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What is Hair Miniaturization?

Katelyn Hagerty FNP

Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 9/30/2021

Hair loss is an all-too-common problem for men, but many people don’t know that there can be much more to hair loss than simply seeing the crown of your head or a receding hairline. 

Hair miniaturization isn’t commonly spoken about, but it’s a form of hair loss many men suffer from — often without even knowing it’s going on. 

The symptoms of hair miniaturization are fairly self explanatory: smaller, thinner, more brittle follicles that make for a weakened coif — and one that requires more attention and gentler handling to keep intact, even as additional hair loss sets in.

If you’re experiencing hair miniaturization, there is help to make your hair strong and sturdy again, so you can have that thick head of hair you’re missing. 

Read on to learn more about hair miniaturization symptoms, tests and treatments — along with some basics about why it happens.

What Is Hair Follicle Miniaturization?

Hair follicle miniaturization often correlates with hair loss due to aging. The best way to see if you’re experiencing miniaturization hair loss is to keep an eye on your hair for signs of your follicles becoming less uniform and, well, shrinking. 

Researchers have found that changing hair diameter diversity often happens in tandem with follicle miniaturization, which can be a strong signal of oncoming male pattern baldness or androgenic alopecia

Seeing thinner, wispy hairs on your head may indicate the right time for you to consult with a healthcare professional, as there could be signs of a larger trend toward miniaturization (which, as mentioned above, is often a flag bearer of oncoming alopecia issues).

Hair Miniaturization Causes and Symptoms

Here’s the quick-hit version of how hair miniaturization works:

Follicles of hair on your head will begin to become smaller, typically more fragile and, as a result, more susceptible to breakage. 

Hair miniaturization is a result of the aging process — and specifically, of androgenic alopecia, or male pattern baldnesss.

As we age, our bodies take longer to do things that were once easy. Likewise, hair loss symptoms become more obvious, yet they’re compounded by slower, less effective hair growth, because the follicles that are still in the game will take more time to grow out. 

Hair follicles that were once coarse, lush and thick can become finer and thinner, as well as lighter in color, too. 

And that reduced thickness means your finer hair is likely to become more prone to breakage, which can make growing out a full head of hair more difficult, too.

Unfortunately, this is what time does to our bodies (and follicles). Every time a follicle repeats its growth cycle, it comes back a little weaker and more fragile. 

If you pair that with male pattern baldness, you’re looking at the perfect baldness storm.

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The Hair Pull Test: How to Check for Hair Miniaturization

You can check to see right now if your follicles are becoming less uniform with a simple trick: an interactive diagnostic tool called the hair pull test, which can be done at home. 

The hair pull test is as easy as it sounds: You take a handful of hair, typically around 50 strands or so, and gentle pull, applying traction as you let the hair slide out of your fingers.

During a hair pull test, some hairs will come away naturally — typically about 10 percent or so as mentioned earlier. 

If more comes away, or if hairs fracture, you could be looking at weakened follicles, and miniaturization could be the culprit.

Other Types of Hair Loss

Hair miniaturization isn’t the only signal to look out for that you’re going to be dealing with hair issues, and it’s not necessarily a signal that will occur in every type of hair loss. 

To understand hair loss, let’s briefly look at the five most frequently occurring hair loss types.

Telogen Effluvium

Telogen effluvium is a condition in which more than the normal percentage of your follicles enter an extended rest phase. (They stay in the telogen phase.) 

This is often caused by a trauma or stressor, which can include illness, injury, stress, weight loss, giving birth or certain cancer treatments.

Telogen effluvium typically resolves on its own after a period of time as the body returns to normal, but it’s still important to involve a doctor in the discussion if you see hair loss.

Traction Alopecia 

With traction alopecia, hair loss is due to follicle or scalp injury, often from pulling that puts traction on the follicle itself (though it can also be caused by straightening and bleaching). 

Damaged follicles may not grow back, so the best care for this condition to be gentler and more protective of the follicles you have. 

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Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata is really an autoimmune disease that causes damage to the follicles of your hair as your immune system mistakenly attacks them as foreign bodies.

It’s a rare condition, but unfortunately it’s also yet uncured. A  healthcare professional will likely do what they can for hair loss symptoms, but in this case the primary focus is the underlying condition, which could be serious. 

Androgenic Alopecia

The most common form of hair loss, androgenic alopecia, is the result of hormones damaging your hair follicles as you age. 

It can start at an early age and may manifest differently in men and women, but in men this is known by the classic hair loss signs: a balding crown and thinning or receding hairline at the temples. 

It’s also the easiest of these hair loss conditions to treat with medication.

Hair Miniaturization Treatment Options

Hair miniaturization is best treated with the same solutions known to be effective in stopping hair loss.

For instance, finasteride is a treatment approved by the FDA and backed by numerous studies that prove its ability to reduce hair loss from androgenic alopecia. 

Finasteride does this by blocking your body’s conversion of testosterone to the hormone DHT, which in excess quantities can cause hair loss. 

Another effective treatment that may be effective in treating both hair miniaturization and hair loss is topical minoxidil or minoxidil foam, both of which are known to increase blood flow to your hair follicles, which can encourage hair growth. 

One 48-week study of minoxidil use was able to show up to 18 percent increases in hair growth for male participants. 

Your hair can also be aided by holistic lifestyle changes, and a healthcare provider might recommend changes to your diet, weight loss and other modifications (all of which are good for your health anyway).

Nutritional deficiencies can have a significant impact on your hair health, so you may want to focus on increasing key hair health vitamins. 

These may include biotin and vitamins A and D (all of which are found in these Biotin Gummy Multivitamins).

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Helping Your Miniaturized Hair

If you think your hair is growing back thinner and smaller, thickening your hair may be possible in some cases. Check out this guide to the Best Hair Thickening Products for Men for more information.

You can also ask for help. A healthcare professional can walk you through what to look for as you age, hair loss signs to keep an eye on, and what your individual treatment options may be to stop or prevent hair thinning and hair loss. 

Finally, consider investing in a customized or treatment-specific selection of hair loss products, which might give you the advantage in the fight against hair miniaturization and hair loss. Not sure where to start? Try this Hair Power Pack.   

Hair loss and hair miniaturization are part of the ravages of time, but they don’t have to be something you accept when they arrive. 

You can prevent and sometimes reverse hair loss with the right treatment. Consult a healthcare professional for your best next steps toward healthier hair.

15 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.