Trauma to Hair Follicles: Why do some of us lose it?

Author: Leslie Correa is a nationally renowned hair designer and hair chemical specialist, (Color, Perms, Relaxers) he has devoted the past 24 years perfecting his craft in the art of hair design. He has devoted his career to knowing how to refine the best qualities of your hair and bringing out its natural beauty.
Source: Beauty Magazine

Types of hair loss

  • Trauma: Burns and Accidents
    Trauma to hair follicles can result in permanent hair loss. Thermal and chemical burns for example, can kill hair follicles and result in hair loss.
  • Normal Shedding:
    During the resting stage of the cycle of hair growth, the hair follicle relaxes its hold on the hair shaft bulb, and the bulb of the hair shaft moves closer to the surface of the skin. Over time, normal hair movement and shampooing cause the hair shaft to loosen further. Eventually the hair is shed. Shedding hairs is normal. On average we shed about 50-100 hairs each day (we also grow about 50-100 new hairs each day).
  • Telogen Effluvium:
    Telogen effluvium is when a sudden severe stress causes noticeable shedding of hair after the stressful event. The hair loss is always delayed, usually 3-4 months after and sometimes 5 or 6 months after the stressful event. The event can be a physical stress such as childbirth, a heart attack, a severe illness with a high fever, sudden weight changes, or a major surgical procedure. Sudden severe emotional stress can also trigger telogen effluvium, including the death of a loved one, a divorce, or a job termination.
  • Anagen Effluvium:
    Anagen effluvium is the sudden loss of hair as a result of powerful chemicals or radiation suddenly halting the hair growth cycle. There is no 3-4 month transition to a resting stage, as with telogen effluvium. Anagen effluvium is most commonly experienced after chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatment for cancer. Within just 1-3 weeks after treatment, some or all of a patient’s hair falls out, often in uneven patches.
  • Alopecia Areata, Totalis, Universalis:
    It is estimated that approximately 2.5 million men, women, and children in the U.S. have some degree of alopecia areata. There are three basic types of alopecia areata:

    • Alopecia Areata: small, smooth circular areas of hair loss affecting less than 50% of the scalp.
    • Alopecia Totalis: more than 50% hair loss on the scalp.
    • Alopecia Universalis: complete hair loss affecting the scalp as well as the face and body. Although the cause is not yet clearly known, researchers feel alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition. The National Alopecia Areata Foundation points out that other than the hair and occasionally the nails; no other part of the body is affected. For more information
  • Androgenetic alopecia:
    This is the most common type of hair loss, eventually affecting about half of all men or 75 million (male-pattern baldness) and 10 to 20% of women 30 million (female-pattern baldness). A slightly elevated level of the male hormone dihydrotestosterone probably plays a major role, along with genetic factors. The hair loss can begin at any age, even during the teenage years.
  • Traction Alopecia:
    Traction alopecia occurs when hairs are constantly being pulled upon, usually by tightly braided hairstyles, elastic bands holding hairs together and hair extensions. This type of styling traumatizes the hair follicles, and the hairs fall out before the end of their growth period Permanent hair loss can result if the new hairs that grow out are subjected to more pulling, although this usually requires constant pulling over many hair growth cycles. Repeatedly pulling out a hair from a follicle will eventually result in finer hair growing back, and eventually no new hair growth. The follicle will simply quit growing new hairs.
    Various hair removal methods that involve pulling out hairs take advantage of traction alopecia, including waxing, depilatory machines, and plucking hairs out with tweezers. After hairs are pulled, the follicle takes 3-4 months to recover, and during this time the unwanted hairs are gone. Repeating the procedure on the new hairs that grow out will result in finer hairs growing back and eventually will result in permanent hair loss.
  • Trichotillomania:
    Pulling hair, lashes or brows is a far more common problem than you believe. It is believed that around 2% of the population pull or pluck hairs from their scalp, brows or lashes, or even other parts of the body. Trich is considered an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and is an anxiety disorder. Not a disease. This can be cured through care counseling to reverse the habit. I once heard it being described as though it were a fly on your lip. If a fly landed on your lip, the first thing you would try to do would be to swat it off. That’s what Trichotillomania is like. It’s a reflex, not a disease.
  • Hair Shaft Breakage:
    Broken hair shafts are a type of hair loss caused by damage to the hair itself, (the “hair shaft”). Improper or excessive hair styling, aggressive grooming techniques, and exposure to too much swimming pool chlorine and sunlight are common causes of hair shaft breakage. Rough treatment of the hair can result in hair loss. Hair styling chemicals can damage hair shafts if used incorrectly. Hair dyes, colorings, bleaches, relaxers (straighteners), permanent wave solutions are all generally safe for hair when used as directed. Incorrect use includes application of these products too frequently, and leaving the solutions on the hair or scalp too long. This is why it is important to make sure the stylist performing Thermal Reconditioning on your hair is an experienced stylist who is very familiar with the chemicals to be applied on your hair.

