Are you concerned that your hair growth may have slowed or ceased altogether? While genetics, stress and hormonal changes associated with aging do play a part in hair loss, the primary cause is usually one of our own doings. In fact, unless you have a serious hair condition, the problem is more likely an underlying issue related to hair care and/or hair products.
To fully understand why your hair growth appears to have surrendered to any specific cause, it's essential first to understand how hair actually grows. In doing so, you’ll gain an appreciation for the science behind what keeps your hair an ever-changing work of art and what causes disruptive damage that makes you want to, well…pull your hair out!
The Science Of Hair Growth
Your hair goes through a growth cycle with four specific stages as it grows to its full length, then regresses, rests and eventually sheds over several years. Those stages are:
- Anagen (growth) Stage: Cells in the root of your hair rapidly divide to form new hair.
- Catagen (regression) Stage: Blood supply is cut off to cells that create new hair. At any given time, this stage is present in around 3 percent of all hairs.
- Telogen (resting) Stage: Hair strands do not actively grow but remain in their follicles. Your hair is in the Telogen Phase an estimated 10 to 15 percent of the time.
- Exogen Stage: Follicles release hair strands causing them to fall out.
The duration of each stage of the hair growth cycle varies, meaning your hair can continue to grow for years before ever entering the final three stages.
Secondary Disruptors To Hair Growth
We’ve already mentioned that the primary reason men experience what appears to be hair loss is underlying issues related to hair care and/or hair products. Before addressing those specific issues, it’s important to understand that other contributing factors are also at play, including disease, heredity and stress.
Alopecia areata is a condition that results in hair loss when the immune system attacks and destroys hair follicles. Although Alopecia areata can affect any part of the body, the head and face are most frequently affected. Hair usually sheds in quarter-sized, spherical patches, but in certain circumstances, the amount of hair loss is more. The majority of patients have no other symptoms and are in good health.
Each case of alopecia areata develops differently. Some people have hair loss on and off throughout their lifetimes, while others only experience it once. Additionally, recovery is unpredictable; some people's hair will fully regenerate while others won't. Although Alopecia areata cannot be cured, some therapies can help the growth of new hair.
Male pattern baldness (inherited hair loss) accounts for 99 percent of hair loss among men. While hair loss can happen at any age after puberty, most men begin to lose their hair around 30. Although it can affect different populations at varying rates, half of the male population is affected by age 50.
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that shortens the Anagen (growth) stage of your hair, affects your scalp's sensitivity based on your genetics. It also causes your hair follicles to shrink, which generates fewer, finer hairs.
Yes, stress can cause hair loss, and if you're not paying close attention, it may seem as if your hair has stopped growing. With a condition known as Telogen Effluvium, significant stress causes a large number of hair follicles to enter the Telogen (resting) Stage. Affected hairs may fall out abruptly after a few months of simple brushing or washing.
Trichotillomania is another stress-related condition that can cause hair loss. The condition is characterized by an overwhelming urge to pluck hair from your scalp, brows, or other parts of your body. Hair pulling can be a coping mechanism for unpleasant or negative emotions like stress, anxiety, loneliness, boredom, or irritation.
The good news? Hair loss due to stress is not necessarily permanent. If you can find a way to control your stress, hair typically grows back.
Other Secondary Causes That Disrupt Hair Growth
While hereditary hair loss misinterpreted as a lack of hair growth is common and expected, a few other forms of hair loss also affect hair growth. These include:
- Hormonal or other medicines
- Severe Nutritional Deficiencies
- Overactive or Underactive Thyroid Gland
- Scalp Trauma, Which Includes Reactions To Products And Hair Grooming Practices
- Autoimmune Disorders
Primary Disruptors To Hair Growth
Although some hair growth issues can be explained by what we’ve already discussed, the fact remains that most concerns about hair growth are self-inflicted. Here are some of the more common ways men unknowingly contribute to what can look like stunted hair growth.
Everybody loses hair; it's a normal and natural step in the growth cycle. But for new hair to grow, old hair must be shed. Even the healthiest scalps can lose up to 150 hair strands per day. But when hair loss begins to outpace hair growth, you have a problem. The excessive shedding is likely the result of some of the other factors we will mention.
