Dyeing Hair and Telogen Effluvium: What You Need to Know

Dyeing Hair and Telogen Effluvium

Are you concerned that your hair is becoming thinner? Do you notice hairs falling out when you shampoo and brush your hair? First, it’s key to know that shedding is part of the hair’s normal growth cycle.

An average adult has about 100,000 to 150,00 hairs growing on their head. You can expect to lose between 80 and 100 hairs each day.

Excess hair loss may result from telogen effluvium. Some people wonder if the practice of dyeing hair contributes to this problem. Keep reading to learn more about telogen effluvium and any association with hair dye.

Understanding Normal Hair Anatomy and Growth

First, it’s key to understand the basic anatomy of the hair and its normal growth cycle. There’s a hair follicle in the middle skin layer for each hair that grows on your body.

It contains a swelling called the bulb. The hair grows out of the bulb to form the shaft. This is the part that’s above the skin.

The air shaft contains three layers. The center, or medulla, has air spaces and loose cells. The cortex surrounds the medulla with tightly packed keratin. The outside layer, or cuticle, is one layer of cells that overlap like roof shingles.

Each hair follicle moves through three phases. The first is the growth or anagen phase which lasts between two and six years.

This is when our primary hair growth takes place. Most of the time, about 85 to 90 percent of our hair follicles are in the anagen phase. The normal growth rate for human scalp hair is about 0.4mm per day.

The next stage is the transitional or catagen phase. During this time the follicle regresses.

This leads to the resting or telogen phase which lasts about three months. During this time, the hair doesn’t grow but stays attached to the follicle.

What Is Telogen Effluvium?

The medical term, telogen effluvium, means short-term hair loss related to excess shedding. The individual experiences a causative event that triggers increased loss of hair. Examples of common precipitating circumstances include:

  • Certain medications such as hormones
  • Childbirth
  • Dysfunction of the thyroid gland
  • Hospitalization
  • Overwhelming emotional stress
  • Surgery
  • Starting menopause
  • Viral infections such as COVID-19

This condition disrupts the hair’s growth cycle. Hairs enter the telogen phase too early.

This limits their full growth cycle. Now there are more hairs caught in the resting phase, so more fall out sooner than they should have.

Individuals with telogen effluvium notice more visible thinning. Yet, they won’t lose all their hair.

This is because you don’t lose the hair follicles. Thus, when the triggering mechanism is corrected, hair can start regrowing.

Chronic Telogen Effluvium

For most people, this condition resolves in three to six months. This is the time it takes for all the hairs that entered the telogen phase early to finish shedding. In fact, fewer than ten percent of cases last longer than six months.

If the problem lasts longer than six months, it’s called chronic telogen effluvium. This lasts between a couple of months and a couple of years for most people. In the majority of cases, there’s no obvious cause identified.

The good news is that the condition is usually reversible. Healthcare professionals focus on symptomatic treatment. Patients with telogen effluvium never lose over 50 percent of their hair.

Telogen Effluvium Treatment

Treatment for telogen effluvium involves several approaches. The healthcare provider begins by completing an assessment to search for causative factors.

This may include blood tests to check vitamin B12, folic acid, and iron levels. They’ll also usually order thyroid function tests as well. If they find blood work abnormalities or a scalp disorder, they’ll treat the condition.

Your provider may suggest gentle hair brushing and combing along with scalp massages. Avoid hairstyles that pull your hair such as tight braids or ponytails. It’s also important to eat a healthy diet to provide the nutrients your body needs for hair growth.

Remember that hair normally grows very slowly. You need to practice patience and allow time for treatment success to show.

A dermatologist may recommend medications to help during the initial treatment. Correction of other causative factors is the first step. Then if it continues past four to six months, they may try medications.

The Impact of Dyeing Hair

Hair dye works to change the color via a topical substance. There are different types of products to alter hair color. These include the following.

Temporary Dyes

This type of dye only changes the cuticle layer. It’s designed to wash out in about one shampooing.

Semi-Permanent Dyes

If you wish to remove some of your natural hair color, you may choose a semi-permanent dye. It’s weaker than permanent dye and has less impact on the hair shaft. This dye commonly fades away after four to twelve shampoo washes.

Permanent Hair Dye

Many permanent hair dyes contain some combination of chemicals. This can include ammonia which opens the hair’s protein layers to let the dye coat the shaft.

Hydrogen peroxide removes your hair’s natural color. Permanent dyes often contain p-phenylenediamine (PPD). This enhances the bond between the color and the hair shaft.

Permanent dye is designed to soak into the hair shaft’s cortex layer. This may make the shaft more fragile and easier to break off.

So, Does Dyeing Your Hair Cause Telogen Effluvium?

Probably not. Note that none of the hair dye damage affects the hair follicle. While the hair may thin because of breakage, your body hasn’t lost its ability to grow hair.

If you’re noticing a problem with thinning after dying your hair, consider not dying it for a while. Then you can see if the problem improves.

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