Medically reviewed by Jill Johnson, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 12/25/2021
So, you’ve noticed that your hair isn’t growing in as well as years past.
Maybe you’ve noticed thinning in your hair part, or that your hair doesn’t feel as thick when you run your fingers through it.
It’s okay. Hair loss is probably more common than you think — especially as we age. Luckily, there are some things you can do before giving up all hope.
In this piece, we’ll run through the options you have for stimulating your follicles to grow healthy hair again.
We’ll cover the stages of hair growth, types of hair loss, how to tell the difference between hair loss and hair shedding and medical treatments for hair regrowth, as well as how to reactivate follicles naturally to promote hair health.
Let’s jump in.
To understand the options for regrowing your hair, you’ll need to understand the types of hair loss that you may be experiencing.
And to understand that, you need to understand the stages of hair growth.
In utero, your follicles are grown through a series of complex molecular signals. After birth that process shuts down, leaving you with all of the follicles you’ll ever have — about five million of them all over your body,.
As you age, some of those follicles shrink and stop growing hair, leading to thinning of the hair, or even outright baldness.
Hair is nearly the fastest-growing part of the body — surpassed only by bone marrow. You can expect to grow about six inches per year on average.
Each hair follicle grows strands on a different schedule, following a cyclic pattern. In fact, from the 150,000 or so hair follicles on your scalp, you lose or “shed” about 50 to 100 hairs a day — a sign that those hairs are progressing through the fourth stage of hair growth, known as the exogen growth phase.
In total, there are four stages of hair growth. They are:
The anagen stage of the hair growth cycle lasts anywhere from two to six years.
Hair growth begins at a root of protein in the hair follicle, fed by blood vessels in the scalp that create more cells to allow the hair to grow.
About 90 percent of hair is in this phase at any time, and the hair shaft passes through the moisturizing sebaceous gland.
In this stage, hair ceases to actively grow for one to two weeks, serving as a transition between the anagen phase and telogen phase.
Less than one percent of scalp hair is in this phase at any time.
This third stage of hair growth lasts three to four months and is a resting phase between the cessation of hair growth and hair shedding (when hair falls out to make room for new hair growth).
Newly regarded as a stage of hair growth, this is the part of the cycle when the hair strands disconnect and release from the hair follicle, or shed.
As mentioned above, this allows the hair growth cycle to start again.
Although the end result is less hair attached to your scalp on a permanent or temporary basis, there are a variety of reasons for hair loss.
You’ll notice the word “alopecia” used fairly frequently in this section — it is the general medical term for hair loss.
Here are some of the main types of hair loss.
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There are typically three factors involved in this type of hair loss: increasing age, male hormones and hereditary baldness.
This type of hair loss occurs when more hair follicles than normal hit the telogen or exogen stage, which includes about 70 percent to 80 percent of your hair at any given time.
Loss is typically moderate and may be most noticeable in your brush, on your pillow or in the shower.
The root cause of telogen effluvium is extreme emotional or physical stress, certain medications or supplements (like high blood pressure medication), hormonal imbalance and thyroid complications. The loss will normally occur two to three months after the stress that caused it.
This type of loss usually resolves on its own once the source of stress has been removed, and doesn’t usually require treatment.
This type of hair loss occurs when medication disrupts the hair cycle while it is in the growth or anagen phase.
It commonly occurs in individuals who undergo chemotherapy and can be permanent if the follicle becomes damaged.
It occurs when medication disrupts the growth of the hair follicle through toxicity, and is commonly seen in individuals who undergo chemotherapy. This type of loss can be permanent if the follicle becomes damaged.
Alopecia areata is a hair loss condition that is also an autoimmune disease and causes the hair to fall out in patches.
While the cause of the condition is unknown, it is more common in individuals with other autoimmune conditions.
As the name implies, traumatic alopecia is caused by trauma to the hair or hair follicle. Causes range from chemical treatments like color or bleaching, to an uncommon psychiatric hair pulling disorder known as trichotillomania.
