A Welshman recently featured in a number of British media stories after he lost a significant amount of weight and saw his white hair return to its natural colour.
But did losing weight really restore his hair’s natural brown pigmentation? A Belgravia hair specialist offers another possible explanation.
Alopecia Areata hair regrowth
Whilst many reports associated the return of his brunette shade to the 47 year old’s seven stone drop, the real reason is likely to be unrelated. Looking closer into stories about Brian Mcauley from South Wales, whose weight loss happened over seven months, it appears he had previous lost his hair to Alopecia Areata.
This is an autoimmune disorder which, due to a disruption in the hair growth cycle, causes sudden hair loss to varying degrees – from bald spots to complete hairlessness. It can affect any hair bearing areas of the head and body.
In the mildest form, where it affects only scalp hair, regrowth tends to occur naturally within 12 months in many cases. It is common for the hair to grow back white or colourless, but the natural pre-hairloss colouring should return within a few months.
Looking at photos of Mcauley in Metro and many other news publications, his hair was silver-white with no obvious signs of alopecia around seven months prior to losing weight. As such, it is likely to have simply been a coincidence that his Alopecia Areata recovery, in terms of pigmentation restoration, happened whilst he was also losing weight.
Hair growth and pigmentation
We asked Belgravia hair loss specialist, Rali Bozhinova to explain the science behind why hair can grow back white after Alopecia Areata.
“At the very bottom of the hair bulb there is a structure called the dermal papilla and also the matrix. In these areas there are many stem cells which are constantly dividing and making up the hair. There are also melanocytes which are not dividing but they inject melanin – colour pigments – into keratinocytes in the hair, so this makes the hair to grow in the melanin-defined colour. As long as the melanocytes are functioning properly, the hair grows in the determined colour. When they stop functioning, we lose hair pigment,” she states.
“During Alopecia Areata white blood cells are attacking that same part of the hair follicle – the bulb. Therefore, cells stop dividing and there is hair loss. There is also no more hair growth until the attack stops. Melanocytes are in the same area and can only inject melanin during the active growth phase – the Anagen stage of the hair growth cycle – and are, therefore, also affected whilst these attacks are happening.
When the attack stops and the hair starts growing back, it often returns without any pigment. There can be a bit of a delay in the melanocytes starting to inject melanin again. However, as long as the hair loss condition is no longer active and the hair keeps growing within its normal cycle, regular functioning of the melanocytes should return, restoring the hair’s previous pigmentation a short while later.”
Reassuring anyone concerned by white hair following autoimmune alopecia, Bozhinova confirms, “This is normal and we see it with most Belgravia patients with Alopecia Areata, regardless of their age, weight or medical history. It is obviously less noticeable, however, to those whose hair is grey or white already.“
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.