Hair follicle miniaturization is the process hair goes through before it falls out.
This article will explain why the miniaturization process takes place, how it leads to thinning and recession of the hair.
This article will also outline 8 proven ways to stop the process so you can prevent yourself from going bald.
What is Hair Miniaturization?
Hair strands are long chains of proteins – referred to as protein filaments – that grow from special follicles located on most parts of the body.
In individuals with healthy follicles, hair growth will follow the cycle of growth, rest, and shedding for the entirety of one’s life.
This means a full head of hair with little to no thinning or loss.
Unfortunately, not all individuals will experience such luck.
In the photo below you can see the beginning stages of thinning and recession, starting with the frontal hairline where follicles are more likely to miniaturize first.
Actually, a large number of of the world’s population will at some point or another struggle with baldness, and those individuals will likely undergo a process known as hair miniaturization.
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In simplest terms, hair miniaturization is shrinking of the hair strand – and, eventually, the hair follicle. This is commonly seen in those with a variety of hair loss types and can have permanent effects if not handled quickly.
The symptoms of hair miniaturization mimic those of hair loss; this is due to the link between the two processes.
(Are you showing early signs of balding? Find out here.)
How is Hair Miniaturization Linked to Genetic Alopecia?
To understand the role that miniaturization plays in hair loss, it is important to first look at the hair growth cycle.
All hairs – even the hairs on our scalp – begin as vellus hairs. Eventually vellus hairs morph into terminal hairs (this typically occurs within the womb, but also happens as part of puberty), and are marked by a darker, thicker, and more noticeable appearance.
As terminal hairs grow, they go through three main phases. They include anagen, catagen, and telogen (1).
Anagen (growth) Phase – This phase lasts anywhere from 3-5 years, and it is the main growing phase within the hair growth cycle.
Catagen (transition) Phase – This is the shortest phase in the cycle – lasting only 1-2 weeks – and is the intermediate between growth and rest.
Telogen (rest) Phase – Finally, this phase takes place for 3-4 months. At this point, hair shedding increases, and old hairs fall out so new hairs can take their place. This then restarts the cycle of hair growth, leading back into anagen.
In those with hair miniaturization, the cycle is interrupted for one reason or another.
The two most common interruptions occur during the anagen phase of growth (typically experienced by those with Male-Pattern Baldness (MPB)) and the telogen phase of growth (known as telogen effluvium, and triggered by a number of causes).
These interruptions can lead to shortening of the hair strands and constricting of the follicles, and this eventually leads to hair thinning and loss.
What are the Causes of Hair Miniaturization?
Miniaturization of the hair can occur for a number of reasons. Here is a look at the four main causes.
MPB is caused by sensitivity to the androgen hormone DHT (2). This sensitivity leads to irritation and inflammation of the follicle and eventually contributes directly to hair miniaturization.
As DHT’s presence continues, the terminal hair transitions to vellus hair. Eventually, even the vellus hair fails to appear, and total baldness occurs.
Unlike MPB, where the anagen phase of hair growth shortens, telogen effluvium is a form of hair loss caused by an increased time spent in the telogen phase of the growth cycle.
Whether through poor nutritional intake or inadequate delivery of nutrients to the scalp, a nutritional deficiency can weaken the hair, interrupt the hair growth cycle, and, ultimately, lead to miniaturization.
(Learn more about eating to protect your hair from further loss here.)
As we age, the processes that take place within our bodies slow. This is true for the hair growth cycle and may be caused by an increase in age-related free radicals.
Free radicals are atoms that roam the body, searching for molecules to steal electrons from. As electrons are stolen, molecules weaken. This leads to common signs of aging, such as wrinkles, greying hair, and thinning hair.
Can Hair Miniaturization Be Reversed?
The question that all hair loss sufferers have – whether their loss is caused by androgenetic alopecia, illness, medication, or stress – is whether it can be reversed. The answer will depend on a number of factors.
One such factor involves the Arrector Pili Muscle (APM), an attachment between the hair follicles and a source of stem cells.
In a study performed by Yazdabadi et. al., the connection of the APM to the hair follicle was compared in individuals with hair loss (3). In those with Alopecia Areata (AA), connection to the APM was significantly higher than in those with pattern baldness (both male and female).
With the knowledge that reversal of AA is much easier than that of pattern baldness, researchers concluded that the APM played a significant role in reversal determination. With the APM still attached, stem cells could continue to be delivered to the follicle.
In essence, the above study shows that miniaturization of hair can lead to chronic baldness. However, if you catch miniaturization quickly enough, connection to the APM may still remain and reversal may still be possible.
How to Reverse Hair Miniaturization
Now that you know it is possible to reverse miniaturization – assuming it is treated as quickly as possible – what exactly can you do?
Reduce DHT Within the Body
If DHT is the main trigger for individuals with MPB, then reducing DHT levels within the body is one of the best steps you can take. There are two ways to go about doing so, outlined below.
DHT is not automatically present within the body. Instead, it is produced when 5-alpha-reductase, an enzyme, combines with testosterone, the male sex hormone.
This means that inhibition of 5-alpha-reductase can lower the levels of DHT being produced, and lead to less DHT present overall.
