The Connection Between Autophagy and Hair Wellbeing

The phenomenon of autophagy has garnered extensive attention, both due to its implications for slowing down aging and its potential links to various chronic and degenerative illnesses.

What is Autophagy? Derived from Greek, the term “autophagy” translates to “self-eating.” When applied to the body, it signifies cells consuming damaged or malfunctioning proteins. This process functions as the body’s inherent maintenance mechanism, recycling damaged proteins into energy or other resources. Given its dual nature as both anabolic and catabolic, autophagy holds particular relevance in dermatology, and in this case, hair health.

Autophagy’s Impact on Hair Wellness

An intriguing question often arises: Does autophagy promote hair growth, or does it exacerbate hair loss?

Research reveals a dual perspective: In the skin, autophagy is essential for the renewal and differentiation of epidermal and dermal stem cells. However, an excessive activation of this mechanism has been associated with conditions like psoriasis, vitiligo, and infectious skin disorders.

Regarding hair, the role of autophagy remains enigmatic. It appears that autophagy can either support or stimulate hair regeneration and growth, provided there is adequate nourishment (such as sufficient protein intake) and it isn’t triggered by psychological stress. Autophagy triggered by stress can disrupt the hair cycle, prolonging the resting phase (telogen) and delaying the growth phase (anagen) of the hair follicle.

Exploring the connection between the absence of autophagy and degenerative processes, consider its involvement in sarcopenia—a condition characterized by muscle mass and function loss. Muscle decline leads to increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidative stress, disrupting autophagy and triggering cell death (apoptosis). In the context of hair, inflammatory markers, heightened ROS, and oxidative stress collectively impact the hair cycle, potentially leading to hair loss. If inflammation interferes with autophagy, it’s plausible that inflammation and the lack of autophagy contribute to hair loss. Some studies even suggest autophagy’s potential role in preventing alopecia by reducing inflammatory markers and ROS levels.

Taking a deeper dive, further research highlights hair growth stimulation through autophagy. This concept underscores the complexity of factors influencing hair health.

Inducing Autophagy: How? Autophagy can be initiated through extended fasting periods. However, it’s crucial to ensure adequate nutrient intake during this process. Exercise is another effective trigger for autophagy—intense and resistance-focused workouts not only induce autophagy but also counteract sarcopenia, which could otherwise contribute to inflammation disrupting autophagy. Additionally, incorporating turmeric into your diet or supplementation routine holds promise. Not only does turmeric initiate autophagy, but it also boasts the benefit of modulating inflammation levels.