HAIR DAMAGE SCIENCE
Hair can be damaged by various causes like physical and environmental damage, chemical damage, and nutritional and lifestyle damage. Physical damage could be due to pulling, manipulation and over brushing (which removes the cuticles and makes hair weak), damage due to hard water, etc. Chemical damage increases porosity and could be due to salon procedures and chlorine in water, as well as very harsh products like detergents. Nutritional damage occurs due to deficiency of protein, vitamins, minerals, omega 3 and lignans in diet, and is possibly one of the easiest things to remedy. Hair can also be damaged due to lifestyle habits like poor sleep, poor overall health, and smoking.
Hair growth stages and influences
Humans are usually born with hair or acquire it soon after birth. Thereafter, hair growth throughout the life of a human occurs in a cyclical, asynchronous fashion on our scalp as well as on other body parts. The number and activity of follicles is the highest in our youth and declines as we grow older. The hair growth cycle is a process wherein the scalp generates new hair, and is divided into three stages or phases. The human hair grows continuously from the time we are born until we reach well into our seventies.
On an average, most of us have around 100,000 strands of hair on our head and the average rate of growth is a mere one-half of an inch per month. So, it takes roughly two years before the hair can grow from the scalp to our shoulders. Growth rates also vary at different ages and stages of our life.
Both men and women have comparable rates of hair growth although at the same age, women have a slightly longer growth phase than men. There are certain times in our life when hair grows slightly faster; pre-puberty and adult women in their late twenties are two such phases. Conversely, adolescence and post-menopausal women have slightly slower growth rates.
Hair growth cycle
Hair grows in a cyclical fashion and it grows asynchronously. By this, I mean that not all follicles enter all the stages at the same time. If that happened, we would all periodically lose all the hair on our scalp and go bald! The reason that does not happen is that different follicles are simultaneously in different stages of the hair cycle.
The hair growth cycle is divided into three important stages:
Anagen or the growing phase, catagen or the regression phase, and telogen or the resting phase. At any given time, seventy to ninety percent of an adult scalp hair is usually in anagen, about ten to twenty percent in telogen, and a very small percentage in catagen.
Each of these phases for an individual is a prefixed amount of time for the follicle. Anagen is usually between three to seven years, catagen for two to three weeks, and telogen for two to three months. The longer the anagen phase the longer your hair will grow and vice versa, which explains why not everyone can have long knee length tresses, and even why some of us find it difficult to grow our hair beyond our shoulders.
Factors influencing hair growth
The hair follicle is one of the few things in the human body containing stem cells or originator cells, which then differentiate into specific cells.
Some factors to consider:
Seasonal factors: Hair tends to grow a little faster in summer and a little slower in winter.
Nutritional factors: Since hair is predominantly protein and structure, intake of good quality protein induces hair growth. Eat a well-balanced diet to help improve your hair growth and health. Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy products, lean protein and heart-healthy oils such as cottonseed, peanut, corn, olive, sunflower seed and walnuts. Making sure that you get sufficient protein and iron in your meal plan is vital for hair growth.
Minimal handling promotes maximum benefits to hair. Overheating, repeated curling, etc. while damaging the shaft can also promote hair loss by breakage. Although this is not true hair loss, it can add to the perception of scanty hair due to excessive breakage.
Increasing blood circulation to your scalp and hair follicles helps hair growth. Giving yourself a daily scalp massage can help. Slowly massage your scalp in a circular motion with your knuckles. This is even better if done using nourishing coconut oil.
Aerobic activities will increase your blood circulation. For best results, obtain 30 minutes of moderately-brisk level exercise on at least five days of the week. Divide the 30 minutes into 10-minute increments throughout the day if desired. Examples include walking, rowing, bicycling, dancing and everyday activities.
Uncontrolled stress levels can lead to hair damage and loss. Controlling your stress level will help your hair grow, so choose a method or two that suits you.
Positive thinking, improved time management skills, imagery, meditation, pet therapy and deep breathing exercises are stress reducing remedies you can use, starting today.