Understanding your hair
All of your hair follicles were already formed by the time you were a 22 week old fetus. There are about 5 million hair follicles on the body, with a total of one million on the head, one hundred thousand of those follicles are on the scalp. As we do not generate new hair follicles during the rest of our lives this is the largest number of hair follicles a person will have.
The hair grows about 0.3 to 0.4 mm/day or about 10 cm per year and passes through four stages:
- Growing Phase (Anagen)
In this phase the hair cells divide rapidly and hair grows about 1 cm every 28 days. The length of our hair is determined by the angen phase which lasts from 2 to 6 years.
- Transition Phase (Catagen)
This transitional stage lasts about 10 days. The hair follicle detaches from the blood vessels and blood supply is cut off.
- Resting Phase (Telogen)
The hair follicle rests in this phase before starting the growing phase again. At any given time, around 10-15 % of the hair is in this phase which lasts around 3 months. Excess shedding and noticeable thinning can occur if hair follicles enter the resting phase too early or stay too long.
- New Hair Phase (Exogen)
This is a continuation of the resting phase where the old hair sheds off and new hair grows. During this phase 50 to 150 hairs are normally shed off daily.
Different causes of hair loss
Normally between 100 and 150 hairs are shed off in a day. There are several reasons why more hair is lost such as:
- Severe stress whether emotional or due to physical trauma such as surgery, a severe illness, a car accident, or sudden weight loss can result in temporary hair loss which becomes more obvious 3 to 6 months after the trauma. However the good news is that as your body recovers your hair will start growing back.
- Hair treatments and over-styling like hair dyes, perms, straighteners, curling irons, high heat, tight braids and over-brushing can actually affect the hair root, and your hair might not grow back. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using conditioner after every shampoo and avoiding these styles and treatments.
- Pregnancy related hair loss usually occurs more after the delivery of the baby.
- Too much vitamin A containing supplements or acne medications containing vitamin A (retinoids) can trigger hair loss according to the American Academy of Dermatology. The Daily Value for Vitamin A is 5,000 IU (International Units) per day for adults.
- Unbalanced diet such as vitamin B deficiency and a drop in protein intake cause hair loss. Vitamin B is found in fish, meat, non-citrus fruits and starchy vegetables.
- Aging even though experts aren’t sure why this happens but it’s very common for women to loose hair as they enter their 50s and 60s.
- Anabolic steroids which are abused by some athletes to bulk up muscle cause hair loss.
- Trichotillomania is an “impulse control disorder” causing people to involuntarily pull their hair out. It usually begins before the age of 17 and is 4 times more common in women than men.
- Medical Conditions such as thyroid disorders, skin conditions (such as psoriasis and dermatitis) and iron deficiency anemia can trigger hair loss. Also Polycystic ovary syndrome which causes an excess of androgens (male hormones) causes hair loss, changes in your menstruation, infertility & weight gain, Consult with your doctor to treat the underlying medical condition.
- Several medications can cause hair loss such as birth control pills, certain blood thinners or chemotherapy.
The different types of alopecia (hair loss)
Alopecia is the latin word for hair loss.
Androgenic Alopecia is the medical term for the genetic hair loss conditions also called Male pattern baldness & Female pattern hair loss.It is the most common form of hair loss and sometimes hits as early as the late teens or early twenties. It occurs when enzymes in the body begin turning the hormone testosterone into its derivative, dihydrotestosterone, which shrinks the hair follicles.
Alopecia Areata is due to an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the hair follicles. The exact causes are unknown, but it is believed to be triggered by stress and traumatic events. Hair is lost in round patches. It is called Alopecia Totalis if hair loss progresses to the entire scalp and Alopecia Universalis when in very extreme cases the hair loss occurs in the entire body.
Traction Alopecia is the result of excessive tension on the hair and breakage due to certain hair styles, such as braiding and tight ponytails or repeated treatments with chemicals, such as hair colouring and bleaching.
Ciatricial or Scarring Alopecia hair follicles are destroyed and replaced by scar tissue such as in burns or infections.
Caring for your hair
It all depends on the cause. Hair is lost due to several reasons, some are out of a person’s control like family history while others, such as over styling or poor nutrition are within the person’s control.
These tips can help halt your hair loss and provide you with a thick and shiny crown of hair:
Consult your doctor to uncover and treat any underlying medical condition.
The following two medications are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat hair loss:
- Minoxidil is an over-the-counter spray or foam that is rubbed into the scalp twice daily to prevent hair loss and regrow hair. It may be used by men and women.
- Finasteride is available only to men. it’s a prescription pill taken daily.