A Beginner’s Guide to the Hair Growth Cycle
Every person starts out with about 5 million hair follicles on their body, with 100,000 on their scalp. Each hair on the body goes through the same hair growth cycle.
Phase 1 // Anagen (GROWTH): Blood flow and oxygen go to specialized stem cells which rapidly divide and produce keratinocytes which make the hair root. Amazingly, the living, dividing end of the root (called the bulb) is the fastest growing cell in the body, at one cell division every 23-72 hours! As the cells grow, those farthest from the root die, releasing keratin which holds the hair together. The hair eventually reaches the scalp and becomes the visible hair.
Hair growth averages 1.25 cm/mo in this phase depending on where the hair is located on the body. Scalp hair stays in anagen for 2-7 years. Meanwhile, eyebrows and eyelashes stay in anagen for 30-45 days but grow more slowly. Eyebrows grow 4.2 mm/mo.
Phase 2 // Catagen/Regression (CUT OFF): The blood supply cuts off near the follicle base, which stops new growth. That hair is then cut off from the root and slides up towards the surface. This phase lasts about 10-20 days.
Phase 3 // Telogen (REST): The follicle remains dormant for 1-4 months while the hair is being shed. Every person loses about 50-100 hairs a day which are being shed naturally. When that hair is gone, the follicle starts the anagen phase again.
How Does Hair Get Its Color?
Hair gains its color from melanocytes which pigment the hair. The melanocyte cells are responsible for releasing melanin which enters the keratinized cells to give the hair its color. There are two types of pigments: a dark eumelanin and a lighter pheomelanin. Both pigment types blend to produce an array of colors.
Why Is the Hair Grey/White?
After a lot of pulling, hair follicles may have lost those two pigments types. This causes the hair to grow without pigment, which gives it the grey or white discoloration.
Also, as people age, natural melanin production decreases which causes hair to appear grey. When melanin production stops altogether then the hair turns white.
Will the Color Ever Return?
Short answer: Maybe. Recovery from pulling or natural regrowth of melanocytes could restore color over time depending on severity of pulling history and an individual’s body.
Melanocyte regeneration occurs at the beginning of the hair-growth cycle so a white hair must fall out naturally before the next hair can grow back with pigment. Naturally, hair falls out every two to seven years, depending on each person’s individual body composition. So, don’t give up hope! Damaged hair may yet repair its color within a span of eight years.
The exception here is the natural greying process of an aging person. If someone is the age that natural greying would occur then the pigment cannot be regained. Instead, they’ll just have to be a silver fox a bit early.
TL;DR: 1 Do & 1 Don’t
DO NOT pull out white or grey hairs! That just delays the potential melanocyte regeneration process. Let it grow out then fall out naturally. It may be hard, but it’s the only way to see if the color can be regained.
DO wait 7 years to see if your hair is irreparably damaged or just taking its time in repairing itself. That may seem like a long time (it is!) but it’s better to be hopeful than to just give up on your hair.
Embracing Your Silver Foxiness
Even if you do have grey hair, there are so many people dyeing their hair silver or grey because it looks cool. No need to be self-conscious or worried about the grey or white. There’s never been a better time for embracing your silver foxiness.
Have a Silver Fox Story to Share? Do Tell!
I’d love to hear all about your silver fox stories! Come chat to me in the comment box below. Or, find me on Facebook and Twitter. I welcome any and all questions as well. Thanks so much for reading and, as always, take care of yourself. xx Rexie
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