Hair Growth Speed and Different Types of Hair Loss
Hair today, gone tomorrow! This statement has today become a reality for many as more and more people are experiencing hair loss at an alarming rate. Hair is an essential part of our appearance and has a huge role to play in determining how we feel about ourselves. Hair grows everywhere on the human skin, except for on the soles of our feet and the palms of our hands. However, at many places, the hairs are so fine that they are nearly invisible, which is why we are often surprised to hear that hair grows nearly everywhere on the human skin. As we age, losing our hair becomes part of the natural aging cycle. However, today there are many people who are experiencing different types of hair loss and often at an alarming rate. Your age, genetics, thyroid problems, hormones, medications, and even certain autoimmune diseases can all cause hair loss. The speed at which your hair grows also has a significant role to play in hair loss. Understanding hair growth speed and different types of hair loss is, therefore, crucial to preventing or slowing down hair loss. Let's take a look.
Understanding Hair Growth
Hair grows everywhere on the human skin except for the soles of your feet and the palms of your hand, but the hair across your body is so tiny and minuscule that they are often not visible to us. Hair grows out of follicles, which are like little pockets in your skin. According to data from the American Academy of Dermatology,(1) there are nearly 5 million hair follicles present on the human body. This also includes roughly 100,000 or so follicles present on your scalp.
Each strand of hair in humans grows in three stages. These include:
- Anagen: This is the most active growth phase of your hair. This stage lasts for anywhere between two to eight years.
- Catagen: This is the transition phase that takes place once your hair stops growing. This can last for anywhere between four to eight weeks.
- Telogen: This is the resting phase of hair which occurs once the hair falls out. This lasts for around two to three months.
The majority of your hair follicles present on the scalp are usually in the anagen phase, while at any given time, only 5 to 10 percent is supposed to be in the telogen phase.(2)
Even on the other parts of your body, the process of hair growth remains the same, except that the cycle of hair growth only lasts for around a month. This is the reason why the hair on other parts of your body is shorter than the hair on your scalp.
If you start to lose hair, then there are many factors responsible for this hair loss. Some of them include:
- Thyroid problems
- Autoimmune disease
There are also some other factors responsible for hair loss and how quickly your hair grows back after hair loss will depend on what is the underlying cause of your hair loss.
Hair Growth Speed in Different Types of Hair Loss
There are several factors that cause hair loss. Let us take a look at how long it takes for your hair to grow back depending on the underlying cause of your hair loss.
After a Bad Haircut
The hair on the scalp grows by about half an inch every month, meaning 6 inches in a year. Typically, male hair grows back at a slightly faster rate than female hair. However, if you have experienced a bad haircut, then also your hair will continue to grow back at the same rate itself. For example, if you had hair that was longer than shoulder length, and you got a haircut that made it into a very short bob, then it will take several years to grow back your hair to the same length it was before.
Alopecia areata is a common cause of hair loss. This is an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system starts attacking the body's hair follicles by mistake. In people having alopecia areata, the hair starts to fall out in small clumps or patches on the scalp. However, hair loss can also happen on some other parts of the body, including eyelashes, eyebrow, legs, and arms.
This condition is unpredictable and hair may also start to grow back at any given point of time, only to fall out again. It is not possible to determine when hair is going to grow back or when it will fall out.(3)
Pattern Hair Loss or Androgenetic Alopecia
As part of a normal aging process, some of the hair follicles stop producing hair. This condition is known as hereditary hair loss or pattern hair loss. It is also referred to as androgenetic alopecia. Many people suffer from this type of hair loss, which is usually permanent. This means that the hair will not grow back from the follicles. In fact, the follicle itself shrivels up and therefore, become incapable for regrowing any hair.
Men suffering from male pattern hair loss will eventually end up going bald, while female pattern hair loss will cause the hair to become thin, but it usually does not lead to complete baldness.
It is possible to slow down the hair loss in this case with a prescribed oral treatment known as Propecia (finasteride) or using a topical treatment known as minoxidil (Rogaine).(4)
Scalp psoriasis is a type of psoriasis. Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes the formation of scaly red patches on the skin, known as plaques. Scalp psoriasis is also a condition that can cause temporary hair loss and scratching your scalp to get relief from the itching or to remove the scales will only make the condition worse.
You need to find a suitable and effective treatment plan for your psoriasis and you also need to stop scratching your scalp. This will allow your hair to begin the growth process again.(5)
There are certain conditions that cause excessive production of the thyroid hormone, a condition known as hyperthyroidism, or too little thyroid hormone is produced, a condition referred to as hypothyroidism. This can also cause hair loss.
Hair tends to typically grow again once your thyroid disorder gets treated successfully.
Hormonal changes in women can cause hair loss. For example, many women experience severe hair loss following childbirth or also during menopause. Men also can experience hair loss due to certain changes in their hormonal makeup as they grow old. Hair loss due to hormonal changes in the body or due to hormonal imbalances is usually temporary. However, in such cases, it is still difficult to predict when your hair will start to grow back.
Nutrition deficiencies can also sometimes cause hair loss. If you are not getting sufficient zinc or iron in your diet, then this can lead to hair loss over a period of time. By correcting the nutritional deficiency, you will be able to regrow your hair. However, it may still take you a couple of months to regrow your hair.
