the truth about hair

You may think you know all you need to about your hair… you deal with it every day and it seems to be very much alive, but a lot of what we understand is based on here-say, old wives tales and urban legend

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Old wives’ tales…superstition & folklore, exaggerated or untrue details

Let’s have a little look at this remarkable fibre that we so often take for granted and try and see if we can bust a few myths

One of the most important parts of your hairs health and well being is happening under the surface, its the part we don’t see…”the roots”.

“My roots are growing” or “The roots are turning grey”…everyday language is somewhat misinformed, since the real hair roots can’t be seen! The roots of your hair are buried in your skin but it is from here the little ‘hair factory’ is busy at work

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Its in the parts of your hair that you can’t see that the action is!

The part we see, which goes to make up our precious head of hair (and the part we cut style and colour), is in fact biologically dead. Furthermore, it receives no further assistance from the root which created it.

The complex structure os a single hair

The complex structure os a single hair

But your hair is quite genius.. since every hair and head of hair are absolutely unique, however here are some interesting facts we roughly share in common…

1 strand of hair is between 55-100 microns (a micron is 1/1000 of a millimetre) – so it would take around 20 hairs bundled to make 1mm

Each strand is not oval but elliptical – like a slightly squashed circle.

Caucasian hair under an electron-scanning microscope

Caucasian hair under an electron-scanning microscope

You have between 120,000 – 150,000 hairs on your hair!! This works out to be around 250 hairs in a square cm

Hair in good condition will absorb 30% of its own weight in water – if it is damaged that can increase to 45% and its this ability (or over ability) that your hairdresser is referring to when they talk about ‘porosity’

Roughly speaking, your hair grows 1cm per month, so at best you can grow around 12cm a year.

Since hair grows from its roots, the tips of shoulder length hair will be 2-3 years old….so if you wash and dry your hair daily it will have seen the blowdryer up to 12,672 times!

Having undergone 2-3 years of attack during which the cuticle (the protective outside layer)  will have been subject to considerable change; this is what we refer to when we speak about hair which has become “sensitised”.

Hair is great condition with a strong cuticle

Hair is great condition with a strong cuticle

Checking out your hair from roots to tip, you can to some degree see what effect time has had. At the scalp, the newly formed scales that form the protective defense of your hair are perfectly smooth and regular, impeccably joined like newly laid roofing tiles. The further we travel from the scalp, the more eroded they appear. They first of all become scratched and their edges start to splinter.

They then begin to loosen and move apart. Some scales disappear and, at the tip of the hair, they can even be partially or completely absent – leaving the body of the hair completely exposed.

Cuticle damage

Cuticle damage

Protecting the scale is your best option for preserving the strength and condition of your hair. Once it is gone, it cannot be replaced and your hair will be completely vulnerable to damage and breaking

Your hair’s shine is largely caused by the play of light on its smooth surface, wear of the scales affects the evenness of the light’s reflection and making the hair appear dull.

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Split and broken hair

You can feel the state of these fine scales, if they are in good condition, the hair seems soft to the touch. Whereas damaged scales make it rough.

We naturally lose 50 – 100 hairs per day (under normal circumstances) however this will increase slightly from season to season (we too have a molt) or during periods of ill-health or extreme stress.

Hair is incredibly strong…it might only be 55-100 microns but a single strand of healthy hair can withstand 100grams in weight

A strand of 100 hairs would therefore be able to resist a weight of 10 kilos. And if the scalp were sufficiently resilient, an entire head of hair could support 12 tonnes!

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Hair will stretch and return to its natural shape and if it is in healthy condition you can expect that ‘stretch’ to be up to 50% of the actal length

While hair contains water, oils, traces of mineral elements and colour pigments, it is keratin protein which is its main constituent.

To stay looking beautiful and ensure its strength, hair needs natural oils.

Being hormone dependent, it can be produced in excessive quantities, making the hair greasy and heavy. On the other hand, if too little is secreted, the hair becomes damaged, dry and dull.

So now that you know a little more…let have a look at a few things you might have heard

Myth: Frequent trims make hair grow faster.

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Truth: Hair grows a 1cm month, whether you cut it or not, however it may grow slightly faster in the summer, but that has nothing to do with the stylist’s scissors and everything to do with hormones and UV light, which do speed growth a little. One thing a trim will do: Eliminate split ends, making hair look better.

Myth: Stress can make your hair fall out.

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Truth: Although your hair is falling out all the time, to the tune of 50 to 120 strands per day, it’s possible that you may lose a few more strands when you’re “catastrophically” stressed, meaning you have had a major life change such as a divorce, lost job, or surgery. Other culprits are pregnancy or antibiotics.

