Hair Growth Stages
One of the biggest pains and misconceptions you may have about your own hair is that it isn’t growing. As in it’s stopped, that’s it, no more growth here- move along.
I’m here today to tell you this couldn’t be further from the truth!
Hair grows! It’s one of the fastest growing elements in the entire human body, and so if you can see your nails growing each month, your hair is most certainly growing.
But and there’s a big but – hair doesn’t A)grow at the same rate and B) follow a linear growth cycle.
In Fact there are 4 main stages of hair growth and your hair is experiencing all 4 right now!
Today we will nerding out again and diving into hair growth cycles; just to prove to you that your hair is most certainly growing
Hair Growth Stages:
There are 4 phases in the hair growth cycle; the Anagen or active growth stage,Catagen or transitional retreat stage, Telogen or rest stage and the Exogen or shedding stage.
Let’s take a look at what’s going on at each growth stage.
Starting with the Anagen stage or better known as the active growth stage which is obviously the most popular stage. In this phase, New hair is being created every day, hour, minute, second and can grow an average of 0.03 to 0.04 mm a day. I know this may only seem a bit but for the human body this renewal process is phenomenal. The Anagen growth stage typically lasts for about 2-3 years but for some people, even up to 10 years. Dominant growth factors include the time of the year, the part of the body the hair is growing from, your personal hair practices, diet, age and genes.
To get ahead of your thinking that afro hair doesn’t grow as quickly, your part right, but mainly misguided. Kinky hair has a higher breakage rate and also appears a lot shorter than straight hair but if you’re knowledgeable and active about properly caring for your hair, even if you do have a slower anagen growth rate, over time it may not be as significant as you think.
After the growing phase, the hair strand goes into the Catagen stage also referred to as the resting phase. In this phase, hair simply takes a growth break and prepares to shed. This phase can take anything from a few weeks to a few months varying from person to person. To get ahead of your thought on this one again – no your hair is not not growing because it’s in the catagen stage. As a matter of fact, at any given time, only 1% of your hair is in this stage, unlike the 80% in the growing stage.
A key thing that happens in this resting phase, is that the hair stops producing melanin, which is why the root of the hair strand will appear white when they finally shed and enter stage 3, the Telogen Stage. Again only about 11% of your hair is in this stage, where your hair is just naturally shedding. Another fun fact, most of your hair will shed in the late summer, or early autumn.
A simple comb or brushing of the hair will cause it to shed.
Now to answer the question burning on your minds.
Last, is the Exogen stage which, according to the science of black hair is an optional hair phase that follows the shedding of the hair. It is described as the latency period in which the follicle rests and prepares to enter a new growing or anagen phase. The exogen phase can last anywhere from 5 to 7 months however As we age, our natural exogen periods begin to lengthen.
Armed with this information, we can now confidently answer 2 of your most burning misconceptions
- My hair isn’t growing, or my hair has stopped growing because i’ve reached my terminal length, and
- I need to chop off all my hair and start again to have healthy happy hair.
Some people believe their hair has stopped growing and will quote their terminal length quite confidently. So first: what is terminal Length:
Terminal length is the longest length that any hair can grow given your monthly hair growth rate and the length of your anagen (aka growing) phase. Basically it is the length that your hair would reach if it were never cut, never broke and was allowed to just grow without interruption.
And while most people think that terminal length refers to the length of this super duper long hair, its actually the time it takes for your hair to reach its terminal length.
Say for example your hair cycle from when it first starts growing till it naturally sheds is 5 years; and your hair grows super slowly at only half a cm a month, you will at least have 30cm of hair once those 5 years have lapsed. But the terminal length is NOT the 30cm you measure its 5 years it takes to get there. Hair does not stop growing because it’s past a certain length, it stops growing after a certain amount of TIME has lapsed!
What this basically means is that our job is to maximise growing opportunities like prevent breakage during all the stages of hair growth and the only thing working against you is time! Your hair is at a different stage and is continuously changing, if your goal is healthy happy LONG hair, you can definitely achieve it.
This continuous process means that you are given ample chances to achieve your goals…
What this also means, which answers the second misconception, is that – although it is muccch easier, you don’t HAVE to cut damaged hair or shave your whole head if you’ve messed up your hair if length isn’t one of your hair goals rather gradually recuperate take it as a learning opportunity and improve on your methods.