Hair is something we often take for granted. We moan and groan about how we are having a “bad hair day.” We wish it was a different color, or texture, or sometimes wish it would just go away. We wash it, brush it, pin it back, curl it, cut it, but we often never think about the intricate processes that are going on in our scalp to create one single strand of hair. Understanding how hair grows is important so that we can do everything in our power to help our hair grow long and strong.
What is Hair?
Essentially, hair is a protein called keratin. It is made up of a follicle, a root and a bulb. Muscle fiber and a tiny sebaceous gland are attached to the follicle, which is located extremely deep in the skin. It is surprising to know that hair actually grows when the follicle collects old cells and forms them into bundles. The muscle fiber and sebaceous gland work together to push the bundles up through the skin. These bundles are called the root sheath. The root sheath is made up of two layers; the internal layer contains the hair fiber, while the external layer contains the RNA. RNA is an important part of hair. This stuff determines the color and texture of an individual’s hair. If you are having a “bad hair day,” blame your RNA!
The Three Phases of Hair Growth
A single strand of hair is grown by a distinct three step process. The first phase is the Anagen phase. This is the phase that is responsible for 85% of all growth and is the period when hair most actively grows. Cells in the root are dividing rapidly during this phase. In order for this phase to begin and to be completed, the correct nutrients must be present. A person must be healthy to grow healthy hair. The key nutrients in the Anagen phase are vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats. Because hair is completely made up of keratin, a protein, it is vital that the follicle have an adequate protein source. The root delivers nutrients to the hair as it grows, and vitamins such as biotin and B12 are crucial from vibrancy and length of hair. Many dermatologists and scientists strongly suggest taking hair growth supplements to get enough of the vitamins and minerals your hair so desperately needs. According to many, you would have to consume thousands and thousands of calories just to get enough of the critical nutrients your hair craves. Taking supplements helps you to consume these nutrients without all of the calories and other unnecessary elements of regular food.
Fat is also critical to all of the body’s processes and hair growth is no exception. Again, consuming hair growth supplements is a good option for getting enough of the Omega-3 fatty acids your hair needs. Also, eating a healthy diet is beneficial to hair.
The Anagen period in the life of your hair lasts for several years and the actual length of time is determined by genetics and location of hair growth. Every 28 days, hair grows approximately half an inch. The Anagen phase on the scalp can last anywhere from 2 to 7 years, depending on a person’s genetics.
The second phase, or Catagen phase, is roughly two weeks long. The Catagen phase, sadly, marks the end of hair growth. A small percentage of your hair, about 4%, goes through this phase at one time. This is a short, transitional phase, in which hair growth stops. Club hair is formed, and is anchored by a root to the skin. Nutrients that encourage hair growth stop flowing through the root and this starts the Telogen phase. The time in which hair sheds is called the Telogen phase. Sadly, this is when the hair follicle dies and becomes a tough, fibrous protein. This keratinized follicle is the same material as fingernails and toenails. About 10% of your hair is in the Telogen phase at one time. This phase can last between 5 and 6 weeks.
Why Does It Matter?
All of the hair on your body is in one of these three stages at any given time and the processes and phases for all of your hair are the same. Whether the hair is on your head or on your arms, it grows exactly the same and needs the same nutrients to be healthy. Vitamins, minerals, protein, iron and fat are all vital to the production of healthy hair and for making each process of their hair cycle possible. Taking care of your hair from the outside in will enable it to grow long and strong and stay healthy for years to come. Understanding how your how grows and applying what you know can mean the difference between having an unhealthy scalp and hair problems, or having luxurious, silky hair. Eating quality foods and taking hair growth supplements will help your hair to look and feel the best it can.