What is ‘Vellus Hair’?
Vellus hair refers to the short, fine hairs that grow all over the body from childhood, with certain exceptions such as the lips, palms and soles of the feet, and cannot be seen from a distance. These hairs are light in colour and generally less than 2mm long.
Appropriately, the word ‘vellus’ comes from the Latin for “a fleece” or “wool”, as these hairs are often ‘fluffy’ in appearance. Vellus hair has a different growth cycle to terminal or androgenic hair (adult hair) and is not attached to a sebaceous gland.
During puberty, dihyrotestosterone (DHT) present in the body causes vellus hairs on the arms, legs, faces and in other parts of the body to grow thicker and darker. Later in life, those with a predisposition to genetic hair loss will find that DHT has the reverse effect on the hairs on their head, causing female or male pattern hair loss.
Vellus Hair and Hair Loss
In relation to hair loss, the term ‘vellus hair’ is used to describe the fine hairs on the head that are caused by hereditary hair loss conditions, leaving the hair noticeably thinner to the point of sometimes being almost invisible.
Once the hair has reached the level of baldness where vellus hair is present, unless the hair loss is caused by Alopecia Areata, it is unlikely that the hair can be restored. Bald men experience vellus hair, however, once the scalp takes on a shiny appearance, this is the most hair they are likely to grow in these balding areas.
It is worth noting that vellus hair should not be confused with thinning hair as it is generally possible for thin hair to be restored. Whilst hair loss from thinning may also look fluffy, the hair is longer and has more pigmentation than vellus hairs.