Waxing or Shaving
Hair loss does not always have to be natural. You will lose your hair even through waxing or shaving. When you shave off your hair, you only end up removing the top layer or top part of the hair follicle. So, the hair will continue to grow back immediately and you will start to notice a stubble within just a day or two. When you are waxing, though, this removes the entire hair root from the follicle present below the skin. After waxing, it can take almost two to three weeks before you even begin to see some stubble. Normally, most people will require another session of waxing again after three to five weeks.
Losing Hair to Chemo
Chemotherapy is also another situation where one loses their hair. Chemotherapy is a popular therapy used in the treatment of cancer. Chemotherapy makes use of some potent medication that will attack the rapidly dividing cancer cells, but at the same time, this therapy also ends up attacking the hair follicles in the body - the scalp as well as other parts of the body. Chemotherapy causes rapid hair loss.(6)
Once your chemotherapy sessions are completed, your hair will start to grow back on its own within two to three weeks. The hair will come back as a soft fuzz at first, then after a month or two, you will start noticing that real hair has started growing back. It will grow at a normal speed of 6 inches per year.
However, this new hair might grow back in a different color or texture than before. There have been some rare instances, though, where hair loss from having to undergo many years of strong chemotherapy, has become permanent.(7)
Hair Growth After Telogen Effluvium
Telogen effluvium is a condition that occurs when there is a large number of hair follicles on your scalp that has entered the telogen, or resting, phase of the hair growth cycle - all at the same time. However, at the same time, while these multiple follicles have entered the resting phase, the next growth phase has still not started.
This causes the hair to fall out from all over your scalp, but there is no growth of new hair. This condition is generally caused by a medical condition or event, such as high fever, childbirth, surgery, or even certain medications such as birth control pills.
Telogen effluvium typically begins around three months after this suspected medical event and the hair starts appearing to be thinner, but it is unlikely that you will become completely bald.
This condition is completely reversible and once the event that triggered the hair loss gets treated or you recover from your medical condition, then your hair will start growing back again after a period of six months. However, hair loss due to telogen effluvium can actually last for several years in some people.(8)
Factors Affecting Regrowth of Hair
If you have suffered from hair loss and you are trying to regrow your hair, then you should be aware that there are several factors that affect the growth rate of hair. These include:
- Hormonal imbalance or hormonal changes
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Stress and anxiety
- Other medical conditions
You might not always be able to control all these factors, and your best bet is to consume a healthy and well-balanced diet. Also, drink plenty of water.
How to Support the Growth of your Hair?
While there is no sure shot way of making your hair grow faster, you should still follow certain guidelines that will help keep your hair as healthy as possible and will also prevent breakages as your hair passes through the three natural growth phases.
Some of the tips to support hair growth and keeping your hair healthy are discussed below:
- Consume a well-balanced and nutritional diet: It is important that you eat a well-balanced diet, especially foods that are high in iron, protein, and vitamin C. Since hair is almost completely made up of protein, consuming sufficient amount of protein is important for growing your hair.
- Take supplements with your doctor's advice: You can always ask your doctor to prescribe you with some supplements that include iron, folic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, biotin, omega-6 fatty acids, and zinc. However, take supplements only if you feel that you are lacking these particular nutrients in your food.
- Avoid exposing your hair to excessive heat and harsh chemicals.
- Don't tie your hair in tight ponytails or braids.
- Remove split ends by getting a regular trim every five to eight weeks.
- Try using a topical ointment for hair growth, such as Rogaine (topical minoxidil).
- Give yourself regular scalp massages when you are washing your hair so that you boost the blood flow to the scalp and hair follicles.
- Use a shampoo and conditioner that contains keratin or vitamin E.
Take the right steps to support and boost your hair regrowth. Hair transplant is also another option you can consider if you are faced with permanent hair loss.
Hair typically grows back at a rate of around 6 inches every year. If you are experiencing hair loss, then you should visit a doctor so that the underlying cause of your hair loss can be diagnosed. If there is a medical condition due to which you are experiencing hair loss, then chances are high that your hair loss will stop once you address the condition and receive treatment.
- Aad.org. (2019). How hair grows | American Academy of Dermatology. [online] Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/kids/hair/how-hair-grows [Accessed 21 Apr. 2019].
- Malkud, S., 2015. Telogen effluvium: a review. Journal of clinical and diagnostic research: JCDR, 9(9), p.WE01.
- Pratt, C.H., King Jr, L.E., Messenger, A.G., Christiano, A.M. and Sundberg, J.P., 2017. Alopecia areata. Nature reviews Disease primers, 3, p.17011.
- Adil, A. and Godwin, M., 2017. The effectiveness of treatments for androgenetic alopecia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 77(1), pp.136-141.
- Blakely, K. and Gooderham, M., 2016. Management of scalp psoriasis: current perspectives. Psoriasis (Auckland, NZ), 6, p.33.
- Randall, J. and Ream, E., 2005. Hair loss with chemotherapy: at a loss over its management?. European journal of cancer care, 14(3), pp.223-231.
- Trüeb, R.M., 2010. Chemotherapy-induced hair loss. Skin Therapy Lett, 15(7), pp.5-7.
- Malkud, S., 2015. Telogen effluvium: a review. Journal of clinical and diagnostic research: JCDR, 9(9), p.WE01.
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