A receding hairline is a big concern for most people especially when it comes all of a sudden. While there are many reasons for hair loss, it turns out that you could be the one responsible for yours as you could be using products that contain chemicals that destroy hair follicles.
Hair follicles are really sensitive and can be easily destroyed which is why good hair care is always advised. But sometimes, the products you use to take care of your hair could be what set you on the path to baldness.
In this article, you will find the most common chemicals that can destroy hair follicles. We also provided details as to how they damage the hair follicles so that you know just how to use them or better still, do away with them.
What are hair follicles?
A hair follicle is what is responsible for hair growth. They attach hair to the scalp and the hair (hair shaft) protrudes from the follicle. The follicle itself is a tiny hole on the skin with its roots beneath the skin surface. Attached to the follicle are sebaceous (oil) glands that produce sebum.
How does hair grow from the follicle?
Hair growth starts from the root of the follicle. The growth itself is from cells made out of protein. The cells are supplied with nutrients from tiny blood vessels in the skin that promote hair growth.
As the hair grows, it passes by the sebaceous glands which release small amounts of oil that lubricate the hair and keep it supple.
During hair growth, the hair is continuously pushed up from the root through the follicle. It eventually breaks through the surface of the skin.
As you can see the hair follicles regulate hair growth and if they are damaged or destroyed, you won’t be able to grow hair in the affected area.
Chemicals that destroy hair follicles
1. Potassium thioglycolate
Potassium Thioglycolate is one of the active ingredients in hair removal creams. It has been known to effectively aid in the removal of unwanted air through the destruction of the hair follicle.
When combined with other constituents (to make depilatory creams), it breaks down the proteins of the hair (cells that aid hair growth is made up of protein).
This effectively thins and dissolves the root of the hair, to the point that they are easily broken off when the cream is wiped away.
At this point, the hair follicle responsible for the growth of the affected hair has been damaged and wouldn’t be able to re-grow hair if the damage is severe.
2. Propylene glycol
Propylene Glycol is another active ingredient in hair removal products. On its own, this chemical is a strong skin irritant and could cause serious reactions for users.
Propylene Glycol is usually mixed with other chemicals in skincare products to aid in the hair removal process.
This chemical can inhibit skin cell growth and damage cell membranes. Without living cells to aid in the growth of hair, the follicle will not be able to regulate hair growth, thus, the hair will not grow in that area.
While propylene glycol is mostly safe to use (since it is usually combined with other constituents), you should exercise caution when making use of products with this chemical as it is known to cause rashes, dry skin, and surface damage.
3. Sodium hydroxide (NaOH)
Commonly known as lye or caustic soda, this chemical can be found in many sanitary cleansing products like soaps and detergents. Sodium Hydroxide is very dangerous and leads to severe irritation when it comes in contact with the skin.
It can limit cell growth or obstruct the blood vessels that are responsible for providing the cells in the root of the follicle with the nutrients needed for hair growth. If this continues, the affected hair follicle will be damaged and thus, unable to grow hair.
The good news is that although you come in contact with this chemical almost every day (in your detergents and cleaning products), it is relatively safe as it has been combined with other constituents to create the cleaning product.
4. Calcium hydroxide
While it is generally safe when used in foods, this chemical can be very deadly if ingested or brought in contact with the skin. Just like sodium hydroxide, this chemical is a skin irritant and it may cause burns to unprotected skin.
A serious burn could damage the hair follicle either by killing the cells in the root of the follicle responsible for hair growth or by greatly affecting the blood vessels supplying nutrients to the cells.
If the follicle is permanently damaged, hair wouldn’t be able to grow back in that area. This chemical is also used in depilatory creams (hair removal creams) although in small amounts.
It is very effective in getting rid of unwanted hair as it destroys the hair follicles responsible for hair growth.
Calcium hydroxide (slaked lime) should not be confused with lime which is a citrus fruit used by many for acne treatment.
5. Potassium hydroxide ( KOH)
Potassium Hydroxide is another chemical commonly found in soaps and detergents. Like other hydroxide compounds we have listed, it is a hazardous irritant.
The chemical is extremely corrosive and could more corrosive than the other two hydroxides we have listed. It can cause serious burns and irritations which would interfere with the hair follicles’ ability to regulate hair growth.
Just like its counterparts, it could damage the cells responsible for hair growth or affect the blood vessels around these cells thus damaging the hair follicle permanently.
While it is not likely that you will be exposed to high levels of potassium hydroxide during your life, you should take precautions when handling products made with this chemical.
6. Thioglycolic acid
We have already talked about an ester of Thioglycolic acid (Potassium Thioglycolate), but you could find this chemical as a separate ingredient in many depilatory products and hair straightening products.
Thioglycolic acid can chemically break down hair fibers at the root of the hair, thus the hair can be easily removed by simply wiping it off the skin.
While this chemical does not directly damage the hair follicle, it could remove crosslinks contained in proteins that are responsible for the stable structures of hair and skin.
This could make it difficult for the hair follicle to grow back hair in the area the chemical was applied.
