Hair is continually growing and shedding. Every day, the average person loses between 50 and 100 stands, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Only when this number exceeds the 100 mark is it considered a sign of a hair shedding condition called telogen effluvium. This condition differs from anagen effluvium, the medical term for hair loss, which occurs when something is stopping the hair from growing.
Hair growth occurs in three stages that occur in a set order. The stages repeat throughout the lifetime of a hair follicle. Since each strand grows independently of the others, across your scalp you have hairs at each stage of the hair growth cycle.
Stage One: The Anagen Phase
The anagen, or growth, phase is the most crucial phase for healthy hair. The length of this phase depends on the part of the body. Scalp hair can grow for up to seven years, while the growth phase of the eyebrows, armpits, and pubic area can be as short as four months. During the anagen phase, hair cells divide, new hair forms, and hair grows.
Stage Two: The Catagen Phase
Next is the catagen, or transitional, phase, which lasts only a few weeks. Less hair cell division occurs than in the previous phase. Changes also occur in the root, which becomes significantly shorter and separates from the dermal papilla, which is essentially the hair root.
Stage Three: The Telogen Phase
This is the last and final phase. The telogen, or resting, phase is usually two to four months long. The term “resting” is used to describe this stage of the hair growth cycle because there is no new cell division.
A subphase of telogen is the exogen phase. During this shedding subphase, the old hair detaches and falls out. Since hair growth is cyclical, the telogen phase ends and then the anagen phase typically begins again.
The Hair Growth Cycle & Hair Loss
When hair is healthy, there is both growing hair and shedding hair. If the growth cycle gets disturbed, the balance can become altered. For example, some people have a genetic predisposition for hair loss. They may experience hormonal changes that result in a shorter anagen phase. Androgenetic alopecia is a genetic condition that results in hair loss. Men can begin to lose their hair as early as their teens. Women usually don’t notice thinning until age 35 or later.
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