The Catagen Phase: What Is It And How Does It Relate to Hair Loss?

The Catagen Phase: What Is It And How Does It Relate to Hair Loss?

Growth and change are two constants that follow everything we engage in. From something as natural as an increase in height to something as new as learning a language, each development occurs as a result of growth.

When we talk about hair growth, many people have misconceptions about how it takes place. The biggest reason for this is the way it has been used as a marketing strategy in an effort to sell beauty products.

The commercial sector of the beauty industry thrives on using hair growth as an essential benefit of the products in question for monetary gain. This has become an easy task for manufacturers because of the increasing demand for good hair products in the market.

Today, hair problems like hair fall, thinning hair, hair density, split ends, and dandruff are very common. This is easy to take advantage of. While brands claim to base their formulas on actual science, there's no way a layman can verify that.

The helplessness faced by consumers leads to a multitude of sales, especially if the products are being sold by an already well-established brand.

That said, hindered hair growth is one of the most prevailing problems faced by people today.

 

Stages of the Hair Growth Cycle

It's common knowledge that gradual hair loss is a part of growing old. But, for many people, the rate of losing hair is far beyond the ordinary.

This abnormal growth pattern is often chalked up to hair care routines, stress, hormonal imbalance, lack of protein, etc. There's no doubt that these factors contribute to hair health, but the biggest role here is played by genetics.

Genetics determine the thickness, density, and pattern of the hair. While factors like DNA and hair care regimen are different among people, one thing doesn't change - the growth cycle. Our hair has a growth cycle that works like clockwork.

Let's have a look at the different stages of the hair growth cycle one by one.

 

Anagen Stage

The first stage is the anagen phase. Also known as the growing phase, the anagen stage is the longest. It lasts from 3 years to 5 years. However, for some people, one single hair may continue to grow for more than 7 years or longer.

The anagen stage differs from one type of hair on our body to another. For example, eyebrow hair has a relatively shorter anagen phase than scalp hair.

The anagen phase is defined by the point where the growth begins. This means that during this stage, the hair follicles on your scalp are giving way to growing hair that may not stop growing until it is cut off or falls off the head. When hair naturally falls off, it means that it has arrived at the end of its lifespan.

Generally, 90 percent of the hair on our scalp is in the anagen phase.

 

Catagen Phase

The catagen phase, also known as the transition phase, is followed by the anagen phase. The transition stage lasts for about 10 days. During this phase, the hair follicles shrink, and the rate of hair growth becomes slower than before.

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Furthermore, the hair detaches from the base of the hair follicle but remains in place until it grows out. At any point in time, there's only 5 percent of your scalp hair that is in the catagen phase.

 

Telogen Phase

The telogen phase, also known as the resting phase, takes place when the hair isn't growing, but it's also not falling out. This phase can last anywhere from 2 months to 3 months.

During the telogen phase, hair starts to take shape in the same hair follicles that have just dispensed hair in the catagen phase. This phase covers 10 to 15 percent of the hair at all times. 

Many hair specialists and scientists believe that this is the same as the shedding phase, but an easier way to look at it is by dividing it into two phases - the telogen phase and the exogen phase.

 

Exogen Phase

The exogen phase refers to a period wherein the hair falls out as a result of shampooing or combing. It's normal to lose 50-100 strands of hair daily during the exogen phase. During this phase, hair fall takes place, and the hair follicles are getting ready to release new hair in its place. The exogen phase lasts from 2 to 5 months.

 

Catagen Phase and Hair Loss

Alopecia, or hair loss, occurs when the body's ability to produce scalp hair is compromised. This could be because of various reasons like loss of proteins, vitamins, minerals, hormonal imbalance, disorders like thyroid, etc.

Hair production can be hindered on any part of the body, but more often than not, the effect is visible on the scalp. This is because scalp hair is a huge part of the body's appearance and is more likely to cause changes in one's self-esteem.

Therefore, with time, hair loss becomes an incredibly concerning problem for people of all genders.

Now, as we have seen, there is a particular cycle of hair growth that determines how our hair looks. However, this does not mean that the growth cycle will remain constant under all conditions. From the anagen phase to the exogen phase, the hair growth cycle must be regulated by the body.

It's simple - during the anagen phase, the hair grows, which can last for 7 years or more. Then, in the catagen phase, hair gets separated from the hair follicles, lasting 10 days. And lastly, the telogen and exogen phases cause the hair to stop growing and eventually fall off the scalp.

All the stages of this hair growth cycle take place simultaneously. For example, when the hair is released from hair follicles and stops growing, the hair follicles are getting ready to produce new hair. Now, growth disruption takes place when during any stage, the hair follicles get damaged or hair growth is hindered naturally due to poor health.

When the natural hair growth cycle is disturbed, hair may start to fall out sooner than expected. Apart from hair fall, the quality of existing hair starts to deteriorate, causing problems like thinning, dandruff, bald patches, receding hairline, etc. Furthermore, the hair may stop growing altogether.

Although the catagen phase lasts for the shortest amount of time, i.e., 10-15 days, its significance stretches far beyond what's expected.

