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My hair is usually brown and black, I haven't dyed my hair for two years and if I had this would be strange. A strand of hair went from black(roots) grey (middle) then light brown(bottom).
How does hair change color along its length? And why does this happen?
Your hair gets its color from a compound known as melanin, produced by special cells called melanocytes. There are two versions of melanin - one that produces dark pigmentation and the other that produces light pigmentation. If your natural hair color is brown/black, then it normally has a specific amount of dark vs light pigment. The middle section of this hair is grey because there was an absence of melanin production when the hair was still growing. There could be multiple factors (including stress , as described on the library of congress site), but it's nothing to worry about. Your melanocytes started to normally produce melanin again, which is why the newest hair growth (closest to the roots) is dark in color (dark brown/black).
5 Hair Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore
The main cultural message we get about our tresses is that we should only worry about our hair when it is dry, dull, or somehow doesn't resemble the the spilling, glowing mane of women in ads (Yep, unrealistic hair beauty standards, I see you.) But hair can be an indicator of health, and not just of underlying health conditions. There are specific disorders related to the scalp and follicles that deserve to be widely known, so you don't look in the mirror, see scaling/baldness/white spots, and immediately panic. It's all good. You're going to be fine. Remember: dandruff isn't the only thing that can go awry on our scalps.
It's also necessary to point out that all these conditions occur regardless of hair length you likely won't be protected by a pixie cut, or more vulnerable if you're hauling around a full plait down to your waist. It turns out that the health of our hair follicles, which have their own life cycle, is related to our immune systems and general vulnerability to infection, and that they can be targeted by specific conditions and funguses. Even though hair itself is dead, the scalp from which it grows is very much alive, and needs to be attended to.
So here are five symptoms in your follicles and hair that you shouldn't ignore. It may be your crowning glory, but it can also be a litmus test that things aren't quite right.
1. Sudden Loss Of Hair
This is an interesting one, but there's not much a doctor can really do about it. It's called telogen effluvium, and it sounds vaguely like some kind of folk myth: it means that all your hair loosens or falls out after a severe shock or fright. But the British Association Of Dermatologists assures us that telogen effluvium is a real thing, and can lead to a 30 percent increase in your normal hair loss rate, or even more.
Essentially, telogen effluvium means that there is a huge rise in the number of dormant hair follicles on the head or body, with "dormant" meaning that they're not actually producing any hair. This rise in the telogen state means a lot of hair suddenly loosens and sheds. The causes are often, essentially, shocks to the system. The American Osteopathic College Of Dermatology names several: "high fevers, childbirth, severe infections, severe chronic illness, severe psychological stress, major surgery or illnesses, over or under active thyroid gland, crash diets with inadequate protein, and a variety of medications." The systemic pressure and stress caused by these events seems to cause a shift in the normal hair cycle in the scalp of some people, though the specifics of the syndrome are not really understood in much detail.
The treatment for this kind of difficulty depends on its cause. If the shock was environmental, then the hair will likely grow back eventually if it's down to a medication or an underlying condition, then treatment will need to focus on managing your health rather than on your scalp per se.
2. Patches Of Scaling On The Scalp
Bear with me, because we're about to get slightly gross. If you have patches of skin on your scalp that seem scaly and rough, you're likely suffering from a fungal infection of the scalp known as ringworm. (I know, I know, I'm scratching at phantom itches now, too.) It's transferred from person to person via combs, brushes, shared towels or furniture, and mainly shows up as small, scaly patches across the scalp, some of which may actually go bald.
The technical term for this problem is tinea capitis, and the scaly parts on a sufferer's scalp may be exceptionally itchy. The fortunate news is that it's easily treatable it's usually medicated with a combination of fungal medications and a medicated shampoo to soothe and help the healing of the scalp. Also, obviously, if you have ringworm, you should wash every towel and sheet in your house, so nobody else gets it. Hey, doing an extra load of laundry's better than dealing with a scaly head.
3. Bald Patches
Patches of baldness that appear without any other symptoms can be a sign of a variety of conditions, but they often point to alopecia areata, a specific kind of the hair-loss disorder alopecia whose primary symptom is patchy baldness. The disorder isn't on your scalp, though — it's actually a difficulty within your immune system it means that your body has mistaken your hair follicles for invasive threats and is attacking them accordingly, prompting hair loss.
