Africans are generally not frivolous and given to large bouts of worry over where their hair has gone when they’re older – this is an example of a wrong statement. With the rate of pick-up of natural hair trends and the amount of special hair treatment franchises springing up in our vicinity, its obvious that hair is an important part of our conversation. Maybe not as loomingly important as warring countries or corruption ridden economies, but when you’re relatively settled, chances are, you begin to wonder where all that hair has gone or for some of us, why it never showed up in the first place.

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So, is hair loss genetic, environmental or both? What exactly is to blame for that receding hair-line? Scientists finally have an answer for you; it’s because your thinning hair is turning into skin. Researchers have pinpointed a mechanism that turns age damaged stem cells in hair follicles into skin.

When more and more stem cells are affected, the hair follicles shrink and eventually disappear, leaving the person hairless. It so happens that unlike other cells in the body, hair follicle cells regenerate on a cyclical basis, with a growth phase followed by a dormant phase when no hair is produced.

Man with hair combed over bald patch, overhead view

To find out the mechanism behind hair thinning, Emi Nishimura and her team at Tokyo Medical and Dental University began looking at follicle stem cell growth cycles in mice. They found that age-related DNA damage triggers the destruction of the protein Collagen 17A1, which in turn triggers the transformation into ‘epidermal keratinocytes’ — or skin. When the research was replicated in humans, they found that follicles in people aged over 55 were also smaller, and lower in Collagen 17A1, reports

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