The hair follicles in our scalps are grouped together in bunches of 1 to 5 hairs. These groups of hairs are called “follicular units.” This might come as a surprise to those who assume that each hair follicle opening contains just a single hair. In fact, less than 20 % contain a single hair. Most follicular units contain 2 or 3 hairs; a small proportion contain 4-5 hairs.
In the picture on the right, 15 hairs can be seen emerging from a single follicle. Is this abnormal or normal? Why is this phenomenon occurring?
The phenomenon whereby multiple hair follicles emerge from a single follicle is called ‘tufting’ and these hair follicles are called compound hair follicles. This is may be a sign of a permanent scarring alopecia. The photo on the right is from a patient with a rare scarring hair loss condition known as folliculitis decalvans.
Tufting occurs because the scarring process leads to permanent destruction of hair follicles as well as the surrounding tissue. This destruction causes many follicular units to merge together. The end result is that multiple follicular units end up sharing the same follicular opening.
Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887