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Hair: Composition And Health Needs

By: Julie Burns - Updated: 10 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Haircare; Hair Composition; Health; Hair

Hair's our very personal trademark. It can be our main feature or the bane of our lives. A barometer of our general health, it can frame the face, look lush, full of life and effortlessly fall into place or cause dreaded bad hair days. To make the most of your own hair, it's best to work with it, understand its behaviour pattern and type as well as needs and weaknesses. Like skin, hair needs a wholesome blood supply to feed it. It shows you are what you eat so nourishing it with a vitamin-rich diet and knowing how to look after it will ensure a healthy and model-great, shining mane to be proud of.

The Structure of Hair

Though hair varies greatly, on average we have 100,000 hair follicles. Each follicle is made of epidermal cells - like skin's outside layer - and contains a three layered hair. The outer layer of this hair shaft is the protective cuticle with overlapping scales ideally lying flat for smooth, shiny locks. Retaining moisture here is essential to ensure optimum hair health.

Inside is the cortex, tightly woven protein fibres giving the hair its strength and colour depth. When this part of the hair becomes overly dry, it runs the risk of splitting. The spongy middle core or medulla, connects to the hair root in the follicle. Hair grows as a result of the cycle of new cells forming, maturing and dying, moving on ever upwards. On reaching the skin's surface, the scalp's sebaceous glands coat each hair shaft with oil to protect and keep the cells soft and supple.

What Growing Hair Needs

As with hair's appearance, the growth phase varies greatly from person to person. Though hair on average grows approximately 1cm a month, the life cycle of hair can be anything from two years to seven. Only if your hair's in the latter growth category will you be able to cultivate long, strong tresses. Otherwise it will reach its own natural length, which is unchangeable. The only variable is that hair grows more quickly in summer. A characteristic of each hair's lifespan is a long growth period then a 'resting' phase over three months. This signifies the end of growth, ready to naturally fall through washing, combing or brushing. Expect a normal daily hair loss of up to 150 hairs depending on hair's natural thickness. This can exceed following illness, stress, excessive dieting, weight loss and pregnancy and only needs redressing when the percentage of hair loss is more than that of new hair growth.In order to safeguard hair quality, blood circulation to the hair root and a rich blood supply are of vital importance.
  • Safe and gentle haircare products are only half of it; a balanced diet with hair-friendly foods is best.
  • Avoid hair abuse - brushing, tugging and stretching when wet.
  • Avoid over-drying with hairdryers too close to the root and over-use of heated appliances. Occasionally let hair dry naturally. When out in the sun, coat hair with an SPF protective cream or wear a hat.
  • Long-haired lovelies should beware of scraped back ponytails worn in the same place every day - they can cause traction and spot baldness.
  • Stimulate scalp circulation with fingertip massage and replenishing oils such as Neem or sweet almond. Or if agile, try a shoulder stand or headstand!
  • If hair's weak or delicate, overlook harsh chemical processes which can change the basic structure of the hair.

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