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Hair Raising Facts

Hair does not grow at a constant rate. Its growth is seasonal and it grows faster in summers. The growth phase varies from person to person.

health and fitness Updated: Aug 06, 2003 19:47 IST

Is it true that hair grows faster in summer?

Hair does not grow at a constant rate. In the first place, its growth is seasonal - it grows faster in summer than in winter. Second, hair does not grow indefinitely. The growth phase of hair varies from person to person. It generally lasts for two to six years but it may go on for much longer, as the fact that some people have hair 1ong enough to sit on indicates. When the growth phase ends, the hair follicle enters the resting phase of its cycle. This lasts for a few months only.

What is Club Hair?

Club hair is the old hair that stops growing and simply remains in the follicle until a new hair forms underneath and pushes it out. We lose club hair all the time without noticing it - between 20 and 100 each day. Fortunately the growth or resting phases are not synchronised in adjacent follicles.

What controls hair growth?

Hair growth is under hormonal control. The hormones govern the development of hair that appears after puberty. The male hormone, testosterone, governs beard, body hair and hair in the armpits. The female hormone, oestrogen, generally prevents hair growth on the chin and encourages it to grow on the head. Occasionally women develop signs of male patterned baldness at menopause when oestrogen levels drop. Treatment with oestrogen has been successful in restoring hair growth.

What causes disturbances of hair growth?

All the hair follicles a person will ever have are present at birth. Follicles that die are not replaced and never again produce a hair. It follows that any condition that destroys large number of follicles makes the hair permanently thin. This is what happens in male baldness and in certain rare, scarring diseases of the scalp. Proprietary hair-restorers will do nothing whatsoever to help these conditions. Nothing can make a dead hair follicle produce new roots.

Illness, prolonged drug therapy or emotional stress can also affect hair growth and its quality, so that patches of thinning hair appear. However, this condition, called alopecia, is usually only temporary. Quite often the result is simply to shorten the hair's life cycle so that it enters its resting phase prematurely. Rather than cause hair loss, illness may make the hair thinner in diameter, more liable to split and less shiny.

If a serious illness sends the majority of hair into a simultaneous resting phase, their loss will show up as a thinning of hair or even as bald patches but within a matter of months the new hair should grow through.

Pregnancy, a very dramatic event physiologically, can have this effect too. It is quite common for a new mother to experience some degree of post-partum hair loss, a worrying phenomenon.

When the hair grows again (and this may take up to two years) it may have different characteristics from before. It may grow wavy or straight for example, instead of curly. This is simply a reflection of the immense impact that pregnancy and child-bearing have upon a woman's body. There is, unfortunately no specific treatment for this condition, but it is advisable to treat the hair and scalp as gently as possible during the period of regrowth.


First Published: Aug 06, 2003 19:12 IST