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Human Hair Structure And Its Care

Any woman who appreciates good looks and great hairstyles also recognizes the merit in taking good care of it. It surely makes taking good care of hair a lot easier and purposeful, if one understands the hair structure, its characteristics, the condition of the scalp it grows on, etc.

The structure of hair and its growth
Hair is made of strong elastic strands of protein called keratin and in chemical terms is composed of oxygen, iron, nitrogen, hydrogen, sulfur, carbon and phosphorus. The exact proportions of these chemical elements vary with sex, age, type and color of hair.

The sources of hair are very small tiny pockets in our skin and scalp known as follicles. These follicles are not evenly spread on the scalp but are found together in groups of two to five each. Every follicle follows a life cycle of its own producing six inches of hair a year for as long as four years before it falls out then starts all over again after a short period.

The basal tip of the hair in the scalp is known as papilla which is a small out-growth of the skin shaped like a doorknob and lying at the tip of the follicle. The papilla contains the blood vessels to supply nourishment to the hair.

During the active period the new cell growth pushes the older part of the hair away from the papilla until the hair falls out. It is the pattern of cell growth at the papilla which determines whether hair grow straight wavy or curly.

The growth pattern usually becomes uneven during the adolescence when the hair growth is at its peak. It declines as we grow older. The cell growth pattern can change otherwise also due to illness, drugs, pregnancy, etc. Though hair strands look as singular fibers, each hair is constructed in three different layers: the cuticle, the cortex and the medulla.

The cuticle is the outermost layer of the hair which provides protection to the inner cortex layer. It is made up of flattened, hard, horny cells. When the cuticle breaks and dislodges at the end of the hair, the result is split ends. Improper care and frequent use of harsh chemicals on hair damage the cuticle.

The cortex is the second layer. The qualitative properties of strength, elasticity, pliability, direction and growth pattern, width and the texture of hair depend on the composition of the cortex. The cortex is composed of fibers twisted together like a rope.

It is the cortex which gives the hair its color. The presence of the four natural pigments black, brown, yellow and red are logged in the cortex in varying proportions, and the air spaces in the cortex determine the color and shade of hair. The excess black and deep brown pigment is what gives oriental women the dark hair they possess. Lastly, the medulla is the unimportant innermost layer which is composed of soft keratin. Medulla is often not present in some hair. Hair that lacks medulla is no worse than hair that has medulla.

The characteristics of healthy hair
It may surprise you, but till date, no cosmetologist or trichologist has been able to comprehensively and conclusively describe all the characteristics of healthy hair.

Some of the most common characteristics of healthy hair quoted are:
1. Thick and dense.
2. Fine and silky, which means not too oily or rough.
3. Luster-filled, having a shine and gloss.
4. Pliable, capable of setting and styling.
5. Full-bodied and not limp or lank.

While describing the condition of hair, it is important to keep in mind, the hair growth.
Unless the growth is proper and regular, the hair condition is considered affected.

Regular care of hair
Taking care of hair is in fact much the same as taking care of skin. An effective hair-care discipline involves cleansing, toning and conditioning routines carried out with religious regularity.
Another important aspect of effective care is the use of proper hair-care products. Different types of hair need different hair-care products. The use of wrong products is detrimental to the hair.

Cleansing is the foremost routine in daily hair care. The purpose of cleansing is to wash away excess oil on hair and scalp and clear the hair follicles off the debris of unexfoliated dead cells. Proper cleansing encourages healthy hair growth.

After cleansing, the scalp and hair need the toning exercise. The toning of scalp and hair is achieved by gently massaging the head. This helps in stimulating and invigorating the blood circulation required for the healthy growth of hair. The most important part of hair-care is conditioning. It is a restorative routine.

If the hair is excessively stripped of moisture or oil due to harsh cleansing, sun or application of harsh chemicals such as perm lotions, etc., the conditioning routine aims at restoring and correcting the imbalance. The kind of conditioning required depends entirely on the physical condition of the hair.

Kevin Pederson has been managing a number of natural home remedies websites which have information on home based natural cures and remedies for hair problems like graying and many more .