Have you ever noticed that when your hair looks good, you feel better? When you like how your hair looks, you have more confidence, you feel happier, and your whole outlook improves. If healthy hair can do all that, why ever again have a bad hair day?
The Long and the Short of Hair
The main component of hair is a tough protein called keratin, which is produced by cells at the root of a hair. Each hair fiber is made up of three layers. The outer layer, the part you see, is called the cuticle. The cuticle is a tough layer of transparent overlapping cells that protect the hair like shingles on a roof. When your hair is healthy, these cells lie flat and snug so that it’s hard for dirt to get in or far moisture to get out. The bulk of a hair is the cortex. This layer contains melanocytes, cells that produce a pigment called melanin. When these cells stop producing melanin, hair turns gray. The third layer, the medulla, is a hollow tube or core inside the cortex.
Hair is produced by hair follicles, which are indentations of the outer skin layer of the scalp. The follicles contain the hair root, the muscle attached to it, and oil glands.
The number of hairs on your head depends on a number of things, including heredity and the color of your hair. Red hair tends to be thicker, so not a many are needed to cover a head. Blond hair tends to be thin, so more hairs are needed. Brown and black hair fall somewhere in between.
Although it may seem as though the hair on your head is always growing, hair actually has active and rest phases. The growth phase lasts for two to six years. At any given time, about 90 percent of scalp hair is in the growth stage. The remainder is in the rest phase; this lasts from two to three months. Hair grows at an average rate of one millimeter every three days. Once the rest phase is over, the hair strand falls out as a new one pushes it out. It is normal to lose from 20 to 100 hairs a day. Only a change in your regular pattern of loss is considered abnormal. But many things, including genetic factors, diet, stress, and medications can change that pattern.
While you may think you have to spend a fortune to have a beautiful head of hair, this simply is not so. The true key to healthy looking hair lies in a healthy lifestyle. A well-balanced diet, plenty of Test, and regular physical activity keep not only your inner body healthy, but your hair and skin, as well.
How does diet affect your hair? What you eat can’t do much for the hair already on your head, but it can have an important effect beneath the scalp where new hairs grow. A wellbalanced diet, with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and sufficient protein will help produce healthy, beautiful hair. And you can maintain that beauty with some commonsense hair care.
Every time you shampoo, blow-dry, perm, straighten, or dye your hair, you damage it slightly. For the most part, hair can handle this type of treatment. But overzealous beautifying can damage the hair fiber, resulting in many broken strands and a frizzy, split-end look. Misuse and overuse of hair-care products can cause your hair to break as it comes out of the scalp.
To help you avoid these problems, here are answers to some common questions about maintaining a healthy head of hair:
How often should you shampoo? Ask three people how often they wash their hair and chances are you’ll get three different answers, because there really is no right answer. The best rule is this: Shampoo often enough to keep your scalp clean, while not overdoing it. Too much shampoo can aggravate oily or dry conditions. Most experts agree that if your hair is oily, more frequent shampooing may be needed. This may also be true in warmer climates or if you exercise quite a bit. Sweat on the scalp makes the hair sticky and attracts dirt.
What kind of shampoo should you use? Walk down the hair-care aisle of any store and you’ll see why this is such a hard question to answer. With so many to choose from, it’s important to choose the one that Is right for your type of hair. Most shampoos consist of water and cleaning agents that soak up excess oil and dirt so they can be rinsed away. Most brands contain a mixture of of different kinds of cleaning agents, and it is the combination of these ingredients that determines which products are for which types of hair.
If you have oily hair, you need a shampoo with a lot of cleaning power. If you have dry hair, you should use a milder shampoo. The bottom line, however, is to find a shampoo that you like. Because all shampoos clean hair, experiment with different products. But keep in mind that just because a shampoo has a higher price tag, that does not make it better. The less-expensive brands will clean your hair just as well. In most cases, you’re better off spending the extra money on a good haircut.
Once you’ve chosen a shampoo, the first step to a good cleaning is a good brushing. This dirt, natural oils, and residue from hair-care products, as well as stimulates your scalp.
Do you need a conditioner? Conditioners temporarily increase the diameter of the hair shaft, giving the impression that the hair has more “body.” They also tend to make split ends stick together. The main advantage to using a conditioner is it smoothes out rough places in the cuticle, so it reduces friction and tangling between hairs. This makes them less susceptible to damage during combing and brushing.
Other Tips for Healthy Hair
Here are some other things to keep in mind in the care of your hair:
Shampoo with care. Wash your hair less often if it’s dry.
Style your hair without heat. Blow-drying contributes to driedout hair. If you must blow-dry, use a lower heat setting and be sure to hold the dryer at least 10 inches away from your scalp.
Protect your hair from environmental elements. Wind and sun can take a toll on your hair. Wear a hat on breezy, balmy days as well as on gusty or frosty winter days.
When coloring your hair, stay away from products that contain peroxide and ammonia. These products can be incredibly harsh on your hair and scalp, causing-hair to break off and become thin. Peroxide attacks hair protein as well as the color, which causes the hair to lose its strength. If you are going to color your hair, be sure you test a small patch of skin (inside your elbow, for example) with a preparation of the dye. This test will help you determine whether or not you are allergic to the chemicals.
Television and magazine advertisements can make hair care look complicated and expensive. But healthy hair is the result of a little knowledge and a lot of common sense. If you know and apply the basics of hair care, bad hair days can be a thing of the past.