What is the hair cycle? In laymen’s terms, a hair cycle is “the lifespan of a hair from sprouting to shedding.” The normal hair growth cycle is broken into three stages: anagen, catagen, and telogen. Hair growth is an ongoing process, and not every hair is growing or shedding at the same time. Makes you wonder how our hair doesn’t look uneven all the time, but the majority of our individual hairs are uneven anyways. 85% of our hair is growing, 15% is resting, and these percentages can vary on what stage it is in, and how far along in the stage it is.
Anagen – This is the growth phase of hair. Although the hair itself is dead and can’t really “grow”, the follicular bulb within the scalp is growing the hair out. This can last anywhere from 2-6 years.
Catagen – This is the resting phase of hair. Seeing as our hairs are almost always growing, when the hair enters this phase, it stops growing. During this stage, the hair turns into a “club hair”, or the tip becomes club-shaped. The follicle attaches to the shaft of the hair, cutting off its blood supply and suffocating it. This is a 2-3 week period of transition, however hair the can “rest” for up to four months.
Telogen – This is the last phase of a hair’s life cycle. It is known as the shedding and the hair growth phase. Hairs shed at a normal volume, about 10% of your total hair, nothing to be worried about. Following this stage, the anagen phase starts back up again. The telogen phase lasts between 2-4 months before the hair is shed completely, pushed out by a newly forming hair.
What is shedding?
As briefly noted in the telogen phase, shedding is the ejection of hair from the scalp wherein a new hair is forming/sprouting. The normal human sheds about 100 hairs a day between grooming, showering, and other daily activities. However, shedding can sometimes shift from an acute behavior that is normal, to a chronic behavior that tends to become a disorder.
The most common disorder of shedding is known as “Telogen effluvium.” It is a temporary increase in shedding, usually causing the telogen phase to last longer than normal. It can be an ongoing disorder, but in most cases it will work itself out. There is another form of hair loss that is chronic, known as “anagen effluvium,” or more commonly “alopecia areata,” when the growing phase of hair is interrupted due to an immune system disorder that attacks hair in the anagen stage. Hairs at this stage become very thin, but this is different from thinning hair.
Just because someone is starting to shed though does not mean they should panic. As mentioned, shedding is a normal part of the hair life cycle. Only when it becomes a chronic condition, like in Telogen effluvium, should it cause concern. Furthermore, even in cases of Telogen effluvium, the disorder may work itself out pending on what has caused it. There are multiple triggers that can cause a temporary increase of hair loss:
- Illnesses that come with a fever
- Certain medications
- Discontinued use of oral contraceptives
- Sudden change in weight loss or diet
- Excessive sun exposure
All of these triggers can cause a chronic shedding behavior. The best way to treat Telogen effluvium, or chronic shedding, is to take care of the hair during this time. Try intense hair care treatments designed to nourish the hair and give it the nutrients it needs. There are many hair care shampoos and conditioners out there, and you can always try more organic treatments such as herbal remedies or scalp massages with natural oils.
Hair Loss and Hair Regrowth
The biggest concern about chronic hair loss or shedding is when someone is trying to promote hair growth. Commonly, when someone has been balding, or their hair starts to thin, they turn to medications and hair care products to start growing their hair back. A common side-effect that may be experienced when using hair care treatments and/or products to regrow hair is shedding.
This side-effect should be more easily understood now that you know about the hair growth cycle. If you are balding, or your hair is thinning, and you decide to use a hair growth product, your weak/thin hairs will enter the shedding phase as new hair growth is stimulated beneath the scalp. During this transition, an increase of shedding will occur, with an initial large volume of hair loss. It may raise concern because a hair growth product is supposed to promote hair growth, but to grow hair, the weak hair needs to be ejected first so that it may be replaced by new, healthy hair.
Hair loss and shedding should be cleared up now. It’s usually not something to worry about, we lose 100 hairs a day, with 10% of our natural hair volume growing or shedding simultaneously. If your hair loss increases rapidly, evaluate the events in your life. Have you experienced stress or trauma, started a new died, or even a new hair care treatment? You need not worry unless the increase of shedding turns chronic. Then, consult a doctor.