A Closer Look at Your Hair
“IN EVERY age and culture,” notes one reference work, “hair expresses some part of the person beneath it.” Small wonder, then, that most people are keenly interested in keeping their hair healthy and attractive.
Awake! asked four experienced hairstylists some common questions about the composition and care of the hair. As it turns out, there is more to your hair than meets the eye.
Hair Growth and Hair Loss
Q: What is hair made of?
A: Hair contains keratin, a fibrous protein. Each hair grows out of an indentation in the scalp called a follicle. At the bottom of each follicle is the papilla, which contains a rich blood supply. The papilla produces hair cells that progress up the follicle and harden into hair.
Q: It is widely believed that hair grows faster when cut. Is this true?
A: No. Some people imagine that hair is fed by the body in the same way the limbs of a tree are nourished by the trunk. But once hair grows out of the scalp, it is a dead substance. Trimming the hair, therefore, does not affect its growth.
Q: Why does hair turn gray?
A: The inner layer of the hair contains a pigment that gives hair its color. As the pigment cells die, the hair turns gray; it’s part of the aging process. Premature graying might be caused by genetics or illness. It is a myth, however, that hair will turn gray overnight. Pigment is deposited below the scalp. So time is required for the gray hair to grow (about one half inch [1.25 cm] a month) and appear on the surface of the head.
Q: What are the reasons for hair loss?
A: Hair loss is part of the natural cycle of hair. On average, everyone sheds an estimated 50 to 80 hairs daily. But male pattern baldness has a hereditary basis and seems to be caused by a hormonal imbalance, resulting in permanent hair loss. Abnormal loss of hair is called alopecia.*
Q: Some say that hair is a mirror of a person’s health. Have you observed this?
A: Yes. Below the scalp, blood feeds the hair. So healthy hair may reflect a well-nourished blood supply. However, a person who eats poorly or overindulges in alcoholic beverages may find that his hair becomes limp and weak, since his blood supply cannot properly nourish his hair. Hair loss or weak hair can even be an early sign of illness or pregnancy.
Keeping Your Scalp and Hair Healthy
Q: Describe how to shampoo the hair and scalp.
A: Experience has shown that the majority of people with dry scalp problems shampoo their scalp too often. Of course, the oil in your hair attracts dirt and skin debris and can plug the oil ducts leading to the follicles. So regular shampooing is necessary. But these natural oils also protect your skin against harmful bacteria and seal in needed moisture. By shampooing too often, you are robbing your scalp of this protective layer and creating problems like dry scalp. Most experts recommend shampooing whenever one’s scalp or hair is soiled. People with oily hair should shampoo more often than those with normal or dry hair.
When shampooing, massage your scalp. This rids the scalp of dead cells and promotes proper circulation of the blood, which feeds your hair. Remember to rinse thoroughly! If you didn’t rinse your hands after washing them with soap, your skin would dry and crack. Similarly, if shampoo is not properly rinsed off, the scalp can become dry and flaky.
Q: How can a dry scalp be treated?
A: Drink lots of water, and eat nutritious meals. This hydrates your skin and nourishes the blood supply. Use a mild shampoo, and massage your scalp regularly. Some people also use leave-in conditioners and lotions to moisturize the scalp.
Styling Your Hair
Q: What should a person keep in mind when visiting a hairstylist?
A: If you want to change your hairstyle, bring a picture of the style you want and perhaps of the style you don’t want. Frankly express your wishes and the amount of time you are willing to put into hair care each day, since some hairstyles require more attention than others. Keep in mind that it usually takes two or three visits for a hairstylist to get to know your hair and to establish good communication with you. So don’t give up on your stylist too quickly!
What Your Hair Reveals
Hair care and styling are forms of self-expression. Hair has been cut, extended, straightened, curled, colored, and variously styled to meet fashion trends, religious beliefs, and even social and political agendas. Take a closer look at your hair. What does it reveal about you? Healthy hair that is tastefully styled adorns its wearer and is admired by others.
For more information, see the article “Alopecia—Living in Silence With Hair Loss,” in the April 22, 1991, issue of Awake!
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Eating nutritious meals and drinking plenty of water may help cure a dry scalp
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Shampooing too often can rob your scalp of protective oils
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Graying hair is a normal part of the aging process