    (Here is where I step in to interject a contrary opinion. Athough I’m no chemist, it’s a known fact that permanent hair dyes and coloring have to raise the cuticles and deposit color into the cortex. In the case of bleaches, the chemicals actually raise the cuticle, take the color out of the hair shaft. If you’re going blond that’s it. If you’re going to a lighter different color, then that new color has to be deposited into your hair shaft. The stripping of or depositing color, whatever the case may be, is damaging and drying. In the case of color deposits, they can make the hair shaft swell, leaving nappy hair (all hair really) even more susceptible to dryness. And we all know that relaxers destroy the original chemical bonds that make your hair nappy. They make your hair more prone to being dry and brittle, and therfore weaker, leaving much more prone to damage and breakage. Over time, many people have experienced hair loss from using these chemicals whether applied correctly or not.)

    Hair styling often involves the use of heat on the hair shaft. Excessive heat from curling irons and blow dryers can cause hair shafts to become weak and brittle and prone to breakage. A heat protector will only protect the hair but not the scalp.

    Aggressive grooming and personal hygiene such as vigorous shampooing, scalp massage, and rough towel drying of the hair can break hair shafts. Combing long wet hair with fine-toothed combs can cause shaft breakage. Excessive shampooing can result in dry, brittle hair that is prone to breakage. Use a paddle brush to minimize breakage of hair.Repeated exposure to both swimming pool chlorine and sunlight will weaken hair shafts. Covering your hair with a swimming cap is a good way to avoid chlorine in pools, and some shampoo and conditioner products are designed specifically to neutralize the effects of swimming pool chlorine. Covering your hair with a hat or towel when in the sun helps to avoid exposure to excessive sunlight.

23 Responses to “Trauma to Hair Follicles: Why do some of us lose it?”
  1. Ellen says:

    I don’t have a problem with breakage but am experiencing clumps of hair in the front of my scalp that simply don’t grow and as time goes by more and more of the hair is only about 1.5 – 3 inches long. I went to a hair specialist and he said it probably was because my ovaries shut down due to chemo therapy before menopause, some years ago. Anyway, I have no hopes of growning this hair, but I was wondering if I could have some hair woven into the short strands by some method.

  2. nappyme says:

    Hi Ellen,
    Sorry to hear about your hair. Yes, if permies can weave in hair, I’m sure a good beautician could figure out a way to weave in some kinky, textured hair.

    You’ll just have to call and ask around and then go in for consultation. Be careful because you wouldn’t want the weave to break off your already fragile hair in that area. So you’ll have to make sure to take extra good care of your hair underneath the weave.

