The 60-Second Baldness Test: Normal Hair Loss or Adrogenetic Alopecia?
Researchers from Yale University announced last week in the journal Cell their discovery that stem cells from adipose (fat) tissue may be used to stimulate hair follicles as a way to cure adrogenetic alopecia (baldness) in men. While the scientists are searching for cellular signals that are awakening dormant hair follicles, what are the signals that the average Joe can look for to tell him if he may be going bald before there is significant hair loss? According to dermatological research, there is a simple 60-second test men can do on a monthly basis to keep tabs on their hair’s health.
Hair Follicle Life Cycle
At any point in time, approximately 90% of the hair on your head is in its growth phase. The life cycle of a hair follicle consists of three phases. The first phase—called Anagen—is the time of active hair growth, which lasts between 2-6 years. The second phase—called Catragen—is a transitional phase and lasts 2-3 weeks. The third and final phase—called Telogen—is a resting phase that lasts about 2-3 months and is when the hair follicle is shed and replaced by a new growing hair follicle, starting a new cycle of hair growth.
Old Hair Loss Standard
The old standard for monitoring hair loss was that normal hair loss amounted to approximately 100 hairs per day. This was based on a theoretical assumption that the average scalp contains 100,000 hairs, of which 10% are in the telogen phase. That puts 10,000 telogen phase hairs on your head, of which another 10% have reached their roughly 100-day life span and are ready to be shed. This then translates to approximately 100 hairs being shed per day.
However, according to Carina Wasko, MD a researcher at the Department of Dermatology, Baylor College of Medicine, the 100 hairs/day estimate is too large. In a study using sixty healthy, non-balding male subjects with one-half aged 20-40 and a second-half aged 41-60, she and her colleagues devised a research study where the participants would carefully collect lost hair follicles under identical conditions. What they found was that on average only about 10 hairs are lost per day in a normal, healthy male regardless of whether they were young or middle aged. A repeat of the test 6 months later resulted in nearly identical results.