How To Reactivate Hair Follicle Growth
Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
So, you’ve noticed that your hair isn’t growing quite as well as it did in years past. Maybe you’ve started to spot the early signs of balding such as a receding hairline, thinning in your hair part or diffuse thinning that’s starting to affect your entire scalp.
It’s okay. Hair loss is probably more common than you think, especially as we age. Luckily, there are several things that you can do before giving up all hope.
Many common forms of hair loss start to develop when your hair follicles -- the small, tunnel-like structures in your skin from which hair grows -- become damaged or inactive.
While this may sound alarming, it’s often possible to prevent further hair loss and promote some degree of hair regrowth by reactivating these hair follicles.
Below, we’ve explained how your hair grows, as well as how forms of hair loss like male pattern baldness can damage your hair follicles and affect your natural hair growth cycle.
We’ve also covered how you can reactivate your hair follicles to stimulate growth and stop your hair loss from becoming more severe.
What Are the Stages of Hair Growth?
To understand the options for regrowing your hair, it’s important to understand the types of hair loss that you may be experiencing.
And to understand that, you need to understand the different stages of hair growth that each of your hair follicles passes through during the hair growth cycle.
In utero, your follicles are grown through a series of complex molecular signals. After birth that process shuts down, leaving you with all of the follicles you’ll ever have.
As you age, some of those follicles shrink and stop growing hair, leading to thinning of your hair and, in some cases, even outright baldness.
Each hair follicle grows strands on a different schedule, usually following a cyclic pattern. In fact, from the approximately 100,000 to 150,000 hair follicles on your scalp, you lose or “shed” about 50 to 100 hairs each day -- a sign that those hairs are progressing through the growth cycle.
In total, there are three distinct stages of hair growth that each of your follicles goes through on a regular basis. They are:
The Anagen Phase
The anagen stage, or the growth stage, of the hair growth cycle can last for anywhere from two to six years.
Hair growth begins at a root of protein in the hair follicle, fed by blood vessels in your scalp that create more cells to allow the hair to grow. About 85 to 95 percent of hair is in this phase at any time, and the hair shaft passes through the moisturizing sebaceous gland.
The Catagen Phase
During this stage, hair ceases to actively grow for several weeks, allowing each hair to transition from the anagen phase of active growth to a dormant phase. In this phase, cell division stops as the hair ends its growth, allowing a club hair to form.
The Telogen Phase
The telogen phase, which can last for several months, is a resting phase during which your hair does not actively grow. Club hairs, which form during the catagen phase, remain attached to the scalp but stay dormant, with no growth or change.
During the telogen phase, hairs typically remain in a resting state for 100 days before releasing from your scalp and shedding.
The shedding process is sometimes viewed as its own distinct phase of the hair growth cycle -- the “exogen” phase. After shedding, the hair growth cycle begins again, with a new anagen hair growing from the follicle to replace the recently shed strand of hair.
What Are the Main Forms of Hair Loss?
It’s easy to view all hair loss as the same condition -- after all, it always involves some form of hair shedding. However, the reality is that hair loss can occur for a wide range of reasons, with each form of hair loss possessing its own unique characteristics.
You’ll notice the word “alopecia” used fairly frequently in this section -- it is the general medical term for hair loss.
Some forms of alopecia are temporary, meaning your hair will usually grow back after a period of shedding. However, others, such as androgenetic alopecia, can involve permanent damage to your hair follicles that can result in long-term thinning of your hair.
We’ve discussed the most common types of hair loss, as well as the factors that can contribute to each of them, below.
Also known as male pattern baldness, androgenetic alopecia is the most common type of hair loss. It involves thinning of the hair at the top of your head, a bald patch around your crown, or recession around your hairline and temples.
Androgenetic alopecia is caused by a combination of genetic factors and sensitivity to the male sex hormone dihydrotestosterone, or DHT.
Your risk of developing this type of hair loss tends to increase with age, with approximately 50 percent of men affected by the age of 50.
Telogen effluvium is a type of hair loss that occurs when more of your hair follicles than normal enter into the telogen phase of the hair growth cycle. This disruption in hair growth can cause your hair to shed en masse, resulting in diffuse thinning.
