To understand the nature of hair loss it helps to understand the nature of hair. The process of balding and of thinning hair is directly related to the way in which the body produces it. The production of hair is a complex mechanism involving a number of bodily processes.
All hair grows from hair follicles. There are more than a thousand of them on any one head, and over 100,000 hairs on average. Follicles also, with the exception of the soles of the feet, palms of the hand, mucous membranes and lips, cover the entire body. They are just below the skin's surface and are made up of the follicle shaft, papilla and sebaceous glands.
Hair is produced when new, living cells are created at the base of the follicle, which pushes older cells up through the shaft. These older cells die and harden, and this forms the hair shaft. This hair shaft that's made of dead protein cells is covered by a scaly cuticle, which is composed of little plates.
Each hair has cycles of growth and rest. Usually, only about 80% of hair follicles are actively growing at any one time. The other 20% are in the rest, or dormant stage. The longer growth cycle lasts anywhere from 2 to 6 years. The much shorter rest cycle begins after this period, but lasts only a few months. On average, the lifespan of a hair is from 2 to 7 years.
Hair grows about ½ inch a month: more than this in summer and less in winter. After the resting phase the hair is shed as a new shaft is started in the follicle and it pushes the old hair out. This loss and re-growth cycle goes on for our entire lives. We lose from 50 to 100 hairs a day, but this doesn't make a dent in the total. With male or female pattern baldness, more hairs than the normal 50 to 100 can be lost and unfortunately, not replaced. So when significantly more hair is shed than is replaced, the condition we call hair loss or balding occurs.
Hair gets its color from melanin, which is the same pigment that colors the skin, and also the retina. Two forms of melanin are responsible for the color in hair: eumelanin and pheomelanin. Pheomelanin is the pigment type that causes hair to be red or blond, eumelanin causes black, brown, and gray colored hair. It's the little bit of eumelanin in hair without any other pigment that causes hair to be gray. Hair shafts of different colors tend to be on the head in different amounts. Red hairs average about 90,000, brown and black hair about 110,000 and blond hair around 140,000 hairs on the average head.
There also tend to be differences in the average thickness and growth rate of men and women. Men tend to have thicker heads of hair, and their hair usually grows faster.
There are other disorders of the hair besides male and female pattern baldness, though they aren't usually life threatening. Hirsutism is excessive hair growth, usually in women, in places where hair doesn't normally grow. Though not dangerous, it does have cosmetic and possibly psychological and emotional implications. Its cause is an increased level of male hormones.
A healthy diet is important for the maintenance of healthy hair. And there are vitamins that important to hair health, too. Vitamin A helps keep hair dandruff free, and helps hair stay soft and pliable. Vitamin B1 and B6 are essential for the retention of hair: if deficient in them you can start to lose it. Vitamin B12 helps the hair acquire nutrients. And Vitamin C manages hair color and maintains healthy growth.Hair Loss
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