Love, hate, envy and betrayal. They define our messiest relationships—including the one we have with our locks.
That’s why we’ve sought the scoop on scalps from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) expert Adelaide A. Hebert, MD, a dermatology and pediatrics professor at UTHealth Medical School.
First, know your enemy. Hair is more than a four-letter word and title of a ‘60s musical. The threads of keratin on our heads sprout from sacs or follicles, derived from the Latin follies, or bags. Strands elsewhere stop growth only to a certain point. Those atop our scalps extend six inches yearly, with 90 percent of follicles laboring at a time. The fibers have no feelings, even when you chop or berate them, but follicles do. (Thus, pulling hairs stings briefly.)
Yet you can manipulate your mane, notes Hebert. Dye transforms silver highlights into other shades, heat can straighten or curl, while silicone and other products can thicken strands and even smooth cuticles on the shaft, making hair seem glossier and healthier.
“You cannot make hair grow faster, and you cannot always reverse hair loss,” says Hebert. We all lose 100 drain-clogging strands daily, but sometimes shed more.
10 reasons locks leave
1. Age. Time slows the activity of our follicles and pigment cells. Tresses become sparser, coarser and eventually colorless.
2. Tugging. Pulling hair too tightly for pony tails—or braiding it to add extensions —can cause traction alopecia, while rubber bands break strands. Solutions? Loosen hairstyles, use coated elastic bands and wash and towel-dry hair gently before taming tresses with minimal use of a wide-tooth comb. Seek a new stylist or switch to clip-in extensions.
3. Crash diets. Cutting calories—especially from meat and other protein which feed hair growth—can lead to fall out. But hair often returns (like pounds, alas). A well-rounded diet means healthier hair.
Can you remember the last time you saw your doctor? If not, it’s time to make an appointment this Monday. General check-ups can catch problems early and ensure timely treatment and better health.