Hair Shaft Defects

Loose anagen syndrome is when the hair shaft is easily pulled out of the hair follicle. It is most prevalent in young blonde children 2 – 5 years of age and is more common in girls than boys but loose anagen syndrome can appear later in life as well. The development in older individuals indicates the hair loss will be more persistent due to poorly formed root sheaths resulting in a hair fiber that is poorly anchored in the hair follicle. There is no known treatment.

Traction alopecia can result in bald patches or diffuse, thin hair. Cause include tight hat bands, pulling the hair into a tight pony tail, cornrow hair styles, and anything else that pulls on the roots of the hair. If traction alopecia continues for a long time and the same hair is repeatedly pulled out then the hair follicles in the skin can become so damaged that they stop growing hair permanently.

Trichotillomania is a condition in which the affected individual plucks out their own hair. Often the hair on the scalp is plucked to leave bald patches, but the individual may focus on the eyelashes, eyebrows, pubic hair, or any other hair bearing region. Affected individuals are usually not aware that they are plucking their hair and when they are made aware of it they often find it very hard to stop. Treating trichotillomania is difficult; behavioral therapists may be  helpful in some cases.

Overprocessing the hair is the most common cause of physical hair damage by far. Perming, straightening, bleaching, and dyeing the hair all involve quite harsh chemicals that can significantly affect the integrity of hair fiber. Using these cosmetic approaches too frequently or inappropriately can lead to irreversible damage to the hair fiber. The more hair fiber is damaged by these processes the weaker it will be and the more likely it will break off.

The hair cuticle is a very strong outer sleeve of dead and highly keratinized cells that overlap each other like fish scales along the length of the hair fiber. The cuticle helps protect the softer inner cortex structure of the hair fiber from damage. The overlapping scales of the cuticle may become damaged and "flake up" if they are exposed to too much processing. For perms, straighteners, bleaches, and dyes to work the cuticle has to be opened up so that other chemicals can get to the hair cortex and either rearrange the chemical bonds in the hair structure, as occurs with perms and straighteners, or to remove or add hair pigment, as occurs with bleaching and dyeing. If the chemicals to open the cuticle are applied for too long, in an unsuitably high concentration, or too frequently the cuticle may be irreversibly damaged and even stripped away completely. When this happens the softer cortex is exposed to the environment. The cortex does not have the same properties of the cuticle, it has a rough surface, so at this stage the hair can look dull, "dry" and frizzy. Chemicals in shampoos, in the water, in air pollution, combined with UV light exposure can all contribute to further damage and weakening of the hair cortex. Eventually, the hair may become so weak that it splits or breaks off completely. More usually, this splitting and breakage occurs to old hair, that is, towards the end of the hair fiber. However, if the chemical processing is very severe, it alone can do so much damage to the hair fiber that the fiber at the root is severely weakened. If this happens, the hair may break off at the skin surface. The result is a diffuse "alopecia".

Aggressive brushing, back combing, and other grooming techniques that put a lot of physical stress on the hair fiber can cause the cuticle to flake and strip away. Inappropriate use of the hair dryer can cause a lot of damage. When you wash your hair, some water gets under the cuticle and into the cortex. If you dry your hair with a high heat you heat up the water. This makes the water expand inside the hair and this literally pushes outwards to leave spaces in the hair fiber. In severe cases the hair develops little bubbles inside, a condition appropriately called "bubble hair". These bubbles make the hair much weaker and likely to break off. If damaging physical processes are combined with damaging chemical processes then the problem is compounded. Treatment: The best approach is to cut off as much damaged hair as possible, avoid further chemical processing, be gentle with your hair and wait for new, undamaged hair to grow in. While there are cosmetic treatments to help "glue" damaged hair back together, they only work for a short time and have to be reapplied regularly. The end result is never as good as the original, undamaged hair.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.