Hair loss from telogen effluvium is usually temporary, and it often shows up as extra hairs that build up in your hairbrush, on your pillowcases or in the shower.
A variety of factors can contribute to telogen effluvium, including severe emotional or physical stress, illnesses that cause fever, hormonal imbalances, thyroid issues and some medications, such as prescription drugs for high blood pressure.
Most of the time, hair loss from telogen effluvium resolves on its own once the source of stress or underlying physical issue has been identified and treated.
Anagen effluvium is a type of hair loss that can occur when medication disrupts your hair cycle while it is in the anagen phase. It typically occurs in people who are undergoing chemotherapy and can become permanent if the hair follicle becomes damaged.
Hair loss from anagen effluvium occurs due to toxic or inflammatory insults, which can damage the hair shaft and increase breakage. This form of hair loss usually starts within two weeks of the beginning of treatment with chemotherapy medications.
Alopecia areata is a hair loss condition that’s also an autoimmune disease. It occurs when your immune system attacks and damages your hair follicles, causing your scalp, facial or body hair to fall out in round or oval-shaped patches.
This form of hair loss can vary in severity. Mild alopecia areata typically causes small patches of hair loss on the scalp, while more severe forms, such as alopecia universalis, can result in large areas of near-complete hair loss on the scalp, face and body.
Traumatic alopecia is a term that’s used to refer to hair loss that occurs due to physical damage to your hair follicles. This type of hair loss can develop as a result of bleaching your hair, pulling your hair deliberately (trichotillomania), or choosing an overly tight hairstyle (traction alopecia).
Tinea capitis is a form of hair loss that’s caused by a fungal infection of your scalp. This type of hair loss can cause hair shedding. When severe, it can also cause the development of scarring on your scalp, which may result in damage to your hair follicles and permanent hair loss.
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Hair Shedding vs. Hair Loss?
Now that we’ve covered the types of hair loss, let’s go over the difference between hair loss and hair shedding.
To keep it simple, hair shedding occurs when hair falls from your scalp, usually as a result of the natural hair growth process, while hair loss occurs when your hair stops growing normally.
It is normal to lose around 50 to 100 hairs per day. When a person loses significantly more than that number, it’s typically a sign that their hair is shedding, or that a greater-than-normal number of follicles have entered the exogen phase.
Specifically, hair shedding is often a sign of telogen effluvium, the aforementioned condition that results from extreme stress on the body.
In the case of androgenetic alopecia, hairs don’t just fall out as a result of the hair growth cycle. Instead, your hair follicles may gradually miniaturize, or shrink, as DHT attaches to receptors in your scalp.
This can result in your hair strands gradually becoming thinner and spending less of their time in a growth phase, eventually leading to dead hair follicles that are unable to penetrate through the outermost layer of your skin.
Telling the difference between hair shedding and hair loss isn’t always easy, as the two can feel virtually identical in many ways. Ultimately, your dermatology provider will be your best resource for helping you determine if you’re experiencing hair shedding or more permanent hair loss.
Reactivating Hair Follicles with Medication
If you’re starting to lose hair due to male pattern baldness, the most effective way to prevent it from becoming more severe and reactivate your hair follicles is by using medication.
Currently, there are two medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating hair loss, as well as some additional methods for stimulating hair regrowth.
Finasteride is a prescription medication for the treatment of hair loss. Available under the brand name Propecia® and as a generic medication, it works by preventing the production of DHT, the hormone that’s responsible for causing male pattern baldness.
Used daily, finasteride lowers DHT levels by as much as 70 percent, which can slow down, stop or reverse the effects of androgenic hair loss.
Minoxidil is a topical treatment that works by moving your hair follicles into the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle. It also stimulates blood flow to your scalp, which may increase the supply of nutrients to your hair follicles and stimulate growth.
Although minoxidil and finasteride are effective on their own, they tend to work best as a duo of hair loss medications. We offer oral finasteride and topical minoxidil in our Hair Power Pack, as well as a combination topical finasteride and minoxidil spray for treating hair loss.
Other Options for Treating Hair Loss
In addition to medication, there are several other options for treating hair loss and reactivating your hair follicles. These range from surgical procedures to options such as laser therapy and injections to reduce inflammation in your scalp.
