The structure and color of hair, and the many ways in which it is styled, can define the identities of both individuals and ethnic groups.

The traditional long pigtail of the Manchu Chinese, and of the Han Chinese of the Qing Dynasty, and the long hair worn in a topknot under a turban of the Sikhs, a warrior caste in India, are examples. Smaller groups wanting to create a separate identity for themselves include Oliver Cromwell’s followers who cropped their hair close to their heads—the “Roundheads” as they were called—in defiance of the curls and ringlets of the king’s men. In England, bobbed hair was popular among the “Flappers” in the 1920s as a sign of rebellion against traditional roles laid down for women. Indian sadhus wear their hair long for religious reasons. Then there are the Rastafarians with their dreadlocks. Traditionally, Hindu widows shave their heads in renunciation. We also have the military crew-cut and the spiked and dyed “punk” or “Mohican” hairstyles adopted by some young people to set themselves apart.

So much for hairstyles! For those of you who are scientifically inclined, let’s get down to the anatomy of a hair and its growth process. A hair has two separate structures: a follicle under the skin and a visible shaft that protrude out of the skin. The follicle contains several layers with different roles to play. At the base of the follicle is an inner papilla containing capillaries or tiny blood vessels that feed the cells of the hair bulb. The living part of the hair, or the bulb, is the area surrounding the papilla that is fed by the capillaries. The cells and the bulb divide every 23 to 72 hours which is faster than any other cells in the body. The follicle has an inner and outer sheath to protect and mold the growing hair shaft. The inner sheath ends below the sebaceous (oil) gland, while the outer sheath continues all the way up this gland. The sebum produced by this gland is a natural conditioner.

The hair shaft is made up of a hard dead protein, in three layers, called keratin. The inner layer or medulla is followed by the cortex and, lastly, the cuticle. The cortex forms the major part of the shaft. Pigment cells distribute themselves throughout the cortex and the medulla, giving hair its color. Scalp hair grows about 3–4 millimeters a day, or about six inches a year. These figures can vary depending on hair, type of climate, and other factors. Unlike other mammals, human hair loss is random and not seasonal or cyclic.

There are three phases of hair growth: catagen, telogen, and anagen. The catagen phase is a transitional one lasting about 2 to 3 weeks, and 3% of all hairs are in this phase at any given time. During this phase, growth stops and the outer root sheath shrinks and attaches to the root of the hair to form a “club” hair. Telogen is the resting phase and involves 10 to 15% of all hair, lasting for about 100 days. About 25 to 100 telogen hairs are normally shed each day. Anagen is the active phase of hair growth, with cells at the root dividing rapidly. A new hair is formed and pushes the club hair up the follicle and eventually out. During this phase the hair grows about 1 cm every 28 days. Scalp hair stays in this active phase for 2 to 6 years. People with a long active phase are able to grow very long hair.

The amount of natural curl a hair has is determined by its cross-sectional shape. If this shape is circular, then the hair is straight. If it is flattened and elliptical, the hair is curly. Straight hair tends to shinier than curly hair because sebum can travel up the hair more easily.

Having discussed the structure of the hair, let’s discuss the painful subject of hair loss. Hair loss can be devastating to one’s self-esteem, and its causes are many and varied, ranging from the use of harsh chemicals and dyes, stress (a significant cause), illness, a bad diet, lack of exercise, drugs, or high fever among others. Here we should emphasize DHT or dihydrotestosterone, a derivative of the male hormone, testosterone, which women also have in trace amounts. It is one of the major causes of hair loss in men, and to a lesser extent, in women. Testosterone converts to DHT with the aid of an enzyme, Type II 5-Alpha reductase, which is present in the sebaceous gland of the hair follicle. DHT, binding to receptors in hair follicles, shrinks the hair follicles, not allowing healthy hair to survive. This can happen in both men and women with differing causes for each. Natural inhibitors of DHT include herbs such saw palmetto, stinging nettle, green tea, pumpkin seed oil, emu oil, fenugreek, and Fo ti, a Chinese herb, among others. There are several natural hair products in the market that include some of these DHT inhibitors in their composition. One that we can personally recommend as being an effective hair growth formula is Hair Essentials.

We will now list a few traditional remedies for hair regrowth and scalp health. These include both medicinal herbs and oils. Some herbs are applied to the scalp after steeping them in water that has just been boiled for around an hour and then cooled. Others are used in oil form, either singly or in combination. Among the most hair nourishing herbs and other plants are: aloe vera, amla (Indian gooseberry), bhringaraj (Eclipta alba), burdock root, calendula, fenugreek, ginger root oil, gotukula (also known as brahmi), horsetail (Equisetum arvensa), lavender, licorice, oat straw (Abena sativa), rosemary, and shikakai (Acacia consinnna). Of these herbs, brahmi and bhringaraj are ancient Ayurvedic herbs that have been consistently used to promote a healthy scalp and strong hair growth. Fenugreek, apart from stimulating hair growth, also inhibits DHT. Ginger root oil increases circulation in hair follicles, promoting stronger and faster hair growth. It is also good for clearing up dandruff and dealing with other unhealthy skin conditions. Horsetail is a very well-known hair and scalp remedy containing silica, a nutrient capable of repairing damage and fortifying new and existing hair against breakage. Lavender, apart from promoting hair growth, is an insect repellent for ticks, fleas, mosquitos, and head lice. Oat straw contains silica for strong hair growth. Shikakai is a well-known traditional Asian remedy for hair cleansing and strengthening hair roots.

Here are some suggestions to help prevent hair loss.

1)    Pick shampoos that are sulphate-free as sulphates (the stuff that creates suds when lathered) strip away natural oils that condition the hair and keep it healthy and strong.

2)    Avoid styling wet hair as it is susceptible to damage and breakage. Use a diffuser on lowest or no heat and a wide tooth comb.

3)    Shampoo less frequently to prevent loss of natural oils and apply natural moisturizers such as jojoba oil after a shampoo.

4)    Protect hair from chlorine in swimming pools.

5)    Avoid commercial hair dyes as they contain hydrogen peroxide or ammonia that harm the hair. Natural dying solutions could include tea, henna, and amla, or those that do not contain hydrogen peroxide or ammonia.

6)    Trim split ends regularly to help hair grow longer as split ends cause breakage and, if unchecked, weaken the hair.

7)    Diet should include proteins such as fish, lean poultry, nuts, soya and tofu, and fat-free yoghurt as hair is built primarily of keratin protein.

8)    Biotin, a B vitamin found naturally in foods such as salmon, wheat germ, almonds, chicken, and egg yolks, is an important hair vitamin.

9)    Scalp massage stimulates the hair follicles and increases circulation. Any of the natural oils good for the scalp and hair can be used for added health benefits. Coconut oil is a particularly good head massage oil for scalp health and hair growth. Taken internally, it helps not only hair but a host of health issues.

As the human body continues to evolve, we could at some future date end up with spindly limbs and large heads, as bald as eggs!!! Let us enjoy our tresses while we have them!

Please Note: We have identified a number of high quality traditional Ayurvedic hair remedies, organic herbs and oils, as well as effective hair supplements sold by companies that we would personally recommend. You can find out more about these companies and the excellent hair loss solutions that they offer by visiting our product page at the link below:

 Natural Solutions to Stop Hair Loss and Regrow Your Hair.



1)    ‘Biology of Hair’ – Heather Brannon

2)    Wikipedia



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