The good news is that alopecia areata seems to be temporary for 90 percent of sufferers after the initial episodes, which often occur during the teens and twenties for people of all genders, the hair is likely to regrow.
Here's another thing worth remember: it's also very common. The National Alopecia Areata Association estimates that a whopping 147 million people worldwide have or will experience the illness at some point in their lives. The American Academy of Dermatology emphasizes in its alopecia areata material that it's not contagious or "caused by nerves" the treatments are designed to target autoimmune difficulties, including cortisone injections and various other steroid medications.
4. The Urge To Pull Out Your Hair
This is a psychological difficulty rather than a physical one, but it's one that needs to be quickly attended to if you notice it as a pattern in your behavior. Trichotillomania, or the obsessive urge to pull out your own hair (including eyelashes, eyebrows and scalp hair), is classified as an "impulse control disorder," alongside such behavior disorders as obsessive-compulsive disorder. It's rare, and is only believed to be suffered by about 0.6 percent of the global population, according to OCD UK.
The Mayo Clinic describes the potential causes of trichotillomania as "unclear," but comments that it's likely a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Like other body-focused repetitive behaviors, it may be a way of coping with severe stress or anxiety, feed into addictive patterns in the brain, or be related to genetics. Interestingly, research mentioned by the TLC Foundation (which supports people with body-focused repetitive behaviors) highlights the fact that trichotillomania isn't just a human compulsion it's also found in animals, particularly those in stressed, confined or dangerous situations. Therapy is recommended as the main course of treatment, so if you've noticed you're comforted by pulling out your own hair on a regular basis, take comfort: you're not crazy.
5. White Or Black Spots On The Hair
This is an interesting one: when we normally think about white spots on our heads, we go immediately to dandruff. But there's another condition that causes white, brown and black spots on hair: piedra. It's classified as a "superficial fungal infection of the hair shaft" by Medscape, and comes in both black and white varieties, both of which leave "spots" on the hair of the scalp, pubic area, beards, moustaches and eyelashes.
Piedra isn't harmful, and the two different shades are associated with different underlying conditions. The fungus responsible for white piedra, trichosporon, has been found in infections in people with lowered immune systems: the University of Adelaide names patients with "leukaemia, organ transplantation, multiple myeloma, aplastic anaemia, lymphoma, solid tumours and AIDS" as particularly vulnerable. Black piedra, meanwhile, is most common in tropical countries. Treatment has traditionally consisted of shaving the entire head, but it's now believed that antifungal medications might mean that's not necessary if it's caught early enough.
The main (or mane? Sorry, had to) thing to keep in mind: though it may just seem decorative, hair is part of our body, and thus, it can be a very serious indicator of our health.
Images: Sergey Mironov/Moment/Getty Images, Giphy
In its most common form, alopecia areata causes small round or oval patches of baldness on the scalp. The area of bald skin looks smooth and normal. In most cases, there are no other scalp symptoms. Occasionally, there is mild itching, tingling, tenderness or a burning sensation in the affected area. Some people with alopecia areata also have abnormalities in the surface of their fingernails, such as tiny pits or dents, grooves, superficial splitting, or an abnormal area of redness.
In rarer, more severe forms of the disorder, hair loss can involve the entire scalp or the entire body, including the eyebrows, eyelashes, beard, underarm hair and pubic hair (hair around the genitals).
If Your Hair&rsquos Suddenly Feeling Thinner, Here&rsquos What Could Be Going On
While it's odd to think of yourself shedding hair in the summertime, it's a reality for many of us&mdashespecially those who live in a place that experiences big temperature swings this time of year.
What's going on? "When you have a major environmental change, so like right now when the temperature's going from the 50s to the 90s in a day, that sudden change can shift more of your hair into what's called the telogen phase," says Adam Friedman, MD, an associate professor of dermatology at George Washington University.
Friedman explains that this telogen hair phase is also known as the "death" phase, and it's completely normal. In fact, around 20% of your hair is in this death phase at any given time. That means it has stopped growing, and will soon fall out. "A healthy woman loses 150 to 175 hairs a day, while men lose a little less," Friedman says. Meanwhile, you're always making new hair.
