Many people agonize over the growth rate of their hair. Let's face it, nothing grows out slower than a bad haircut! What most people don't realize though, is that your hair is constantly going through 3 stages of growth. Once a hair falls out, it doesn't mean that that's it for that particular spot where that hair came from. Your hair is constantly going through the 3 steps - growing, shedding and fresh new growth. When you shed a hair, it's not the first step toward baldness, but it's just a continuation of an ongoing cycle.
We'll start with the anagen stage where hair is just growing, getting longer. For some people a hair will continue growing for about 2 years, but for others, it could be as long as 6 years. The length of time that hair grows depends on how old you are and your genetic makeup. The growing or anagen stage is a lot longer for a teenager than for someone who is middle-aged. Your genetics also have a lot to say about how long your hair continues growing.
The second stage of hair growth is called the catagen. This is when the papilla (the factory for producing hair cells for growth) shuts down. This process generally takes between 2 or 3 weeks. When that happens, the follicle (the skin surrounding the hair root) begins to shrink.
The last step in this cycle is the telogen stage. During this stage the papilla (the hair growth factory) takes a rest and the follicle hangs onto the hair for about 2 or 3 months. The hair could fall out during this stage during combing/brushing or during shampooing. It won't necessarily come out because it was dislodged, it could also be pushed out by the new hair that is starting to grow in the papilla.
In any given time, about 85% of your hair is in the longest stage, the anagen or growing stage. The other 15% is either in the catagen (shutting down) or telogen (shedding) stage. Because of that, you will loose between 50 and 200 hairs per day. It's perfectly normal to lose and shed hair.
If everyone goes through the same 3 stages of hair growth, why do some people seem to be able to grow hair much faster than others? This is because the papilla (the hair growth factory) produces hair cells a lot faster for some people than for others. Also, the anagen, or growing stage, lasts a lot longer for some than for others. So if one person has an average rate of producing hair cells, and the growing stage lasts 2 years, s/he will have a lot shorter hair than the individual who papilla produces hair cells very quickly and whose growing stage lasts 6 years. But don't be alarmed. When you lose your onger hairs, they are just finished growing and will very quickly be replaced by the other hairs that are longer and have been growing for some time. Remember - 85% of your hair is in the growing stage and only 15% in the catagen (shutting down) or telogen (shedding) stage. It's not going to fall out all at once!
Nadine Visscher is the author of The Beginner's Guide to Cutting Hair (http://www.youcuttinghair.com ) and Cutting Your Own Hair. She has been cutting hair for 20 years and has helped many people save a lot of money by teaching them the necessary basic techniques to give a great haircut.