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How to Repair Damaged Hair Follicles

Knox Beasley, MD

Reviewed by Knox Beasley, MD

Written by Geoffrey C. Whittaker

Published 08/06/2021

Updated 03/31/2024

From male pattern baldness to common bacterial and fungal infections, various conditions can harm hair follicles and even cause long-lasting follicular damage. This damage can sometimes permanently affect your hair follicles and stop them from growing new hairs. The good news is that, in many cases, this damage can be repaired.

Damage can occur from breakage, weak keratin in the hair shaft, thinning hair and many other causes. The options you have for repair — and how many options you have — will depend on the underlying cause of damage.

Below, we’ve explained how hair follicle damage can occur and how it can affect your hairline. We’ve also covered what you can do to protect and repair your hair follicles for thicker, healthier and better-looking hair.

Hair follicles are small, tunnel-like holes inside your skin from which hair grows. They’re located in many parts of your body, from your scalp and face to your neck, torso, arms and legs.

Follicles vary in size and depth. The hair follicles on your scalp, which grow long, terminal hairs, extend deep into the lower layers of your skin. Other hair follicles, which produce thinner vellus hairs, only extend a smaller distance into your skin.

Your scalp contains approximately 100,000 hair follicles. Each of these follicles produces hairs as part of a multi-stage hair growth cycle, during which each hair develops from the bulb of the follicle and grows to its full length.

Since your hair follicles play such a vital role in the hair growth process, anything that damages them can seriously impact the health and appearance of your hair.

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Damage to hair follicles can affect your hair’s growth and cause issues such as hair loss. If your hair follicles are damaged, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Hair loss. For most people, the most obvious sign of hair follicle damage is hair loss. As your follicles become damaged, they may stop growing new hairs, resulting in a receding hairline, a bald spot at your crown (the area at the top of your head) or diffuse thinning.

  • Irritated skin. This isn’t always a sign of follicle damage, but some conditions that damage your hair follicles may cause your skin to become irritated, itchy and/or uncomfortable.

Damage can be temporary or permanent, and it can disappear on its own or require medical treatment. If the damage is permanent, it can lead to dead follicles.

How to Know if a Hair Follicle is Dead

It can be hard to spot the signs of dead hair follicles except by waiting for the approximate time of one hair growth cycle. A dead follicle will stop producing hair entirely, so the main sign of a dead follicle is just the absence of hair growth after more than a year.

If you have certain types of hair loss, you might also see some scarring where the follicle used to be.

Several issues can affect your hair follicles, from hormonal and genetic conditions such as male pattern baldness to infections, inflammatory conditions and even physical damage from certain styling products, hairstyles or treatments.

Let’s look at some of the top causes of hair follicle damage.


Folliculitis is an infection that develops in damaged hair follicles and is caused by fungi, bacteria or viruses. Folliculitis can affect just the superficial part of the follicle or, in the case of deep folliculitis, everything down to the hair’s root.

It can affect hair follicles anywhere on your body, including your scalp and face.

Many cases of folliculitis are caused by the Staphylococcus bacteria, which can enter your hair follicles when they’re damaged. Viruses or fungi can cause other cases, but these are less common.

Common factors that can lead to folliculitis include using a hot tub (especially one that has not been properly maintained), wearing tight sports clothing, shaving or waxing your hair and using certain types of medication.

Most of the time, folliculitis is a temporary problem that gets better on its own. However, severe forms of folliculitis, such as folliculitis decalvans, can cause scarring and permanent hair loss.

Male Pattern Baldness

Male pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, is a form of hair loss caused by a mix of genetic factors and the effects of an androgen hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

Your body creates DHT as a byproduct of testosterone. Over time, DHT can bind to receptors in your scalp and, if you’re predisposed to male pattern baldness, can cause your hair follicles to shrink and stop producing new hair.

The classic signs of hair loss from DHT are a receding hairline, visible hair thinning around your crown and excessive hair shedding.

Hair follicle damage from DHT is largely irreversible, meaning it’s important to act quickly if you experience this form of hair loss.

We’ve discussed the effects of this hormone on your hair in more detail in our complete guide to DHT and male pattern baldness.

Traction Alopecia

Traction alopecia is a form of hair loss. When your hair is pulled repeatedly, either by an overly tight hairstyle or by styling products that pull on the roots of your hair, it can cause follicular damage and traction alopecia.

Hairstyles that can lead to traction alopecia include dreadlocks, cornrows and other styles that constantly apply tension to your hair follicles.

