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Hair FAQ's: Knowledge Is Power


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History and legends, as well as fairy tales, are full of references to heroes and their tresses. Although Lady Godiva had a political statement to make, her midnight ride became a legend as much for her gorgeous long blonde locks that modestly covered her unclothed body.

Rapunzel's plight in the tower has a happy ending because of her long locks that served to free her from her dungeon. Let's not forget Samson & Goliath, Cleopatra and even the Beatles for their hair-related impact on the Universe.

Whether you have hair or not, love it, hate it or want more or less, at some point hair is a focus for the majority of humans.

Human Hair Designed As Cover

Many people are unaware of the fact that all the hair that covers the human body is designed to protect from extremes in temperature.

Scalp hair was biologically designed to provide temperature protection for the human body. In the cold of winter, scalp hair acts as a "cap" and slows down the release of heat from the body.

In the summer the hair is designed to deflect the rays of the sun and help to keep the body cool. It is a well-known fact that hair generally grows much faster in the Summer months than in the winter months.

Scalp Hair Dead Or Alive?

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Is head on the scalp dead? This is a very controversial topic. Although most experts believe that the hair is a dead substance, this is only partially true.

The tiny bulb that attaches the hair to the scalp and is known as the root, is actually very much alive.

The actual hair follicle is attached to the scalp and is composed of papillae cells. Papillae receive blood flow from the body's capillaries.

This stimulates the production of hair cells. When the hair cells start to harder they grow and become the hair shaft.

The dead hair makes its progression away from the roots.

The hair itself is made of a substance known as "keratin". Fingernails and toenails are also made up of keratin.

Scalp Hair Layers

Scalp hair consists of three basic layers which include the following:

  • Cuticle
  • Cortex
  • Medulla

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When examined under a microscope the cuticle looks like it has scales like those on a fish. When the scales or cuticle is damaged, the scales do not lay flat. When the cuticle's scales lay flat the hair will be very shiny. This is why healthy hair that has a strong cuticle will be more shiny than hair that is dry and damaged and has a weak cuticle.

The older the cuticle of the hair the more delicate and fragile it becomes. Think of the cuticle like fine old lace and the type of care it takes to remain beautiful.

Hair color is provided by the cortex layer of the hair. Hair color has a definite bearing on the number of follicles that you will be born with. It is common knowledge that blondes have the most hair while redheads have the least number. Blondes generally weigh in around 120,000 - 150,000 hairs while brunettes have 100,000 - 110,000 and redheads 75,000 - 85,000.

Not only does it contain the hair's color pigments, it is the area of the hair that is impacted by chemical colors and processes. Overall hair strength is controlled by the cortex. When the cortex is damaged this will have a direct impact on the elasticity of the hair. This is why hair that has suffered chemical damage will be brittle.

The texture of the hair is controlled by the medulla. Look to this part of the hair to determine your hair's texture and composition.

Pre-determined Number Of Hair Follicles

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Although there are exceptions to every biological rule, for the most part all humans are born with a pre-determined number of hair follicles.

The range of follicles is 80,000 to 200,000. Again, every person will have a different pre-determined amount whether they are male or female.

Besides determining color, texture and thickness, the follicle also determines whether hair is dry, oily or a combination. The hair follicle is attached to the sebaceous gland sacs.

These little sacs produce sebum which is the hair's natural oil. One of the reasons that people take oils internally is because this can ultimately impact the oil balance of the hair.

Besides containing different layers, the hair has different growth cycles that are cyclical. Even more interesting is the fact that every single hair follicle has its own cycle. This would explain why some people report that their hair grows at different speeds on different parts of their scalp.

Growth Cycles For Hair

The three growth cycles for hair are:

  • anagen phase
  • catagen phase
  • telogen phase

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During the anagen phase the hair is actively in growth mode. For the majority of people healthy hair grows at the rate of 1/4 to 1/2 inch per month. Again, there are exceptions to every single rule but this seems to be the common growth pattern.

Hair will often grow faster or slower during different times of the year. Therefore hair growth should be averaged over a 12 month cycle to get a fair analysis of your growth cycles.

The active growth cycle lasts usually up to three years on an average. All sorts of life events can shorten or lengthen this cycle. However, during optimal periods the anagen cycle will last two to eight years, on an average. On an average human hair grows 12-24 inches long during the anagen cycle.

Once the anagen cycle is finished the hair goes through a transition and then goes into the catagen phase. During this transition the old hair gets ready to fall out and new hair moves towards the surface of the scalp.

After the catagen period is finished the hair goes into a resting phase called the telogen phase.

Although the average life of a hair is two to eight years while it is in the growth cycle, some people have much shorter anagen cycles.

Disruption Of Growth Cycles

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Unplanned physical events can also artificially disrupt the growth cycles. These external events include:

  • Serious physical illness (e.g. cancer, muscle wasting disease, palsy)
  • Drug therapies for serious illness
  • Extreme or unusual mental & physical stress
  • Hormonal shifts from birth control pills, pregnancy or menopause
  • Physical maintenance medications
  • Damaged thyroid function

Can You Grow Hair To Your Knees Or Not?

Why can some people grow their hair to their knees and others can't? There is no simple answer since there are so many factors to consider. However, shortened growth cycles can often be a factor.

If your anagen cycle does not span more than 2-3 years your hair growth will stop at approximately 18-20 inches. If you anagen cycle lasts for the full 8-9 years, you can realize 40 or more inches of hair growth. For many people this can be much longer than waist length.

So can you fool Mother Nature and extend a short anagen growth cycle? The hair experts argue about this possibility. Many believe that is you crank up the overall health of your body and hair that you can extend your growth cycle. Other experts believe that the goal should be to speed up the growth rate within your cycle.

Maximizing Your Hair Growth Cycles

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Can this work? Yes in some cases. Many experts believe that taking certain supplements will automatically make your hair healthier.

Long hair expert Barbara Lhotan believes that "you can maximize your hair's health and ultimate growth through taking special nutrients." She recommends HairTopia to her hair clients.

So what are the nutrients? The B vitamins are especially helpful with B6 helping to strengthen healthy oil production. Vitamin B12 aides in hair growth by helping to carry oxygen to the scalp. Folic acid will also help along with Vitamin C.

Many vitamins are designed specifically to help strengthen the hair follicle with the ultimate goal of helping the hair to grow more efficiently and thus faster. Phytophanere by Phyto along with Viviscal and HairTopia were all designed to help hair growth issues.

Phytophanere contains wheat germ oil, carrot oil, borage oil, rice bran oil, salmon oil, brewers yeast, acerola, gelatin and fish rue.

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Thank you for visiting us at The HairBoutique Blog and for leaving your comments. They are very much appreciated. We apologize in advance but must remove any direct advertisements or solicitations.

- Revised Publication Date: 05/04/10

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