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Hair growth, regardless of the hair type or texture, is largely dependent on the health of hair follicles.
The hair bulb, or hair root, are plugged in the hair follicles, which are small pockets made of connective tissue and cells. (1) These hair follicles help attach the hair to the skin.
Moreover, hair follicles are supplied with blood vessels that deliver oxygen and nutrients, which support the division of hair bulb cells and contribute to the healthy growth of hair. (2)
The blood vessels also deliver hormones that regulate the hair growth cycle and influence hair texture and structure. Therefore, any kind of damage to the hair follicles can interfere with the growth of hair, often leading to hair loss, thin hair, and changes in hair texture and color.
Multiple factors can influence the health of your hair follicles and scalp, including dandruff, sun exposure, infections, hormonal imbalance, improper hair care, and some medical conditions such as traction alopecia and folliculitis.
Symptoms of Damaged Hair Follicles
Damaged hair follicles generally manifest the following persistent signs and symptoms:
- Hair loss and thinning – Due to the damage in the hair follicles, your hair loses its ability to grow healthily. As a result, your hair turns thin, weak, and brittle and is thus prone to breakage. Both hair thinning and hair breakage can manifest as reduced hair volume.
- Excessive scalp dryness – The damage in the hair follicles can also affect the sebaceous glands, resulting in reduced production of natural oils. Even if your sebaceous glands are working, damaged hair follicles prevent the release of the oils to the scalp, causing dry scalp and hair.
- Inflammation, irritation, and dandruff – Any kind of itchiness, inflammation, and irritation on the scalp can be a symptom of damaged hair follicles.
Can Damaged Hair Follicles Be Repaired?
Hair follicles can generally be repaired if the problem is caught early on. Be always on the lookout for any hair breakage and thinning so that timely treatment can be implemented. The longer the problem is left untreated, the more difficult it becomes to regenerate the damaged follicles.
Medical Treatment for Damaged Hair Follicles
You can consult your doctor on the following treatments to repair your hair follicles:
Minoxidil is a commonly used topical medication that stimulates hair regrowth when used regularly. (3) However, your hair will continue to grow only if you keep using the medication.
Often, low-level laser therapy is used in conjunction with minoxidil to boost blood flow and thus increase oxygen and nutrient supply to the scalp, supporting follicular regeneration.
2. DHT blockers
Hair loss often occurs due to an increase in testosterone levels in the body. The excess testosterone reacts with the 5-alpha reductase enzyme to form dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which acts on the hair follicles and causes male-pattern baldness. (4)
Medications such as finasteride, which block the conversion of testosterone into DHT, can help prevent the shrinking of hair follicles.
Finasteride can treat male-pattern baldness by increasing the number of hairs. It can also improve the appearance of the hair. (5)
Microneedling involves the use of small needles to make minor wounds on the scalp to boost blood circulation to the area. Moreover, the body increases collagen production and the formation of new skin cells for wound healing, which can, in turn, boost hair growth. (6)
Consult your dermatologist for microneedling procedures.
Mesotherapy involves injecting vitamins to the inner skin layers of the scalp to improve nutrition and blood flow.
5. Platelet-rich plasma therapy
In this procedure, the patient’s blood is taken and plasma is extracted from it. This plasma is injected into the scalp as a source of growth nutrients and factors to improve hair follicle function.
6. Growth factor therapy
Growth factor therapy is performed by injecting growth factors, derived from the patient’s blood, into the scalp to repair the damaged hair follicles and thus boost hair growth.
7. Hair transplant
Hair transplant is a surgical procedure that involves cutting out a section of skin with hair follicles from a part of the scalp or some other body part and implanting it into the areas with damaged hair follicles.
At-Home Measures to Aid Repair of Hair Follicles
The following self-care measures and home remedies can help repair your hair follicles and also prevent damage to them.
1. Oil your hair
Applying oils to your hair hydrates and nourishes it, thus improving hair health. You can use coconut oil, (7) almond oil, castor oil, or olive oil to rejuvenate your hair.
You can add essential oils such as lavender essential oil, (8) tea tree essential oil, and rosemary essential oil to the carrier oils to improve the health of your hair follicles. You can also add these oils to your hair mask and use.
