You may not be able to alter your hair’s texture or growth patterns, but age- and lifestyle-related changes to your hair can be prevented. Understanding a healthy growth cycle makes it easier to identify the concerns that affect your hair and what you can do to fix them. “Hair goes through the three stages of growth at least 20 times in your lifetime,” says Britney Huinker, owner of the Argyle Salon & Spa in Los Angeles. Read on to learn more about each stage.
1. The Anagen Phase
The Growing Stage (lasts 2-7 years)
Cells in the root are quickly dividing and creating new virgin hair at the base of the follicle, which pushes the previous strand (the club hair) out. Hair grows close to the scalp and extends down as it continues to grow. When someone says their hair grows fast, it is actually just in the anagen phase for a longer period of time—anything short of two years results in balding.
2. The Catagen Phase
The Transitional Stage (lasts 2-3 weeks)
After the hair has reached its maximum growing capacity it “takes a break.” It stops growing while preparing to fall out and renew itself—but it’s still attached to the root. This is different than hair death because the hair is following the normal, healthy hair growth cycle.
3. The Telogen Phase
The Resting Stage (lasts 3-4 months)
The club hair (a nonliving hair) is fully formed. If the hair is pulled out from the root, the tip is covered in a waxy white substance. Telogen hairs, which are technically dead, fall out on their own—you see them on your pillow, in the shower or when brushing your hair. “Once the telogen phase ends, the anagen phase begins and a new hair grows in its place,” says hair restoration specialist Dr. Craig L. Ziering.
“Typically, hair grows at a rate of one-half inch per month,” says Karim Dossa, national educator for René Furterer. To make the most of that growing hair, keep it healthy by feeding it internally and externally with the right nutrients and vitamins. If your hair doesn’t receive the essentials it needs, the strands will die early on, which shows up as thinning or sparse patches.