Many people associate hair loss with going bald, but in reality, hair shedding is a natural part of your hair's life cycle. By understanding the different stages of this cycle, you can tackle common hair issues and improve growth.
We'll take a closer look at the four stages of the hair growth cycle, factors that can disrupt it and provide tips on how to achieve healthy, luscious locks.
What is the hair growth cycle?
The hair growth cycle is a natural process involving the growth, shedding and regrowth of hair follicles and is characterised by four stages: anagen, catagen, telogen, and exogen. These stages repeat throughout a person’s life, with varying durations for each.
What are the stages of the hair growth cycle?
1.Anagen (growing phase)
During the anagen phase — also known as the active or growing phase — hair follicles produce new hair cells rapidly. This typically lasts for two to seven years at a rate of around half an inch per month. However, how fast your hair grows depends on a person's genetics and other factors. Most of the hairs on your head are in this growing stage — approximately 90%!
2.Catagen (transition phase)
The catagen stage occurs at the end of the anagen phase and is the transition between active growth and resting. Hair follicles detach from the blood supply that nourished them during the anagen stage, shrinking and slowing in growth. This stage lasts for around two to three weeks, and according to Healthline, only 5% of hairs are in the catagen phase at any given time.
3.Telogen (resting phase)
Also known as the resting phase, there is no active hair growth during the telogen stage, allowing hair follicles to rest and prepare for the next growth cycle. This usually lasts for around three to six months, and an estimated 10 to 15% of hairs are in this resting phase.
4.Exogen (shedding phase)
The exogen stage is the final stage of the hair growth cycle, where hair strands are naturally shed from the scalp. During this phase, old hairs that have completed their life cycle are pushed out by new hair growth. This process typically lasts two to five months, and losing around 50 to 100 hairs per day is expected.
Without the exogen phase, old hairs would continue to accumulate, leading to thinning and a lack of space for new hair to grow. Therefore, shedding during the exogen phase is essential for maintaining a healthy head of hair.
Can the hair growth cycle be disrupted?
Factors like stress, hormonal changes, nutritional deficiencies, and medical conditions can interfere with the natural hair growth cycle. Having a healthy head of hair also depends on factors like genetics and hormone levels, which are, of course, out of your control.
A common hair disorder that disrupts the hair growth cycle is telogen effluvium (TE), which occurs when a large number of hair follicles enter the telogen phase at the same time, leading to excessive shedding. While the average person loses around 100 hairs daily, someone with this condition could shed approximately 300! The result is usually thin-looking hair, hair loss or balding in patches.
It can be triggered by factors like weight loss, menopause, and stress, but Alopecia UK predicts that for about 30% of people affected, no cause can be found.
How to maintain hair health during all four stages
The health of your hair is usually down to genetics and hormones, but there are some things you can do to promote optimal hair growth and prevent hair loss. Some of the best ways to maintain healthy hair for each stage include the following.
Protein makes up a large proportion of your hair, so ensuring you’re getting enough in your diet can support optimal growth in the anagen stage. Eggs, nuts, meat, and beans are excellent protein sources to add to your meals.
Zinc, biotin, iron, and vitamins C, B, and D are also crucial for hair growth, as they carry essential nutrients to the hair follicles. Iron, for example, produces haemoglobin in the red blood cells, which is crucial for carrying oxygen around the body and encouraging cells to repair and grow. Therefore, a diet including iron-rich foods like fish, spinach, lentils, red meat, and broccoli can help stimulate growth.
During times of stress, the body produces higher levels of the hormone cortisol, which can disrupt the normal hair growth cycle. This can prematurely push hair follicles into the telogen phase, increasing hair shedding. In some cases, the shedding can be quite noticeable and lead to temporary hair thinning.
Lloyds Pharmacy reports three conditions which can disrupt the hair growth cycle due to stress, and these include:
- Telogen effluvium — A condition in which hair sheds in large amounts due to sudden emotional or physical stress.
- Trichotillomania — A disorder when a person compulsively pulls out their own hair, often in response to stress or anxiety.
- Alopecia areata — A autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing hair loss in patches. Stress can be a trigger that sets off the symptoms.
Thankfully, once stress is reduced or eliminated, the growth cycle usually returns to its regular pattern. Yoga, meditation, maintaining a healthy work-life balance, and getting enough sleep are all things that can help with this.
Avoid tight hairstyles
Tight hairstyles can cause more shedding because they put tension on the hair shaft, damaging the hair follicle and causing it to enter the exogen phase prematurely. This is known as traction alopecia. Although shedding 100 hairs daily is expected, you could be shedding double, resulting in thin-looking, broken hair.
Thankfully, traction alopecia can be resolved if the problem is recognised quickly and tight hairstyles like high ponytails, braids, and sleek back buns are avoided. In time, hair follicles will grow back, and the hair cycle will return to normal.
For more tips on maintaining a healthy hair growth cycle and stimulating growth, read our guide.
Choose FUE Clinics for your hair transplant
While adopting a healthy lifestyle and practising gentle hair care can certainly help reduce hair loss, genetic conditions, like pattern baldness which disrupt the hair growth cycle, may not be resolved through these methods alone.
Hair transplantation surgery offers treatment for alopecia that produces natural, realistic results that can improve your confidence. And at FUE Clinics, our expert surgeons are here to help you understand the process and whether you're the right candidate for a hair transplant.
We offer transplantation methods, including Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) and Follicular Unit Transfer (FUT). Both involve moving healthy hairs from the donor site and planting them in problem areas.
Get in touch with our team of hair transplant specialists today, or take a free online consultation. Or, head over to our FAQs for more information.