How Healthy Are Your Hair Follicles? Scientists Develop New Technique To Measure Hair Loss

mbg Editorial Assistant By Jamie Schneider
mbg Editorial Assistant
Jamie Schneider is the Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen with a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan. She's previously written for Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.

Image by Sergey Filimonov / Stocksy

According to mbg contributor Sarah Villafranco, M.D., we're born with all of our hair follicles, and it's impossible to grow any more. Although we're born with a hefty amount of follicles (around 5 million, as a matter of fact), it can be alarming to know that our hair follicles are a one-time deal.

That's why the anxiety surrounding hair loss is completely valid—especially when there are lifestyle factors (such as smoking, heat styling, and scalp irritation from chemicals) that can contribute to damage and hair loss over time.  

It's also why new research from Massachusetts General Hospital is incredibly exciting, as they've developed technology that can measure the health of our hair follicles, a technique that can be quite useful not only for predicting future hair loss but also as we test different treatments to stimulate hair growth.

These scientists use what's known as a magnetoencephalogram (MEG), a device that can measure the magnetic field of hair follicles and create visual maps of electrical activity. 

They then developed MEG helmets that would create maps for a sample of 15 healthy participants and two participants with alopecia. After analyzing each map, the researchers noticed that participants with alopecia showed no signals of electrical activity at all. On the other hand, the maps for the healthy participants did show varying degrees of electrical activity—meaning, a healthy hair follicle would tend to have some level activity. 

While much larger studies are necessary before we start to see MEG helmets in physicians' offices, this invention has great potential to spark new developments in hair loss research. If we can use these helmets to detect hair loss earlier, we can then proactively treat certain diseases or irritation before the damage is already done. 

Lead author of the study Sheraz Khan, Ph.D., agrees that this technology can lead to a hopeful hair follicle future. "This method provides a quantitative and objective assessment for the health of hair follicles and can be used as a biomarker for the treatment of hair loss," he says.  

So, determining the health of our hair follicles might be as easy as analyzing their magnetic field. A process that—quite frankly—sounds complex, but may be as easy as slipping on a helmet for a few minutes at your next routine checkup.

For now, you may want to stick to your prescribed medications or doctor-approved methods to prevent and combat hair loss. Some natural remedies we've previously discussed include a supportive diet, natural supplements, managing your stress levels, and using clean, healthy hair products. As Villafranco says, "As with any aspect of wellness, hair health is an evolving, ever-shifting condition that requires balance, persistence, and patience." 

Ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.

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