” …three words represent the phases of hair growth and can tell us a lot about what is going on with our hair and hair follicles.”
- Elizabeth Zitvogel
The Lifecycle of Your Hair
It turns out that anagen, catagen, and telogen aren’t just words for the high school biology room. These three words represent the phases of hair growth and can tell us a lot about what is going on with our hair and hair follicles. We often need to look no further for explanations of hair loss, hair growth, and hair that never seems to grow past our shoulders.
Before diving into that, however, let’s quickly review what exactly a hair follicle is and does.
Hair is rooted in the epidermis and dermis layers of our skin. This root is surrounded by a structure called the follicle, which is where the hair is anchored and provided with everything it needs to grow. The follicle is nourished by blood vessels below and softened and protected by the sebaceous gland as the hair pushes its way to the surface.
Anagen is the active growth phase of our hair. This phase is the longest, lasting anywhere from 2 to 6 years, giving us about half an inch every 28 days. The exact amount of time this phase lasts is genetically determined for each individual, which is why some can quickly grow their hair very long, and others can never grow it past their shoulders.
At the end of this phase, there is a signal carried to the follicle by the blood vessels that causes the hair to pass to the next phase. Catagen is the shorter transitional phase, lasting about 2 to 3 weeks. During this phase, the hair detaches from its blood supply, weakening the root and getting it ready to be shed.
This brings us to our third and final phase. When in telogen, the follicle releases the hair and rests for 3-4 months. After this rest period, a new hair is grown in the same follicle, and the growth cycle begins again.
Now, you might be asking, ‘ok, then, how am I not bald?’ It’s important to keep in mind not that not all the hair on your head is going through the same phase at the same time.
Shortening the Anagen Phase
There are many things that will shorten the anagen phase. A few of them are: being a calorie-restricted diet, hormonal changes such as birth or menopause, stress, trauma, recent anesthesia, or certain illnesses. Any of these can alter the hormonal messages sent to the follicles, causing the follicle to pass prematurely to the catagen stage.
Support Your Hair!
Educating ourselves on these natural processes can take some of the mystery out of why our hair does what it does. Supporting hair in all its phases is essential. We can do this by choosing our external products with intention and care. Products that have sulfates are known to strip hair of their natural oils. Some have phthalates that cause hormonal disruption. Others have formaldehyde which is carcinogenic and is easily absorbed by the skin. These are just some examples and are, unfortunately, found in many everyday hair products. At Incentives, we use products we are confident in and deliberately choose for their cleaner ingredient list and effectiveness. Now that’s something to feel great about!
If you have concerns with your hair growth/loss, please book a consultation, and we would be happy to help you get to the “root” of the problem and suggest some possible strategies to lessen the impact and appearance of your hair loss or thinning.
About the Author
Elizabeth Zitvogel is a Licensed Cosmetologist with extensive training in all aspects of hair styling and coloring. She specializes in regular and organic color and highlighting, as well as ombre application. Elizabeth also possesses creative techniques with blowouts and up-dos.