Human Hair Information Tips
Most people have around 100,000 strands of hair on their head – some may have a few thousand less, some many thousands more, but this is average, whatever the texture. Red-heads, although they have the thickest hair, have the least strands; brunettes come next; and blondes, with the finest hair, have the most strands. Paradoxically, blond hair can often look limp and thin while red hair looks abundantly thick. Each strand starts below the surface of the skin in a little module known as the papilla, which, even when a hair is plucked out ‘by the roots’, is left behind to start again and eventually produce a new hair. The root is the section of the hair the visible part above, below the skin’s or scalp’s surface — whatever its length, is the shaft. The root is enclosed in a sac called the hair follicle, the base of which forms the papilla. Each strand, even though the outward appearance may vary from person to person, has the same basic structure of three layers. The innermost layer or medulla is soft and spongy, providing a small amount of colour from cells sometimes containing granules of colour pigment; this is surrounded by the cortex, composed of long thin cells, which provides elasticity and most of the colour; lastly there is the outer layer, or cuticle, which consists of overlapping scales designed to protect the other two layers. The papilla receives a blood supply enabling it to produce the hair. The quality of this blood determines the strength of the hair. It makes sense, therefore, to make sure that your daily diet includes not only the vitamins and minerals essential for a healthy body but those particularly beneficial to hair, i.e., lots of protein (hair is 97% protein, 3% moisture) and vitamin B (Brewers’ Yeast tablets are a good source of this) — and to cut down on sugar, salt and animal fats. The diet that is good for healthy hair is good for the rest of you.
The minute the hair leaves the follicle, i.e., when it shows on the surface and becomes the shaft, it is, to all intents and purposes, dead. It is no longer receiving nourishment from the papilla and its health and condition will depend on outside help. This period of ‘rest’ in the lifespan of the hair strand will continue for as much as six years until it eventually falls out and is replaced by a new hair manufactured in the same papilla. The growth cycle is ‘staggered’ from hair to hair and distributed over the scalp so that when hairs fall out through this natural process it is unnoticeable in the general amount of hair on the head; up to a hundred hairs, a day should be accepted as quite normal. Only when daily ‘fall-out’ is abnormally large should it be seen as a warning signal and steps be taken to locate the cause and treat it.
There are oil glands attached to the hair follicles secreting natural oils, but not enough to reach far along the shaft; once the hair grows to any length, the ends certainly never get fed. This
MIDDLE: A highly magnified photograph illustrating the thread-like fibers within the inner structure or the cortex of the hair.
OPPOSITE LEFT: A highly magnified shot of a hair that has been damaged by improper care. It illustrates how the layers of the cuticle have separated and shown how easily this hair would become entangled during styling and thus be harder to work on than healthy undamaged hair.
OPPOSITE RIGHT: A microscopic enlargement of a split hair. There is no known chemical remedy to heal a ‘split end’ and it can only be cured by cutting it off.
means, of course, that the ends become starved as they get older and are most vulnerable to damage. Cutting off dry brittle ends will stop them from splitting and leave the hair looking fuller and healthier — and sometimes give the impression of faster-growing hair. This, however, is an illusion — it is not possible to alter the hair’s growth pattern, which is fixed when you are conceived. The average growth is around half an inch (1⋅3 cm) a month, which slows as you grow older, and, although individuals may have a faster or slower growth rate, it is not affected by cutting the hair. Some people have difficulty growing their hair to any length at all while others seem to get it to reach their waist in no time. This is because of the combination of growth rate and lifespan: hair that seems hard to grow at all combines a slow growth rate with a short life-span; those lucky enough to possess a fast growth rate with a long life-span can grow long hair quickly. This combination, like the texture of your hair, is hereditary and there is nothing you can do to alter it. The color and curliness of your hair, although also determined by ancestry, can be changed with modern chemicals.