The Life of a Hair Follicle

Thick or fine, straight or curly, healthy or dry – when we think of hair, we often think of its texture, length, and appearance. Yet it’s the follicle, a small pocket-like hole in the skin, that determines your hair type and is responsible for its growth.

Today we’re exploring the life of a hair follicle – what it is and how it grows hair. Of course, if you have concerns about your hair growth or the health of your scalp, consult your primary care physician or dermatologist.

What is a Hair Follicle?

Hair follicles are small tunnel-like holes in the outer layer of our skin that grow hair. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the average person has approximately 100,000 follicles on the scalp alone. The root of a single hair is made up of protein cells and nourished by blood from blood vessels. As more protein cells are created, the hair begins to grow through the skin, reaching the surface. Sebaceous glands located near hair follicles produce oil naturally that nourishes the skin and hair.

The Life of a Hair Follicle

The average person’s hair grows about half an inch each month. Factors such as age, overall health, and hair type affect the rate at which one’s hair grows. In addition to being responsible for growth, the shape of hair follicles also determines how curly your hair is; oval follicles produce curly hair while circular follicles produce straight hair.

What’s more, hair follicles help determine color. Just like your skin color, hair color gets its pigment from one of two types of melanin: pheomelanin or eumelanin. This melanin is stored in hair follicle cells. Which one you have and how much pigment is determined by your genetics. Pheomelanin makes hair black. On the other hand, an abundance of eumelanin produces black hair, a moderate amount produces brown, while very little will result in blonde hair. As you age, follicles lose their ability to produce melanin resulting in gray or white hair.

Hair Growth Cycle

There are three distinct phases of the hair growth cycle. The Anagen phase is the growth phase where hair begins to grow from the root. This phase lasts between three and seven years. The Catagen phase is when the rate of growth slows down, and the follicles shrink. This transitional phase lasts between two and four months. And finally, the telogen phase is the resting phase. Old hair falls out and is replaced with new growth from the same follicle. This resting phase lasts between three and four months.

When a hair is pulled out of the follicle, it usually regrows. However, a damaged follicle can stop producing hair. While it’s not yet possible to restimulate a damaged follicle, there are a variety of options available to those experiencing hair loss and balding. If you’re among that group, there’s no better time to schedule a FREE consultation with the DiStefano Hair Restoration Center medical team. We’ll analyze the cause of your hair loss, explain your options, and recommend the right course of action just as we do for all our patients.