How to use: Use any oil or a mixture of oils, warm it, and apply it to the scalp. Leave it for a couple of hours or apply a warm, wet towel to the hair to steam it.
2. Cleanse your scalp
Your scalp can easily accumulate dirt, gunk, grease, sweat, and hair products, causing buildup of plaque over time. This layer of plaque can damage the hair follicles, affecting hair quality and growth.
It is best to use hair scrubs, such as those made of bentonite clay, to remove scalp buildup. Moreover, hair scrubs supply minerals that repair and soothe the scalp.
How to use:
- Mix 1 tsp of bentonite clay into a glass of water and pour it over wet hair. Rinse thoroughly.
- Use a salt scrub to gently cleanse your scalp of dead skin and dirt.
3. Improve your hair care routine
It is vital to take proper care of your hair to prevent further damage to the hair follicles. Consider the following tips:
- Protect your hair from the harsh sun rays by using a scarf, umbrella, or hat.
- Chemical-laden hair dyes and other hair products can damage your hair follicles over time (9) and, therefore, should be avoided. If you want to get hair treatments, make sure to have a gap of at least 2 months between two procedures to prevent damaging your hair irreparably.
- Avoid tight hairstyles as they can pull on the hair, damaging the hair follicles. Also, refrain from overstyling your hair.
4. Improve your diet
The health of your hair follicles is highly dependent on your overall health. It is common for your hair follicles to weaken due to vitamin or mineral deficiencies, which ultimately affect the appearance of your hair. (10)
It is suggested to consume a well-balanced diet. Make sure to include fruits, seeds, vegetables, meat, whole grains, and nuts in your diet. A colorful diet ensures a supply of a variety of minerals, vitamins, and nutrients.
Consume adequate vitamins A, D, and E, selenium, zinc, iron, and niacin to boost hair growth.
Along with a balanced diet, make sure to drink plenty of water. You can also take supplements to fulfill your nutritional needs upon consulting your doctor. Biotin and niacin supplements are useful in treating hair follicles. (11)
5. Perform head massages
A key to maintaining or improving the health of your hair follicles is proper blood flow to the scalp, as this ensures a continuous supply of oxygen and nutrients that boost hair growth.
Moreover, proper blood circulation is essential for the removal of metabolic waste and carbon dioxide, which can damage the hair follicles. (12)
Massaging your hair and scalp can boost blood circulation, therefore aiding in recovery. You can use a head massager, for 5–10 minutes every day, to relieve stress and to boost hair health at the same time.
6. Avoid heat on your scalp or hair
The natural oils released by the sebaceous glands in the hair follicles protect the hair from heat and environmental damage. Washing your hair with hot water can strip your hair of these oils, leaving it dry, brittle, and highly prone to damage.
Therefore, avoid washing your hair with hot water. Instead, use cold water to cleanse your hair and boost hair growth.
Also, refrain from using heat-styling tools such as straighteners and hair dryers to prevent damaging the hair and hair follicles. It is best to allow your hair to air-dry. If you need to use heat-styling tools, make sure to apply a heat protectant first.
7. Avoid smoking
Smoking can affect your hair and hair follicle health in various ways. Smoking is a common cause of premature aging, which weakens your hair follicles and makes you prone to various health diseases.
Moreover, smoking can cause breakdown of blood vessels near the hair follicles, DNA damage, (13) inflammation, and enzymatic imbalance, which all contribute to damaged hair follicles. Thus, it is essential to quit smoking to allow your hair follicles to heal.
8. Manage stress
Stress can greatly contribute to the degeneration of hair follicles indirectly. Practice stress management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and plenty of rest to allow your hair cells to repair.
When to See a Doctor
Hair follicles can generally be rejuvenated by using natural remedies and practicing proper self-care. However, if these natural remedies fail to show results, you must consult your doctor.
Your dermatologist will diagnose the reason behind your follicular damage and suggest suitable treatment. Moreover, the doctor may recommend natural remedies that are better suited to your hair condition and type.
Hair follicles can get damaged due to a number of reasons, often producing signs such as hair loss, thinning of hair, and brittleness.
Taking simple measures can improve the health of your hair follicles and even prevent damage in the first place. Make sure to treat your hair timely, in the early stages of the problem, as the damage may become irreversible as it advances.