This is a type of hair loss caused by certain types of fungal infections. It can cause hair to fall out in a patchy formation, causing flakiness, scaliness and hair to break off at the scalp surface.
Now that we’ve covered the types of hair loss, let’s talk about the difference between hair loss and hair shedding.
To keep it simple, hair shedding occurs when hair falls from the scalp, while hair loss occurs when the hair stops growing.
It is normal to lose about 50 to 100 hairs per day. When a person loses significantly more than that number, it’s a sign that their hair is shedding — or that a greater-than-normal number of follicles have entered the exogen phase.
Specifically, hair shedding is a sign of telogen effluvium, the aforementioned condition that results from extreme stress on the body.
In the case of hair loss, the hair won’t begin growing again until the cause of the hair loss stops.
Ultimately, your dermatology provider will be your best resource for helping you determine if you’re experiencing hair shedding or hair loss.
There are two medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating hair loss, as well as some additional methods for stimulating hair regrowth.
Finasteride, sold under the brand name Propecia®, works by inhibiting the production of one of the hormones that cause male pattern hair loss.
Specifically, testosterone is converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in the scalp by a specific enzyme, a process that finasteride works to prevent.
Topical finasteride and minoxidil are available individually or as a duo for the treatment of hair loss from the hims hair regrowth line of treatments. They must be taken continuously for hair to continue growing.
Microneedling with a dermaroller has been proven to stimulate hair regrowth in some individuals.
While dermarollers were traditionally used as a treatment for acne and other skin-related issues, they’ve been used recently to encourage cell regrowth and stimulation in the scalp.
Though research is definitely ongoing, the medical community has observed some positive results.
In one 2013 study, researchers gave hundreds of participants experiencing alopecia areata a treatment that included either minoxidil or minoxidil used with a dermal roller.
Both groups saw an increase in hair growth, but there was a statistically significant increase in hair growth in the group that used a dermaroller with minoxidil.
Corticosteroid injections are known as the most effective treatment for alopecia areata.
Specifically, a dermatologist injects the medication into balding or thinning areas every four to eight weeks as needed to promote hair regrowth.
During a hair transplantation procedure, your dermatology provider will take hair follicles from an area of your scalp where hair is still growing properly, and transplant those follicles to an area that is experiencing thinning hair.
We’ve talked more about the different types of this procedure in our guide, The True Cost of Hair Transplants.
In this method, your dermatology provider will draw blood and place it into a machine that separates it into parts.
The part of your blood that is plasma will be separated out and the platelet-rich part is taken and injected into the areas experiencing hair loss to stimulate hair regrowth.
This treatment needs to be repeated every few months to remain effective.
While it does require repeated sessions, laser therapy may be an effective treatment for male pattern hair loss, hair loss from chemotherapy and alopecia areata.
Though there’s no definitive treatment plan and more research is definitely needed, research has indicated that low-level laser therapy, when used long-term, may help stimulate follicular regrowth of hair.
There are several studies that cover the potential for you to use holistic methods to stimulate hair regrowth.
However, it’s worth noting that many of these supplements or natural remedies aren’t backed by strong science — nevertheless, here they are.
There are many supplements on the market that purport to stimulate hair regrowth. However, supplements have mostly only been proven to work in the presence of nutritional deficiencies.
Your healthcare provider will look into the levels of certain nutrients in your body that have proven connections to hair growth like niacin (vitamin B3) and iron.
Ultimately, the use of supplements to stimulate hair production needs to be done with the guidance of your dermatology or healthcare provider.
There are a variety of methods available for the regrowth of hair follicles. In general, you’ll want to make sure that you’re properly caring for the hair that you do have, but some forms of hair loss are simply a matter of genetics.
Your dermatology provider will be your best partner in diagnosing the cause of your hair loss and finding solutions for treating it.