Hair, Dead or Alive?
Hair, a part of our body that we spend countless hours fussing with, fretting over and pouring our savings into couldn’t really be DEAD, could it!? Sounds a bit grim and frankly, depressing. Well, you’ll be happy to know the answer to the ‘Is hair dead’ question is more ‘no’ than you might think!
Physiologically speaking, the hair outside your scalp is dead. Hair has no blood, nerves or muscles. If you cut your hair, you feel no pain; nor does hair bleed or pull a muscle when stretched. So in this respect, you could say your ‘hair is dead’. However, for a ‘dead’ fibre, your hair is quite remarkable! A healthy hair will stretch up to 30% of its length, can absorb its weight in water and can also swell up to 20% of its diameter. Not only that, but the strength of hair is greater than that of copper wire of the same diameter; an average head of hair can in fact support 23 tons in weight. We change our hair’s colour shape, hairstyle, length, curl; we wash our hair, brush and set our hair, pull it, play with it, occasionally chew on it, rub it, straighten it, all to an extraordinary degree. And yet, despite all of this flagrant abuse, our hair remains amazingly resilient and tough.
Each follicle, an indentation in your skin that hair grows from, has its own blood, nerve and muscle supply. These nerves and muscles give your hair its tactile properties, allowing the slightest movement to be felt. When the muscles contract, your hair stands up more and pinches the skin, causing ‘goose bumps’. You inherit this characteristic from animals – the bristling quills of a petrified porcupine and the hairs of a less than content kitty are exaggerated examples.
Furthermore, your hair is the second fastest growing cell in your body, bone marrow being the first. This means that your hair is extremely sensitive to changes going on within you; it is often a result of internal problems and imbalances that hair loss and/or lacklustre hair can occur. Blood capillaries surrounding your follicle provide each individual hair with the nourishment needed for cell production and growth. Therefore, if you aren’t getting the vitamins, proteins, complex carbohydrates (energy) and minerals you need, your hair will not receive them either and can suffer greatly. Hormonal fluctuations caused by pregnancy menstruation, stress and personal upsets also have a great impact on hair health and growth (referring to the latter two points, you could actually say that being happy in general can contribute to Happy Hair Days).
So, even though your hair itself is technically ‘dead’, the growth of your hair is closely intertwined with the inner workings of your body as well as your psychological and emotional state. What you do, feel, eat and experience all shape the way your hair looks, feels and grows.