By Chisha Sinyangwe
I believe knowledge is power. When we are equipped with knowledge we are more likely to make informed choices on many issues. Hair is no exception. This article will discuss the hair growth cycle from a biological stand point that, hopefully dispels the myth that black women are incapable of growing long, healthy natural tresses.
Hair consists two distinct structures- the follicle embedded in the skin on the scalp, and the shaft which is the visible portion above the scalp. It makes sense then that a healthy hair shaft sprouts from a healthy, actively functional hair follicle. In fact hair follicles do not regenerate or replenish once damaged. They were built to last. No matter who we are or where we come from, everyone has the same growth cycle (shocker!)Hair on the scalp grows about 0.3-0.4mm/day or about 152.4mm per year on average, for any person ALIVE.
At any given time a random number of hairs are engaged in one of the three growth stages namely Anagen, Catagen and Telogen. We will now tackle each of these stages independently in order to get the gist of what our hair goes through.
The Anagen is the active phase of hair growth which can last from 2-6years depending on one’s genetic makeup. To put things into perspective, say I have a hair growth phase that lasts 2 years, then realistically my hair can only get as long as about 30.48cm. What if it lasts 6years? Then my hair could get as long as about 91.44cm, that’s 36 inches! The bottom line is, the longer hair stays in this phase, the longer it will become. Remarkably, about 85% of the hairs on one’s head are in the anagen phase at any given time.
The categen is the transitional phase which allows the follicle to, in essence make way for the new. This stage can lasts anyway between two and three weeks. During this time the hair follicle shrinks to about 1/6 its original length causing the hair shaft to be pushed upwards. The hair shaft is cut off from its dermal papilla which nourishes it, therefore, hair is no longer growing.
The telogen is the resting phase in the hair growth cycle which lasts around three months. Around 10-15% of hairs are in this phase. During this time, the hair follicle is completely at rest. Pulling out a hair in this phase will reveal a solid, hard, dry, white material at the root. Approximately 50-100 strands fall out daily as part of a normal natural hair loss process known as Shedding. It is unavoidable! Once the telogen phase is complete the cycle begins again.
What conclusion does this information help us arrive at? It is clear that black hair like any other, is synonymous with growth. Understanding your hair is a composite part of developing a realistic approach to hair growth. There is now so much information out there via internet that helps to educate black woman on how to look after the hair that grows off the top of their heads. A lot of these educators seem to simmer around the same point that ‘healthy habits’ potentiates hair growth. It is the only way to get close enough to the 6inch per year mark.
Ladies, remember that all hair is good hair we are blessed to have hair with versatility.