What is club hair?
Club hairs are a natural part of the hair growth cycle. The hair growth cycle is what allows your hair to grow longer and shed.
The hair growth cycle has three different phases:
- anagen (the growth phase)
- catagen (transition phase)
- telogen (the resting phase)
The last phase is when a hair follicle becomes dormant and stops growing. But despite being in a resting phase, the hair strand doesn’t immediately fall out of the follicle. Instead, the hair follicle attaches to the hair shaft and a club hair develops.
Club hairs are an end product of final hair growth and feature a bulb of keratin (protein) at the root tip of a strand. This bulb keeps the hair in the follicle until it sheds and the hair growth cycle starts over. As hair follicles produce new strands of hair, these new strands slowly replace and push out the club hairs.
The telogen phase can last about three to four months. During this phase, it’s not unusual to shed up to 100 club hairs a day through washing and styling your hair. There’s approximately 100,000 strands of hair on the human head, and at any given time, you can have between 1 and 10 of your hair follicles in the shedding phase.
How to find a club hair
Upon close examination of your shed hair, you’ll find a bulb at the root tip of a club hair. Sometimes, the root of a club hair is lighter than the rest of your strands.
Because club hairs shed during the final stage of the growing process, these are usually full-length strands of hair. Shorter strands of shed hair may not be a club hair, but rather breakage from rough styling methods.
Causes of club hair
Club hairs occur when a hair follicle reaches the end stage of the growth cycle and stops growing. Blood flow is needed for hair to grow, and adequate circulation provides hair follicles with needed nutrients. This is why massaging your scalp promotes circulation and stimulates hair growth.
In the case of a club hair, the hair follicle holding the strand becomes dormant and shrinks, which cuts off blood flow to the club hair. Without blood flow, the club hair can no longer grow, although it will remain attached to the follicle for up to three or four months.
Club hairs do not form over night. It can take an average of two weeks for a club hair to develop. These hairs form at the end of the catagen phase, which is the transitional phase between the growth phase and the resting phase.
Medical conditions that can cause club hair
Although club hairs and hair shedding are part of a normal growth cycle, some people can develop abnormal amounts of club hairs.
When hair enters the resting phase and gradually begins to shed, you may not notice any difference in the amount of hair on your head because club hairs shed evenly throughout your head. But if you have too many club hairs at once, this could lead to noticeable thinning or balding in certain spots.
If you have a significant amount of hair loss, talk with your doctor. Your doctor can examine your scalp and determine if a medical condition is causing your hair loss. Numerous underlying issues can cause excess shedding, so your doctor may conduct a blood test to check your complete blood count, iron, and organ function, and see if you have any nutritional deficiencies.
Your doctor may also complete a hair pull test to assess how many hair strands come out with gentle manipulation. Your doctor can also suggest a scalp biopsy to confirm or rule out other conditions that affect the hair follicles and scalp. These include alopecia, fungal infections of the scalp, and male or female pattern hair loss.
Certain conditions can cause your hair to prematurely enter the resting phase, resulting in more than the usual amount of club hairs. These conditions include:
- iron deficiency anemia
- childbirth (due to hormonal changes)
- poor diet (protein or vitamin deficiency)
Sometimes, having an excessive amount of club hairs is due to medications you’re taking. This is because some drugs can damage hair follicles.
Talk to your doctor if you’re taking a prescription medication and notice a significant amount of hair loss or baldness. Your doctor may need to prescribe a different medication or adjust your dosage to help reverse hair loss.
Medications that may contribute to an unusual amount of club hairs include:
- hormone therapy
- anticonvulsants (use to treat seizures)
- anticoagulants (blood thinners)
- beta blockers (reduce blood pressure)
If you develop an abnormal amount of club hairs, treatment involves diagnosing and correcting the underlying problem. Sometimes, treatment isn’t necessary and hair loss corrects itself in time. This can happen if you have more club hairs due to short-term conditions like pregnancy, illness, or infection.
In this case, shedding may stop within two to four months of giving birth, and within weeks or months of overcoming an illness. You’ll see a reduction in the number of club hairs, resulting in thicker hair.
Your doctor may recommend supplementation if you have a deficiency, or antibiotics for an infection. If your prescription medication causes an abnormal number of club hairs, and you’re unable to switch to an alternate medication, your hair may adjust in time or continue to shed excessively until you stop taking the drug.
The bottom line
Hair shedding isn’t usually a cause for concern, and you can expect to shed up to 100 strands of club hairs each day during a normal hair growth cycle. However, some shedding isn’t normal. If you think that you’re losing too many hairs, or if you notice bald patches, speak with your doctor to determine the cause.