    Good luck, take care and God bless,

  3. Tish says:

    Hello. I have no idea what’s going on with my hair. Some background~ I’m 51 yo and post menopausal. My hair has been completely natural for 3 years and is 6 to 10 inches long. Six months ago, my hair began shedding and breaking like crazy. I used to be able to finger comb my hair, but the shed hair wraps around my strands and creates knots. I am very gentle with my hair and use detanglers or conditioner before combing. I mostly wear my hair in 2 strand twists. My hair doesn’t look healthy to me anymore. Each twist has MANY hairs sticking out along the length. A lady I was talking with told me it was new growth. I’m not sure about that.

  4. nappyme says:

    Hi Tish and welcome to NPP101.

    I’m sorry for what you’re experiencing with your hair. I want to make sure that you understand the difference between breaking and shedding. Breaking occurs when your hair snaps in the middle of the hair shaft and shedding occurs when your hair is falling out of the scalp with what appears to be a little white bulb.

    Most folks shed between 50 to 100 hair per day so just know that if you don’t comb or brush for long periods of time, when you do finally get around to it, you can appear to be losing an alarming amount of hair. Seasonal fluxuations can make some people shed more than what appears to be normal, with November being a month where some can experience more shedding that what seems normal for them.

    Having said that, you really need to determine if you’re experiencing excess shedding or breaking. If you’re shedding more than you should, then you’ll eventually start noticing a change in density as your hair grows out of the scalp. In other words, you may be experiencing some type of thinning or balding.

    If you’re experiencing excess breakage, you won’t see a change in growth density, but your hair throughout it’s length with appear to be thin and whispy and you’ll see hairs of different lengths.

    If you’re noticing thinning and balding, you need to go to a dermatologist to get to help you find out why this is occuring.

    If you’re primarily experiencing breakage, then you need to re-examine your hair care practices.
    Are you over styling your hair? Keeping it properly moisturizing perhaps? Tearing your hair out with combs and brushes? Are you styling to tightly…experiencing stress breakage along your parts?

    These are all some things to consider.

    You say you’re post menopausal. Are you taking some medications that could be causing your hair to become dry and brittle? Medications can definitely affect your hair adversely sometimes so it might be a good idea to check with your doctor.

    I certainly don’t have all the answers, however, I hope I’ve given you a starting point to help you try to get a handle on what’s going on with your hair.

    You take care, good luck and keep me updated.

    God Bless,

  5. Tish says:

    Hi Nappyme! Thanks so much for the welcome and your prompt response!

    I only comb my hair when it’s time to detangle, wash and deep condition, that’s usually every 2 to 3 weeks in the winter with co washes once a week. During the summer months, I wash my hair weekly. What is happening to my hair is brand new to me.

    The amount of shedding I’ve had is alarming, but I understand that it’s normal since I don’t comb through my hair on a daily basis. I absolutely have hairs of different lengths throughout my hair, that’s why my twists look so bad now. So bad it’s embarassing.

    My hair can always use more moisture. The other suggested problems you listed doesn’t apply to me. If I can get a picture close up of my hair, I’ll post a link for you. I’ve never experienced or seen anything like it.

    If I can’t find a solution, there’s always scissors! LOL

  6. laurie says:

    I have been enjoying the discussions on dry hair and losing our hair. I have hair that just doesn’t grow. The only time I achieved significant hair growth was when I had a “curl”. My hair grew like crazy! Since then I haven’t had the same success. I also have extreme hair loss and dryness in the winter. As soon as I turn on the heat I lose my hair! It is a never ending cycle. I have noticed that my hair would grow in the summer. I used to think that I was nuts, because I always equated summer with heat and heat is bad for your hair. I was glad to read that I wasn’t nuts! Lol. After reading your discusions I am going o break down and buy some curl activator moisterizer, the glycerine is my hair’s best friend. I would like an idea of a hair product for the winter. I have a cabinet full of products and I am still bald as an eagle, LOL. Please help.

  7. kim gardner says:

    This is just to thank you for a great Website. I am a lock head and found the information very helpful.

