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Healthy Living

Hair Care

Hair Facts                                 - General facts about your hair
Hair Raising Facts                   - Facts about the growth and fall of hair
Hair Conditioning                     - How to make your hair look better
Your Hair Type and its Care   - How to take care of your hair


Hair Facts

The hair root is the fastest growing organ in the body. The hair on the scalp, for example, grows at an average rate of 0.4mm a day (roughly 1/2 an inch a month). Hair cells are formed in the matrix of the hair root that is situated in the deepest part of the hair follicle. Hair grows as a result of a continuous process whereby new cells form, mature and finally die, moving upwards as they do so. The hair shaft, the only bit of hair that is visible, is composed of keratin, shares the skin's slight acidity and is entirely dead. In this and many other respects it much resembles the nail, another horny appendage of the skin.

The rate at which hair cells in the matrix reproduce is greater than every other tissue in the body except the bone marrow. Such a highly active tissue is likely to react to illness or stress and if these are severe enough to interfere with the rate of cell division within the matrix, the result may be an immediate slowing down of hair growth.

There are four different types of hair. They are:

  • Scalp hair (discussed in detail on this site)
  • Eyebrow and eyelash hair, whose function is mainly protective.
  • Underarm and Pubic hair, which clearly marks out and embellishes the genital organs.
  • Body hair, whose main function is insulation.


Hair Raising Facts

Is it true that hair grows faster in summer?

Hair does not grow at a constant rate. In the first place, its growth is seasonal - it grows faster in summer than in winter. Second, hair does not grow indefinitely. The growth phase of hair varies from person to person. It generally lasts for two to six years but it may go on for much longer, as the fact that some people have hair 1ong enough to sit on indicates. When the growth phase ends, the hair follicle enters the resting phase of its cycle. This lasts for a few months only.

What is Club Hair?

Club hair is the old hair that stops growing and simply remains in the follicle until a new hair forms underneath and pushes it out. We lose club hair all the time without noticing it - between 20 and 100 each day. Fortunately the growth or resting phases are not synchronised in adjacent follicles.

What controls hair growth?

Hair growth is under hormonal control. The hormones govern the development of hair that appears after puberty. The male hormone, testosterone, governs beard, body hair and hair in the armpits. The female hormone, oestrogen, generally prevents hair growth on the chin and encourages it to grow on the head. Occasionally women develop signs of male patterned baldness at menopause when oestrogen levels drop. Treatment with oestrogen has been successful in restoring hair growth.

What causes disturbances of hair growth?

All the hair follicles a person will ever have are present at birth. Follicles that die are not replaced and never again produce a hair. It follows that any condition that destroys large number of follicles makes the hair permanently thin. This is what happens in male baldness and in certain rare, scarring diseases of the scalp. Proprietary hair-restorers will do nothing whatsoever to help these conditions. Nothing can make a dead hair follicle produce new roots.

Illness, prolonged drug therapy or emotional stress can also affect hair growth and its quality, so that patches of thinning hair appear. However, this condition, called alopecia, is usually only temporary. Quite often the result is simply to shorten the hair's life cycle so that it enters its resting phase prematurely. Rather than cause hair loss, illness may make the hair thinner in diameter, more liable to split and less shiny.

If a serious illness sends the majority of hair into a simultaneous resting phase, their loss will show up as a thinning of hair or even as bald patches but within a matter of months the new hair should grow through.

Pregnancy, a very dramatic event physiologically, can have this effect too. It is quite common for a new mother to experience some degree of post-partum hair loss, a worrying phenomenon.

When the hair grows again (and this may take up to two years) it may have different characteristics from before. It may grow wavy or straight for example, instead of curly. This is simply a reflection of the immense impact that pregnancy and child-bearing have upon a woman's body. There is, unfortunately no specific treatment for this condition, but it is advisable to treat the hair and scalp as gently as possible during the period of regrowth.


Hair Conditioning

Hair that is longer than 30 cms has been dead for around three years!

It is extremely difficult to bring about a lasting change in the condition of anything dead. So the results of most attempts to condition the hair shaft, a completely dead and inert structure are superficial and transient. It is worth bearing in mind that given its average growth rate, hair that is more than 30 cms long has been dead for around three years.

Even though the hair shaft is dead, a conditioner can improve its appearance.

It is possible to make the hair look better. On healthy hairs the scales of keratin lie smoothly one on top of the other so that they overlap. With neglect or maltreatment the scales become curled at the edges distorted or even disconnected. Hair in good condition has scales rather like a bird's wing when the feathers are ruffled. A conditioner can smoothen the scales and so improve the hair's appearance.

