“The hair is the richest ornament of women.”[1]Martin Luther

He fell in love with her hair. A young Marine, recently home from a tour of duty in the South Pacific, was sitting at the drug store counter when he saw those long, luscious locks cascading down her back. Later that year, they married.

The woman described above was in her early twenties, so her hair was at its peak of health. Not only did it serve to protect her head and keep her body temperature steady,[2] but it had also served as a rich ornament that had captured the attention of this handsome young Marine.

Hair is made of a robust protein called keratin. Although rates of growth in different people vary, as a rule, hair grows about one half inch per month. It also grows in three cycles: 1) the growth phase, which lasts two to six years or longer, 2) the transition phase, which lasts several years, during which growth slows and the hair follicles shrink, and 3) the resting phase, which lasts only about three months. During this final phase, the hair stops growing and detaches from the follicle. New hair begins growing and pushes the old hair out.[3] On average, humans normally lose about one hundred hairs per day.[4]

Healthy hair is thick hair. From infancy to puberty hair density thickens. The reason it appears thick is that hair grows in follicular units, or tiny little groups, not as single strands. Each unit can consist of one to four hairs.[5] These units also have nerves, blood vessels, and a small muscle, which helps hairs stand on end when the occasion calls. The entire unit is encased in collagen. Since hair thickens from infancy to puberty,[6] our twenty-something young woman with the long, luscious locks was right in the “thickness zone.”

As ageing occurs from puberty onward, however, hair thins both in density and individual strand thickness.[7] Hair loss occurs, along with a slowdown in the rate of growth. Moreover, many follicles stop producing any strands at all, and hair strands, themselves, also decrease in diameter.[8]

As the human body ages, the elements, mainly hormones and enzymes that influence healthy hair growth, diminish. Some might lose hair, not only on the scalp, but also on the rest of the body. This condition caused by ageing is known as senile alopecia.[9] While age is a factor in hair loss, so also is gender.

Some men, for instance, can show signs of baldness starting in their thirties and can be bald by the time they are in their sixties.[10] In general, men lose hair starting in the front, then moving to the top and crown. This type of hair loss leaves a horseshoe pattern of remaining hair around the sides and back of the head.[11] The cause is hereditary, coming from both the male and female lines, and is brought on by the action of a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).[12] The name of this condition is male-pattern baldness or alopecia. Another change that men may experience is that while hair is disappearing from the top of the head, hair becomes longer and coarser in eyebrows, ears, and nose.[13]

Women lose hair differently. Hair tends to thin throughout, but the female-pattern alopecia leaves hair in the front intact.[14] Other changes women might experience as they age is that facial hair may become coarser on the chin and upper lip.[15] Loss of hair in women, as with men’s hair loss, is also the result of hormones – two types of estrogen, estrone and estradiol, primarily. A loss of estrogen means a loss of hair. Conversely, when estrogen levels are high, hair density thickens. For example, some women experience a fuller head of hair in pregnancy, since an increase in estrogen slows hair shedding.[16]

In women several factors cause hair loss. Medical causes might relate to disease, age, or hormone influences. Medications can also be a major influence of hair status. [17]

Medical causes include obstetric and gynecological conditions known as post partum and post menopause. Hormones change drastically after giving birth. Some women experience depression at this time but also can experience hair loss. After menopause, of course, hormones are depleted, which causes hair loss. Other medical causes include anemia, over-active or under-active thyroid, autoimmune diseases like Lupus, poor diet or dieting, severe infection or fungal infection of the scalp, and severe stress from surgery, anesthetics, or emotional upset.[18][19]

Types of medications that cause hair loss are as follows: blood thinners, seizure medications, medications for gout, blood pressure medications, medications to lower cholesterol, mood altering drugs, thyroid medications, some oral contraceptives, miscellaneous diet pills, high dose vitamin A, and street drugs. Also, treatments for cancer, chemotherapy and radiation therapy, are known to cause hair loss.[20]

The thing to remember is that you want your hair to be your richest ornament.

Can you have more youthful hair? Speak with your physician about your particular situation.


[1] Quotations about Hair. The Quote Garden. 10 September 2016. http://www.quotegarden.com/hair.html. (21 July 2018).

[2] “Aging Changes in Hair and Nails.” Medline Plus. 09 July 2018. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/004005.htm. (21 July 2018).

[3] Matthew Hoffman, MD. “Picture of the Hair.” 2018. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/picture-of-the-hair#1. (21 July 2018).

[4] “Hair Problems.” WebMD. 2018. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/hair-loss/hair-problems#1. (21 July 2018).

[5] “Follicular Units.” Bernstein Medical. 2018. https://www.bernsteinmedical.com/hair-transplant/basics/follicular-units/. (21 July 2018).

[6] “What Happens to Hair Diameter as You Age?” Bernstein Medical. 10 June 2010. https://www.bernsteinmedical.com/answers/what-happens-to-hair-diameter-as-you-age/. (21 July 2018).

[7] “What Happens.”

[8] “Aging Changes in Hair.”

[9] “Hair Loss in Women.” Bernstein Medical. 2018. https://www.bernsteinmedical.com/hair-loss/women/. (21 July 2018).

[10] “Aging Changes in Hair.”

[11] “Hair Problems.” WebMD. 2018. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/hair-loss/hair-problems#2. (21 July 2018).

[12] “Causes of Hair Loss in Men.” Bernstein Medical. 2018. https://www.bernsteinmedical.com/hair-loss/men/causes/. (21 July 2018).

[13] “Aging Changes in Hair.”

[14] “Hair Problems.” #1.

[15] “Aging Changes in Hair.”

[16] “Hair Issues.” WebMD. 2018. https://www.webmd.com/baby/hair-issues. (21 July 2018).

[17] “Hair Loss in Women.”

[18] “Hair Loss in Women.”

[19] “Hair Problems.” #1

[20] “Hair Loss in Women.”