When it comes to overcoming hair loss there is one factor that ultimately determines whether or not you will have any success… at all. It is the vital status of your hair follicles. If your hair follicles are dead, you are never going to be able to regrow that hair and your only solutions are going to be surgical, but if they are alive there is still a chance you can regrow a healthy head of hair. But how do you know if and when a hair follicle is alive?
They are called vellus hairs and they are your key to successful hair regrowth.
Throughout this article we are going to talk about everything related to vellus hair from what they are, how they form, and why they are so important for someone who is trying to overcome hair loss. By the end of this article you will know what to look for (and why) to determine whether you should be using treatments like finasteride and minoxidil of if it is time to cut your losses and look into surgical options.
What is vellus hair?
Vellus hair is a fancy name for baby hair or “peach fuzz.”
Everyone is born with vellus hair on their head and body. It is essentially hair that hasn’t matured yet, which is why, with age, in areas like the head, arms, face, legs and more vellus hair eventually matures and turns into terminal hair.
This is a normal process that happens to most people as they age. But, for people who experience pattern hair loss, their terminal hair begins to turn back into vellus hair. When you think of peach fuzz you probably envision small, thin, colorless hair, which is exactly what you don’t want taking the place of your terminal hair.
How does vellus hair form?
When your terminal hair begins to lose length, thickness, color and more it is because a process called miniaturization is occurring.
Miniaturization negatively affects the hairs growth cycle which consists of four stages: anagen (growth), catagen (transition), telogen (resting), and exogen (shedding). Essentially when dihydrotestosterone (DHT) starts attacking your hair follicles it causes low blood flow. This causes the anagen phase of the hair cycle to begin to shorten and the telogen phase to lengthen.
Since the anagen phase is the only time hair is growing, when it becomes shorter the hair will not be able to grow for the same duration as the previous cycle leaving it shorter and thinner as each cycle passes. Eventually this leads to terminal hair reverting completely back into vellus hair.
But, the most important thing that you need to keep in mind is that even the smallest vellus hairs can be regrown into terminal hair with the proper treatments.
If you have peach fuzz you can get your hair back
For most people, it takes a long time for your terminal hairs to turn into vellus hair and completely die, usually a span of a few years or more. Slowly, during the entire duration of your hair loss, these hair follicles have been receiving less and less blood flow, which means less vital oxygen and nutrients. But, unless they are completely dead (meaning you cannot see them or feel them at all) then they will be able to receive blood from the body (once the hair follicle is dead there is not more blood flow allotted to it which is why it cannot be regrown).
So again, any hair that has been able to grow through the epidermis (the uppermost layer of the scalp) is technically still alive and receiving blood flow, meaning it can be restored.
In order to restore hair from vellus back to terminal you need to re-lengthen the anagen phase of the hair cycle by blocking DHT and increasing blood flow.
How to regrow vellus hair
The two important components of hair regrowth are stopping it from progressing and then regrowing hair.
Once you have DHT levels under control you then need to direct your efforts towards regrowth. The most effective way of regrowing hair is to increase blood flow, and the subsequent delivery or oxygen and nutrients. There are several ways to go about this, although minoxidil is one of the most well-researched and effective treatments for increasing blood flow that we have.
Here is an article that talks more in depth about why blood flow is so vitally important for successful hair regrowth.
Now you have to remember what I said earlier: it takes a long time for hair to turn from healthy terminal hair into vellus hair, and it is likely going to take equally as long to turn back into terminal hair. As you block DHT and improve blood flow you will likely be increasing the length of the anagen phase. This will allow your hair to grow longer and thicker with each passing cycle. But, it may take several cycles (including a few sheds unfortunately) for your hair to get back to a healthy state.
This is why most experts recommend that you wait at least 6 months to determine if the treatments are working for you or not, and waiting up to a year is even better.
There are many people who do not know the importance of vellus hair. This results in a lot of money spent on treatments that are not going to work, or vice versa, people giving up on treatments too early.
If you are someone who is experiencing hair loss make sure you take a close look at your hair. Do you see and/or feel any hair at all in the areas that are being affected?
If so you need to start utilizing treatments like finasteride, minoxidil, and more right away so that you can maximize the chances of saving your vellus hair and turning it back into terminal hair.
If there is not any hair there, hey, at least you now know that you do not need to spend (waste) money on treatments because your best (and realistically only) options at this point are going to be surgical.