What Happens If You Accidentally Pull Out Your Hair Follicle?

Losing hair is a completely natural part of life. In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), an individual loses 50 to 100 hairs per day. That's because hair growth is a process and at any given moment, many of the 100,000 hair follicles on your scalp are working to grow new hairs to replace the ones that fall out (via Healthline). If you've pulled out a hair, whether by accident or on purpose, you may notice what appears to be a hair follicle at the end. However, there's no need to worry, as it's virtually impossible to pull out a hair follicle. Hair will typically grow back just as it was before unless it was from a follicle that has stopped producing hair.

A hair follicle is a permanent part of the skin situated in the epidermis, or the skin's top layer. It contains your hair bulb and the hair itself. When you pull out a hair by the root, what you are seeing at the end is the hair bulb, not a hair follicle. A hair bulb is surrounded by nerve fibers, which allow you to feel when your hair is moved, touched, or pulled. While pulling out a hair from its root may cause temporary damage to the hair follicle, a new hair bulb will eventually form and hair will grow again.

How long will it take hair to grow back?

Determining how long it takes hair to regrow isn't an exact science. But if the hair follicle wasn't damaged when the hair was pulled out, standard growth should be expected. According to the AAD, hair on the scalp grows up to six inches per year and continues to grow for about eight years.

For people with trichotillomania, a disorder that involves repetitive, irresistible urges to pull out hair from the scalp or other parts of the body, the length of time it takes hair to grow back is typically longer. Frequent damage to the hair follicle caused by the repeated pulling can slow growth down. According to the TLC Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to body-focused repetitive behaviors like trichotillomania, it may take two to four years for new hair to grow if a hair follicle has been damaged. 

If left untreated, trichotillomania can leave a hair follicle permanently damaged and make future hair growth from that follicle difficult or even impossible. In extreme cases, individuals with the disorder may be left with small patches of skin where hair would normally grow. The good news is, when treated, most recovered people with trichotillomania report hair growth after a period of months or years where it didn't seem like it would grow back initially. 

If you are someone you know is living with trichotillomania, The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Disorders provides resources and help you find support in your community.