Use a mild shampoo with a pH value of 5.

To improve the physical condition of the hair in any sense that goes beyond the merely cosmetic, it would be necessary to affect the hair-forming organ, which lies well beneath the surface of the scalp at the time the hair was actually growing. Because the hair mirrors the general state of body health so faithfully the best hair conditioner of all is to get healthy and stay healthy.

What to look for in a Shampoo

Because the scalp needs to be treated gently, it makes sense to use a mild shampoo. In this respect it is impossible to beat a baby shampoo. If this does not suit you look among the makes that state their pH (a measure of acidity and alkalinity) and choose one that is near pH 5. This will be very close to the normal acidity of the scalp.

There are no reasons for using a medicated shampoo. An antiseptic is called for only if an infection is present and anyone with a scalp infection is in need of a doctor and not a medicated shampoo.

Shampooing

Ensuring that hair is clean and shiny is the most important step in hair care. Choose a shampoo from a reputed manufacturer to suit your hair type. The active ingredients vary considerably in quality. A shampoo should cleanse thoroughly without irritating or demoisturising the scalp. This is more important than the acid and alkali balance.

Overwashing robs hair of the necessary moisture and oil.

It should not be necessary to use much shampoo to get good results, nor should shampooing leave the hair "squeaky clean" as this indicates that too much oil and moisture have been removed. Such additives as herbs and fruit or protein do not affect the hair's condition.

Really greasy hair may be washed once a day but it is not advisable to shampoo more than once or twice a week if your hair is dry, as overwashing can rob the hair of moisture. Dry shampoos, made of a grease-absorbing fine powder can make the hair look fresher when there is no time to wash it.

A conditioner helps to make each hair more light-reflective and prevents penetration of anything harmful to the inner core.

As tap water is mildly alkaline, hair that is dried straightaway after shampooing may become charged with static electricity making it flyaway and difficult to manage. Our grandmothers resolved this by adding vinegar or lemon juice to the final rinsing water to neutralise the alkalinity. A modern day equivalent is to use cream rinse or conditioner after every shampoo. In addition to stabilising the pH value of the hair these include light-reflective ingredients, which coat the length of each hair to increase shine and gloss, as well as adding bulk.

Perms and permanent colorants can affect the water preserving cuticle layer.

The outer layer of the hair or cuticle swells and flaps open when any alkaline substance such as hard water, shampoo, dye or a perming solution touches it. A cream rinse or conditioner helps to smooth down the cuticle. The cuticle seals each hair to guard against water evaporation, the major cause of dryness. A conditioner also helps to make each hair more light-reflective and prevents the penetration of anything harmful to the inner core.


Your Hair Type and its Care

Hair falls into three broad types:

  • Dry Hair
  • Greasy Hair
  • Combination Hair
Dry Hair

A mild shampoo should be used, followed by a conditioner formulated for dry hair. Hair should be trimmed regularly to eliminate split ends, which may travel up the length of the shaft, giving a roughened, brittle appearance. The condition of the scalp and the condition of the hair can be quite different. The scalp can be oily and the hair dry because overwashing has removed the moisture from it.

Hot oil treatments may be helpful where a dry scalp accompanies dry hair. The oil temporarily seals the surface of the skin and hair, so that no moisture can escape, allowing time for the natural moisture to restore itself. Warm olive oil should be massaged into the hair and scalp which should then be covered with a towel for an hour. Remove oil, by first applying shampoo, then gradually adding water.

Greasy Hair

Greasy hair is caused by an overabundance of sebum from the sebaceous glands, which lie next to the hair follicle. The sebum is spread along the shaft by matting of the hairs and friction of one against the other. The excessive activity of the sebaceous glands cannot be suppressed and so the hair needs to be washed more regularly than normal since its greasy state attracts dirt more quickly. Dry shampoos are particularly useful and effective for greasy hair.

Combination Hair

Combination hair is oily at the scalp and dry and brittle at the ends. This may be caused by overzealous washing with the wrong shampoo when the natural state of the hair tends towards greasiness. Use of a milder shampoo, one based on high quality wash-active ingredients, which cleans gently without demoisturising the scalp, and conditioning the ends of the hair to counteracts the dryness, is very effective.

Fine Hair

Fine hair has static, which makes it flyaway and difficult to control. It is particularly important to use a conditioner regularly on this type of hair to counteract the static. A conditioning rinse helps to add bulk.


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