  8. Helen H Jones says:

    I notice my hair shedding like your, with hair all entwining and tangling in double twists. So I started just using cold water only. And also brewing sage and rosemary herbs. All this is to keep they pores in my scalp tight. Because I read somewhere that using water that is too hot makes it easier for hair to slip out of folicle prematurely. Well, I did not want to take a chance with warm water, since in Louisiana the weather is hot and humid. It is a recipe for enarged pores. And the brewed herb I keep refriderated, and pour some in a 4 oz spritz bottle that I keep in the refriderator also. Then spritz my scalp 1-2 times a day, 4-7 times a week.
    My hair feels stronger, and the symtoms went away in two weeks.

  9. MDR says:

    I hope you can help me. I am a female and am 29 yars old.
    I recently had my hair pulled out of my head from the root at the side of my head. I am really nervous about it not ever going back.
    Will my hair ever grow back?

  10. nappyme says:

    My best guess is that is SHOULD. That is unless, you’ve experienced some type of traumatic damage to to follicles AND/OR some scaring to your scalp.

    If you’re really concerned, you should go see a dermatologist so you can get an expert medical opinion.

    Take care,

  11. swilli31 says:

    Every since I can remember, I frequently get sores at the crown of my head. I have a pretty good hair texture and went natural about 10.5 months ago to a short curly style. I use a moisturizer and liquid silkeing gel daily and finger comb my hair culy hair. Can the sores be the result of over use of the products possibly blocking my pores? I remember my mother using a “black tar soap” to rid me of these sores. Any suggestions as to what may be causing these sores? I developed these sores when my hair was hot combed, permed, and now they are back with my natural hair. No heat products have touched my hair in the last 10.5 months. Thanks !

    • nappyme says:

      swilli31 welcome to NPP101. Congrats on your decision to go natural, however, I am sorry to hear about your scalp woes. I’ve never heard of such. All I can do is suggest that you go see a dermatologist. If you’re getting sores in your scalp no matter what, there may be something going on that is perhaps unrelated to your choice of how you wear your hair.

      Take care and God bless,

  12. Laura says:

    I just wanted to know if Glycerin truly grows hair. A friend of mine said that she put glycerin on her daughters bald spot and it eventually grew her hair back. Is this true? I have just recently developed a small patch of missing hair. I’m only 21, I need help!

    • nappyme says:

      Hi Laura,
      To my knowledge glycerin has no properties that makes hair grow. Never heard of that. The hair was likely grow back anyway and the glycerin kept it moisturized as it grew back in.

      If you have a missing patch of hair…go see a doctor. You may have a medical condition of some sort that needs to be treated by a medical professional.

      Good luck!

  13. trish says:

    Thanks for the helpful informations. I am searching for a product that will help my thinning hairline please help.

  14. Angela says:

    Hello, as I was surfing the net I ran across this website and am very excited about the information you provide. I went natural in December, 2008 and it has been a challenging road to say the least. When I had short natural hair that was fine because I would just add a little bit of s-curl gel in my hair and that worked well, but over the year I have colored my hair a lighter brown possibly over coloring (to frequently) as I grey fairly fast. I noticed the texture of my hair is very nappy especially at the ends of my hair. At the ends my hair tends to curl and causes it to get tangled, making it very difficult to comb. I have trimmed my ends, but my ends still are hard and easily tangled.

    A few questions I have for you are 1) What is the best type of color to use on my hair. I hear hair dye exist that doesnt cause as much damage to the hair folicle. 2) What can I do to get my hair back in shape. I want to get my hair to be much softer and less tangled at the ends.

    With my hair being so difficult to manage I am starting to think that being natural is more difficult than just having a perm. Please help.

