Why Do You Have Fly Away Hair With Conditions Like Androgenic Alopecia and Telogen Effluvium?

I recently received correspondence from someone who was trying to determine if her hair loss could be due to a condition like androgenic alopecia (AGA) or telogen effluvium (TE.) She had recently noticed a change of texture in her hair. She described this texture as one where there were many “fly away” hairs present. She wanted to know if the presence of these unruly strands meant that she could have AGA or TE. I responded that you can get these type of texture changes with both of these conditions (as well as with other medical conditions.) I will discuss why this is true in the following article.

Why You See Textural Changes Or “Fly Away Hair” With TE: As your hair grows and eventually sheds or falls out, it goes through three different stages. The hair is actively growing when it is the anagen phase, which can lasts for years. This is when hair is healthiest and is actively being nourished.

The next phase (which is often considered to be a transitional one,) is the catagen phase which lasts for a few weeks. In this period of time, the hair is preparing itself to shed. The root of the hair shrinks slightly in preparation for this. During this time, the hair probably won’t look it’s best and may take on a dull appearance (but this is only true for those small percentage of hairs who are in this phase.)

The final phase is called the telogen phase. This might sound familiar to you if you’re having hair loss because when you have TE you have an increased amount of hairs that are going into this shedding phase at one time. The hair is still in the follicle, but it is not actively growing. Normally, you have 10 – 15% of the strands on your scalp in this phase at once. But with TE, this number increases. And this is sometimes why you see noticeable changes in texture. The hairs in this stage can look different because they are not actively growing or being nourished.

If you were shedding hair at a normal rate, there likely wouldn’t be enough of these to be all that noticeable or to change your hair’s overall appearance. But when you are experiencing telogen effluvium, you can have many more of these strands and so the texture changes become more pronounced and therefore more noticeable.

Why You See Miniaturized Hairs That Have A “Cotton Candy” Appearance In AGA: Some people will tell me that these fly away hairs that we are talking about have the over all appearance of being fluffy or having the texture of cotton candy. This often lies with the fact that some of the hairs are regrowing but are being negatively affected by the same androgens that is causing the hair loss in the first place. The affected hairs can grow back more fine and thin in texture. When this happens, it’s called miniaturization. If you have many hairs or areas that are affected at once, you will often notice a lot of hairs that lay down flat because they don’t have the sufficient weight to do so.

I often have people tell me that if you pluck out a long and severely miniaturized hair and push it up against the air, you’ll notice that it doesn’t come down normally. Instead, it sort of lingers in the air and floats like a feather. This is because it just does not have the weight of a normal hair. You can usually find regular textured hair in unaffected areas, compare the two, and see a very noticeable difference.

People often ask me if I can help them to see the difference between the miniaturized hairs of AGA and the textural changes in TE. This is difficult because I don’t know what’s “normal” or “typical” for the person asking. This is often better left to the specialists and professionals, but both of these conditions can give the appearance of unruly or “flyaway” hair. Other medical conditions (especially those related to thyroid and other hormones) can also cause this sort of appearance also.