On average we shed between 50-100 hairs per day, sometimes more if experiencing hair loss. These hairs fall out naturally as part of the hair growth cycle. However, there is a common phenomenon known as seasonal shedding. It seems that many of us see shedding phases bunched together at different times of the year. Women seem to be greatly affected by seasonal shedding and tends to be seen in the late autumn months and early winter months that we now find ourselves in. To understand why we get seasonal shedding we first need to understand the hair growth cycle and the different stages of it.
The Hair Growth Cycle
The hair growth cycle is broken down into 3 different stage: Anagen (Growth), Catagen (Transition) and Telogen (Resting) phases. The majority of the growth cycle is taken up by the Anagen phase, which is where our hair growth takes place. The Anagen phase will typically last between 2-6 years. Our own lifestyle and genetics will play a factor into how long the anagen phase will last for. Hair loss factors will also play a part. During this Anagen phase our hair will grow on average half an inch in length. Once we reach the end of the Anagen phase, we enter the Catagen phase.
The Catagen phase is the shortest of the three and only lasts 10 days. This transitional Catagen phase is when we see the hair follicle being cut off from the blood supply to stop it growing any further. While the hair is still anchored at this stage, it is no longer an actively growing hair.
Our final stage is the Telogen phase, otherwise known as the resting phase. In this phase the hair follicle is inactive and can stay this way for up to 3 months. After this the hair cycle restarts and a new Anagen phase starts. As the new hair grows from the base of the hair follicle it will start to push the old hair out of the hair follicle. This older hair is shed and falls out, but is soon replaced by the new hair.
Why do we see Seasonal Shedding?
One theory is that as we spend less time in the sun as summer ends and autumn starts, we have less need for the hair on our head. One of the roles of the hair on our head plays is to protect our scalp from harmful UV light from the sun. Without our hair we would need to put sunscreen on our scalp to protect from the sun. Once the temperatures drop and the suns UV rays become less intense, we can shed more hair as their job has been fulfilled. By the time the sun is back to its most harmful the new hair will have grown in to protect us again. Seasonal shedding is nothing to be worried about, but it can cause a short-term change in how we look. For a lot of us, that can be traumatic in itself and cause more stress related hair loss and shedding.
We can potentially reduce the level of shedding that we see as the seasons change. Pineapples, bananas and oranges have been shown to increase melatonin secretion. This hormone helps to regulate your wake and sleep cycles and is thought to play a role in the hair growth cycle. Eating more of these fruits may help to increase melatonin synthesis and extend the growth phase of the hair growth cycle.
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