Like skin and nails, hair is made from keratin. Hair acts as a protective barrier. For example, eyelashes protect the eyes, hairs in the nostrils and ears trap and prevent the entry of foreign bodies, and eyebrows prevent sweat dripping into the eyes.
Attached to the base of each hair is a minute strip of muscle which is stimulated by cold or emotional stress. When the muscle tightens, the hair stands up trapping air and conserving heat. Each hair grows for up to five years before entering a ‘resting’ phase. As the growth stops, the hair falls out and after about three months a new hair begins to grow to take its place.
Obviously, the number of hairs varies between individuals but, on average there are about 100,000 hairs on your head and you might lose anything between 40-120 hairs a day. Colour is determined by how much pigment hair contains. As we get older, we tend to produce less pigment which is why hair goes grey.
The reasons for hair loss are various including physical ailments, skin conditions, allergic reactions, and mental stress. The most common type of hair loss is baldness which is caused by hormonal change in the body as we get older. Unless you intend to stick the bum of a Canadian beaver to the top of your head – get used to it, it’s a fact of life! Shorter hair – properly groomed – can be dead sexy in a man of any age. For some men, however, hair loss is a major upset particularly when their young. If hair loss causes you stress, depression or makes you feel inadequate talk to your GP before spending money on potions or transplants.
Dandruff is a common but relatively harmless condition where dead skin cells are shed from the scalp. This produces white flakes which are best noticed on dark suits. The usual cause is a scaly rash called seborrhoeic dermatitis that can also affect the chest, face and back. Treatment involves regular use of a medicated anti-dandruff shampoo from your chemist although a cortico-steroid or anti-fungal drug are sometimes required (through your GP).
Hair care tips
- Shampoo your hair regularly to remove any build up of dirt and grease.
- Beware of harsh anti-dandruff shampoos – ask your hairdresser, chemist or perhaps barber for advice.
- When washing your hair massage your scalp to stimulate blood flow and to release tension.
- Rinse your hair thoroughly (under a shower stream if possible).
- Use a conditioner to smooth the outer surface of the hairs.
- Keep hair dryers at least 15 centimetres away from the head to avoid heat damage.
- Don’t brush your hair when it is wet, as it is at its weakest then.
- Avoid over-vigorous rubbing of wet hair, which can cause split ends and tangling.
- If you cut your own hair with electric clippers make sure you choose the correct setting.
- (Once it’s cut – it can’t be undone!) Make sure that you cut evenly; uneven patches or tufts of hair which have not been trimmed look truly dreadful.
- Ear and nose hairs can get long and straggly but can be kept short with a trimmer, or plucked out (which does a better job).
- Stray eyebrows can be plucked.
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