Human hair growth

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The growth of human hair occurs everywhere on the body except for the soles of the feet, the palms of the hands, the inside of the mouth, the lips, the backs of the ears, some external genital areas, the navel, and, apart from eyelashes, the eyelids.[1] Hair is a stratified squamous keratinized epithelium made of multi-layered flat cells whose rope-like filaments provide structure and strength to the hair shaft. The protein called keratin makes up hair and stimulates hair growth. Hair follows a specific growth cycle with three distinct and concurrent phases: anagen, catagen, and telogen. Each phase has specific characteristics that determine the length of the hair.

The body has different types of hair, including vellus hair and androgenic hair, each with its own type of cellular construction. This varied construction gives the hair unique characteristics, serving specific purposes, mainly warmth (redundant in modern humans) and physical protection.[2] Most humans develop the longest thickest hair on their scalps and (mostly observed in males) faces. This hair will usually grow to several feet before terminating, but many humans develop much longer hair.

Growth cycle[edit]

Hair-follicle cycling
Hair grows at different speeds and different lengths. Its composition causes different colors and textures, which influence how long the hair strands grow.
Marianne Ernst, a German "Long hair model".

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. The growth rate of hair varies from individual to individual depending on their age, genetic predisposition and a number of environmental factors. It is commonly stated that hair grows about 1 cm per month on average; however reality is more complex, since not all hair grows at once. Scalp hair was reported to grow between 0.6 cm and 3.36 cm per month. The growth rate of scalp hair somewhat depends on age (hair tends to grow more slowly with age), sex, and ethnicity.[3] Thicker hair (>60 μm) grows generally faster (11.4 mm per month) than thinner (20–30 μm) hair (7.6 mm per month).[4]

It was previously thought that Caucasian hair grew faster than Asian hair and that women's grew faster than men's;[3] but newer research shows that the sexes do not differ significantly in speed of hair growth[5] and that the hair of Chinese people grows faster than that of French Caucasians and West and Central Africans.[6] The quantity of hairs depends on hair colour (before graying):[7][8] an average blond-haired person has 150,000 hairs, a brown-haired person has 110,000, a black-haired person has 100,000, and a redhead has 90,000.[9] Hair growth stops at death; the illusion of growth after death is due to shrinkage of the skin by drying.[10]

Anagen phase[edit]

The anagen phase, known as the growth phase, is when the hair grows about 1 cm per month.[11] It begins in the papilla and can last from three to five years.[12] The span at which the hair remains in this stage of growth is determined by genetics. The longer the hair stays in the anagen phase, the longer it will grow. During this phase, cells neighboring the papilla in a germinative layer divide to produce new hair fibers,[13] and the follicle buries itself into the dermal layer of the skin to nourish the strand. About 85%–90% of the hairs on one's head are in the anagen phase at any given time.

Catagen phase[edit]

The catagen phase, or the transitional phase, allows the follicle to renew itself (in a sense). 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 (that only selectively affect 1 percent of all hair of one's body at any given time) determine the end of melanin production in the hair bulb and apoptosis of follicular melanocytes.[14] Ultimately, the follicle is 1/6 its original length, causing the hair shaft to be pushed upward.

Growth inhibitors and disorders[edit]

In most people, scalp hair growth will halt due to follicle devitalization after reaching a length of generally two or three feet. Exceptions to this rule can be observed in individuals with hair development abnormalities, which may cause an unusual length of hair growth.[15][better source needed]


Most chemotherapy drugs work by attacking rapidly dividing cells. Rapid cell replication is one of the hallmarks of cancer; however, hair follicle cells also grow and divide quickly. Consequently, the chemotherapy drugs usually inhibit hair growth.[16] The dose and type of medicine will determine the severity of hair loss. Once the course of chemotherapy has ended, new hair growth may begin after three to 10 weeks.

Hair loss[edit]

Alopecia is a hair loss disease that can occur in anyone at any stage of life.[17][18] Specifically alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that causes hair to spontaneously fall out. It is mainly characterized by bald patches on the scalp or other parts of the body, and can ultimately cause baldness across the entire body. This disease interferes with the hair growth cycle by causing a follicle to prematurely leave the anagen, or active growth, phase and enter the resting, or telogen, phase. The hair growth in the affected follicles is lessened or stopped completely. Primary Cicatricial Alopecias (PCAs), commonly referred to as scarring alopecias, are a collective group of inflammatory disorders with distinctive pathological features that include the development of fibrosis, permanent destruction of the pilosebaceous unit of the hair follicle (HF), and irreversible hair loss.[19]

Traction alopecia is caused by adding too much strain on the hair on one's head. Tight ponytails and other styles that require added tension to the hair are often what cause this disease. It can also occur on the face in areas where the hair is often styled. Plucking or waxing one's eyebrows frequently, for example, can yield suppressed hair growth in the area.

On the scalp, the hair is usually known to be lost around the hair line, leaving the densest amount of hair at the crown. Small vellus hair will often replace the hair that is lost.

Radiation therapy to the head[edit]

Human hair follicles are very sensitive to the effects of radiation therapy administered to the head, most commonly used to treat cancerous growths within the brain. Hair shedding may start as soon as two weeks after the first dose of radiation and will continue for a couple of weeks. Hair follicles typically enter the telogen phase, and regrowth should commence 2.5 to 3 months after the hair begins to shed. Regrowth may be sparser after treatment.