Myth: Switching shampoos can make hair look healthier.

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Truth: Hair can’t tell the difference between brands or build up tolerance to any product. Your favorite shampoo will work the same every time you lather up, week after week, month after month. Use a shampoo that is suitable to your hair type and texture and you can’t go wrong. We recommend Schwarzkopf Miracle Oil Shampoo & Conditioner as a great gentle range suitable for most hair types

Myth: To get really clean hair, you must “lather, rinse, and repeat.”

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Truth: Depends…if you wash daily, one shampoo should be enough, however if you are a once or twice a week person you need the first shampoo to break the surface oil. Lather is over-rated though…you don’t need a massive amount of “bubbles” to have clean hair. Manufacturers add specific ingredients to add to the foaming effect because of consumer demand…in fact less lather is generally better for the hair. For a fabulous low-lather options try Kevin Murphy Hydrate Me Wash

Myth: Rinsing with ice-cold water after a shampoo will give you shinier hair.

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Truth: It might wake you up, but a dousing of cold water will have no effect on the shininess of your tresses.

Myth: Colouring your hair causes major damage.

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Truth: Depends…the ingredients in hair colour doing the most amount of damage are the alkaline agent and the oxidant (usually H2O2) If your colour does not require much of either of these (darker colours and shades close to your natural) then generally they are not too harmful. When you chose to go lighter, you need greater quantities of both which can cause your hair more stress

Myth: You can mend split ends with the right products.

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Truth: Once they’re split, that’s it. The only thing you can do then is cut them off. You can make split ends less noticeable by applying a product containing silicone but it will only temporarily seal ends together, making hair softer and more manageable. There are plenty of options to seal the ends but we recommend BC Hair Therapy Sealed Ends for making the hair smooth and manageable

Myth: Brushing your hair is good for it. 

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Truth: Back in the old days, 100 brush strokes was a way of moving the naturally occurring oils down the hairshaft. These oils contain a protein called ceramides and this protein helps to protect the cuticle. Todays frequent washing means there is little chance of a buildup of this oil and therefore your hair is lacking the protection. So; brushing your hair can contribute to split ends and hair breakage unless you use the right care products to lubricate the hair shaft. O&M’s Frizzy Logic is perfect for this…just a few drops will allow your brush to glide through.

Myth: Tight hats cause baldness.

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Truth: This one probably started in the military where young men entering the service were required to wear hats and soon showed signs of going bald, or at least of hair thinning. Male pattern hair loss is due to dehydrocorticosterone, not hats. Hats do cause hair breakage and to a lessor degree to split ends. If you are worried about hair loss or hair density try the Nioxin range of products developed to ensure the longest hair life possible

Myth: Hair can turn grey or white over night.

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Truth: What utter nonsense. Hair receives its color genetically and can only turn white over very long periods of time. The mechanism that creates colour (under the skin) stops working and the hair becomes ‘decolorised’ It is not gray…but clear white, completely lacking in colour pigment. The hair you can ‘see’ from the scalp out is unaware of this change and as it is technically ‘dead’ it cannot be affected by what is happening at the root area.

Myth: Pluck one grey hair and two grow back.

Truth: If this were true I would be pulling my hair out by the fist full. What a fantastic way to increase hair density and volume. No…pull out a gray hair and it will (in time) be replaced by another. However pull out a few and you will end up with bald patches (ot a wise idea)

Myth: Baldness is inherited from the mothers side of the family.

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Truth: More hair voodoo…male and female pattern hair loss can be inherited from either side of the family and may or may not skip many generations. Male pattern hair loss usually begins at age 18 to 20 and female hair loss (or thinning) between ages 45 and 55.

Myth: Dandruff is caused by dry scalp.

Truth: Dandruff and dry scalp are two entirely different things. A good shampoo and conditioner will take care of the dry scalp, which is ‘flaking’. Dandruff is a genetic over-production of skin cells that mean your body is not able to shed them effectively. This excess dead skin is a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus which causes itching and irritation. Medicated shampoo will be needed and generally there is no ‘cure’ it is just about controlling the symptoms. Schwarzkopf BC HairTherapy Hair & Scalp Dandruff Control is our fave

Myth: Dandruff is contagious.getty_rf_mature_man_with_dandruff_asleep_on_young_mans_shoulder

Truth: Well obviously not! On the other hand, there are plenty of nasty things you can get from someone else’s comb or brush, so be careful.