But when the seasons transition and the weather goes through violent temperature swings, those shifts can place mild stress on your body. "That stress can force some of your hair from the growth or anagen phase into that telogen phase," Friedman explains.
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First of all, your hair won't fall out immediately or all at once. It will take a couple months for the phase shift to result in hair loss. So while your body may have felt the temperature-induced stress in April and May, you may not notice your increased rate of hair loss until July or August, Friedman says. (Be sure to stay away from these "remedies" that do nothing to stop hair loss.)
Once it starts, the shedding could be over in a few weeks&mdashor it could last the whole summer. "It's hair you would have lost anyway, but you're just losing it a little faster than you normally would have," he explains. "It's not going to be extreme, but it could be noticeable."
How noticeable? "At most, your hair density may reduce by 40%," Friedman says. "That's significant, but you'll never look bald." He adds that your hair may "just look a little thin for a while."
The story changes if you're predisposed to baldness. If that's the case, a weather-induced hair die-off could hasten that male- or female-patterned thinning as new hairs come back smaller or not at all, he says. So if baldness runs in your family, or if you notice an increased rate of loss when baldness was already a concern for you, see your doctor.
While that seasonal shift is the most common cause of summertime hair thinning, Friedman says some other warm-weather factors could affect your hair. "Hair is very touchy, so it doesn't take much to make it angry," he explains. (Try one of these easy warm-weather hairstyles to stay cool.)
Excessive sun exposure is one concern. "It's not that common, but sun damage can cause hair fragility and breakage," he says. Also, if humid conditions are leading you to wash your hair more frequently&mdashlike once a day or more&mdashall that shampooing could lead to increased breakage, especially if you're not using a conditioner to patch and protect your over-washed hair. (Swap the scrubbing for dry shampoo&mdashyour taxed hair will thank you. Our favorite: talc-free Captain Blankenship Mermaid Dry Shampoo $24, shop.prevention.com.)
A sunburned scalp could also lead to skin inflammation, which in turn could increase your rate of hair die-off, Friedman says.
If you see sudden bald spots, or experience any scalp itching, burning, pain, or redness along with your increased rate of hair loss, talk to someone, Friedman says. Those symptoms could indicate a wide range of scalp issues, including psoriasis and alopecia areata.
Also, if your hair loss is accompanied by new joint pain, skin rashes, headaches, or sudden and unexplained weight loss, those sorts of "systemic" issues need to be looked at. "All of those can be signs of a deeper problem," Friedman says. Thyroid conditions, lupus, and polycystic ovary syndrome are all health problems for which hair loss is a warning sign.
If your summertime hair loss is the benign kind caused by a temperature swing, you can expect it to grow back before the New Year.
"Nothing with your hair happens quickly," Friedman says. "So it will grow back, but it's not going to happen all at once." (In the meantime, make your hair look instantly thicker with these tips.)
Also, if you're wondering whether fall temperature swings could lead to the same kind of stress and die-off, the answer is yes. If that's the case, you may see your hair start to fill back in during in the fall&mdashonly to thin again in early winter.
"I don't want to scare people, because most of us wouldn't notice any of this," Friedman says. But if your hair is especially touchy, a year of wild temperature swings could lead to some less-than-ideal hair days.
How is a hormonal imbalance diagnosed?
First, make an appointment with a health care provider for a physical exam. The health care provider will ask about your symptoms. Then, depending on your symptoms, they will suggest which hormone imbalance tests to do. These could be evaluations like:
- Blood test: Estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, thyroxine, TTH, insulin, and cortisol levels can be detected in the blood.
- Pelvic exam: A health care provider will search for any lumps or cysts.
- Ultrasound: Images of your uterus, ovaries, thyroid, and pituitary gland can be obtained.
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
Caucasians tend to go gray earlier &mdash and redheads earliest of all. Then Asians. Then African-Americans. Scientists haven't figured out why yet.
"Stress won't cause you to go gray directly," says Dr. Roopal Kundu, associate professor in dermatology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. "But stress is implicated in a lot of skin and hair issues." During an illness, for example, people can shed hair rapidly. And hair you lose after a stressful event &mdash like getting chemotherapy &mdash may grow back a different color.
