Why your hair changes every seven years and how to make the most of it

It's crucial to understand the different stages in order to promote healthy haircare

Olivia Petter
Wednesday 06 June 2018 17:42 BST

Ever felt like your hair has a life of its own?

One morning, you might arise with the cascading locks of a Disney princess only to notice several days later that your golden tresses have become mangled and Medusa-like.

It’s not just a case of bad hair days, our hair actually goes through a natural cycle of growth consisting of three distinct stages, each of which can change its texture and appearance.

The most notable of these is the growth phase, known as anagen, during which individual hair follicles grow for roughly a seven year period.

This is followed by a 10-day-long transitional period known as catagen and a three month resting period, referred to as telogen, during which time the hair will shed.

After this, the hair follicles should remain inactive for roughly three months before the entire process is repeated. However, it’s worth noting that each hair follicle goes through the growth cycle at different times, otherwise your hair would all fall out at the same time.

It’s crucial to distinguish between the three phases of the cycle in order to ensure you’re taking care of your hair appropriately, explains Lizzie Hearn, stylist at celebrity hairdresser Paul Edmonds.

“During the growing stage, the hair needs to be kept in the best condition as it will remain in this state for five to seven years,” she told The Independent.

Meanwhile, during the catagen period it’s imperative to ensure that your hair is properly nourished so as to promote blood flow to the scalp, Hearn added, suggesting use of a hair mask or overnight treatment as a way to do this.

However, despite the distinct stages, it can be difficult to identify when they are occurring because the changes may be very subtle, explains celebrity hairstylist Luke Hersheson, who is also creative director at John Frieda UK. There are other more obvious reasons for changes, he adds, such as ageing.

“Over time, some women may notice thinning in their hair which is usually down to hormonal changes,” he told The Independent, “that’s also why some women report thicker, fuller hair during their pregnancy when they are producing more hormones, and then hair loss or thinning after they’ve given birth as the hormone levels return to normal.”

According to Hearn, the average woman loses 50-100 hairs a day. While this shouldn't be cause for concern, if hair loss is something you’re worried about, Hersheson advises a change of hairstyle.

“Many women opt for a shorter cut when they are older," he said, "but the key factor is the way your hairdresser cuts the hair rather than the length, so make sure you speak with them about your concerns before they make the cut and they may be able to suggest the best way to make your hair look fuller.”

According to London-based hairstylist Andrew Jose, the appearance of a person’s hair can also act as a “snapshot of their general health and wellbeing,” meaning it can also change outside of its natural cycle for a number of reasons such as dietary changes or lack of sleep.

“The good thing is that hair can be changed and improved either by hair treatments or supplements, you really don't have to have what nature gives you!” he told The Independent.

The way your hair transforms over time can also be affected by the amount of heat you expose it to, explains David Felstead, director of the Daniel Galvin Hair & Scalp Clinic.

“When you are a child, hair condition tends to be good as hair is not subjected to as much chemical or heat damage,” he told The Independent.

“As you get older and start to use colour and tools (hair dryers, straighteners, tongs), hair quality can diminish unless properly looked after and so this is why us hairdressers often recommend having regular cuts and using a deep conditioning mask once a week.”

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