Technically speaking, theyou see on your head is ‘dead’. Who would have believed it when your is really looking its best — soft, shiny, easy to manage. Scientists have recently confirmed that hair is a good barometer of health; anyone who has experienced that less than top-of-the-world feeling (and who hasn’t?) can often put it down to the fact that one’s hair isn’t quite right. And what feels better than walking out of a hairdresser’s with a perfect, attractive, eye-catching coiffure?
BASIC STRUCTURE OF THE HAIR
Strangely, your hair and nails are very similar in composition — both are mainly composed of a protein called keratin and both are ‘dead’ when they are visible. This doesn’t mean to say that they can’t be looked after, improved.
If you looked at a cross-section of a hair under a microscope, it would look like the sawn-off trunk of a tree since it is composed of three concentric rings — the outer layer or cuticle, the inner layer or cortex, and the heart or medulla.
The cuticle consists of thousands of tiny, overlapping scales. When the hair is in good condition, these scales lie flat on top of each other. They are lubricated by the hair’s natural oil and the result is soft, shiny hair. Damaged or broken hair results in torn or uplifted scales that give hair a dull appearance and coarse, wiry texture.
The cortex principally contains the hair’s natural pigmentation which is made up of thousands of tiny cells called `melanocytes’. Each one is either black, yellow or red and the combination of these cells gives us our overall hair colour — ‘mouse’, for example, is a more or less equal combination of all three with often an underlying preponderance of red. As we grow older, the cortex loses its ability to manufacture this pigment and the result is the hair becoming grey, then white — I.e., colourless hair.
No-one quite knows what function the medulla has, and in some hairs it is missing entirely.
Each hair has a root lodged just underneath the skin’s surface. This is the living part of the hair; it feeds from the skin and the hair shaft is lubricated by an oil from a sebaceous gland situated right next to the root.
Each hair has an average life span of about three years. After that, it will simply fall out of theand is usually replaced by another — we’ve all noticed a certain amount of hair-loss whenever we brush or comb our hair. This is why some people will never have waist-length hair, even if they never cut it — it simply can’t grow fast enough.
Curly hair or straight, platinum blonde or black, thick or fine — all these factors are determined by our own heredity. We can’t change the basic pattern that dictates what our hair will be like, but we can help it look its very best.