Over time, this prolonged tension can loosen the hair from the follicle, cause inflammation and result in the growth of scar tissue.

Traction alopecia can affect people from all ethnic groups and backgrounds, although it’s most common in African Americans.

Our guide to traction alopecia treatments provides more information about this form of follicular damage and its effects on your hair.

Fungal Infections (Tinea Capitis)

Fungal infections such as tinea capitis (scalp ringworm, or scalp fungus) can penetrate your hair follicles and affect your hair’s ability to grow.

Mild fungal scalp infections can cause temporary hair shedding. However, fungal infections can become severe and cause your skin to become inflamed, which can lead to permanent scarring and hair loss.

Fungal scalp infections are most common in children and teenagers, but they can affect people of all ages and backgrounds.

Because fungal infections can lead to permanent hair follicle damage, treating this type of infection as quickly as possible after you notice symptoms is essential.

Other Conditions

Numerous other conditions can cause cicatricial alopecia — a form of permanent hair loss caused by damage to your hair follicles.

These include inflammatory conditions such as lichen planus, alopecia mucinosa, discoid lupus erythematosus and acne keloidalis.

Other conditions may temporarily affect your hair follicles. For example, telogen effluvium is a form of hair loss that can occur as a result of chronic stress, illness, surgery, nutritional issues, trauma and certain types of medication.

While telogen effluvium may cause your hair follicles to shed hair prematurely, it isn’t known to cause long-term follicular damage.

Because so many issues can have an impact on your hair follicles, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider if you notice any potential signs of follicular damage.

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It’s essential to act quickly when it comes to repairing hair follicles. This is because long-term exposure to damaging hormones or inflammation can permanently damage your hair follicles and, in some cases, prevent them from growing new hairs.

Put simply, the longer you wait to treat hair follicle damage, the harder it becomes to reverse its effects and protect your hair.

Since damage to hair follicles can occur for a variety of reasons, there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment that can protect your hair against all damage.

However, the following tips on how to repair hair follicles can help shield your hair from most follicular damage and help you sustain healthy hair growth.

Use Finasteride

Finasteride is a medication for male pattern baldness. It works by preventing the conversion of testosterone into DHT. This lowers DHT levels throughout your body and protects your follicles from the DHT-related damage that causes hair loss.

If you’re starting to develop a receding hairline, bald patch or other early signs of male pattern baldness, finasteride is a very effective treatment. When used correctly, it will help stop your hair loss and prevent further damage.

Since finasteride only protects against DHT, it isn’t effective against fungal infections or other conditions that cause scarring hair loss.

Our guide to finasteride results covers more about how finasteride works and what you can expect after you start using this medication.

You can access finasteride online after a consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.

Apply Minoxidil to Your Scalp

Minoxidil is a topical medication that stimulates hair growth. It works by moving hairs into the anagen, or growth, phase of the hair growth cycle and increasing blood flow to your scalp.

Can minoxidil revive dead follicles? No. And while minoxidil doesn’t appear to treat damaged hair follicles, it can improve hair growth and give your hair a thicker, denser appearance. Research shows it’s particularly effective for hair growth when used with finasteride.

Hims offers minoxidil online as either minoxidil liquid or minoxidil foam. You can also get minoxidil with other proven hair growth products in our Hair Power Pack.

Avoid Tight Hairstyles

In some cases, the best way to fix damaged follicles is to avoid damaging them in the first place. If you wear your hair in cornrows, dreadlocks, a man bun or slicked back across your scalp, your hairstyle may damage your hair follicles.

To ease pressure on your hair follicles, try switching to a hairstyle that puts less stress on the roots of your hair. Avoid strong-hold gels, waxes and other styling products, as these may tug on your hair and contribute to damage. Making these changes before damage starts will help keep your hair healthy and strong.

Treat Fungal Infections Before They Spread

Fungal infections, such as ringworm, jock itch and athlete’s foot, can potentially spread to your scalp when they’re left untreated.

If you notice any of the signs of a fungal infection, it’s essential to treat it as early as possible, especially if your scalp is already affected.

Most fungal infections can be treated with topical medication. When an infection is severe or doesn’t respond to topical treatments, you may need to talk to your healthcare provider about oral antifungal medication.

For tinea capitis, you’ll typically need to use an oral antifungal medication, such as griseofulvin, itraconazole or fluconazole, for several weeks to clear the infection.

Your healthcare provider may also recommend using an antifungal shampoo to stop the fungal infection from spreading elsewhere on your body.

