Honestly, there is no ‘one secret’, but here we provide a combination of a few natural and nourishing tips to promote luscious locks.
Hair is mostly thought of in the eyes of beauty, but in actual fact our whole body is covered in microscopic hairs that are 60-100 microns (one millionth of a metre) in width.
Hair follicles are fully developed by 22 weeks on a foetus. By this time there are 5 million hair follicles on the body. There are two parts to hair; the hidden follicle, found in the skin/scalp, and the shaft which is the external protrusion that we see. Hair growth begins in the dermis of skin, this is densely populated by capillaries which feed the hair nutrients. Hair follicles develop from stem cell, these are cells that differentiate and specialise. Stem cells divide every 24 to 72 hours which causes the hair shaft to be pushed up and out of the scalp/skin. As the shaft grows the cells are keratinized giving hair its strong yet flexible texture.
There are 3 stages to the hair growth cycle these are, Anagen, Catagen then Telogen.
- Anagen is the most active phase of hair. This is where the stem cells that make up hair divide rapidly. This hair has the potential to grow approximately 1cm every month. This phase lasts between 3 to 6 years.
- Catagen, nearing the end of the Anagen phase your hair will move into the Catagen phase. This is the shortest phase only lasting 2 weeks. It is often described as a transition phase. Growth ceases and the shaft attaches to the root of the hair, this is now a stable club hair.
- Telogen, this is the final phase lasting around 3 months for hairs on the head. For other hairs on the body this phase is much longer. Below this newly formed hair the Anagen and Catagen phases will be taking place that will eventually push out the pre-existing hair.
What is the role of hair on our bodies?
Hairs on the head, majority of the limbs and torso are used for temperature regulation within the body. Below the bulb of the hair there are muscles called arrector pili, these are responsible for the movement of hair. When you are cold the hairs stand up, when you are warm they lie flat, this is due to active work of the arrector muscles. When your body temperature drops due to external temperature the arrector muscle contracts pulling the hair into an upright position, this traps a layer of warmed air just above the skin which serves to increase body temperature.
Hair is also used as an evolutionary response. You will notice when feral animals, dogs and cats get scared or feel threatened their hair stands upright to ward off the threat, this is the same in humans. During a horror film or surprise you may feel the “hairs on the back of your neck stand up”, this is due to the body feeling under attack. This is an innate response we are yet to grow out of.
Lastly, are the eyelashes and eyebrows. Eyelashes seek to remove and prevent any foreign objects entering the eye, think of them as the human body’s windscreen wipers. Ensuring that we always have clear vision. Eyebrows are less obvious, there are two theories, one of which is to ensure that sweat is kept out of eyes, and the other is as a form of non-verbal communication.
Diseases that Effect Hair Growth
There are direct diseases that effect its growth such as alopecia, male pattern baldness, and hair loss. Or there are disorders that indirectly effect hair growth, these are ringworm, eczema, psoriasis, acne, and unmanaged Celiac disease.
Nutrients and Supplements that may encourage hair growth
Selenium, Biotin, Copper and Zinc are all approved and supported by the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) as nutrients that are scientifically proven to promote the health of hair. Selenium is used to treat dandruff, and is typically used in many anti-dandruff shampoos. Selenium is a potent antioxidant which means it protects the skin and scalp from UV ray exposure. Selenium is found naturally in seafood, tuna, and its most potent source Brazil nuts. In addition, EFSA have approved that Zinc is an essential nutrient for the support of the immune system which can lead to improved hair growth from the follicle. A case study conducted on a young girl with alopecia found that with daily doses of zinc hair growth returned to normal after 3 weeks. Zinc is found in Oysters, beef Organ meats and some seeds. Studies have shown nutritional deficiencies in both Selenium and Zinc lead to hair thinning and loss.
If you are concerned about that dreaded first grey hair then Copper may be the answer to your prayers. Copper has been clinically proven to aid hair pigmentation, and turn back the clock on those pesky ageing hairs. Copper is used to promote melanin production needed for pigmentation in the skin, eyes and hair. Foods rich in Copper include seafood, organ meats, and dark chocolate.
Lastly, is Biotin. Biotin is technically classified as the water soluble Vitamin B7. Science has long proven that Biotin is incredibly effective in maintaining the health and growth of hair. Some claim that it even helps to regrow lost hair. You can consume Biotin naturally in foods such as eggs, legumes, wholegrains and milk.
When looking for an effective hair supplement ensure that it contains Selenium, Zinc, Biotin, or Copper for optimal hair health. It’s also suggested that Vitamin C and a Vitamin B complex would be helpful to produce the building blocks of hair.
Other tips for healthy hair..
- Trim your hair regularly, this prevents breakages and allows for healthy long hair.
- Massage your scalp, this causes blood to flow to the scalp, with blood comes nutrients to nourish and feed hair to help it grow.
- Quit hair styling. Heat products can be hugely damaging to hair, causing damage all the way to the root.
- Take Vitamins specifically designed for hair growth. Your diet may not always provide the adequate nutrients needed to boost your hair follicles.
- Follow these simple steps, eat well, take your vitamins and you will be one step closer to luscious and healthy locks.
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