Health Zone: Know Your Body – Hair’s Looking At You

 HEAD LINES WASHING loosens the hairs of the scalp so never rub hard or comb through vigorously and use a detangler.
 AFTER the menopause, when there’s no oestrogen, women grow facial hair due to the effect of our own internal male hormones going unopposed. HRT usually helps.
 A YOUNG woman with excess hair should always seek investigation of polycystic ovary syndrome.

 ALOPECIA caught early, can sometimes be treated successfully with steroids injected into the scalp.
 IF your thin hair is caused by scarring or death of the hair follicles, no trichologist can help you. There’s no known way of reviving a dead hair follicle.
 What you want from a trichologist is to know if the follicles are still alive. If they’re not, don’t waste your money.STRUCTURE OF HAIREACH hair grows out of a pocket-like hair follicle – a specialised part of the skin’s surface layer, the epidermis.

 The hair shaft projects from the skin’s surface and the hair root is embedded deep in the skin. The outer surface of each hair consists of layers of flattened over-lapping scales that together form the cuticle. Beneath the cuticle is a middle layer, the cortex, made up of several layers of flattened cells.

 The medulla (central core) is made up of large cells separated by air spaces. Hair cells contain large deposits of fibrous protein keratin. Cuticle cells are little more than tough, dead, keratin-filled scales.HAIR is dead – like your nails – so you’re limited in what you can do to improve it.

 Your hair’s condition depends entirely on how healthy you are when the shaft is growing in its follicle.
 There are about 100,000 hairs on the scalp alone and, at six months, an unborn baby has developed its full quota of hair follicles.

 Blondes have more follicles than brunettes, who have more follicles than redheads.WOMEN v MENWOMEN appear less hairy than men, although both sexes have the same number of hair follicles

 Men have more noticeable hair on the face and chest. Testosterone has a paradoxical effect in men; it stimulates hair growth on the chin and prevents hair from growing on the scalp – it causes baldness.

 Women can temporarily lose their hair after pregnancy and many often notice thinning hair after the menopause.HAIR COLOURHAIR colour depends on melanin pigments produced by your hair follicles. These pigments, in different combinations and different parts of the hair shaft, give us hair colours, ranging from blonde, red and brown, to black and all tones in between.GOING GREYGREY hair is just as healthy as pigmented hair and results from failure of the hair follicle to produce pigments. The speed with which a woman’s hair becomes grey depends on her genetic make-up. If her parents went grey at a certain age, she’s likely to follow suit.

 The average white woman has grey hairs by the time she’s 34, while the average black woman doesn’t have grey hairs until she’s 44. White hairs show up more against dark hairs, but blondes are likely to end up with more grey hairs, and eventually become totally grey. Only a third of women end up with pure white hair.

 Stress, disease, diabetes, malnutrition, anaemia and emotional or physical trauma can all lead to the appearance of grey hair, but not overnight as is commonly thought.GROWING STRONG
 HAIR growth varies according to the position of the hair on the body, as well as a person’s sex and age. Hair grows between 0.5-1.5mm per week, and the fastest growth occurs between the teens and the forties. After the age of 50, hair growth begins to slow down.
 Thinning occurs when growth is not fast enough to match the rate at which hairs are shed, such as after the menopause.

 HAIR length depends on two things – growth cycle and growth rate. The active growth period of all hair follicles is followed by a resting phase when the follicle shrinks. Between three to six months later, the follicle is reactivated to produce a new hair that, as it grows, pushes out the old hair, which is then shed. About 100 scalp hairs are shed each day. The length of the growth cycle determines the length of the hair. Women’s hair has been known to grow as long as 3.65m (12ft) but usually hair length is limited to 0.6-1m (2-3ft 3in). If your growth cycle is short your hair won’t grow longer than a few inches.

 WOMEN’S hair loss tends to be genetically inherited, although temporary shedding can be due to changes in hormone levels, such as those that occur after the end of pregnancy. Hair can also fall out as a result of alopecia areata, an immune disorder.

 Stress, fever, starvation, as well as some drugs, (particularly those used to treat cancer), can also interfere with hair growth and cause a woman’s hair to fall out. Once the cause is removed, new hair growth usually appears.

 Some anabolic steroids used by bodybuilders, however, can cause complete hair loss and the hair may not grow back once the drug is stopped.CURLS, KINKS AND TEXTURE
 HAIR follicles are angled so that each hair lies in a particular direction. The lie of the hair is a legacy from our aquatic ancestors, and follows the way in which water flows over the head while a woman is swimming. The thickness and shape of the hair follicle also determines the texture. A flattened, ribbon-shaped follicle produces kinky hair; an oval follicle, wavy hair; and a perfectly round follicle, straight hair.HIRSUTISMIN this condition, hair on the female body follows the male pattern of growth; there is coarse, excess hair on various parts of the body.

 Hirsutism doesn’t usually signify any underlying disorder, although polycystic ovary syndrome (imbalance of hormones) may result in hirsutism.
 Many women spend a great deal of time and money removing body hair.

 Techniques for dealing with unwanted body hair include shaving, bleaching, waxing, sugaring, depilatory creams, plucking and electrolysis. (See my leaflet on Excess Hair).