The Natural Hair Growth Cycle: Acknowledging the Anatomy of Your Hair Follicles
Have you ever pondered how your scalp hair develops, appears, and falls out? Acknowledging your natural hair growth cycle is the most important component of your fight against hair loss. Hair is considered an accessory tissue of the Asthi dhatu in Ayurveda. Every tissue in the body follows a basic cycle of development, resting, and demise. This tissue is then rejuvenated with fresh, healthy tissue. Like all living things, hair passes through a natural growth cycle of development, rest, and fall, only to be replaced with a newer, healthier shaft.
In this post, we'll delve into the many stages of the natural hair growth cycle while also learning about the various reasons that disrupt this natural hair growth cycle, resulting in rapid hair loss.
How Does the Hair Grow?
- Your skin is composed of tiny pocket-like structures known as 'follicles.'
- Each follicle encompasses a root, which is composed of protein cells at the bottom and is where your hair grows.
- The blood arteries in your scalp deliver vital nutrients to the roots, allowing them to develop hair.
- As the hair develops, it pushes up through the skin layers and pushes out.
- Natural lubrication, smoothness, and shine are provided by the oil glands linked to the follicles.
There are two aspects to your hair structure:
- The internal structure of the follicle.
- The structure of the hair shaft found above the epidermis.
- Hair Bulb: It is the bottom section of your hair strand that is located inside the follicle. The club-shaped hair bulb aids in locking by the dermal papilla.
- Dermal Papilla: It refers to the cone-shaped elevation that exists at the base of your hair follicle. It inserts into the hair bulb and secures it. The dermal papilla is linked to blood vessels.
- Arrector Pili Muscle: It is a muscle that is found at the base of the hair follicle and is involuntary. When arrector pili contracts, you experience goosebumps.
- Sebaceous Glands: These are the oil glands that nourish the hair follicles. Sebaceous glands produce sebum, which is used to moisturize your hair.
- Cuticle: It is the hair strand's outermost layer. It serves as a barrier between the inner hair structure and the environment. A robust and well-integrated cuticle layer gives your hair gloss and smoothness.
- Cortex: It is the intermediate layer of the hair strand. The protein found in the cortex is responsible for the flexibility and color of your hair.
- Medulla: It is the hair strand's deepest layer. It is found only in dense and coarse hairs. The function of the medulla is yet to be determined.
Do you have a cyclical pattern in your hair?
The Natural Hair growth cycle is a recurring process, within your hair follicles. The cycle is divided into four stages: anagen (growth), catagen (regression/transition), telogen (rest), and exogen (external) (shedding). The entire cycle takes many years for each of your hair strands on the scalp.
Different Stages of the Natural Hair Growth Cycle
According to the ancient Ayurvedic philosophy, every human being is a synthesis of three essential life energies: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. While the distinct constitution levels of these three doshas determine the individual's unique Prakriti, it is thought that each dosha has a substantial effect on the Prakriti for a set period in an individual's lifespan.
From childhood until puberty, Kapha dosha is said to be dominant. Until a person reaches the age of 16, that is. This is known as the Kapha Kala of life. During Kapha Kala, your hair will be in the best possible condition to stay healthy and strong. A person's Kapha dosha can also be out of balance, resulting in problems such as severe dandruff, hair loss, and other scalp illnesses.
Pitta dosha is said to play a significant role from puberty through old age. i.e., until a person reaches the age of 50, which is known as the Pitta Kala of life. Similarly, Vata dosha has a major role in old age, i.e. from 50 years till the end of one's life, which is known as Vata Kala. The majority of hair issues and hair loss are noticed during the Pitta and Vata Kalas of human life.
Now, let's look at the many stages of the natural hair growth cycle and how they relate to Ayurvedic Kalas.
- Anagen Phase: The Anagen phase is the time when your hair begins to grow from the follicle root. The stem cells of the dermal papilla proliferate during anagen to create hair protein and fibers. The Anagen phase is the time when your hair begins to grow from the follicle root. The stem cells of the dermal papilla proliferate during anagen to create hair protein and fibers. In Ayurvedic words, the anagen phase corresponds to Kapha Kala, when your hair grows steadily over a longer length of time. The changeover of Kapha and Pitta Kala happens as you age, resulting in a shorter duration of the anagen phase.
Anagen Effluvium: External reasons such as chemotherapy medications, radiation, oral contraceptives, vitamin A poisoning, persistent infections, other chemicals, and so on can sometimes result in an abnormal conclusion to the anagen phase. This indicates that your hair begins to shed while still in the anagen phase. This is referred to as 'Anagen Effluvium.' Although substantial hair loss occurs during anagen effluvium, hair begins to recover spontaneously within a few months in the majority of instances.
- Catagen Phase: Your hair strand automatically enters the catagen phase at the conclusion of the anagen phase, during which it becomes disconnected from the root. This is the transition or regression phase of your hair development, which Ayurvedically corresponds to Pitta Kala. The hair follicle renews itself by shrinking to one-sixth of its original length during the catagen phase, and the papilla rests. Though the hair strand is isolated from the dermal papilla and no longer receives nutrition, it does not shed during the catagen phase because the shortened walls of the hair follicle temporarily hold the shaft component of the strand. In typically, this period lasts around 2-3 weeks.
- Telogen Phase: Your hair strand forms a club at the conclusion of the catagen phase, and the latent resting phase, telogen, begins. In Ayurveda, this phase is known as Vata Kala. During the telogen phase, a new hair grows from the roots and gradually pushes up the preceding club hair.
Telogen Effluvium: Physical or emotional stress, hormone imbalances induced by pregnancy or menopause, protein malnutrition, and other factors can cause hair to enter the telogen phase prematurely and finally drop off. In Ayurveda, this type of hair loss is known as Telogen effluvium or Khalitya. Telogen Effluvium is caused by an imbalance in an individual's Pitta and Vata doshas.
- Exogen Phase: It is the final stage of the natural hair growth cycle in which the hair strand totally detaches from the scalp and sheds. This is the hair you see falling out when you comb or brush it every day since around 50-100 strands of hair naturally move through the exogen phase every day.
The Natural Hair growth cycle generally lasts between 4 to 7 years. However, this occurs just during the first 2-3 cycles. As previously stated, the duration of the anagen phase shortens with age, and the hair that comes back is thinner than the preceding hair. This is due to the changing effect of different doshas as you mature.
At any moment, you should assess if you have normal hair loss produced by the natural hair growth cycle and comprehend your dosha imbalances to determine whether you are experiencing anagen effluvium or telogen effluvium. Ayurveda endows dosha-specific herbal concoctions that treat the core cause of your hair loss while maintaining your dosha levels in balance.