When we think about our hair, we tend to focus mostly on the outer surface, the texture of the hair, the length, strength, etc. We put in a lot of effort to maintain the condition of our hair externally. However, a majority of the time we miss out on focusing on the most important part, which is the hair follicle.
What Is A Hair Follicle?
Hair follicle is a part of the skin which regulates the hair growth by bringing cells together and controlling their interactions with hormones and immune cells. Hair follicle is a dynamic organ in the human body, made up of around 20 different kinds of cells. It is a kind of sac like structure from which hair growth occurs. Structurally hair follicles consist of a papilla at the base made up of connective tissues, hair matrix around it, the root sheath and the bulge (possesses stem cells) at the outer sheath. The sebaceous glands can be found at the top of the follicle. However, these sebaceous glands will not be found on hair follicles which are under the skin of your palm, soles and lips. A healthy and strong hair follicle on your scalp can on an average grow up to 0.5 inches or 133 mm in a month.
Structure Of A Hair Follicle
A hair follicle is made of a number of parts that make up its structure that include –
- Hair Shaft – The part of hair which is visible and emerges from the skin is known as hair shaft. The hair shaft is made up of 3 layers of attached, keratinized, dead cells
- Medulla – The medulla is the hair’s innermost layer but it is not found in all the hair on our body. But is mostly common in hair which are long and thick
- Cortex – The second or middle layer is known as cortex which is responsible for determining the hair’s texture, color and strength
- Cuticle – The cuticle is the hair’s outermost layer which helps in protecting the cortex. It is a colorless and thin layer
- Hair Root – Part of the hair which lies just below the epidermis is called the hair root
- Root Sheath – There is both, an internal as well as an external root sheath which are covered by connective tissue which is an outer sheath. The inner root sheath is cylindrical in shape and its primary function is to mold the hair. While the outer sheath is derived from epidermis
- Matrix – A collection epithelial cells and pigment cells is known as matrix. The hair matrix surrounds the papilla and is responsible for the growth of new hair
- Papilla – The papilla is made of a number of blood vessels which help in providing essential nutrients that are required for the growth of hair
Apart from this, some of the other structures of hair follicle are bulge, hair fiber, sebaceous glands, apocrine sweat glands, arrector pili muscles, etc.
Functions Of The Hair Follicles
The growth of hair consists of three stages (hair follicle cycle) – anagen, catagen and telogen. Before these phases begin, the follicular morphogenesis phase occurs which is basically the phase in which the follicles form. There are a number of hair follicle functions.
In the anagen phase, the hair follicles are involved in the process of hair growth. Known as the active phase, the hair follicles remain active during this phase for about 2-7 years. After this period, the hair follicles move into the catagen phase.
In the catagen phase, the hair emerging from the hair follicle turn into club hair and during this phase the blood supply and the new hair growth cells are cut off from the hair. This is a two-week process after which the hair follicle goes into the telogen phase.
This is the hair follicle’s resting phase. The hair follicle’s final product is the club hair which is a dead and fully keratinized hair.
What Causes Infected Hair Follicles On The Scalp?
Infected hair follicles are medically known as folliculitis. The two main causes of infected hair follicle on head and other body parts are bacteria and fungus. When your hair follicles are damaged, it becomes more difficult for them to evade these bacteria and fungus. There are a number of day-to-day activities which can aid these bacteria to enter the damaged hair follicles and spread.
Some of the ways bacteria enter include through the hats and beanies that you wear, shaving, excess sweat, makeup, excess sebum, etc. All of these can negatively impact your already weak follicles. It is very important to seek hair follicle treatment as soon as possible so that your condition does not worsen.
There are different types of infected hair follicles such as –
Gram negative folliculitis
Hot tub folliculitis
Is Hair Loss Caused By Follicle Infection Reversible?
Yes, in majority of the cases it is possible to reverse the condition of hair loss due to follicle infection. However, care should be taken that necessary steps and treatment measures are taken as soon as possible. You should consult a dermatologist who will take a sample of the infection to determine the exact cause and prescribe medications and treatments accordingly.
How To Treat Infected Hair Follicles?
There are different ways to treat the human hair follicle depending upon the severity of the condition. If you have a mild case of infected hair follicles, then it not a cause of worry as they tend to heal on their own. You can also moisturize the affected areas with emollient which contains anti-bacterial agents. This will sooth your skin as well as clear the infection as soon as possible so that the symptoms do not become worse.
PRP therapy – Platelet rich plasma therapy is a non-invasive and advanced method to help stimulate the dormant stem cells due to infection of the hair follicles. Patients own blood is extracted and is then activated by putting it to centrifuge (USFDA approved device) then the protein rich growth infusing platelets are injected back to the scalp with areas of scanty or thinning hair growth. This enables rejuvenation of hair follicles thus promoting and restoring hair growth.
For severe cases, it is best to consult your dermatologist who can prescribe antibiotic tablets, antiseptic skin wash, etc., which will help in clearing the infection and repairing the damaged hair follicles.
Can You Prevent Infected Hair Follicles?
Yes, it is possible to take some preventive measures which can avoid the problem of infected hair follicles such as –
- Do not share your towel with anyone else
- Do not go into pools which have not been chlorinated
- Always ensure that you shave properly
- Do not wear tight clothes which cause unnecessary friction on the skin
- Clear off sweat as soon as possible
- Always maintain proper hygiene
- Use a mild soap while taking bath
- Do not share your razors and other hair tools with anybody else
- Do not scratch the bumps on your head
- Allow your hair to breathe by not confining it within hats and scarves all the time
- Try to avoid using cosmetic products which are oil-based.
Are infected hair follicles dangerous?
No, infected hair follicles is not a dangerous condition, but it is best to clear off the infection as soon as possible so that you do not worsen your condition.
How to tell if hair follicles are dead?
Examine your scalp carefully, especially, the areas where you once had a thick growth of hair. If you notice that there is some fine and soft hair growth in those areas, then it means your hair follicles are still active and not dead.
When do hair follicles die?
In majority of the cases, there is regrowth or regeneration of hair follicles. However, severe conditions such as skin trauma or baldness can result in your hair follicles to completely die.
Can dead hair follicles grow back?
No, once the hair follicles are completely dead, they can’t be regrown.
How to pass a hair follicle test?
There are couple of ways that you can adopt in order to pass a hair follicle test such as cleansing your body and hair using natural methods to remove all the toxins, or you could try shaving all the hair at least a week or two before the test so that when you go for the test, you will mostly have a new crop of hair which should ideally be free of toxins.
The human hair follicles are the most important part of your body which is responsible for growth of hair. Hence, it is essential that you maintain your hair follicles in order to have a good, healthy and strong hair. Be aware and take all the precautionary measures so that you are not unnecessarily affected by folliculitis.