On your head there are between 90,000 and 120,000 follicles. For those follicles there are three basic phases to hair growth: The Anagen Phase, The Catagen Phase and The Telogen Phase, which cycle continuously throughout our lives.
The Anagen Phase is the active growth phase. About 80% of your hairs are in the anagen phase at any one time. Hair grows at an average of ½” or 1 cm per month, and the growth phase can vary from two to six years. If you have ever heard someone say ‘I just can’t get my hair to get past my shoulders’ they may have a shorter growth cycle. If you imagine someone with a long growth cycle and no haircuts, that could mean almost 3 feet of hair! The growth cycle of hairs on other part of the body is much shorter, which is why we don’t have long eyebrows and eyelashes. To maximise the hair growth rate during the anagen phase, warming and stimulating oils such as cinnamon leaf, bay and peppermint oil boost circulation and the delivery of nutrients to the scalp, promoting healthy hair growth.
The Catagen Phase is a transitional phase. At the end of the Anagen phase the hairs enters into a Catagen phase which lasts around two weeks, during the Catagen phase the hair follicle shrinks to about 1/6 of the normal length. The lower part is destroyed and the dermal papilla breaks away to rest below. About 2-3% of hair is in this phase at any one time.
Lastly there is Telogen Phase, the resting phase. Telogen phase normally lasts around 3 months. During this time the hair does not grow but stays attached to the follicle while the dermal papilla stays in a resting phase below. The hair’s bulb pulls and shrinks away and forms an almost club-like shape of hardened keratin cells. Approximately 18% of all hairs are in this phase at one time. It’s normal to shed between 50-100 hairs per day. At the end of the Telogen phase the hair follicle re-enters the Anagen phase. The follicle lengths as the dermal papilla reaches back up to join together again and a new hair begins to form. If the old hair has not already been shed the new hair pushes the old one out and the growth cycle starts all over again.
The main hormone that determines the speed of the hair growth cycle, or the hair fall cycle as it is also known, is testosterone, which are produced by all sexes. Genetics determine how sensitive the hair follicles are to testosterone, leading to either a shorter or longer anagen phase. Menthol, found in the mint family of plants, is able to disrupt testosterone's ability to tell a hair follicle to enter the catagen phase, slowing down the hair growth cycle. Although you can't cheat genetics, menthol can try to keep as many hairs retained in the scalp and growing as possible. This is especially useful during times of stress, which affects hormones, and after pregnancy. During pregnancy the female hormones rise in proportion to testosterone, leading to hair all syncing into the anagen phase. Literally the body is in 'grow mode'. However, after pregnancy, and breast feeding ends, the hormones reset to their previous proportions, so a high amount of hair loss is normal. Menthol can help make the process more manageable.
Sometimes, Telogen Phase can be confused with hair breakage. For example, if you do a ponytail and keep it for one day, or in the night, it is really damaging your hair because of all that traction on it. When you remove the hair band a lot of hair can fall, and we can panic thinking suddenly all our hair is falling ! The best way to prevent this breakage is to protect you hair with oils and butters, you can also use a henna to coat them and make them stronger, and of course, if you can, try to limit traction and friction on it.
Due to the fact that all of your follicles aren’t on the same cycle it means that there’s a constant mixture of growing and falling going on, so it’s all about maximising blood flow to the scalp to increase the length of the hair when growing, and accepting that it’s perfectly natural to lose a fair amount of hair every day. After all, we’re all going through phases.