Your hair can be a huge part of your identity.
People see it every time that they look at you, after all. And losing your hair can dramatically change the way that you feel about yourself -- and affect the way you think other people view you.
Depending on the cause of your hair loss, it's possible for it to grow back naturally. It may also require true hair loss treatments. Either way, it can take some time before your hair returns after you’ve lost it.
How Does Hair Grow?
Your hair grows out of little pockets in your skin called follicles. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, you have around five million hair follicles on your body, with roughly 100,000 located on your scalp. Yea, lots of hair factories.
At the bottom of the follicle is your hair root, which consists of living cells that grow and form the base of the hair shaft. As the hair shaft continues to add cells at its base, the shaft passes a protective oil gland and eventually pokes out through the skin.
The hair shaft itself is technically dead cells at this point, which is why getting a haircut doesn’t hurt, unlike the pain involved in getting a hair pulled out by its root.
The growth cycle of hair consists of three phases: anagen (growing), catagen (transition), and telogen (resting). In simpler terms, your hair will grow, stop growing, then fall out. The overwhelming majority of hair follicles on your scalp are in the anagen phase, with only around 8% in the final telogen phase.
For the other parts of your body, the process is exactly the same, however the total cycle lasts only 30 to 45 days. This is why hair on your body will be much shorter than hair on the scalp, even if left unattended.
If you’ve experienced hair loss, your growth cycle has likely been disturbed. What caused this disturbance will dictate how quickly you can regrow your hair, and if you're able to at all.
How Long Does It Take To Grow Your Hair After Losing It?
Depending on the underlying cause of your hair loss, the amount of time that it takes to grow back will vary. Here's a rough idea of how much time it can take based on various causes of hair loss.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition where your immune system mistakenly attacks your own hair follicles. This type of hair loss usually results in your hair falling out in small patches on the scalp, although hair loss might occur on other parts of your body as well. Your eyebrows, eyelashes, beard, arms, and legs are all spots where alopecia areata can create bald spots.
One of the most frustrating aspects of alopecia areata is that it’s unpredictable. Your hair may start growing back at any time, but then it might just fall out again. As of now, there is no way to tell when it will fall out or grow back.
Chemotherapy is one of the most common treatments for cancer. This medication attacks the cancer cells in your body, but it can also attack healthy cells, including hair follicles in your scalp, resulting in hair loss.
Once chemo treatments have ended, your hair will most likely start to naturally regrow within two to three weeks.
While the hair may return soft and fuzzy at first, after a month it should be your normal hair with an average growth rate of around six inches per year. While it’s possible for your new hair to grow back with a different texture or color than before, this is fairly uncommon. It’s also possible that after intensive, prolonged chemotherapy your hair loss can be permanent.
Male Pattern Baldness
As people age, our follicles naturally slow and often stop producing hair altogether. This is most commonly referred to as hereditary hair loss, male pattern baldness, or androgenic alopecia.
The exact timing and severity of this particular cause of hair loss is reliant on genetics, but around 80% of men will experience significant hair loss over the course of their lives.
This type of hair loss is usually permanent, meaning that once the hair is gone it will not grow back. The follicle itself will shrivel up and become incapable of growing hair. However, you may be able to slow down the process of losing your hair with a prescription medication called finasteride (brand name Propecia), an over-the counter topical treatment called minoxidil (brand name Rogaine), and other natural ingredients that work to block certain hormones from acting on your scalp follicles.
Side Effects of Medications
There are some medications that come with the potential side effect of hair loss. If you think this is your issue, talk to your doctor about switching to another medication. Once you're no longer taking the drug and it's out of your system, your hair may start to return within a few weeks.
If you're constantly experiencing a deficiency in zinc, iron, protein, or B-vitamins in your diet, it’s possible that you may encounter hair loss as a result. Correcting the deficiency and improving your nutrition might lead to hair growth, but it will likely take a few weeks to months for your hair to start growing again.
Another autoimmune disease that can result in hair loss is psoriasis, which is known to create scaly red patches on the skin.
If you experience psoriasis on your scalp, it can result in hair loss naturally, but if you scratch at it to relieve itching, the damage could be much worse.
There's good news, because once you've found an effective treatment for the psoriasis (and they exist) and stop scratching your scalp, your hair will likely begin the growth process and return quickly.
Prolonged periods of stress, or singular traumatic events, can result in telogen effluvium, another type of hair loss. Normally it takes about three months after the stressful event has happened for your hair to fall out. In addition, it can take three to six months for your hair to grow back after the root cause has been resolved.
Sudden Weight Loss
A sudden and drastic loss of weight, or chronic calorie restriction, can incur anorexia nervosa, which can result in hair loss. Once body mass, nutrition, and caloric intake are balanced, your hair can start to return after a few months.
Any condition that causes thyroid hormone fluctuations, like hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, can result in hair loss. However, the hair will generally grow back once the hormone imbalance is treated or resolved successfully.
Some causes of hair loss will result in permanent baldness, but many are only temporary. For the most part, when the root issue causing your hair loss is resolved, your hair will start to grow back on its own.
Many guys will experience hair loss during their lifetime. It's a simple truth of the aging process. But if you're experiencing a significant amount of hair loss, it’s important to figure out why. There are many potential causes, but prescription and OTC hair loss medications like finasteride and minoxidil can help in many cases. They've shown in studies and over twenty years of use in the US that they can help guys get denser hair and even regrow lost hair. The sooner you start the better, as keeping the hair you have is paramount.