It’s natural for hair to fall out. But if you’ve ever pulled out a hair and found what you think is your follicle at the end, you may be wondering if it’ll ever grow back.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, your body contains about 5 million hair follicles, including about 100,000 on your scalp alone.
At any given time, most of those hair follicles are hard at work growing new hairs to replace your old hairs that will eventually fall out.
This is good to know if you worry about pulling a hair out at your follicle. Hair will usually grow back unless it comes from a follicle that has stopped producing hair.
This could be from a condition associated with getting older or a response to a medical condition or treatment.
If you pull out a hair by your root, you’re not actually pulling out your follicle. What you see at the bottom of your hair strand is your hair bulb.
Your hair follicle is actually the housing for your hair bulb and hair itself. It’s a permanent part of your skin.
A hair follicle is a tube-like structure in your epidermis, which is your skin’s outer layer.
At the base of your follicle is your hair bulb, which is surrounded by nerve fibers. These nerves allow you to sense when your hair is moving or being touched.
Each hair follicle is also attached to a sebaceous gland, which produces an oily substance called sebum. Sebum moisturizes and conditions your hair and nearby skin.
After passing along your sebaceous gland, a hair strand emerges through the surface of your skin.
Pulling out hair by your root may damage your follicle temporarily, but a new bulb will eventually form, and new hair will grow again through that follicle.
According to the TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors, it may take a few months or more than a year in some cases.
But even if pulled hair doesn’t look like it’s going to grow back at first, it usually returns looking just as it did before.
The timeline for hair to regrow isn’t always predictable. If pulling out a hair doesn’t damage your follicle, standard growth should occur.
- Scalp hair grows about 6 inches per year, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, and will continue to grow for up to 8 years or so.
- Eyelashes and eyebrows have a growth phase of about 1 to 6 months.
- Hair elsewhere on your body has a growth cycle of about 3 to 6 months.
Stages of hair growth
The growth cycle for any hair type can be broken down into four stages:
- Anagen. The anagen stage is the longest one. At this stage, your scalp hairs grow for years.
- Catagen. It’s also called the transition phase. It starts when the anagen phase ends. Your hair stops growing and separates from your hair bulb in your follicle.
- Telegen. At this stage, your hair stops growing without falling out. It’s called the resting phase, but new hairs form at the bottom of your follicles.
- Exogen. The exogen may be part of the telegen phase. It’s called the shedding stage because old hairs fall out as new ones prepare to emerge.
Repeated damage to hair follicle may slow hair growth
In cases of trichotillomania — a condition in which a person frequently pulls out hair from their scalp or elsewhere on their body and feels powerless to stop — the repeated damage to their hair follicle can slow hair growth.
If a follicle has been damaged, it may take 2 to 4 years for new hair to grow back.
Untreated trichotillomania may cause permanent damage
If trichotillomania goes untreated for years, it can result in permanent damage to a hair follicle. The damage may be so extreme, that future hair growth may be difficult or even impossible from an injured follicle.
As a result, an individual may be left with small patches of skin where hair should grow, or without eyelashes or eyebrows if those were hairs targeted for pulling.
Certain forms of therapy and psychological counseling may be most effective in treating trichotillomania and preventing further hair loss.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an approach that helps a person replace unrealistic and harmful thoughts with realistic and positive thoughts that may help change behaviors.
If you find yourself pulling at your hairs and think you may have trichotillomania, there are helpful resources available:
- The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors has information about trichotillomania and where to find support and resources in your community.
- The National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) offers information about trichotillomania, its diagnosis, treatment options, and contacts for current or upcoming clinical trials.
- The International OCD Foundation can help you understand how hair pulling may be a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). You can also learn more and find help.
- The nonprofit Locks of Love uses donated hair to provide wigs to children and adults who have lost hair due to cancer treatments, alopecia, or trichotillomania.
Sometimes having an ingrown hair can cause someone to try pulling it out. An ingrown hair is a hair that curls back in after it pokes through your skin, often leading to an infection.
It is also one of several causes of folliculitis, an inflammation of one or more hair follicles.
There are several treatments for ingrown hairs and folliculitis. But pulling out your hairs by hand or with tweezers can raise risks of complications and further infection.
Ingrown hairs tend to occur in areas that are:
Avoiding those practices may help keep ingrown hairs from forming. If that’s not realistic, keep in mind the following when shaving:
- Clean your skin with warm water and a mild cleanser.
- Use a lubricating cream or gel on your skin and leave it there for a few minutes before shaving. This will soften your hair and make your skin more pliable.
- Use a sharp razor. A dull razor may pull at your skin and irritate it.
- Rinse the blade frequently.
- Rinse your skin and apply a moisturizing lotion when you’re finished.
After waxing, apply a warm compress to your skin to help draw out ingrown hairs. Wearing loose-fitting clothes may also help reduce skin irritation.
If you’re tempted to pull your hair, try to distract yourself with something else that requires the use of your hands. You may also redirect your habit and halt the urge to pull your hair by:
- clenching your fists
- tugging your ear
- rubbing your legs or arms
If you pull out a hair by your root, for whatever reason, relax and know that in most cases, your hair will grow back.
It may take a little longer, but you should see your hair return. If you have a condition, such as trichotillomania, and repeated hair pulling has damaged your follicle, you may have to wait longer.
If you find that you can’t keep from pulling at your hair, talk with your doctor or contact a mental health professional to learn strategies that will help.