Healthy natural hair growth can happen with the right conditions. Every hair on your head typically takes about two to six years before it reaches its maximum growth level. The hair shaft is normally the thing that is affected the most by continual washing, conditioning, heat, chemicals, and pollutants. However, the hair follicle will continue to grow through different phases despite all of these occurrences.
What is a Hair Follicle?
This part of the skin that grows hair by packing aged cells together. The sebaceous gland (a sebum-producing gland) is attached to the follicle. Sebum is an oily substance. The denser the hair is, the more you will find these glands. The growth rate of the hair follicle is approximately 1 inch of growth per month.
What is the Hair Shaft?
The hair shaft is the part of the hair that you see outside of the skin. This is the section that is the most susceptible to damage.
Hair Growth Cycles
Anagen phase – This natural hair growth cycle lasts approximately two to eight years. This phase is the longest out of the three cycles of natural hair growth. This phase affects 90% of the hair follicles and can happen at any time. The cycle is what determines how long your hair will actually be (your hairs fullest potential in growth). During this phase of growth, the hair grows approximately 1 cm every 28 days. When newer cells have been formed, they will push the older ones up and resulting in what you see as hair growth.
Catagen phase – This is the shortest cycle and only lasts about two to four weeks. Right after the anagen phase has reached its full cycle, hair growth will cease in the hair follicle and then degeneration will begin. This is where the papilla cell (located at the base of the hair follicle) will begin to shrink. Many normal processes that occur during the Anagen phase will stop (as if they are beginning to rest) and a cell death will normally occur at this point.
Telogen phase – This phase lasts approximately two to four months. This is the actual resting stage through the normal hair growth cycle. After the Catagen phase and a decrease in cellular activity, an accumulation of hair growth cells will begin causing club hair to form. This is where the dead hair is attached to the scalp; these hairs are what can easily be pulled out from combing, brushing, or regular washing of the hair.
Exogen phase – This is the very last phase of the natural hair growth cycle and normally has to do with the shedding of hair. When in this stage, you will lose approximately 50 to 150 hairs on any day. The hair follicles are not affected by this phase of the cycle, only the hair shaft. This phase is the least understood and even though it only deals with the hair shaft, it is very much intertwined with the Anagen phase of regrowth.
This cycle will remain during ones lifespan and will continue to move forward. Learning this cycle will help people to better understand hair loss. Things that can impede the normal cycle of natural hair growth can be medication, genetics, radiation, and our hormones.