What is Hair Loss?
Hair loss refers to a condition where there is absence of or thinning of the hair on one or more areas of the scalp. Hair loss can be classified largely into male pattern baldness (MPB)/ androgenic alopecia (AA) or Female Hair Loss.
Hair loss commonly occurs as a result of a reaction between male hormones and hormone sensitive hair follicles.
Human Hair Growth Cycle
Hair forms in a pouch-like structure below the skin called a hair follicle. What we see as hair is actually the hair shaft, which is the keratinized, hardened protein made up of three layers that grow from the follicle. Keratin is not a living sturucture; therefore our visible hair is actually dead. The three layers of the hair are the medulla, cortex, and cuticle. The cortex makes up the majority of the hair shaft and together with the medulla is responsible for giving hair pigment.
Unlike other mammals, human hair growth and shedding is random versus seasonal or cyclical. Human hair growth is not dependent on the seasonal environment like other mammals who grow thicker coat of hair for warmth and shed in the summer. Humans have hair growth on every part of the body, however, most of these hairs are fine and pale (vellus hair) and it is usually invisible to the naked eye. The thick pigmented hair found on the scalp, legs, arms, underarms, backs, eyebrow, and genital areas are called ‘terminal hair’.
Hair growth patterns differs for every individual with the growth depending on their age, weight, metabolism, hormones, ethnicity, life patterns and other factors. Hair grows approximately 15cm per year and it goes through three distinct growth phases; anagen, catagen or telogen phase.
Being the active phase of hair growth, cells in the hair root are rapidly dividing forming new hairs and prompting hairs that have stopped growing to regrow. During the anagen phase, hair grows approximately one centimeter per 28 days. On average hair spends two to six years in the active phase on the scalp and 30 to 45 days for body hair such as arms, legs, eyebrows and eyelashes.
This phase, also known as the ‘transition phase’ occurs at the end of the anagen phase. At this stage the active growth of hair is halted and it lasts for about two to three weeks. During this time, hair is converted to what is called a ‘club hair’. Club hair is a dead, fully keratinized hair in the telogen phase. At one given time three percent of all hair is thought to be in the catagen phase.
The last phases is the telogen phase, also known as the resting phase of the hair follicle. Once the hair has been fully converted into ‘club hair’ in the catagen phase, the shedding of hair begins with these fully keratinized dead hair falling out causing hair loss. On average, people shed anywhere from twenty to one hundred telogen hairs daily.
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