How Do You Know If You Have Club Hair?

Definition of Club Hair

A club hair is formed during the catagen phase of the hair growth cycle. It is a hair that has stopped growing. It has been cut off from its blood supply, but it remains in place until it is shed. It is also known as a telogen hair, as it remains in place into the resting telogen phase of the hair growth cycle. It may not be shed until the active growing anagen phase, as the newly growing hair pushes it out.

It might be called a dead hair, but, in general, most of the length of your hair is dead. The only live cells in a growing hair area at the very base, under the skin. A club hair has no live cells.

An average of 15% of the hairs on your head at any one time are club hairs.

A person with a club hair

Reproduced with permission from ©DermNet New Zealand and © Waikato District Health Board 2023.

How Club Hair Forms

Club hairs are normal hairs that were growing throughout the anagen hair growth phase. Hairs grow from the base, attached to the dermal papilla and capillaries that supply it with blood. As they reach the end of the anagen phase, they produce less pigment, so the base becomes light in color. The base detaches from the dermal papilla that produces new hair and from its blood supply. A hard club is formed at the bottom of the hair. It is keratinized tissue and no longer able to add more length to the hair. This bulge shape keeps the hair in place for as long as three to four months.

The two-week period when a hair is transforming into a club hair is the catagen phase. When it is done, the hair follicle enters into the telogen phase, which is a resting phase.

What Happens With the Club Hair

The club-shaped knob at the base of the hair keeps a club hair in the follicle. You don't realize that 10-20% of your hair is either club hair or hair that is transforming into club hair. It has stopped growing, but it may not be shed for another three to four months.

A club hair can be very long when it is shed, as it reached the end of the anagen growth phase. If you never cut your hair, a club hair could be from 18 to 30 inches in length, or even longer for some individuals.

Club hairs are shed during the telogen and early anagen phase through normal activities. You will lose club hairs when you wash your hair, comb it, style it, scratch your head, etc. When you see full-length hairs on your pillow or in your shower drain, they are probably club hairs. The hairs in your brush may be club hairs, or they may be broken hairs. You can tell it is a club hair by the bulb shape at the root, usually light in color.

Club hairs should react to hair products, dye, etc. the same as actively growing hair. The only difference is that they aren't growing from the base.

Can You Have Too Many Club Hairs?

Normally, 80-90% of your hair is actively growing in the anagen phase. But crash dieting, stress, and other factors can result in more hair follicles going into catagen phase at the same time. As a result, you have more club hairs than usual and eventually shed them at about the same time. This is known as telogen effluvium and happens in a diffuse pattern. You wouldn't notice this has happened until you lose the club hairs at about the same time, and your hair is not as full.

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  • Murphy GF. Histology of the skin. Elder DE, ed. Lever's Histopathology of the Skin. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott-Raven; 1997. 5-50.
  • Sperling LC. Hair Anatomy for the Clinician. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1991 Jul. 25(1 Pt 1):1-17.

By Susan J. Huang, MD
Susan Huang, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist practicing at Sutter Health. She is also an instructor at Harvard Medical School.