Understanding Hair Loss -- the Basics
Hair grows everywhere on the human skin except on places like the palms of our hands and the soles of our feet, our eyelids and belly buttons, but many hairs are so fine they're virtually invisible. Hair is made up of a protein called keratin that is produced in hair follicles in the outer layer of skin. As follicles produce new hair cells, old cells are being pushed out through the surface of the skin at the rate of about six inches a year. The hair you can see is actually a string of dead keratin cells. The average adult head has about 100,000 to 150,000 hairs and loses up to 100 of them a day finding a few stray hairs on your hairbrush is not necessarily cause for alarm.
At any one time, about 90% of the hair on a person's scalp is growing. Each follicle has its own life cycle that can be influenced by age, disease, and a wide variety of other factors. This life cycle is divided into three phases:
- Anagen -- active hair growth that generally lasts between two to eight years
- Catagen -- transitional hair growth that lasts two to three weeks
- Telogen -- resting phase that lasts about two to three months at the end of the resting phase the hair is shed and a new hair replaces it and the growing cycle starts again.
As people age, their rate of hair growth slows.
There are many types of hair loss, also called alopecia:
- Involutional alopecia is a natural condition in which the hair gradually thins with age. More hair follicles go into the resting phase, and the remaining hairs become shorter and fewer in number.
- Androgenic alopecia is a genetic condition that can affect both men and women. Men with this condition, called male pattern baldness, can begin suffering hair loss as early as their teens or early 20s. It's characterized by a receding hairline and gradual disappearance of hair from the crown and frontal scalp. Women with this condition, called female pattern baldness, don't experience noticeable thinning until their 40s or later. Women experience a general thinning over the entire scalp, with the most extensive hair loss at the crown.
- Alopecia areata often starts suddenly and causes patchy hair loss in children and young adults. This condition may result in complete baldness (alopecia totalis). But in about 90% of people with the condition, the hair returns within a few years.
- Alopecia universalis causes all body hair to fall out, including the eyebrows, eyelashes, and pubic hair.
- Trichotillomania, seen most frequently in children, is a psychological disorder in which a person pulls out one's own hair.
- Telogen effluvium is temporary hair thinning over the scalp that occurs because of changes in the growth cycle of hair. A large number of hairs enter the resting phase at the same time, causing hair shedding and subsequent thinning. Learn more about what causes telogen effluvium.
- Scarring alopecias result in permanent loss of hair. Inflammatory skin conditions (cellulitis, folliculitis, acne), and other skin disorders (such as some forms of lupus and lichen planus) often result in scars that destroy the ability of the hair to regenerate. Hot combs and hair too tightly woven and pulled can also result in permanent hair loss.
What could be causing these symptoms?
Some of the COVID-19 rashes are not caused by the virus itself, but by the body’s immune response to the virus.
For instance, research suggests some may be caused by over-activation of a part of the immune system known as the “complement” response. This leads to the blood vessel damage seen in the chilblain-type symptoms (point 3 above) and in livedo (point 6).
Complement activity is also increased in elderly people and may well explain many of the more serious COVID-19 outcomes we see in this age group.
Why Won’t My Hair Grow?
Your hair follicles go through a growth cycle that has four phases: 1. Anagen phase (growing phase) 2. Catagen phase (transition phase) 3. Telogen phase (resting phase) and 4. Exogen phase (hair shedding phase).
Each hair follicle goes through this cycle, which determines the length and volume of a person’s tresses. If this cycle is disrupted due to any factor, normal hair growth is affected. Following are the most common reasons your hair stops growing:
Did you know that the length, color, volume, and strength of your locks is governed by your genes? Yes, genes play a significant role in influencing your hair growth cycle (2).
If you have long, healthy, lustrous, and thick hair despite not taking much care of it, thank your genes. Otherwise, you need to put in extra effort to stop your hair from thinning and enhance its growth.
2. Stress Level
It is medically proven that any kind of physical or psychological stress is detrimental to hair growth (3). Stress triggers a condition called Telogen effluvium in which your hair enters the telogen phase (resting phase) prematurely, thus restricting 30% of its growth completely (4). Though this condition does not require any medical treatment and lasts no longer than six months, it does affect your hair growth cycle and cause hair loss.