Myth: Cutting your hair during a full moon makes it grow in healthier, fuller, faster or longer.

Truth: Yeah…right!! I am not even going to dignify this one with an explanation.

Myth: Slather on mayonnaise and olive oil to deep condition your hair.

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Truth: While kitchen staples like mayo and olive oil do contain moisturizing properties, adding heaping handfuls of the stuff to your locks isn’t the ticket to silky hair. When it comes to hair health there are two things to think about. Firstly…and MOST importantly is ‘protection’. If you can keep the cuticle in tack, your hair will be gorgeous. Use lots of moisturizing treatments to keep the scales soft and pliable, cosmetic products to create lubrication, avoid heat appliances when you can and always (always) use heat protection, keep your colour to something that wont create too much damage and you will have healthy fabulous hair. For a fantastic option to use at home try BC HairTherapy Oil Miracle Treatment or Kevin Murphy Born Again Moisture Masque. If you have damaged your hair, there is no easy fix…especially if you have destroyed the scales. Once your hair is sensitised you need regular doses of protein (like O&M’s Seven Day Miracle) and lots of moisture (try Kevin Murphy Born Again Treatment) to keep it manageable. Unfortunately even the best treatments will wash out so there is no quick fix here! Your best weapon for damaged is in the new technology of the keratin treatments developed in Brazil that have taken over the world of hair reconstruction!

Myth: You can’t dye your hair while pregnant.

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Truth: No studies have conclusively proven hair dye is dangerous to a developing fetus. That said, “In general, pregnant women need to be cautious with what they’re exposing their body to. The ingredients in hair colour are quite benign, there are no known toxic chemicals…but if in doubt go for a more natural product like Schwarzkopfs Essensity Color. If you are really cautious stick to foils (then the colour is not in contact with your scalp)  as it is your skin that will absorb any chemicals NOT your hair!

Myth: If you have greasy hair, skip conditioner.

Oily hair is caused by the overproduction of sebum, a waxy, greasy substance that comes from the tissues of the scalp-so skipping conditioner altogether is not going to cure the problem. Instead, shampoo the roots with a clarifying shampoo and apply conditioner to the middle and ends of your hair only, steering clear of the scalp.” Once your hair is dry, applying dry shampoo can help absorb excess oil.

Myth: Any colour job can be done at home

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Truth: Simple, solid hair colors are suitable for those wanting to colour at home as long as you are planning to go no lighter than your current or natural hair colour. If you are confident you can apply the colour evenly (without getting it on the bathroom walls, sink, towels) then for a simple all over colour…why not!?!. More complicated processes such as highlights, really vibrant shades and going lighter than your current shade, however, are color options best left to the professionals. Hair reacts in quite a complex way to the various ingredients in hair colour and if you do not understand what you are doing, it can end in tears (and costly fix-ups). As soon as you have had an application of colour to your head, your hair is no longer considered “natural” or “virgin” hair (never coloured or chemically treated) and will react quite differently to the colouring products, even if your last service was some months ago.  Anyone with sensitive skin or scalps or those who’ve had a bad reaction to dye in the past should also leave color work to the professionals just to be safe.

Myth: Your hair color will look the same as the picture on the chart

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Truth: Your natural hair colour, the underlying pigment in your hair, the % of white in your hair, its texture and its condition will all effect the end result. If you are looking at swatches you have to remember they are indicative of the colour in the tube but cannot take your hair into consideration…plus they are nylon swatches coloured with carpet dye, NOT real hair and most definitely not YOUR hair!

Myth: The product at the supermarket is only semi-permanent 

Truth: The category of ‘demi-permanent’ or ‘tone on tone’ colour has more in common with permanent than the old-fashioned semi-permanent colours. They contain and oxidant and generally although the regrowth is less noticeable, they ‘grow out’ more than they ‘wash out’

Myth: Blond hair can go green from the chlorine in swimming pools.

Truth: True, the best thing to do if you don’t have a bathing cap is to put a heavy conditioner through your hair before going in the pool. Rinse hair immediately after swimming; do not let chlorine dry in your hair.

Myth: You can have high-lights or a lighter colour that will wash out

Truth: Most hair colour these days actually grows out with your hair. So as your hair grows through the new hair is not coloured but the old hair (on the mid-lengths and ends) still has colour in it (to some degree). When you lighten your hair you are removing natural pigment and as the hair is dead…there is no putting it back so this is a permanent process. A colourist can put some natural looking colour back into your hair to restore depth but your hair will no longer be considered ‘virgin’ hair