Hair is one of the essential beauty attributes. All of us want to have a head of long locks, but how do we grow it? Let’s find out together with Dr. Nona.
By itself, hair is something like a means to an end: it may fall out or it may grow, but what’s really important is the place it grows from. That’s why when we talk about hair aging processes, we always imply the hair pouch (follicle) and root (bulb), whereas the hair shaft (stem) is of secondary importance. In fact, the live part of a hair is situated under the skin; the outer part is already dead hardened fiber.
Hair cosmetics can only smooth the keratin scales that form the cuticle, shaft’s outer layer. Truly effective hair treatment has to reach the hair root or, more exactly, the follicle, which contains the hair bulb.
Located at the very bottom of the follicle, which has sebaceous and sometimes sweat gland ducts opening into it, is its primary element – the hair papilla, a peg of connective tissue penetrated by capillaries. It is the papilla that is responsible for the condition and growth of hair. If a papilla is intact, the hair that has died for some reason will be replaced by a new one. This process may be divided into three stages: the anagen phase (an average of 2–3 years and 7–8 years at a young age) which is the growth period, the catagen phase (2–3 weeks) – the transitional period when the growth stops but the papilla cells are still active, and the telogen phase (3–4 months) which is the resting period when the papilla “sleeps”. Old hair falls out during the second or third stage, and then it’s back to the start again.
When a papilla’s blood supply is impaired, the hair bulb doesn’t get enough macroelements (including protein, which, in fact, is hair’s building block), vitamins, and minerals. Devoid of these nutrients, hair grows weak and dry; instead of forming a thick keratin scale armor, the cuticle opens up like a last year’s pine cone.
Hair goes dim, gets tangled and broken. The anagen phase also becomes shorter, which means undernourished hair falls out much more often than healthy hair.
Some sad statistics: at the beginning stages of menopause and hormonal changes, women averagely lose about 20% of their hair. However, age is more than just endocrine readjustment. Usually age is also atherosclerosis, anemia, and cervical osteochondrosis, which causes the compression of blood vessels in the neck.
This leads to insufficient blood supply leaving your hair starving. The result is it looks no better than straw from a couple of years ago. Of course, balms and masks can make damaged hair smoother, firmer, and even thicker, but for how long? “Improvements” like this won’t even last until next washing. Hair roots will remain as malnourished as before. Additionally, as the result of poor nutrition hair papillae gradually die themselves (the telogen phase turns into “eternal sleep”), so that lost hair gets no replacement.
It is clear that it’s the root or, specifically, the papilla where it grows and not the hair shaft which requires nourishment and stimulation. It’s also clear that one-time procedures, however effective they might be, will not change anything. Do we need daily nutrition? Well, our hair does, too. And it has to be complex and methodical.
We’ll find out what kind of complex approach is necessary for our hair next week.