles for potential hair transplantation to the scalp. The areas used to gather donor hair for a transplant are genetically programmed to remain forever, which means the donor areas will never undergo hair loss.
Female Pattern Baldness
Androgenic alopecia that occurs in men, can also affect women and leads to female pattern baldness. The pattern of hair loss in women is different to men, with thinning starting around the hair part, before leading to widening of the part and then more widespread thinning on the scalp. The cause of female pattern baldness is similar to men, with susceptible hair follicles to the presence of dihydrotestosterone hormones.
Other Conditions Causing Hair Loss
Other conditions that can disrupt hair growth cycles or even destroy hair follicles include certain medical and scalp conditions, nutritional deficiencies, medications, hormonal imbalances, physical trauma, and even hair care practices and styles. Once hair loss begins, it is commonly a slow, gradual process that may occur in certain areas of the scalp, or all over. Unfortunately, once hair loss is detected by the naked eye, almost 50% of hair in that region has been lost. This is usually when panic sets in, as the person never realized they were losing their hair, until it became noticeable.