Growth Cycle: What Your Hair Is Telling You

Photo: Sally Griffiths

I believe in the positive psychology of hair. When I’m having a good hair day, I’m unstoppable. I’m lucky to have been born with a good head of hair. But lately, for the first time in my life, my hair has decided to do its own thing: Oily at the roots, dry scalp, shedding like crazy, plus a fuzzy  halo of short baby hairs at my crown. I hadn’t changed a thing in my routine. My hair had changed on me and I didn’t know why. What was my hair trying to tell me?

When I sat down in my stylist’s chair–the wonderful Jasmine Galazka at Warren Tricomi–the first thing she said to me was:

“Girl, are you taking biotin? Your new growth is crazy!”

New growth is exactly what it sounds like, new hair coming in. Since they’re growing, they come in short and look like baby hairs. I mistook mine for breakage. You can tell the difference by looking at the tip: Growth tapers to a very fine point, breakage is a blunt break.

It turns out that hair, like life, has a cycle. And just as in my life, I’m in a growth phase. Because I’m a nerd, I asked Dr. Diane Berson, a dermatologist in NYC, to explain.

Hair has three stages of growth: Anogen, catogen, telogen.

Anogen is the growth phase that lasts 3-5 years on average. For Asians, it can be as long as 7 years. (Yay!) The catogen phase accompanies the anogen phase. The telogen phase is the shedding phase that varies from weeks to months. We shed about 100 hairs a day.

Changes in hair quality, thickness, loss or growth can happen for a variety of reasons.

  • Hormonal flux, including going on or getting off the Pill, your menstrual cycle
  • Pregnancy, post-baby, peri-menopause
  • Reaction to medication
  • Medical conditions like thyroid disorders, iron deficiency, autoimmune disorders or diseases
  • Diet change, protein malnutrition
  • Stress

Amongst my friends, I wasn’t the only one experiencing changes in hair. We were all losing or growing, some were even finding small bald patches. Here’s what the experts had to say:

THE HAIR STYLIST

Once I accepted that my mane was essentially going through puberty again, I let go of my expectations. Jasmine cut the dead weight off, added a few more layers for lift, and recommended a cleansing oil (!) Shu Uemura shampoo to balance my scalp and roots. She also gave me an amazing scalp massage and reminded me that stimulation is good for hair growth. So be sure to practice on yourself. Think of it as self-love for your locks!

She also told me that combination hair can be a thing too, like combination skin–oily in areas, dry in others. A practical solve is two shampoos, one for the roots, the other for the shaft and ends. Hairdresser secret: She can tell when her regular clients are on their monthly cycle because their hair changes!

THE FACIALIST

Star NYC facialist, Aida Bicaj, also gave me a helpful suggestion. I would never have thought to ask for advice from a facialist, but because the scalp is part of your skin, she had an answer.

People forget about scalp health because it’s hidden underneath your hair. But hair health is directly related to how healthy your scalp is. She recommended me a Leonor Greyl scalp oil to be massaged in once a week, left in for 15 minutes, then washed out. This really did the trick and I use it regularly! Plus, it smells like a spa.

THE DERMATOLOGIST

Dr. Berson added that hair, like skin, is evidence of how you treat your body: How much you sleep, how stressed you are, how well you eat. The Mediterranean diet, one that’s rich in fruits, veggies, anti-inflammatories like olive oil, avocado, and fish like salmon are great for hair. Carbs, sugars, and refined foods are as bad for your hair as your skin.

For more acute hair loss, Dr. Berson noted more advances and options than ever, from supplements like Viviscal and Nutrofol, standard protocol like Rogaine, novel procedures like platelet rich plasma injections (PRP) to experimental usages of Latisse (the lash growth serum for hair growth) and topical anti-androgens in trials.

For me, my hair was reminding me to take care of myself. Eat better, sleep enough. Time for a fresh start. What can I do but let down my hair and go with it?

 

To find out more about hair loss treatments, consult with Dr. Diane Berson. To book appointments with Jasmine, click here, or Aida Bicaj, click here.