The Difference Between Dead and Dormant Hair Follicles

Did you know that more than 50% of all women will experience some level of hair thinning as they age? This accounts for more than 30 million women in the United States alone. If you’re a woman and notice that your hair isn’t as voluminous as it used to be, you’re not alone. 

But what is the cause of this problem and can anything fix it? Could it be that you are suffering from dormant hair follicles or even dead follicles? How can you tell the difference, and why does it matter?

If you’re searching for the answer to these questions, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll be exploring how hair growth works down to the hair follicles. Even if your hair isn’t what it used to be, there still might be hope. 

Without wasting any more time, let’s dive right into it. 

The Hair Growth Cycle

Hair growth may seem pretty simple. It grows out long, and it eventually falls out to be replaced with another hair. But in reality, hair growth occurs in four important stages. 

Out of the four stages, three of them focus on the growth and maturation of hair. These three stages are called anagen, catagen, and telogen. The final stage is known as exogen and is when an old hair falls out to be replaced by freshly grown hair. 

Each of these stages can be impacted by your health, age, and diet. If you are worried about why your hair isn’t luscious and full, these factors most likely have something to do with it. Let’s explore the first stage of hair growth a bit more.

The Anagen Stage

This is the stage where hairs first begin to grow. It is also the longest phase and can last between 5 to 7 years! Because of this, the majority of your head hair is in this phase.

Your eyebrows also go through the anagen stage, but they obviously don’t grow as long as the hair on your head. This is because, thankfully, the anagen stage for eyebrows is shorter than other hairs, and they fall out before the hairs get too long. 

The Catagen Stage

The catagen stage is also known as the transition stage. It is very short compared to the anagen stage and lasts only about 10 days. 

The catagen stage is defined by the shrinking of hair follicles. When this happens, the growth of hair slows significantly. The hair is then severed from the follicle but does not yet leave the follicle. 

The Telogen Stage

The telogen stage is another long period that can last about 3 months. Not much happens in this stage because your hair does not grow but does not fall out either. 

The primary purpose of the telogen stage is to give the hair follicles enough time to grow new hairs beneath the older hairs. 

The Exogen Stage

The exogen stage is closely connected to the telogen stage, and the two are sometimes grouped together. This stage is characterized by the loss of hair from the scalp. 

The exogen stage can last up to 5 months. During this stage, as hairs are falling out, new hairs are growing in hair follicles. 

Dead vs Dormant Hair Follicles

If your hair isn’t as full as you would like, you’re likely already blaming the exogen stage. But let’s first take a closer look at what might be the root of the problem.

Hair follicles are sacs that are nourished by oil-producing sebaceous glands. Without healthy oil production, hair can look brittle and dry. If follicles don’t get the sustenance they need, their hair production suffers. However, hair production decline can sometimes have nothing to do with hair health but rather with age.

This is because, with age, hair follicles will shrink and slow down the growth of hair. At a certain point, hair follicles can go dormant, meaning they stay in the telogen phase for long periods. The good news is that as long as you see hair growth, no matter how thin, your hair follicles are not dead, only dormant. 

A condition known as telogen effluvium can cause follicles to enter the telogen stage prematurely. This condition can cause large amounts of hair to be shed at once. This condition is usually associated with stressful events such as childbirth, illness, or malnutrition. 

If you notice that your individual hairs are thinning significantly, your hair follicles may be nearing death. Let’s take a closer look at dead hair follicles. 

Dead Hair Follicles

Though we have already discussed the four hair stages, there are actually more. These include the lanugo, vellus, and terminal stages. 

The lanugo stage only occurs in newborns and involves very soft, downy hair. The vellus stage follows after the first few weeks of birth and is only slightly sturdier than lanugo hair. You might notice that young children tend to have soft, silky hair.

This is because their hair is still in the vellus stage. With age, hair becomes courser and thicker, marking the terminal stage. However, as people approach middle-age, their hair enters the end of the terminal stage.

At this point, as follicles shrink, the terminal hair becomes more like vellus hair, meaning very thin. This thin hair is a sign that your hair follicles may be dying. However, only a scalp biopsy can officially prove that your follicles are dead. 

But age doesn’t necessarily mean that your hair follicles need to die. Your follicles may die for other reasons that can be remedied. 

For example, malnourishment, hormones such as DHT, and repeated hair follicle damage can all contribute to follicle death. As long as your follicles aren’t already dead, there can be hope for improved hair production. 

Through proper diet, exercise, better scalp blood flow, and hair treatments, the quality of your hair has a chance to improve. 

Understanding Your Hair Follicles 

Now that you understand the different stages of hair growth and the difference between dead and dormant hair follicles, you can begin to improve your own hair. 

To learn more about hair care and treatments, contact us here

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