Aging not only causes your hair to gray but also affects its growth because the anagen phase is known to get shorter as you grow older (5). Also, your physical health and food habits – besides the lifetime of experiments with styling, processing, dyeing, bleaching, and treating your hair – affect your hair growth cycle (6).
4. Hair Breakage
Normally, an average person’s hair grows at a rate of about 6 inches per year. If you observe that your hair is the same length even after a certain period, it might actually be breaking (2).
Hair breakage can be caused by both inadequate or excessive care. Overprocessing and heat styling your hair excessively may result in the loss of moisture and elasticity, causing it to become dry and brittle and leading to breakage.
5. Split Ends
People with dry hair usually get split ends. If your hair does not receive enough nutrients to balance the moisture levels, its ends will start splitting, resulting in breakage. You cannot undo split ends, and the only way to stop them from causing further hair breakage is to cut them off. You must take adequate care of your hair to avoid split ends and breakage.
6. Hairstyles And Styling Products
The chemical treatments, products, and processes used to style your hair have a big impact on its health and growth (2). The build-up of oils and products on your scalp can block the follicles and impede hair growth.
Complicated hairstyles that involve a lot of combing, pulling your hair tight, and the use of serums can also lead to hair damage. Excessive styling and use of chemical products will not only stop your hair growth but also cause scalp diseases that can lead to permanent hair loss.
7. Alopecia Areata
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system harms the cells in your hair follicles and causes your hair to fall out in patches (7).
Scientists believe that this condition might be genetically inherited, and people diagnosed with hay fever, vitiligo, Down syndrome, pernicious anemia, asthma, and thyroid issues have a higher risk of developing it. However, proper medication and phototherapy can treat this condition.
8. Lack Of Exercise And Healthy Diet
We are sure you have heard of the phrase, “You are what you eat.” A healthy diet and exercise routine are very important for hair growth. Just like your body, your hair also requires adequate vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to grow (8).
In fact, doctors suggest people take certain multivitamins in addition to a healthy diet to boost hair growth. Deficiencies of iron, protein, zinc, vitamin A, or biotin can weaken your hair, subjecting it to damage and loss.
However, if you take adequate intake of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to nourish your hair follicles and strengthen your tresses, you can prevent hair loss and promote healthy hair growth. Also, keeping your mind as healthy as your body does great wonders for your hair.
9. Dry Hair And Scalp
Dry scalp and brittle tresses are signs of unhealthy hair. Lack of moisture or imbalance in the moisture levels of your scalp makes your hair dry, leading to breakage and restricting its growth.
Prolonged dryness of your scalp also leads to the development of infections that cause patchy hair loss. Therefore, you need to moisturize your hair with natural products and methods to promote healthy hair growth.
10. Thyroid Problems
Irregularities in the production of hormones by the thyroid gland can also have a negative impact on your hair (9). Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can affect hair growth as they affect your body’s functionality and metabolism, thereby causing hair thinning and hair fall.
11. Childbirth And Breastfeeding
Hormonal imbalances after childbirth often result in what is known as postpartum hair loss (10). A healthy diet, regular exercise, and intake of additional nutritional supplements are necessary to minimize postpartum hair loss.
12. Poor Hair Care Regimen
An improper hair care regimen can have a major negative impact on your hair growth (2). Excessive styling, inadequate washing and conditioning, use of chemical products, inefficient hair care tools, and hair damaging accessories indicate a substandard hair care routine, which needs to be changed as soon as possible if you want thick, long, and healthy hair.
3. Wash Well, Wash Often — But Not Too Often
And when it comes to cleansing, hair can be as fussy as Goldilocks it doesn’t want to be underwashed, but don’t overwash it either and throw the entire pH balance off — that can be yet another cause of painful hair. Constant cleansing dries out the scalp and may even induce a flaking condition like seborrheic dermatitis, which is a chronic state of inflammation, according to Jaliman. If you just have to wash your hair daily or you have a sensitive scalp, she recommends using a gentle baby shampoo, like Mustela 2 in 1 Hair and Body Wash, which contains glycerin for cleansing and avocado extract to help reinforce the skin barrier. Skjoth suggests Harklinikken PH Shampoo, which balances the scalp and uses oat and mustard-seed extracts to cleanse the scalp naturally.