Make sure to finish your entire course of medication, even if your symptoms improve during the first few weeks. This will help prevent the infection from coming back.

Wash Your Scalp to Remove Buildup

Regularly washing your hair isn’t just important for your hair’s look, smell and texture — it also helps keep your scalp and hair follicles healthy by preventing sebum, germs, dead skin cells and other unwanted substances from building up.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends washing your hair based on the amount of oil your scalp produces.

You may need to wash your hair daily if you have an oily scalp. If your scalp is dry, or if you have chemically treated hair that dries out quickly, you may benefit from washing your hair every few days.

To keep your scalp and hair in optimal condition, choose a shampoo formulated for hair growth, such as our Hair Thickening Shampoo.

Eat a Balanced, Hair-Friendly Diet

Currently, there isn’t any scientific evidence to show that your diet plays a role in male pattern baldness or issues like folliculitis.

However, a balanced diet can help supply your hair follicles with essential nutrients for healthy hair growth.

Our guide to the best foods for hair growth lists foods to prioritize, including eggs, fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, avocados, leafy greens, nuts and lean cuts of red meat.

Some hair growth supplements, such as our biotin gummy vitamins, can also help give your body the nutrients it needs to support optimal hair follicle function.

Avoid Habits That Can Damage Your Hair

Certain habits, such as smoking or not getting enough sleep, may affect hair growth and prevent your hair follicles from producing thick, healthy hair.

For example, research shows a connection between smoking and several different forms of hair loss, including male pattern baldness and frontal fibrosing alopecia, or scarring hair loss.

In addition to eating a balanced diet, try to maintain a healthy lifestyle to keep your hair in optimal condition. This could mean getting at least seven hours of sleep, limiting your alcohol consumption or making efforts to quit smoking.

These lifestyle changes not only help improve your hair health — they also offer other benefits for your overall health and wellbeing.

Hair loss treatments, delivered

Several different issues can damage your hair follicles, including male pattern baldness and skin conditions such as tinea capitis and folliculitis.

Want to repair hair follicles? It’s crucial to act as quickly as possible. Take action as soon as you spot the signs of follicular damage, and you’ll put yourself in the best position to protect and restore your hair.

Our range of hair loss treatments includes several science-based medications that can treat and prevent follicular damage, including finasteride and minoxidil.

13 Sources

  1. Martel, J.L., Miao, J.H. & Badri, T. (2020, August 15). Anatomy, Hair Follicle. StatPearls. Retrieved from
  2. What Kids Should Know About How Hair Grows. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  3. Ho, C.H., Sood, T. & Zito, P.M. (2021, May 5). Androgenetic Alopecia. StatPearls. Retrieved from
  4. Heath, C.R., Robinson, C.N. & Kundu, R.V. (n.d.). Traction Alopecia. Retrieved from
  5. Al Aboud, A.M. & Crane, J.S. (2020, August 10). Tinea Capitis. StatPearls. Retrieved from
  6. Acne-Like Breakouts Could be Folliculitis. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  7. Wolff, H., Fischer, T.W. & Blume-Peytavi, U. (2016, May). The Diagnosis and Treatment of Hair and Scalp Diseases. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International. 113 (21), 377–386. Retrieved from
  8. Alopecia. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  9. Hughes, E.C. & Saleh, D. (2020, June 9). Telogen Effluvium. StatPearls. Retrieved from
  10. Hu, R., et al. (2015, June 2). Combined treatment with oral finasteride and topical minoxidil in male androgenetic alopecia: a randomized and comparative study in Chinese patients. Dermatologic Therapy. 28 (5), 303-308. Retrieved from
  11. Tips for Healthy Hair. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  12. Babadjouni, A., Foulad, P.D., Hedayati, B., Evron, E. & Mesinkovska, N. (2021). The Effects of Smoking on Hair Health: A Systematic Review. Skin Appendage Disorders. 7, 251–264. Retrieved from
  13. Zito PM, Bistas KG, Syed K. Finasteride. [Updated 2021 Mar 27]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from:
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Knox Beasley, MD

Dr. Knox Beasley is a board certified dermatologist specializing in hair loss. He completed his undergraduate studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, and subsequently attended medical school at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, LA. 

Dr. Beasley first began doing telemedicine during his dermatology residency in 2013 with the military, helping to diagnose dermatologic conditions in soldiers all over the world. 

Dr. Beasley is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Originally from Nashville, TN, Dr. Beasley currently lives in North Carolina and enjoys spending time outdoors (with sunscreen of course) with his wife and two children in his spare time. 





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