Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Hair Loss: Hair Shaft Defects

Monilethrix continued...

People with monilethrix have diffuse hair loss. Most frequently the hair loss is at the back of the scalp and neck and can leave the front of the head relatively unaffected. Monilethrix can also affect hair in other regions of the body.

Monilethrix most often occurs in childhood but young adults can also develop it. It is a genetically inherited disease and can run in families, although family members may be affected to different degrees of severity. The severity of monilethrix can also change with the seasons. It is often worse in winter and improves in summer. Monilethrix may spontaneously improve, although many people have monilethrix all their lives.

Overprocessing, cuticle stripping, and bubble hair

Overprocessing the hair is by far the most common cause of physical hair damage. Perming, straightening, bleaching, and dyeing the hair all involve harsh chemicals that can significantly affect the integrity of hair fiber. Using these cosmetic approaches too frequently or inappropriately can lead to irreversible damage to the hair fiber. The more hair fiber is damaged by these processes, the weaker it will be and the more likely it will break off.

The hair cuticle is a very strong outer sleeve of dead and highly keratinized cells that overlap each other like fish scales along the length of the hair fiber. The cuticle helps protect the softer inner cortex structure of the hair fiber from damage. The overlapping scales of the cuticle may become damaged and "flake up" if they are exposed to too much processing.

For perms, straighteners, bleaches, and dyes to work the cuticle has to be opened up so that other chemicals can get to the hair cortex and either rearrange the chemical bonds in the hair structure, as with perms and straighteners, or to remove or add hair pigment, as with bleaching and dyeing. If the chemicals to open the cuticle are applied for too long, in an unsuitably high concentration, or too frequently, the cuticle may be irreversibly damaged and even stripped away completely.

When this happens the softer cortex is exposed to the environment. The cortex does not have the same properties of the cuticle. It has a rough surface, so at this stage the hair can look dull, dry, and frizzy. Chemicals in shampoos, water, and polluted air, combined with UV light exposure, can all contribute to further damage and weakening of the hair cortex. Eventually, the hair may become so weak that it splits or breaks off completely. More usually, this splitting and breakage occurs to old hair, that is, toward the end of the hair fiber.

Today on WebMD

hair in hairbrush
Ways to go about it naturally.
Young woman with thick curly hair
Causes and solutions.
man with thinning hair
How to keep the hair you have.
Closeup of Hairbrush with Hair Loss
Understand the basics.
Mens Hair Loss When To Start Treatment
A Dermatologist Talks About Hair Loss
Rogaine And Propecia For Hair Loss
Woman looking at thinning hair in hand mirror
Balding man in mirror
Close up of comb in woman's hair
Young woman with thick curly hair
hair problems