Hair is part of the tough outer protective layer of our body, which also includes exocrine glands, skin, and nails. It serves multiple functions like protection, temperature regulation, facilitation of evaporation of perspiration, and also as a sense organ.
Although distributed all over the body in different textures and density, in this article we shall discuss the various aspects of hair on our scalp.
As already stated, hair serves a wide variety of systemic function, it cannot be ignored that it also plays a big role in our social lives; it is a prominent feature of the body, defines our notion of beauty, and quite understandably clinical conditions related to hair are a major concern for most people.
Hair is made up of a tough protein called keratin. A human baby is born with about 100,000 to 120,000 hair follicles on their scalp at birth. Irrespective of the popular myth that shaving increases the number of scalp hair, there is evidence that hair may thicken by shaving, no follicles develop after birth.
A bulb forms the base of a follicle, which anchors each hair into the skin. Within the bulb living cells divide and grow to build the hair shaft. Blood vessels, hormones nourish the cells, and provide nutrition necessary for hair growth. Between starting to grow and falling out years later, each hair passes through four phases. Every hair is at a different stage of the growth cycle.
ANAGEN (GROWTH PHASE)
This usually lasts 2-7 years and the length of our mane depends on this. As we age, the length of anagen phase may decrease, causing weakening and thinning with each cycle. Most hair is growing at any given time, and continues to do so for a while. Research shows that each hair follicle grow about 20-25 strand of hairs in a life time.
CATAGEN (TRANSITIONAL PHASE)
It lasts for about 10-12 days; the hair growth slows down, and some follicles shrink.
TELOGEN (RESTING PHASE)
This lasts for about 3 months; about 10 -15 percent of hair is in this phase at a given time. While hair growth stops and old hair detaches from follicles, new strands enter the growth phase pushing the old hair out and a new hair starts to grow out of the follicle.
EXOGEN (SHEDDING PHASE)
in this phase the old hair detaches and sheds, the new hair continues to grow in the follicle. We lose 50-100 hair per day.
Hair growth and shedding is affected by a number of factors, including everyday diet, medication, stress, age, heredity factors, damage caused by environmental factors, over-styling and lack of general care. As the phases are going on simultaneously, it is essential to ensure proper nourishment and blood supply to the hair for maintaining healthy growth.
It goes without saying that a balanced diet is very important. Smoking, some forms of medication, exposure to extreme heat or cold, grime, etc. causes damage to hair. Accumulation of dirt and sweat, causes the follicles to get clogged up, resulting it insufficient blood supply leading to weakening of the strands and their premature fall.
Extreme weather conditions take moisture away from hair, and makes it lose its luster. It is essential to use to use a good moisturiser or hair oil.
Hair packs also help in repairing the hair shaft. Using a good oil to massage the scalp increases blood supply and also acts as a good moisturizer; but it should not be kept for more than 2-3 hours and subsequently shampooed off. Combing hair regularly is also a very important practice in hair care. A healthy clean scalp ensures that the hair cycle is not disturbed and promoting growth.
Some people suffer from clinical conditions related to scalp hair and it must then be treated by experts. Boys going through puberty often face imbalance with androgenetic hormones, which target hair follicles at the frontal part of the scalp. The same happens in femalesm however much later in their lives, during pre-menopause. All these must be addressed through an expert and medication is often necessary. In cases where excessive hair fall has already lowered hair density, or baldness, various treatments are available like laser hair combing, PRP, and hair transplant.
After consulting an expert, the patient can decide and opt for a procedure which suits them. All of the procedures are safe when done by an expert.
Photo: LS Archive/Sazzad Ibne Sayed