While the inhibition of 5-alpha-reductase can contribute significantly to a decrease in DHT, targeting DHT directly can further protect your scalp and hair follicles from DHT activities.
DHT can be inhibited both internally and externally, and both methods work with the same end goal in mind: to reduce the amount of DHT present on the scalp. To stop DHT from within, however, internal blocking methods will be required.
All of these can be easily added into your diet, either in the form of smoothies, with the help of vegetable juicing, or through direct supplementation.
Remove DHT From the Scalp
With DHT levels reduced within the body, you can now focus on removing DHT from your scalp.
Over time, DHT slowly builds up. It can then be trapped within sebum, dead skin cells, and dirt, and can continue to further irritate the hair follicle. This means that DHT needs to be stripped directly from the scalp (and prevented from building up again).
To do this, I recommend an all-natural scalp peel.
- Himalayan or Celtic sea salt (½ tbsp)
- Powdered activated charcoal (1 tsp)
- Lemon juice (1 whole)
Combine salt, powdered activated charcoal, and lemon juice in the container of your choice.
Mix well, and shake thoroughly before use. Pour directly into your palm, and then massage into your scalp. Focus on trouble areas (including those with excess hair thinning, itching, or flaking), and then allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.
Rinse your scalp completely, and gently remove the remaining peel from your scalp. Do so slowly, avoiding quick movements or yanks.
Repeat the process as necessary.
Increase Circulation (and Nutrient Delivery)
Blood circulation is essential for full-body health, but many people fail to remember that circulation also plays a key role in healthy hair development and growth.
Circulation plays two major roles in hair health:
- It delivers oxygen.
- It delivers vital nutrients.
Both of these contribute to the health of your hair, and this makes circulation an essential focus for those who want to regrow their hair.
A few signs of poor circulation to the scalp include:
- Hair thinning and loss
- Tingling and/or numbness
- Skin discoloration
Fortunately, if you are suffering from one (or more) of the above symptoms, there are a few things you can do.
Practice Scalp Massages
Massage has been utilized as a health practice for thousands of years. In recent years, however, scalp massage has been directly linked to increased hair growth and thickness (4).
A 2016 study performed by researchers in Tokyo aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of scalp massage on hair growth in men. After 24 weeks, hair thickness was shown to have improved significantly in the scalp massage group.
While researchers were not particularly concerned with the mechanism behind its effectiveness, they did suggest that blood circulation was a likely cause.
The great thing about scalp massage is you can do it anytime and anywhere. With just five minutes every day, you can positively impact hair growth and perhaps even put an end to miniaturization and future shedding.
Start Microneedling Therapy
While massage has its place, microneedling is a hair growth promotion method that can reverse hair miniaturization for those in the early stages of balding.
Microneedling is a therapy technique that utilizes pin-sized needles. These needles are gently rolled over the scalp, creating small wounds. As the wounds heal, a process occurs that results in remodeling of the injured skin. This can lead to the proliferation of new skin cells, as well as the development of new hair follicles (5).
You can get started at home with the use of a dermaroller. This is the most effective manner of microneedling if you plan to perform this at home, and you can even see results in a matter of weeks (6)!
Revitalize Damaged Hair Follicles
Hair follicles can contribute to the continued miniaturization of hair strands, especially when damage to the hair follicles occurs and is left untreated. To prepare your follicles for healthy hair growth, here are a few ways to repair damaged follicles.
Stop Using Chemical-Laden Hair Products
Shampoos, conditioners, heat protectants and more – all of these over-the-counter products include chemicals that can further damage your hair follicles and contribute to miniaturization.
The answer for some is to go No ‘Poo – a recent movement that involves the use of no shampoos whatsoever. However, this can be extreme for some. So, what other alternatives are there?
Making your own shampoos is one option, and here’s a simple recipe to get you started:
- Nettle (2-3 bunches)
- Coconut Oil (1 teaspoon)
- Rosemary Oil (10 drops)
- Powdered Turmeric (1 teaspoon)
- Apple cider vinegar (1 cup)
- Baking soda (1 teaspoon)
Bring water to a boil, and then add the nettles and allow to steep until cooled to room temperature. Remove and discard nettles from the cooled nettle tea, and then pour the nettle tea into the container of your choice.
Add the rest of the ingredients to the container, and mix thoroughly. Lather onto wet hair, and allow to sit for 5 minutes before rinsing completely in lukewarm water.
Optimize Your Diet
Hair follicles are a body part. As such, they are just as affected by what you eat as any other part of your body. With this in mind, an optimized diet can help to unclog and unblock your follicles, and provide your hair with a healthier, cleaner environment for full growth.
Optimization can be subjective, but here are four main components that can improve your hair follicles and, as a direct by-product, your hair:
- Fibrous foods
- Probiotic foods
- Micro-nutrient foods
- Plant-based foods
With a solid diet built around the above five components, you can feed your hair all of the nutrients it needs. This, in turn, can lead to cleaner, unclogged hair follicles and stronger, thicker hair.
Hair miniaturization has a role to play in the thinning and recession of the hair, but that does not mean there is nothing you can do to stop it and even reverse its effects.
With a proactive approach, as well as effective and scientifically proven techniques in place, you can fight the good fight. In advanced cases, this may not mean completely reversing miniaturization, but it can put an end to it.