Let's look at it this way. The catagen phase means the hair is transitioning. This indicates that the hair stops growing and gets cut off from the blood supply. During this time when the hair isn't receiving nutrients from the body, external agents such as shampoo, conditioner, hair masks, humidity, and dirt, come into play.

During these 2 weeks, when the hair is released from the hair follicles, how we treat the scalp and the hair from the outside plays a big role in its appearance. If we don't take proper care of the hair during this stage, it will lead to faster degeneration.

 

Reasons Your Hair Might Fall Out Sooner Than Expected

When the hair enters the catagen phase, it relies on all the nutrients it receives from the outside. These nutrients and external conditions and their effect on the hair determine how the hair will act in the telogen phase.

As we know, the telogen phase is when the hair rests and eventually falls off the head. In many cases, hair falls out faster than the normal rate because of how it is treated during this stage.

The first and foremost reason for hair loss is genetics. Hair loss that takes place due to genetics and family history is known as androgenetic alopecia. Androgenetic alopecia is a hereditary condition wherein hair starts to get unusually thin or falls off entirely.

In males, this condition is called male pattern baldness, and for females, it's referred to as female pattern hair loss. This is because of the distinct patterns of hair loss seen in people assigned male and female at birth.

For example, male pattern baldness presents itself as a hairline that recedes in the 'M' shape. Female pattern baldness, on the other hand, is defined by the overall thinning of hair and loss of density at the crown of the head.

This type of hair loss is considered to be a natural part of aging. However, in some individuals, it progresses faster, leading to bald patches where the hair stops growing altogether. Extreme hair fall, thinning hair, and stunted hair growth are expected consequences of medical conditions.

An increasingly prevalent type of hair loss is called telogen effluvium. This kind of hair loss takes place when the hair growth cycle stops at the telogen phase. Hair growth is cyclic, which means that for the cycle to continue and for the hair to keep growing, the resting and shedding stages need to be followed by the anagen phase when the hair starts growing again.

In telogen effluvium, a large number of active hair follicles on the scalp enter the resting phase, but the next phase does not begin. This causes the hair to fall out all over the scalp with no hair growing in its place. Eventually, this leads to balding.

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Telogen effluvium occurs due to medical factors like thyroid imbalances, pregnancy, childbirth, fever, major surgery, and in some cases, lack of required vitamins and minerals. Another cause behind this type of hair loss is the consumption of certain medications such as antidepressants, isotretinoin, blood thinners, birth control pills, etc. 

Then comes anagen effluvium. The most common cause of anagen effluvium is aggressive medical treatment like chemotherapy. This is because fast-acting medication that is designed to kill cancer cells can hinder the scalp from producing healthy hair follicles.

While anagen effluvium leads to drastic hair loss, the hair tends to grow back once the treatment is stopped and the body has recovered.

Hair loss can further take place as a result of autoimmune conditions like alopecia areata. In this condition, the body's immune system works overtime to attack healthy tissue. This includes hair follicles. When the hair follicles get damaged, hair production stops.

Another reason for hair loss is infection. Any skin infection affecting the scalp can lead to hair loss. For example, tinea capitis, also known as ringworm, is a type of fungal infection that damages the scalp. Ringworm causes several infected red circular scars on the scalp, which stop the production of healthy hair follicles.

 

Preventing Hair Loss and Maintaining Healthy Hair

Hair health is important for people because it determines the individual's overall appearance. More than that, hair loss can be a painful condition for the body to go through, especially if medical conditions cause it.

While hair loss can't be reversed in severe conditions, there are various precautions you can take to maintain a healthy head of hair and prevent hair loss. Let's have a look at some of these preventive measures.

 

Nutrition

Consuming healthy food is a great way of ensuring the overall health of your hair. If your body keeps receiving all the necessary nutrients, it will constantly stimulate hair follicles to keep growing hair. Consume healthy proteins and monitor your vitamin levels. Low levels of Vitamin D, C, and zinc, can lead to hair loss. 

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Stress

Both physical and emotional stress can lead to the early onset of premature hair-loss conditions like telogen effluvium, trichotillomania, and alopecia areata. You can reduce daily stress levels by engaging in activities like yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, and psychotherapy.

 

Hair Care

Proper hair care begins with your wash day. Make sure to use hair products like shampoos, conditioners, and serums that have hair-friendly ingredients like keratin protein, argan oil, Morrocan oil, castor oil, etc. Not only will this help maintain your hair health, but it can also help with hair loss.

In a nutshell, when people undergo major hair loss, it becomes an apparent part of their physical identity. This can lead to poor confidence levels, which in some cases can lead to severe mental health disorders like anxiety, agoraphobia, social anxiety, and much more.

Take care of your hair by indulging in healthy hair practices. Ditch the heat stylers and procedures that alter your hair's natural texture. With the right hair care, you can wear your natural hair without feeling self-conscious in social situations.

And most importantly, make sure to be proactive by consulting a doctor as soon as you notice unusual hair loss.