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Myths about Hair Shedding

Monday, March 22, 2010

This article was posted on March 22nd, 2010 on the Columbus Natural Hair Examiner by Angela Smith under the title “Shedding the most common myths about shedding hair”.

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While it may seem an inanimate structure, the hair that covers your scalp is actually a collection of living, growing strands that develop individually in four unique cycles; anagen, catagen, telogen and exogen. The first phase, anagen, is where hair strand is actually growing and can last anywhere from three to seven years. For most, approximately 80 to 90% of hair follicle are in the anagen phase where the hair grows consistently at an average rate of half an inch per month. The second phase, catagen, is the part of the cycle where the individual hair strand stops growing, detaches from its blood supply and is pushed closer to the surface of the scalp. It is estimated that at any given time 2 to 3% of hair is in the catagen state, which lasts an average of two to four weeks before hair reaches telogen, the hair’s resting phase. The telogen leg of hair’s journey lasts approximately three months and involves about 10 to 15% of all the hair present.

Exogen is quite possibly the most noticeable part of the growth cycle because it involves hair strands being naturally shed from the head. Coming in on the tail end of the telogen phase, it is estimated that the scalp rids itself of 50 to 100 strands each day through the exogen phase. While this may seem like a lot, consider the fact that the average dark haired beauty is has 110,000 follicles taking part in of all phases of the growth cycle. For red heads that number decreased to 90,000 but for blondes it is dramatically increased to 130,000. Once the hair strand is shed, a new hair replaces it and the cycle begins again. It is believed that the average follicle grows about twenty new hairs in its lifetime.

Because the final phase of hair development has to do with losing hair, it is understandable that it draws more attention than its three predecessors. Although it is a natural, normal part of hair’s development, the exogen process can cause distress and be easily mistaken for alopecia, the medical definition of hair loss, if it seems more hair is being shed than what you’re used to seeing. So how can be sure you are really experiencing your hair’s regenerative process and not falling victim to the early signs of alopecia? Here are a few tell-tales signs of normal shed.

  • If you are prone to wearing washouts and protective styles for extended periods of times between hair washes or manipulation, shed hair that would normally be removed via grooming remains “trapped” within the style, and gives the appearance of increased loss when shampooed, detangled or restyled.
  • Although it may appear that a switch in cleansing products, the introduction of new styling implements or a change in how vigorously the hair is washed produces more shed hair, realistically these processes only causes hair that is already in the final stage of exogen to be shed quicker than it would had it been left alone.
  • For many, shedding is normally increased during the time of the year when fall transitions to winter, which, ironically, is when more hair goes through the telogen phase. Up to 20% in some. Normal shedding can see an increase when winter transitions to spring as well. This is known as seasonal shedding.
  • Hair that is shed during the exogen phase normally falls off with a visibly white-ish bulb, known as the telogen club, attached from where it met the scalp. If the hairs you’re noticing do not have this bulbed end, chances are they are parts of strands that have been broken off, not shed.

While most shedding is nothing to cause alarm, increased shedding that continues over a prolonged period and/or is not replaced by a growth cycle could be the early signs of a more serious condition. If this is something that you’re experiencing, a consultation with your physician or dermatologist is highly recommended.

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I hope this dispells some myths,

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Thursday, March 25, 2010 2:33 PM

    Thank you so much so the re-post!

    • Tuesday, March 30, 2010 4:10 PM

      No problem. It was a very informative article.

  2. Monday, March 22, 2010 9:44 PM

    very imfomative and it cleared some things up for me

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