Study Says Age-Related Hair Loss Caused By Follicles Turning to Skin

added 22nd February 2016

A new Japanese study published in the respected Science journal has found that hair loss as we age is caused by a natural decline in collagen production, which causes the hair follicles to turn to skin.

In order to investigate why – regardless of any hair loss issues – people’s hair tends to become thinner with age, researchers from Japan’s Tokyo Medical and Dental University first studied the hair follicle stem cell growth cycles in mice. From this they were able to observe how “age-related DNA damage triggers the destruction of a protein called Collagen 17A1.” The article states that the stem cells are then transformed into “epidermal keratinocytes”, which quickly shed.



Whilst trying to establish if the same was true in humans as it was in the mice tested, researchers discovered that test subjects aged 55 and over had smaller hair follicles than their younger peers. They also had lower levels of Collagen 17A1.

“We assume that… ageing processes and mechanisms [similar to those in the mice] explain the human age-associated hair thinning and hair loss,” says Emi Nishimura, the lead scientist on this project. The team now wants to build on the outcome of these findings by looking into how they can be used to combat hair loss and thinning.

Androgenetic alopecia is the most common reason for hair loss in old age, but the study’s findings may indicate why those men and women who do not have the balding gene can also find their hair thinning as they get older. As collagen becomes an important marketing tool in the anti-ageing section of the beauty industry, this study may also lead to the haircare industry embracing a similar approach to targeting older customers. Though whether superficial cosmetic haircare products containing collagen could be effective in boosting thinning hair remains to be seen.


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