Ultraviolet light levels of either 20 or 50 mJ cm−2 in the UV-B range have been shown to inhibit hair growth, reduce hair melanin and damage hair follicles.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Buffoli, Barbara; Rinaldi, Fabio; Labanca, Mauro; Sorbellini, Elisabetta; Trink, Anna; Guanziroli, Elena; Rezzani, Rita; Rodella, Luigi F. (2014). "The human hair: from anatomy to physiology". International Journal of Dermatology. 53 (3): 331–341. doi:10.1111/ijd.12362. PMID 24372228. S2CID 1310059.
  2. ^ Schneider, Marlon R.; Schmidt-Ullrich, Ruth; Paus, Ralf (2009-02-10). "The hair follicle as a dynamic miniorgan". Current Biology. 19 (3): R132–142. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2008.12.005. ISSN 1879-0445. PMID 19211055.
  3. ^ a b Harkey, M. R. (December 1993). "Anatomy and physiology of hair". Forensic Science International. Hair Analysis as a Diagnostic Tool for Drugs of Abuse Investigation. 63 (1): 9–18. doi:10.1016/0379-0738(93)90255-9. ISSN 0379-0738. PMID 8138238.
  4. ^ Van Neste DJ, Rushton DH (2016). "Gender differences in scalp hair growth rates are maintained but reduced in pattern hair loss compared to controls". Skin Res Technol. 22 (3): 363–9. doi:10.1111/srt.12274. PMID 26526232. S2CID 19060270.
  5. ^ Joseph Castro (January 27, 2014). "How Fast Does Hair Grow?". Live Science. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  6. ^ Loussouarn, Geneviève; El Rawadi, Charles; Genain, Gilles (2005). "Diversity of hair growth profiles". International Journal of Dermatology. 44 (s1): 6–9. doi:10.1111/j.1365-4632.2005.02800.x. PMID 16187948. S2CID 39103960.
  7. ^ "How many hairs are on a human head in total and per square inch?". Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  8. ^ "Number of hairs on human head". Archived from the original on 14 December 2021. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  9. ^ "How much hair does a human have on their head?". Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  10. ^ "Do your hair and fingernails grow after death?". Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  11. ^ Ruszczak, Zbigniew (2012). "Hair Disorders and Alopecia". In Elzouki, Abdelaziz Y.; Harfi, Harb A.; Nazer, Hisham M.; Stapleton, F. Bruder; Oh, William; Whitley, Richard J. (eds.). Textbook of Clinical Pediatrics. pp. 1489–508. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-02202-9_146. ISBN 978-3-642-02201-2.
  12. ^ Braun-Falco, Otto (2000). Dermatology (2., completely rev. ed.). Berlin: Springer. p. 1101. ISBN 9783540594529.
  13. ^ Nicolas, Jean-François; Sequeira, Inês (15 October 2012). "Redefining the structure of the hair follicle by 3D clonal analysis". Development. 139 (20): 3741–3751. doi:10.1242/dev.081091. ISSN 0950-1991. PMID 22991440.
  14. ^ Araújo, Rita; Fernandes, Margarida; Cavaco-Paulo, Artur; Gomes, Andreia (2010). "Biology of Human Hair: Know Your Hair to Control It". Biofunctionalization of Polymers and their Applications. Advances in Biochemical Engineering/Biotechnology. Vol. 125. pp. 121–43. doi:10.1007/10_2010_88. hdl:1822/15299. ISBN 978-3-642-21948-1. PMID 21072698. S2CID 21502785.
  15. ^ "Natural Hair Growth". Sunday, 11 April 2021
  16. ^ Grevelman, E. G.; Breed, W. P. M. (2005-03-01). "Prevention of chemotherapy-induced hair loss by scalp cooling". Annals of Oncology. 16 (3): 352–358. doi:10.1093/annonc/mdi088. ISSN 0923-7534. PMID 15642703.
  17. ^ Erjavec SO, Gelfman S, Abdelaziz AR, Lee EY, Monga I, Alkelai A, Ionita-Laza I, Petukhova L, Christiano AM (Feb 2022). "Whole exome sequencing in Alopecia Areata identifies rare variants in KRT82". Nat Commun. 13 (1): 800. doi:10.1038/s41467-022-28343-3. PMC 8831607. PMID 35145093.
  18. ^ "Hair loss (alopecia) - NHS Choices". 2013-09-27. Archived from the original on 2013-09-27. Retrieved 2021-11-26.
  19. ^ Wang EHC, Monga I, Sallee BN, Chen JC, Abdelaziz AR, Perez-Lorenzo R, Bordone LA, Christiano AM (Jul 2022). "Primary cicatricial alopecias are characterized by dysregulation of shared gene expression pathways". PNAS Nexus. 1 (3): pgac111. doi:10.1093/pnasnexus/pgac111. PMC 9308563. PMID 35899069.
  20. ^ Lu, Zhongfa; Fischer, Tobias W; Hasse, Sybille; Sugawara, Koji; Kamenisch, York; Krengel, Sven; Funk, Wolfgang; Berneburg, Mark; Paus, Ralf (2009). "Profiling the Response of Human Hair Follicles to Ultraviolet Radiation". Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 129 (7): 1790–804. doi:10.1038/jid.2008.418. PMID 19158839.