Mechanical methods that damage hair follicles (For removal of unwanted hair)
There are several mechanical methods used to intentionally damage hair follicles. If you want to stop hair from growing on certain parts of your body, you can use any of the methods below and you will be able to achieve desirable results.
Above, we have discussed the active ingredients in depilatory (hair removal) creams. If you are looking for a cheap method to remove hair, then depilatory creams could be your best bet.
They are available without a prescription and can be highly effective in getting rid of unwanted hair.
These creams lose up hairs to the point that they can be easily removed once the cream is wiped off. Some creams interfere with the follicle’s ability to regulate hair growth.
When buying depilatory creams, make sure you go through the label carefully. Each cream is made specifically for a type of hair. If you want to get rid of facial hair, then you should only go for hair removal creams made for facial hair.
There are several risks associated with using depilatory creams. If you have allergic reactions to some creams then you should avoid these as they contain a lot of chemicals that can irritate the skin and trigger allergic reactions.
Laser hair removal
Laser Hair Removal is a known method used to remove hair for longer periods. The procedure makes uses of concentrated light to damage hair follicles which could also lead to permanent hair loss.
While laser hair removal is very effective, it is also very expensive and requires multiple sessions. The procedure could also be painful or irritating to some people, but still, it remains the best way to get rid of unwanted hair for good.
Electrolysis is another way to get rid of hair permanently. This procedure kills hair follicles, thereby stopping them from producing more hairs.
Electrolysis involves a professional placing a tiny needle with an electric current in the hair follicle. Through the electric current, the hair follicle is either destroyed chemically (galvanic hair removal) or by heat (thermolytic hair removal).
Unfortunately, this method is just as expensive or could be more expensive than laser hair removal. This is because; the hairs are removed one after the other.
Other ways hair follicles can be damaged
Most people ask questions like how are hair follicles damaged or can you destroy your hair follicles. There are other ways the hair follicles can be destroyed without the use of chemicals or mechanical methods of hair removal.
Folliculitis (Inflammation of the hair follicles)
Folliculitis is a very common skin condition that affects most people. It is characterized by the inflammation of the hair follicles and caused by a bacterial or fungal infection.
The use of topical steroid creams and shaving can also increase the risk of developing this condition. People with this condition may experience blister, pimples, itching, swelling, and stinging in the affected area.
Luckily, this condition is usually self-treatable and goes away in a few days, however, severe infections can lead to permanent hair loss and scarring. If you experience a severe case of folliculitis, you should speak with your doctor immediately.
Traction alopecia is a form of alopecia (gradual hair loss) that is self-induced. It is common in individuals who frequently wear their hair in a tight ponytail, braids, or pigtails.
Forcibly pulling the hair back can lead to the loss of hair along the hairline and this could be irreversible in many cases.
There are several treatments for traction alopecia like oral antibiotics and hair transplantation, however, it is best to prevent this condition by avoiding tight hairstyles.
Alopecia areata is a type of alopecia in which the hair falls out in round patches. This condition is caused by an autoimmune disease that attacks the hair follicles. Alopecia areata can’t be cured, but some treatments can help the hair re-grow more quickly.
There are also powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that can suppress the immune system and stop the progression of the condition.
Other types of alopecia include
- Telogen Effluvium: a reversible hair loss condition caused by a stressful experience
- Anagen Effluvium: abnormal hair loss during the first phase of the hair’s growth cycle
Chemicals that Inhibit hair growth
While there are chemicals that destroy hair follicles and lead to hair loss, there are some chemicals that prevent hair from growing back. If you’re trying to grow back hair, you should avoid using products with these chemicals.
However, these chemicals are beneficial for those trying to slow hair growth in a certain area – for instance, women trying to slow down facial hair growth.
Paraffinum Liquidum also known as mineral oil is a popular chemical found in hair removal creams. Its function is not to remove hair but to act as a moisturizer. Unfortunately, this chemical coats the hair shaft and clogs pore thereby interfering with hair growth.
Eflornithine Hydrochloride is a chemical that inhibits the growth of facial hair in women. It is very effective in slowing down hair growth as it blocks an enzyme needed for hair growth in the skin. As a result, hair growth is inhibited but it does not remove the hair or cause the hair to fall out.
FAQs on hair follicles
What kills hair follicles naturally?
Various natural products can kill hair follicles and prevent re-growth. Most of these methods work by weakening the hair follicles and stopping the growth of hairs.
Some of the effective natural methods of removing hairs include papaya, turmeric, sugaring, homemade wax, and egg white mask.
Can damaged hair follicles be repaired?
For those with damaged hair follicles, there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel. Damaged hair follicles can easily be repaired through natural methods like consuming a balanced diet, quitting smoking, managing stress (a common reason for hair loss), choosing simpler hairstyles, and taking care of your hair properly.
However, severely damaged hair follicles may only be repaired through methods like hair transplant and low-level laser therapy.
The information above should help you make the right decision when choosing hair/skincare products. Ensure you go through the ingredients of any skincare or haircare product you want to purchase and research the side effects of using such products to avoid these chemicals that can destroy your hair follicles.