How does the hair growth cycle work?

Hair growth seems like a really simple process. After all, unless you’re going through hair loss, your hair just grows… right? Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that. There are actually four stages to the hair growth cycle, and each stage is unique and super important. So whether or not you realise it, your hair is going through a constant cycle of growing and falling out. Curious to know more? Keep reading to find out.

 

hair growth cycle: image of a woman with long wavy hair; she is holding out a few strands of hair in one hand
Source: Unsplash

Each phase (or stage) of the hair growth cycle handles a particular aspect of hair growth. To sum it up, the first three stages deal with the growth and maturation of hair strands, while the fourth stage is when you experience “shedding” of old hair strands. So yes, it is totally normal to lose hair. In fact, on average we lose about 100 hairs per day! As long as you’re not losing way more than that, you’re in the clear and your hair growth cycle is running smoothly.

 

hair growth cycle: drawn image of a close-up look at hair strands in the follicle
Source: AdobeStock

 

Stage 1: Anagen

During anagen stage of hair growth, the hair is continuously growing — this is the active growing phase. There is lots of activity in the hair bulb including the production of melanin, which is the pigment that gives hair its colour. How long this phase lasts depends on the location of the hair on your body. For your eyebrows, this stage lasts 2 to 3 months, but for the hair on your scalp, it can last for 2 to 5 years.

 

Stage 2: Catagen

During catagen phase, the follicle stops producing hair and melanin. This is what is known as a “transient phase” of the hair growth cycle, which basically means it doesn’t last very long. The base of the hair starts to move upwards towards the top of the skin. On average, this stage lasts for 2 to 4 weeks.

Super interesting to note, is that the hair growth cycle is stopped at this stage during pregnancy. This means more hair grows and no hair falls, so those who are expecting their own bundle of joy will often have a fuller head of hair. Thick, luscious locks FTW right? However, after pregnancy, the cycle resumes and that extra hair is lost, which is why it can feel like severe hair loss after pregnancy. But never fear, your hair is just going back to its normal state.

 

Stage 3: Telogen

The telogen stage can be seen as the resting stage of the hair growth cycle. At this point, the existing hair is no longer growing and a new anagen hair strand starts to grow from the base of the follicle. The telogen stage is relatively short (though not as short as catagen) and only lasts about 3 to 4 months.

 

Stage 4: Exogen

At this stage, the new anagen hairs push out the old telogen hairs in a process called exogen or hair shedding. This process is generally pretty quick, and as we mentioned above, can push out about 100 hairs per head.

 

hair growth cycle: image of a woman with long natural hair and flower accessories framing her face

It’s normal to lose hair daily thanks to the exogen phase of the hair growth cycle, but when you’re losing way more than that it may be time to inspect your tresses. This is because you may be going through genuine hair loss, but it could just be breakage, which can take place at the root, making it seem like hair loss. So, to prevent this from happening, we recommend protecting your hair and keeping it healthy.

 

Keeping your hair strong

Make the most of the natural hair growth cycle by keeping your hair in a moisturised, healthy state. We recommend using a hair care system that suits your hair condition and gives it what it needs to thrive. A good all-rounder product range would be the Dove Nourishing Oil Care Shampoo and Conditioner, which is enriched with natural oils. This range will infuse your hair with moisture and nutrients, without weighing it down.

For hair that has been damaged by heat or chemical styling, we recommend using a repairing product. A great option is the Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque. Formulated with raw shea butter, argan oil, olive oil and other deeply nourishing ingredients, this hair mask will help repair and strengthen your strands.

 

Preventing breakage

This tip helps prevent breakage at the root, which can be mistaken for hair loss or the exogen stage of hair growth.

If you love heat styling your hair, don’t forget to apply a good heat protectant. This step can be easy to miss, but it makes the world of difference as it helps protect your hair from the harmful effects of heat styling. So you get to have beautifully heat-styled hair — without the damage. A great option for this is the TRESemmé Heat Defence Styling Spray.

 

Protective styling

hair growth cycle: image of the back of a protective hairstyle; a twist that begins at the front hairline and is incorporated into a neat low bun
Source: AdobeStock

Protective styling is always a great way to keep your hair safe from external stressors that could cause damage. This is because your hair is kept neatly tucked away in a way that it can be still be touched but wind can’t blow it around and heat can’t get to it.

 

Now that you know how the hair growth cycle works, how has this knowledge changed your outlook on your hair?

 

 

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