  15. NubianPrize says:

    Hi Nappyme! and Angela

    This product may be a big no-no to discuss here but here it goes anyway. My nape had become very thin & wouldn’t grow after years of curly perms,plus I sleep on my back. I started using ayurvedic oils & powders
    ( amla,brahmi,shikakai,vatika) & they helped it start to fill in,but I still had breakage problems & it never got more than an inch long..I heard about MTG ( mane tail groom) on some message boards. I found a pet feed store near me that sells it. I got a bottle in April & applied the stuff every night. It smells awful,like old school Glovers Mange many of us grew up with. Long story short the nape has now totally filled in except for the very edges of the hairline & is about 2-3″ long & I can now flat twist it. I’ve quit wearing the wig & now wear my hair similar to yours but in flat twists with a synthetic afro puff where your real one is.Sure is cooler than that wig!

    I just learned to dye my grey edges black ( my natural color) with henna & indigo. I got the henna from & used the henna for African hair kit. Leaves my hair stronger,soft & in good condition. BTW,when I mix the henna I use apple juice for the acidic liquid instead of lemon juice ,which dried my hair out the first time. I used to use Bigen oriental black but it dried my hair & made the edges break. I also heard about the dangers of commercial PPD dyes and that henna is a plant dye used for thousands of years and conditions the hair & makes it stronger.If you want black hair, henna dyes the hair reddish,then you rinse & shampoo & dye it again with indigo & you get black.

  16. leah graham says:

    Hi Nappyme,
    Like the lady above i had some of my hair pulled out 4 wks ago- (it bled slightly at the time). I saw a dermatologist 10 days ago and he said the hair follicles seem fine (he could see some tiny stubble), but the hair surrounding the ‘patch’ still falls fairly easily – not in handfulls, hair by hair it seems, and the patch has gotten bigger since it began. (about half inch all round). The dermatologist said it will settle, but it hasn’t yet… is this somewhat normal (the force used to pull the hair did hurt very much) or should I keep pestering my doctor to refer me again? Can an injury like this cause alopecia areata or anagen effluvium of some kind around that area? I would be SO appreciative of any help/advice. Thankyou.

  17. tanya muniz says:

    hello, my 3 yr old daughter just had at least a third of her hair pulled out from getting it caught in a drill. The pain only lasted about 5 minutes my husban said. There is some redness like maybe from the pull like waxing would do but she did not break the skin or scalp. Will her hair grow back ? should i see a dermotligist?

  18. melissa says:

    Okay, i really hope you reply cause i am really scared right now.

    I am an asian, 16 and female.
    How do i know if i am losing more hair than i am regrowing? i know it is normal to lose about 50 to 100 hairs a day. but i can’t keep track cause i can lose at any time of the day. And i share the shower, so i cant keep track. but i know that when i comb, about 60 strands fall out. And this is worrying me for i already have very thin hair. What is the typical amount to lose while combing hair, do you know? i’m really scared.
    And it ain’t that i am losing in patches. I think it is just generally. When i bundle my hair in a low pony tail it feels like it is getting thinner and thinner. I don’t know. :'(((. i am just really lost on what to do. I told my parents but they say it’s norma. But i don’t think it is.
    And i don’t do anything to my hair. I don’t dye it. Nor do i do treatment. I eat well, sleep well, and rest well (except for this problem). My family has no genetics of losing hair. At least not at this early a stage. Maybe at the age of 40 plus, yes.
    Is there a way to find out the cause of it. Like to see if the hair has the bulb thingy at the top.
    i can’t really look at my scalp and trace the hair line thingy to see if i am losing too much hair cause i don’t even know how it normally looks like.
    And i know it is really hard for you to help me cause you can’t see anything and i can only relate to you in words. But from what i have said, being physically able to feel the pony tail get thinner and 60 strands when i comb, do you think it is serious? What are other indication i can check out for the next few months to see if it is really serious.
    i really wanna cry now cause no one can tell me what to do and my parents just says it’s normal. I have changed the shampoo to nioxin, a shampoo for thinning hair. Something my dad use, which in his account, seems to work.
    HELPPP. :((((((((((((((((((((((((

    • nappyme says:

      I’m so sorry you you’re experiencing this. I’m NOT a doctor. You need to go see a dermatologist pronto. Take care and good luck.


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