What are Baby Hairs and Why Won't They Grow?'

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Name: Samantha

Question: I have a lot of short hairs around my hairline. Can you tell me what are these baby hairs and why won't they ever grow properly to a normal hair length?

what are baby hairs grow longAnswer: Hi Samantha, 'baby hairs' can vary in length and can occur for a number of reasons...

Vellus hairs

Those that are no more than 2 mm in length and not visible from a distance are vellus hairs. These are the short, downy hairs that cover all hair-bearing areas of our skin. Vellus hairs and regular hairs (known as terminal hairs) follow similar growth patterns, however, although both go through the same stages of the hair growth cycle, vellus hairs' is much shorter in duration.

Vellus hair has a similar structure to terminal hair in that both grow from a hair follicle. Each hair follicle contains a gland that secrets sebum, an oil that lubricates the skin and hair. Sebaceous glands of vellus hair follicles are not as active as terminal hair follicles; they are smaller and produce significantly less sebum.

New hair growth

When baby hairs are longer in length and darker in colour, enough to be seen from a distance, this can be due to the growth of new terminal hairs - normal scalp hair - around the hairline. These strands tend to be healthy-looking with blunt or slightly tapered ends.

How long these fly-away hairs can grow can vary from person to person. In some it will grow to a similar length to that seen throughout the rest of the scalp, whilst some individuals may find the hair around their hairline just does not seem to grow particularly long with many people saying theirs never grow past an inch in length. Kim Kardashian is a famous example of this, having become so frustrated at the fine hairs around her hairline that she admitted having laser hair removal to get rid of them permanently.

Hair grows at an average rate of half an inch per month, but how long your hair can grow is determined by the length hair stays in the active, Anagen phase of the hair growth cycle. At any point in time approximately 90 per cent of our scalp hairs are growing, with 10 per cent resting and shedding, ready to start the process again.This factor is largely controlled by genetics so you could take a look at your family tree - on both sides - to see if your close relatives also have these shorter baby hairs.

Hair Growth Cycle Diagram

Furthermore, not all hairs will grow at the same rate - the growth period may be shorter for some areas than others; the hair around the hairline and temples is known to be the slowest to grow.

Damaged hair

One common reason for this is hair breakage. It can be caused by everyday styling practices, from blow-drying the hair or frequently using other forms of heat-styling, to over-brushing, weakening the hair until it snaps along the shaft.

When baby hairs are the result of damaged hair the ends of the hair will likely look split, frizzy and the shaft may appear weak or thin. As these symptoms may only become visible under a magnifying lens or trichoscope, it can be hard to tell without a professional's input which is the cause - new hair or breakage.

Baby hairs are found in men and women of all races, however, the Black community in particular has developed a trend for styling them, often into waves, to celebrate them. Even Beyonce has touched on the subject, singing "I love my baby hair, baby hair and Afros" in her hit, Formation. Interestingly the Afro hair type is the most naturally brittle and may, therefore, be more prone to baby hairs from breakage.

Hair loss

There are a number of hair loss conditions which can cause shorter hairs, which may be especially noticeable around the hairline.

If tight hairstyles - such as braids, hair extensions or wigs - are worn regularly, this can place excessive strain on the hair follicles, with those around the hairline and temples being the most affected. This leads to a weakening of these follicles, followed by hair loss and thinning and is known as Traction Alopecia. Should the use of harsh chemicals such as bleach, hair relaxer or perming solution be a factor, short hairs and hairloss may be the result of chemical trauma.

Hair breakage is often seen alongside these fully-preventable conditions which are both treatable, as long as the follicles are still functioning.

Whilst Female Pattern Hair Loss, the permanent, genetic condition which affects the top of the scalp and hairline area causes thinning hair in women, if you have always had baby hairs it is unlikely that this is the cause. However, if you have noticed a drop in the volume of your hair in addition to these shorter hairs around your hairline, we would advise you to see a professional so that this can be either confirmed or ruled out.

If you are troubled by your baby hairs and would like to find out the cause, as well as - if necessary - getting advice on hair growth solutions or hair loss treatment - we recommend having a professional consultation with a specialist.

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