Why oh why is my hair falling out, we hear you saying! Well firstly, please be reassured that you are certainly not alone. There are many reasons for this and if you are a woman, this is a very common problem that is becoming more worrying for more women now, than even a decade ago. In fact, there are millions of women the world over asking this very question. Why is my hair falling out?
What Do We Mean By Hair Falling Out ?
Hair falls out every day, in fact up to about 100 hairs falling out each day is normal. This is due to the normal hair growth, hair regrowth cycle. Hair is continuously growing and falling out, that’s the natural order of normal healthy hair.
When that cycle gets disrupted, the amount of hair in the falling phase increases.
The key to understanding why we might lose our hair is to understand how our hair functions in the first place. The human body grows three different types of hair: vellus hair, lanugo hair, and terminal or androgenic hair.
Vellus hair is the fine, downy hair (aka ‘peach fuzz’) that covers most of our body. Although it’s usually almost invisible, it may be more visible on some people than on others, and may increase in visibility during puberty. It is ‘designed’ to help regulate our body temperature.
Lanugo hair is almost like a fine fur which covers babies in utero. Once a baby is born, lanugo hair becomes vellus hair. In some cases, lanugo hair may reappear later in life, for example, individuals with anorexia often grow lanugo hair.
Terminal or androgenic hair is the type of hair that you’re probably most concerned about. Terminal hair is the hair on our heads, genitals and various other places on our bodies. This hair is usually visible, and unless mentioned otherwise, the type of hair we are focusing on here.
Terminal or androgenic hair grows in distinct cycles, and it is when these cycles are disrupted, affected or changed that we experience hair loss. The normal function of these cycles can be a result of many different variables, including genetics.
Hair Growth Cycles
Hair growth is cyclical, passing through three main phases: the growth phase (anagen), the rest phase (catagen), and finally, the shedding phase (telogen).
The anagen or ‘growth’ phase can last for two to six years depending on genetics. During this time, the cells in the root of each individual strand of hair are quickly dividing, and each hair will grow at the average rate of around 1 cm every 28 days. Interestingly, hair grows faster in summer than in winter!
The catagen, ‘rest’ or ‘transitional’ phase lasts for a few weeks after the anagen phase is finished. During this time, the hair follicle shrinks and cuts the hair off from its blood supply. The follicle pushes the disconnected hair closer to the surface of the skin as the follicle renews itself.
The telogen or ‘shedding’ phase can last anywhere from one to four months. During this time, some hair remains anchored to the follicle while not actually growing, yet others will fall out. At any one time, around 15% of your hair could be in the telogen phase. These are the hairs you see falling when you brush or wash your hair. Once a hair has been shed, the follicle will re-enter the anagen phase and re-commence the cycle.
Depending on the type of hair loss you have, this cycle is affected in some way either temporarily or permanently. For example, in hereditary hair loss, this cycle can become a lot quicker and it may take only months for a new hair to be shed—in some cases a new hair may not replace the recently shed hair at all.
Here is a list of some of the most common causes of hair loss in women, and links to further information on each one:
Read more about hair loss in women over 50:
Certainly a very common occurance, but usually nothing to worry too much about. Read more about post partum hair loss here.
There are many causes as you have seen and certainly the ideal objective is to look for a cure to female hair loss. For further reading on how to cure female hair loss, you may find that reading this article may be helpful.
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