Welcome back. In Part 1: My Hairstory, I described my lifelong struggle with my locks (I wanted to pull my hair out, literally!). And I promised to share what I learned during a journey of research that ultimately led me to the thickest, shiniest hair I’ve had since I was a little girl. Understanding anything at its most basic level allows you to remove the personal attachment to it, which will help you make better choices. Let’s first review hair at its most elementary level. Without further ado, here’s Hair 101, directly from the American Academy of Dermatology.
- Hair grows out of little pockets in your skin, called follicles.
- Your hair begins growing from a root in the bottom of the follicle. The source is made up of cells of protein.
- Blood from the blood vessels in your scalp feeds the root, which creates more cells and makes the hair grow.
- The hair gets pushed up through the skin as it grows, passing an oil gland along the way. The oil gland adds oil to the hair and keeps it shiny and soft.
- You are born with all of the follicles you will ever have—about 5 million.
- You have about 100,000 follicles on your scalp, which is the skin on your head.
- The hair on your head grows about 6 inches a year. Even though it’s one of the fastest-growing things on your body, it takes a while to develop it really long.
- You lose about 50 to 100 hairs a day. That’s because the follicles don’t all grow hair at the same time. Each scalp follicle becomes hair for a few years and then takes a break.
- Some follicles stop growing hair as you get older.
Hair Texture & Types
Everybody’s hair has texture. That’s what it looks and feels like. Your hair might be:
- Straight, wavy, curly, or kinky.
- Thick (a lot of it) or thin (not as much).
- Fine (each strand is skinny) or coarse (each strand is fat).
The shape of your follicles determines whether your hair is straight or curly.
People with very curly hair have oval-shaped follicles, and people with straight hair have round follicles. The kind of hair you have is determined by the genes you get from your parents.
The shape of the follicle determines the shape of the cortex, and the form of the fiber is related to how straight or curly your hair is.
People with straight hair have round hair fibers. Oval and other shaped fibers are generally more wavy or curly.
The three stages of hair growth are the anagen, catagen, and telogen phases. Each strand of hair on the human body is at its own stage of development. Once the cycle is complete, it restarts, and a new strand of hair begins to form.
- Anagen phase: The anagen phase is known as the growth phase. This is the phase where the hair physically grows approximately 1 centimeter per month. It begins in the papilla and can last from two to six years. The longer the hair stays in the anagen phase, the longer it will grow. About 85-90 percent of the hairs on one’s head are in the anagen phase at any given time.
- Catagen phase: The catagen phase, also known as the transitional phase, allows the follicle to, in a sense, renew itself. During this time, which lasts about two weeks, the hair follicle shrinks due to disintegration, and the papilla detaches and “rests,” cutting the hair strand off from its nourishing blood supply. Signals sent out by the body determine when the anagen phase ends, and the catagen phase begins.
- Telogen phase: During the telogen or resting phase, the follicle remains dormant for one to four months. Ten to fifteen percent of the hairs on one’s head are in this phase of growth at any given time. At some point, the follicle will begin to grow again, softening the anchor point of the shaft initially. The hair base will break free from the root, and the hair will be shed. Within two weeks the new hair shaft will begin to emerge once the telogen phase is complete. This process results in average hair loss, known as shedding.
That’s as fundamental as it gets. Let’s review what we need to know before moving on to what is next.
- Hair needs a healthy follicle to grow.
- While hair is technically dead, it still needs to be nurtured, or it will deteriorate, resulting in breakage.
- The shape of your follicle determines your hair texture.
- Hair strands are made up of mostly protein, and if that protein is in tip-top shape, it is powerful.
- Hair grows in stages, much like how the weather has seasons. A growth phase, a restorative stage, and a resting stage.
- Circulating blood to the scalp helps keep follicles healthy and hair thriving.
- The scalp produces its own natural oil called sebum.
A significant point I want you to take away is that growth goes dormant in stages or permanently unless you insert yourself in the equation, a process that essentially “hacks” into our original design.
Let me make sure you are 100 percent clear on what I am saying—you can’t alter the machine, but you can modify the software. Whatever hair you inherited, coupled with the effects of damage and aging, can be manipulated by what you do today and in the future.
Does that mean you can make a radical leap from straight hair to kinky hair? No. But you can reverse the signs of aging and, in fact, get thicker hair than you previously had if you intentionally activate the parts of your body that contribute to thick hair.
Achieving healthy, voluminous and thriving hair requires us to focus on three specific goals, in this order:
- Strengthen your hair strands: It is a losing battle if your hair continues splitting and breaking off. You need to take immediate action to rebuild the strength of your hair strands.
- Cleanse and nurture your scalp: Your scalp is no different than your face and in fact, could be more sensitive. I am sure you tend to clog pores, dry skin, and reversing damage every day on your face. But how attentive are you to your scalp? Your scalp needs to be fully prepared to activate growth and retain the strands it holds.
- Balance your PH and Moisture: The billions of cells in our bodies must maintain alkalinity to function and stay alive.
That’s your hair! Who knew there was so much going on up there? I’m glad I was able to help you understand the fundamentals. In Part 3, you’ll do a hair assessment, and I’ll share the four building blocks that comprise the 3-Day At-Home Hair Rehab.
A dynamic and creative executive, Audrey has guided household name brands in the health & wellness, travel & leisure, executive training and philanthropy sectors.
Her travel & leisure ventures include the launch of a Hawaiian island destination for Larry Ellison and the Four Seasons, taking a previously unknown locale to #1 in travel in the U.S. and among the Top 10 destinations in the world. The project included creating events and campaigns in partnership with Nobu, Jennifer Lopez, BMW, Serena Williams and various charities.
Audrey’s recent foray into the science sector includes working with Google Ventures, Amgen, Lilly, Genentech, Sanofi, Otsuka, Novartis, and AOBiome, through the recently launched biotech SaaS startup Science 37, which aims to disrupt and democratize the clinical trial process.
Her executive development experience includes building leadership models for trainers such as Tony Robbins, training over 30,000 managers worldwide and leading workshops on performance management to over 100,000 individuals across the U.S. She founded The HR Coach, which consults tech startups in training and developing remote management.
Audrey travels between Seattle, Los Angeles and Austin, enjoying personal time with her three xoloitzcuintles and her beau. Not to mention her total obsession with her big-bold-all-natural hair.