From time immemorial,Healthy beautiful hair has always been one of our biggest beauty assets&at the top of our wishlists as well!!Well,just like each part of our body needs care, so does our hair!!So let’s start at the very roots by understanding the complex structure of hair &why it behaves the way it does……….
Did you know that the hair shaft that we see is actually considered dead technically as it does not have blood vessels,and nerve cells and the only “living” portion of the hair is found in the follicle??? That’s why it doesn’t hurt when you cut hair,but when you pull it out,it does-right!!….;)
Just like a beautiful plant sprouts forth from a bulb within rich fertile soil,so also the hair germinates in and sprouts from the hair bulb,and grows well when the root or the papilla is well nourished.Hair is composed mainly of the protein keratin filaments and it is the structure of these filaments that provides strength to the hair shaft. Hair grows from follicles in our skin. Follicles are pit-like structures with layers of cells with different jobs. The base of the root is called the bulb or the papilla, which contains the cells that produce the hair shaft which is nourished by a network of blood vessels; this is from where the hair that we see actually grows. Other structures of the hair follicle include the oil producing sebaceous gland which lubricates the hair and the erector pili muscles, which are responsible for causing hairs to stand-up and giving us goose bumps.
The structure of a single hair strand comprises of the medulla, the cortex and the cuticle. The medulla is the innermost core of hair and has soft keratin cells. The cortex is the second layer and gives your hair inherent strength and elasticity. It contains the pigment melanin, which is responsible for the colour of your hair and the absence of which causes greying. The outermost layer is the cuticle which acts as a protective shield. Its complex structure slides as the hair swells and is covered with a single molecular layer of lipid or sebum that makes the hair repel water.The hair strand may not be biochemically alive,but it still contains cells in all the 3 layers which are responsible for the colour and type of hair we have……
Hair follicles grow in repeated cycles. One cycle can be broken down into three phases.
- Anagen – Growth Phase-85% of our hair is in this phase and is actively growing.The Anagen phase or growth phase can vary from two to six years.
- Catagen – Transitional phase -lasts about one or two weeks
- Telogen – 10-15 % of our hair is inthe Resting Phase ,occurs after the catagen phase and normally lasts about 5-6 weeks.
At the end of the Telogen phase the hair follicle re-enters the Anagen phase. The dermal papilla and the base of the follicle join together again and a new hair begins to form. If the old hair has not already been shed the new hair pushes the old one out and the growth cycle starts all over again.
Being the maths and science freak that I am,I had to check out the widely known 100 strands /day normal theory for myself….So here goes-The average number of follicles in our scalp is between 1 lakh to 1.5 lakhs, 85-90% of which is in the growth cycle at any given time and 10-15 % are allowed to fall every 2-6 weeks.Even if we consider the lower limit of 10% of 1 lakh,it equals 10,000 hair every 6 weeks-that gives us a permissible normal hairfall of 222 hair strands/day..so upto 100 strands/day can be considered totally normal..Superduper confirmed news!!!:)
Different Types of Hair:
Did you know that the angle at which the hair comes out of the follicle is related to its shape??The shape of the follicle determines the shape of the cortex, and the shape of the fiber is related to how straight or curly the hair is.!!!
Straight hair shoots straight out from the scalp and is round in cross section.Wavy hair is oval in shape and comes out of the scalp at an angle,whereas curly hair is flattened and comes out of the scalp at an extreme angle.
Dry hair is dull,lacklustre and usually characterized by a feeling of dryness, split ends or hair that is brittle and breaks easily. This type of hair feels rough,and not smooth and silky and is generally indicated by frizziness,fly away hair and a lack of shine . This dryness can be caused by insufficient oil production by the sebaceous glands on the scalp or due to hormonal imbalances . However, hair can also become dry through the use of aggressive, stripping hair treatments ,perming,hair dyes or chemical shampoos,styling products etc or due to an imbalanced diet which dos not contain zinc, essential fatty acids and vitamins.
Let’s look at what happens when the hair feels dry: The cells of the outermost layer of the hair , known as the cuticle form a smooth, protective network. When the cuticle is healthy, these cells lay tight against one another with very little space between them for moisture to escape. However, a lack of natural oil (sebum) can lead these cells to dry and harden, thus rendering this ideally smooth outer layer rough and course. When this happens, moisture from the inner cortex of the hair escapes and the protein chains in the cortex become dry and lose their elasticity. People with dry hair need to deliver moisture to the hair’s inner cortex while keeping the cuticle well lubricated and tight.Dry hair needs protection in the form of emollients and lubricants like herbal hair oils which will lubricate the outside cuticle layer of hair,and create a shine as well.Humectants like aloevera are also needed to retain the moisture within this type of hair.
Frizzy or Curly Hair : Frizzy or Curly hair can be difficult to manage. Easy to tangle and especially prone to change shape and body with the weather – curly hair is also often prone to becoming extremely dry. That’s because the curl keeps the hair away from your scalp and your scalp’s natural moisturizers, called sebaceous glands. The sebaceous glands produce an oily substance called sebum which helps seal the hair’s cuticle and protect the protein chains of the inner cortex, keeping them moist and elastic. As curly hair often needs more moisture and protection, the trick is to get it this moisture without weighing it down with heavy, damaging residues or making it oily and more likely to collect dirt.
Oily Hair and Scalp:
Oily Hair usually goes hand in hand with an oily scalp.The sebaceous glands in this case work overtime& hair tends to take on a limp,greasy look.This is sometimes seen in adolescents,pregnant women or after menopause,but it settles down once the hormones stabilise.A diet loaded with fried food and saturated fats from red meat and dairy products may also cause overproduction of sebum.
Coloured or Permed Hair: The hair’s outer cuticle is normally made up of a very tightly packed network of cells which do not allow moisture to escape and keep it moisturised and soft and is responsible for shiny, healthy hair,. The alkalis used for Colouring ,perming or straightening treatments first cause swelling of the cells that form your hair’s outer cuticle. The chemicals used in dyes then penetrate the swollen cuticle and move into the underlying cortex, and peroxide first bleaches out the pigment that’s there in the first place,so that the pigments can then change the colour of your hair. The first one or two times,the cells may shrink back to its original tight mesh.But the problem arises when we repeatedly subject our hair to chemical treatments.The more often you do this, the less likely it is that these cuticle cells will shrink back into the tight, smooth network and thus become dry and frizzy. There is no way to totally replace damaged cuticle on existing hair -the only solution is to wait for new hair to grow. But a good conditioner like aloevera or jojoba will act by filling in the gaps formed between the damaged cells and replacing the lost moisture,thus restoring some softness and shine to the hair.
Lucky are the ones who have normal hair!!!Normal hair is hair that is strong,resilient,moisturised and shiny and a normal scalp is one that is moist and pink without any flaking,irritation or bumps.The goal of people blessed with normal hair is simply to maintain it in the same balanced state.
With a little bit of extra effort and regular care with natural products and age old Nature given solutions ,a well balanced diet and a stress free lifestyle,we could work towards that final goal-Beautiful Healthy Hair!!!! 🙂 Do let us know about your specific hair problems,as we will be running a series of articles on natural remedies to overcome the normal hair concerns most people have-Hair fall,Dandruff,Dry&frizzy hair etc…….Read more about simple natural tips for all your hair concerns at https://prakritiherbals.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/fenugreek-reduces-hairfall-and-dandruff-naturally/