What is normal about hair loss?

2004-10-09 23:50

It is important to note that shedding of hairs is a natural process with anything from 100 to 300 hairs randomly shed each day. In this article we'll look at two distinct aspects of normal hair loss. Firstly, we'll examine what is actually involved in the hair growth cycle. Secondly, we'll assess the natural progression of hair loss over time.

Hair is composed of long, twisted keratin fibers that are protected by a coating of keratinized cells. Just below the surface of the skin lies a cluster of active cells known as the dermal papilla and it is from here that the hair grows into its follicle.

This growing fiber eventually hardens and grows out from the scalp. At this stage the hair fiber is dead with only the root tip containing living cells.

In a little more detail, the hair growth cycle, consists of three distinct stages:

1. Anagen stage - a phase of growth that can last between two and seven years. On average, each hair grows about six inches (15cm) per year.

2. Catagen stage - a phase of transition that lasts roughly two to four weeks. At this time the hair shaft detaches from the dermal papilla and moves up within a shrinking follicle.

3. Telogen stage - a resting period that lasts about three months allowing the hair to detach itself from the follicle before falling out. After this, the cycle repeats itself unless other factors intervene to prevent repetition of the cycle.

Clearly time has a role to play in the development of hair loss for both men and women. Humans are born with varying amounts of soft and fine body hair. Through time some of this hair becomes stronger and develops further characteristics such as colour and texture. Up to the onset of puberty the hairline is characterized by a low spread across the forehead. For men, this continues only for a few more years.

As men progress through their twenties the hairline takes on a more mature look typified by recessions to the frontal temporal regions and accompanied by slight thinning elsewhere. This concave appearance doesn't necessarily equate to premature balding as it is all a question of degree.

The Norwood Scale is an extremely useful tool in developing a hair growth strategy as it allows you to establish your own degree of hair loss in a way that is understood by physicians and other hair loss experts. More importantly, it can help to set your mind at rest and allow you to differentiate between normal hair loss that does not require remedial action and more extreme loss that calls for immediate action.

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