All of your hair is dead. From the mane that you have growing atop your head to the mop that clogs the drain in your shower. All dead.
Despite these statements being incredibly ominous, they are actually true, but you do not need to be alarmed.
Your hair is made up of keratin, which is a protein that is produced in hair follicles in the outer layer of your skin. When these follicles produce new hair cells the old cells are pushed through to the surface of your skin. This happens at the approximate rate of six inches per year.
Reiterated: All of the hair that you currently have on your head is made up of dead keratin cells.
Each of your hair follicles has its own, unique individual phase of hair growth. If they did not have this strangely out-of-sync cycle then you would go completely bald every time your hair went through a growth cycle.
Hair growth cycles happen in three phases:
1) Anagen - This is the growth phase of your hair. The cells divide and reproduce rapidly which results in the growth of new hair. If you feel like you have diminished hair growth that is because your anagen phase is short.
2) Catagen - At the end of your Anagen phase, an as of yet unknown signal results in your follicle moving to the next phase. This is called the Catagen phase, which is considered to be transitional. Hair follicles undergo a process that cuts the blood supply from the scalp as these follicles move closer to the surface of your skin. This is when your hair is pushed out of your scalp, and you consider it to be 'growing'. It is actually dead keratin being pushed out by the next Anagen phase.
3) Telogen - In this phase, your hair follicle is considered to be resting. Resting is a pleasant term for falling out, otherwise known as hair loss. This means that there is no new growth happening below the surface to push the dead keratin out of your scalp. This is what we consider balding.
Doctors do not know for certain as yet why particular hair follicles appear to be programmed to have shorter growth periods than others. There are a few factors that they believe influence hair loss, however.
Genetics are believed to drastically influence a person's predisposition to baldness. It is commonly stated that you can know if you will lose your hair if your mother's father had hair loss. This has been proven to be a complete myth. Your hair loss genes, much like the rest of your genetic expression, are inherited from both sides.
If you have any hair loss on either side of your family you are at risk.
A poor diet has been linked to temporary hair loss. If you are protein deficient or lack essential nutrients you can expect your hair to thin.
Hormones are linked directly to hair loss. DHT (dihydrotestosterone) is a derivative of the male hormone testosterone and is the absolute antithesis of hair growth. This is the root cause of most male/female pattern baldness. This link to testosterone also causes the traditionally higher numbers of hair loss in men compared to women.
What can you do about hair loss? Is there a cure for baldness? Find out more in our next post.