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Understanding Hair Growth Cycles as it Relates to Hair Loss

Men and women, whether they suffer from hair loss or not, have a certain number of hair follicles residing in their scalp. What some may not know, however, is that not all of these follicles are producing hair at the same time. Hair follicles go through stages that affect whether they are actively growing, resting, or dormant. Hair loss can be related to growth phases when one understands how each of these phases presents itself.

Hair Loss and the Active Growing Phase

The active growing phase is known as Anagen. This the period when the hair follicle is actively producing new hair and the hair on your scalp gets longer. For all intents and purposes, the Anagen phase represents the exact opposite of hair loss. Though all hair on the body and scalp share the same phases of growth, rest, and dormancy, the duration of each of these cycles differs. The Anagen stage for follicles located on the scalp typically lasts between 3-5 years. At any one given point in time, about 90% of your hair is actively growing before the onset of hair loss takes place.

Interestingly, not everyone’s hair grows at exactly the same rate. Most people will experience hair growth at a rate of about 6 inches per year with most of the hair in the scalp growing at roughly the same rate, but there are certainly exceptions. Some people will find that their scalp follicles remain in the Anagen phase for slightly different periods of time, some longer and some shorter. This can affect the appearance of hair loss in that the more active hair one has growing, the more hair they can see. Though scalp hair, when active, grows on average for up to 5 years, some people are genetically predisposed to longer periods of active growth. This could delay the onset or appearance of hair loss as the longer it is actively growing, the longer it remains out of the resting or dormant phase. Since most people’s hair grows at a rate of 6 inches per year, five years of active growth if not cut would result in a length of 30 inches. However, some people obviously have hair longer than this. These are people whose active growing phase is clearly longer than 5 years or whose rate of growth is faster than 6 inches per year.

Hair Loss and the Resting Phase

After hair has endured its long active growing, or Anagen, phase, these hairs move into the resting, or Catagen, phase. This is the phase when hair still may appear on the scalp, but the follicle which the hair is attached to has ceased to produce any new hair. During this phase which usually last about one month, the hair is susceptible to breakage which can certainly mimic hair loss. Even if people aren’t experiencing progressive hair loss, the hair loss during the resting phase can be anywhere from 50-100 hairs per day! It is during this phase when people often see large amounts of hair on their brush or in the shower stall and fear the onset of legitimate, long term hair loss.

Hair Loss and the Dormant Phase

Some hairs continue to remain attached to the follicle during the resting, or Catagen, phase as described above. However, it is during the dormant, or Telogen, phase that hairs are destined to fall out. The Telogen phase as it relates to hair loss is probably the most critical, for it is here where hairs either remain in the dormant phase or move back into the Anagen phase and begin to grow again. Those who suffer from hair loss will find that the normal duration of the dormant phase of three to four months actually may become an extended, and often indefinite, period of time. Hair in dormancy can easily equate to hair loss as the follicle is not growing new hair while it remains in this phase, yet hair is being lost at a rate of 50-100 hairs per day for an extended period of time! That can equal a lot of hair loss!

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