By Meena Singh, M.D.
I have countless patients, friends and family members who complain about how their hair refuses to grow. Then, the comparisons start. “Why do (insert ethnic group) people always have such long hair?” This is a troubling issue for many. Fortunately, many studies have looked into this very issue and can give us insights into these quandaries.
Hair length is dictated by the rate of growth and the duration of the growing, or anagen, phase of the hair cycle. Studies have shown that the rate of hair growth does not greatly vary amongst races. The duration of hair growth before it enters the shedding, or telogen, phase of the hair cycle is dependent on many factors – mainly genetics, although, environmental and internal factors also contribute to the rate and duration of the hair cycle. For example, estrogens can lengthen the duration of the anagen phase.
The anagen phase of hair growth lasts for two to six years on average. Clearly, if the rate of growth is constant, then an individual with a six-year long anagen phase will have significantly longer hair than an individual with a two-year long anagen phase.
The Main Dilemma: Hair Breakage
Rate and duration of hair growth really only dictates how long a hair can be potentially. However, hair breakage can obviously shorten hairs and prevent them from appearing to grow longer. This is the main dilemma for individuals who feel their hair is not growing. Hair breakage is ultimately caused by structural weakness in the hair shaft. There are genetic hair shaft abnormalities; however, most are acquired through everyday shampooing, brushing and heat styling.
The differences in the burden of hair breakage vary amongst races. Comparative studies on hair structure amongst races have shown that individuals of African descent acquire single-strand knots that act as points of weakness. Single-strand knots are not typically seen in Caucasian or Asian hair. Individuals with this problem are basically giving themselves a haircut every time they comb their hair. This explains why dreads or locks can grow so long. Unfortunately, relaxing the hair to prevent the knots does not seem to increase length, as the hair has now lost tensile strength due to the harsh chemicals in the relaxers.
In summary, if you are in overall good general health and your hair is not gaining length, lack of hair growth is not generally the issue. The problem lies in acquired hair breakage, most commonly caused by everyday hairstyling practices.
Experts in Hair Loss Treatments
As experts in the treatment of hair loss and other hair conditions, please contact KMC Hair Center to schedule a personal consultation. We will determine your best options and a plan to suit your personal needs. In Leawood, KS, call 913-451-5934. In Shawnee, KS, call 913-631-6330.
Meena Singh, MD
Dr. Meena Singh is a board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon. She attended Harvard Medical School, trained at the Mayo Clinic, and completed a surgical fellowship in New York City. From there, she became trained in MOHS Micrographic Surgery, as well as cosmetic dermatology procedures, such as Botox, lasers, and fillers. Completing a fellowship with the International Society for Hair Restoration Surgery under world-renowned surgeon Dr. Marc Avram, she trained in all areas of hair transplantation techniques… strip excision, manual/motorized/
robotic follicular unit extraction, as well as transplanting into scarring alopecias.
Dr. Singh specializes in medical treatments for hair loss of all types. She is passionate about treating ethnic skin/skin of color. Dr. Singh has performed clinical trials in laser hair stimulation, as well as studies in hair transplantation for scarring and non-scarring forms of hair loss. She has performed investigative studies on skin cancer in transplant recipients, as well as tissue engineering. She has numerous publications in many peer-reviewed dermatology journals, book chapters, and has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Additionally, she is a reviewer for the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology and the Dermatologic Surgery journal and blog articles have been published in online periodicals.
Dr. Singh has also been featured on the cover of New York Times! Raised in Kansas City before leaving for medical school, she returned to the KC metro area to serve the needs of this community in all specialized issues of hair and skincare.