I get a good deal of questions from folks suffering from hair loss about shed hairs that have tapered ends. Questions about hair with tapered ends are as common as questions about shed hair with white bulbs at the root. People often look at both sides of their shed hair for clues. And many people assume that the tapered ends and the white bulb can be significant in terms of indicating a cause of hair loss or the state of your recovery.
I heard from someone who said: “I know that this is going to sound weird, but I examine many of my shed hairs. And I can’t help but notice that most of them are tapered on the end. Why is that the side away from the bulb comes to a tapered point? What does this mean? Does it mean anything in terms of why my hair is shedding or does it mean that I’m not recovering?”
There are a lot of theories on possible reasons for the tapered ends on shed hairs. One possible reason is that the hairs with the tapered ends are hairs that have not yet been trimmed or cut. When you go to your hair stylist and get a hair cut, the scissors will make the hair blunt on the ends where it has been cut. So hair that has been cut (and is likely older hair) will not be tapered but will instead be blunt.
In this case, the person writing was saying that most of what she was seeing falling out were hairs that were tapered and this brings about another set of possibilities. She would need to ask herself if it had been a very long time since she had gotten a hair cut or if it was possible that she was experiencing hair loss conditions like chronic telogen effluvium or androgenic alopecia where she was cycling through new regrowth.
You see, when you have chronic teleogen effluvium, your hair can go through a few cycles where it is shedding, trying to regrow, and then shedding again before the trigger that started the hair loss is the first place is removed so that normal hair cycles can begin again. So that is one possibility.
Another possibility is androgenic alopecia. There’s a theory that the sebum that gets built up with this condition impedes the hair as it grows and so those pronounced tapered ends are evidence of that process. Many describe these type of ends as almost having a little round bump on the end. You can literally feel these if you run your hand down the shaft of your shed hair. This looks (and feels) very different from tapered hair that has never been cut or even from the ends of hair that is being affected by telogen effluvium.
It may help to look at the length of these spent hairs. If they are short, it’s likely that they are regrowth that is either cycling through due to shedding or your scalp isn’t able to sustain its regrowth (as is often the case with androgenic alopecia.)
Finally, here’s one final consideration. Some hairs that have been affected by an autoimmune hair loss condition called alopecia areata produce what are called exclamation point hairs. These hairs also have tapered ends, but I have to tell you that this disorder is relatively rare and often, the hair loss is patchy rather than diffuse. So there can be many reasons for tapered ends including: hair that remains uncut; that is at the shedding part of its life cycle: or hair that is shedding prematurely due to different hair loss conditions.