Hair Transplant Surgery
Hair transplant surgery involves removing hair follicles from an area of your scalp with normal hair growth, then transplanting these follicles to an area that has significant hair loss, such as thinning around your crown or a receding hairline.
This type of procedure can vary in price depending on the number of hair follicles you need to transplant.
Microneedling with a dermaroller -- a form of treatment that’s generally used for acne and other skin issues -- has been proven to stimulate hair regrowth in some people.
Recently, experts have looked at the effectiveness of microneedling as a way to encourage cell regrowth and stimulation in the scalp.
Though research is ongoing, the medical community has observed some positive results. In one 2013 study, a team of researchers gave 100 men affected by male pattern baldness a treatment that included either minoxidil or minoxidil used with a dermal roller.
Both groups showed an increase in hair growth, but there was a statistically significant increase in hair growth in the group that used a dermaroller with minoxidil.
Although corticosteroids -- medications that reduce inflammation -- aren’t effective for all types of hair loss, they’re generally considered an effective form of treatment for alopecia areata.
If you have this form of hair loss, your healthcare provider may inject corticosteroid medications into your scalp to control skin inflammation and reduce damage to both active and dormant hair follicles.
Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy
Platelet-rich plasma therapy, or PRP, involves drawing blood and placing it into a machine that separates it into parts. The part of your blood that is plasma will be separated out, allowing the platelet-rich part to be injected into areas of your scalp with hair loss.
PRP for hair loss has grown significantly in popularity over the last few years, and evidence in support of its potential effects on hair health is starting to accumulate.
However, this type of hair growth treatment needs to be repeated on a regular basis to provide optimal effectiveness, meaning it can become a costly option over the long term.
Laser hair growth treatment, or low-level light therapy (LTTT), is a form of treatment for hair loss that involves using laser light to stimulate follicular growth.
Experts currently believe that this form of treatment improves hair growth by moving hair follicles into the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle.
While it does require repeated sessions, laser therapy might be an effective treatment for male pattern hair loss, hair loss from chemotherapy and alopecia areata.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that this type of hair growth technology is still in its early stages, and we likely need more research to truly understand its potential benefits and adverse effects.
Options for Reactivating Hair Follicles Holistically
Because hair loss typically occurs due to a combination of hormones, genetic factors and harm to your hair follicles, the most effective treatment options tend to be medications that protect the hair follicles or procedures that stimulate growth directly.
Supplements for Hair Follicle Regrowth
There are also many supplements on the market that purport to stimulate hair regrowth. For the most part, these supplements have only been proven to work in the presence of one or several nutritional deficiencies that cause hair loss.
Most nutritional deficiencies can be identified using a blood test, which your healthcare provider may request if you show signs of a form of hair loss caused by iron deficiency, crash dieting or a similar food-related problem.
Alongside supplements, you can also find many essential vitamins for healthier hair in foods and cooking ingredients, including many fresh fruits and vegetables.
Finally, many hair care products, such as shampoos and conditioners that contain ingredients to prevent shedding, can also help to stimulate your follicles and promote regrowth.
For example, our Hair Thickening Shampoo is formulated with saw palmetto to lower DHT levels on your scalp and protect your hair follicles.
Massaging Your Scalp
Massaging your scalp is another way to potentially stimulate hair growth and keep your follicles active. In a study published in the journal Dermatology and Therapy in 2019, researchers found that scalp massages produced hair regrowth in many men with pattern hair loss.
Other research has found that regular scalp massage can increase hair thickness and increase expression of genes related to the hair growth cycle.
You can massage your scalp by gently moving your fingertips in small circles in areas with hair loss. Use a light to moderate level of pressure and try massaging for a few minutes each day in the morning for optimal results.
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The Bottom Line on Reactivating Hair Follicles
There are a variety of methods available for the regrowth of hair follicles, from using medication to massaging your scalp to stimulate your hair directly.
Currently, the most effective way to reactivate your hair follicles is by using medication, such as finasteride and minoxidil. These FDA-approved medications are backed up by real, high quality scientific research showing consistent improvements in hair growth over the long term.
We offer both of these medications as part of our range of men’s hair loss treatments, making it easy for you to access the treatment options you need for thicker hair and better coverage.