One of the worst enemies of your hair is definitely breakage. Hair breakage occurs when it receives either too much or too little care. This typically leads to A) Your hair breaking off as much as it grows or B) Your hair breaking off faster than it grows. In the first scenario, it's easy enough to think that your hair has simply stopped growing. In the second, you not only believe that your hair has stopped growing but also that you are losing a lot of your hair!
How does hair reach the condition that it literally breaks? The following are a few of the more common causes of hair breakage:
Processing Overload - When exposed to chemicals, your hair loses its natural oils, and colors cause your cuticle (which is supposed to be flat) to lift. This eventually results in split ends and breaking, making it quite challenging to grow your hair beyond a particular length. Often, men respond to what feels like an inevitable path to balding by using the same damaging chemicals more frequently, which further breaks down their hair’s sulfur bonds and only worsens the problem.
Heat Styling - Every time you use a hot instrument on your hair, you damage it, which slows down the growth of your hair. Frying your hair with hot tools will make your hair brittle and snap, defeating any ambitions of growing length. If you want your hair to grow, avoid heat.
Aggressive Styling - Even though styling your hair can sometimes be an aggravating endeavor, don’t take it out on your hair! Being rough with your hair causes hair breakage and includes wearing tight hairstyles, using exposed (uncovered) elastics, and vigorous brushing.
Related Article: Do Braids And Dreadlocks Create A Receding/Thinning Hairline?
Split ends hinder hair growth because, although your hair may grow from the root, it ultimately falls out from the bottom, giving the impression that your hair is fixed at a particular length. The solution is easy enough; trim the split ends off. If split ends are ignored, they will split further up the hair shaft, resulting in further breakage and a lack of hair growth.
Diet & Exercise
Your eating and exercise habits significantly impact your physical health, much like stress. Your hair craves a wholesome, vitamin-rich diet, just as your skin loves when you drink your daily recommended amount of water.
To keep your hair healthy, include the following five foods in your diet:
Eggs - Both biotin and protein, abundant in eggs, help develop hair. Because the majority of the hair follicle is made up of protein, it is crucial for hair growth. Keratin, a protein found in hair, can only be made with biotin.
Spinach – Spinach is a wholesome, healthy green with generous amounts of iron, and vitamins A and C. Vitamin A aids in the production of sebum by skin glands, which keeps the scalp moisturized and your hair healthy.
Berries - Berries are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, both of which can help with hair growth. Antioxidants protect against hair follicle damage, and vitamin C aids in producing collagen, another protein that strengthens hair and keeps it from breaking.
Avocados - Avocados are an excellent source of vitamin E. It protects your scalp (and your skin in general) from stress and damage caused by oxidation.
Beans - Protein, zinc, iron, and biotin are all abundant in beans and are essential for healthy hair growth. Beans are easy to add to your diet because they can be eaten in various ways and are very affordable.
Related Articles: Food For Thought: A Look At The Relationship Between Foods & Hair
Bad Hair Care Routine Habits
Poor hair care practices will almost guarantee that your hair will not grow beyond a specific length. For instance, towel-drying your hair can cause weakened hair strands to break or snap by lifting the cuticle. Applying too much or too little product can produce the same result. Products contain chemicals that, delivered in the wrong doses, can damage your hair and prevent growth. Finally, moisturizing your hair every day will keep it nourished. Natural oils struggle to keep moisture in because the coily form of natural hair has a tougher time getting to the ends. As a result, you must use a moisturizer daily.
If you are concerned that your hair has stopped growing, you should first determine the cause. While genetics, stress and hormonal changes may be the problem, it is also possible that the source could be a medical condition, such as Alopecia Areata. Most hair growth issues, however, are caused by how we care for our hair. If you keep heat and harmful chemicals to a minimum, eat a balanced diet, and practice healthy hair care routines and habits, odds are it won’t be anytime soon you’ll be asking yourself, “Why isn’t my hair growing?”