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Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Understanding how your hair works and what it needs.

This might be the science bit but I promise it's short and not too scientific!

The hair root grows out of a kind of bag beneath the skin. The hair strand grows about 0.35mm per day, making an average growth rate of 1cm, or half of an inch, per month. But this will vary depending upon who you are, hereditary factors as well as your diet and general health.

Healthy hair has an average lifetime of between two and six years. During the lifetime of the hair it continues to grow until it reaches the limit of its natural lifespan and then after a short rest period the hair will die and fall out. A new hair will begin to grow from the same bag almost immediately. The lifetime of your hair is determined by many factors, some hereditary, some related to your health and also your current circumstances. The lifetime of your hair will determine the maximum length of hair you can have.

Waist length hair takes about 6 years to grow out from a short hair cut. If your hair has an average life cycle of 2 years before falling out it is clear that you will never be able to grow waist length hair. There you have it folks... time to think about how quickly your hair grows and perhaps put those dreams of Lady Godiva hair behind you.

If you are very happy with what nature has given you as a starting point then you are very lucky and all you have to do is to leave well alone or perhaps just spend extra time on grooming. This I believe would be the ideal. You see nature has designed the perfect hair for each of us… and we were born with it… or it grew very soon after! Why is it that most mother’s while applying all sorts of artifice to change their own hair will rarely if ever use such things on their young children? Because your mother knows that your natural hair really is lovely and it is perfect for your face and your personality. It is what suits you best… I don’t care what is in fashion at the time, your natural hair type, colour and texture is the best you will ever have… every chemical, strong detergent or unnatural solution you apply to alter that may give you a temporary change but ultimately will affect your natural condition, usually for the worse.

While we are young many of us can use lots of chemical products and rough treatments on our hair which can be recovered from with little or no lasting damage. As we get older, or if we become unwell, recovering becomes harder and the damage to your hair may be permanent.

A Hairbrush is the key to good Grooming.

Choose your grooming implements with care and do not skimp on cost as far as these are concerned. A good quality brush and comb will last you for years. A wide toothed comb is important for combing out tangles, especially when hair is wet, choose one that is perfectly smooth with no seams or rough edges upon which your hair can catch. If your hair is long or especially thick you will not need any other comb but if you have short or fine hair then choose a smaller toothed comb for fine styling. The comb can be made of anything at all, the most important thing is that it is very very smooth.
Choosing a brush for good grooming is not as simple as it sounds. I know that there are many modern fibres that may make the use of natural bristles redundant but I have yet to find a synthetic brush that did as good a job as the well made natural bristle brush. Most natural bristle fibres are made from pig hair. Many people would prefer not to use a brush containing pig hair. In my opinion there is no synthetic substance to match and until one is invented I am happy to use the natural fibres. In an ideal world it would have come from an organic pig and perhaps one day that will be the norm – that would certainly make a big difference to the conscience side of things but until then… we are stuck with what we have.

Never brush wet hair. Wet hair stretches very easily and although healthy hair can stand a certain amount of this, damaged hair will simply break. Begin your morning hair grooming routine by combing the hair with a wide toothed comb. If your hair is long start at the end holding the hair with your free hand so as not to pull it excessively when tangles are encountered. Slowly work your way upwards towards the scalp. When you have combed the hair thoroughly take up your brush and begin at the scalp with long sweeping strokes. Think about the process as you brush, you are lifting sebum from the scalp and transporting it down the length of the hair. If your hair is very long it is likely that the ends will always be more dry than the roots as the sebum runs out before you get the brush right to the end of the hair. But even if your hair is short it is still a good idea to do the full brushing routine. Brush your hair for a good 5 minutes at least.

The old tale of 100 strokes with the hairbrush is a good one – though it isn’t necessary to count the strokes, about 5 full minutes will do it. Don’t worry about static electricity this can be easily sorted by passing your free hand along the length of your hair behind the brush.

Many modern shampoos and conditioners actually cause static in your hair and a natural bristle brush goes along way to dissipating any static build up. You should not make static the reason why you cannot follow a good grooming routine. It can be very pleasant to brush your hair thoroughly, not only does it improve the health of your hair, it massages and stimulates the scalp too. And it’s a great deal cheaper than paying for an Indian head massage. (and even better if you can get someone to brush it for you!)

If you have long hair that is not tied up during the day it may be necessary to groom again at lunch time or early evening.
If your hair is excessively dry you may wish to try a little natural conditioner at this point. The best natural conditioner is of course the scalps own sebum but sometimes a little help is required.

Jojoba oil does this very well but does not suit everyone. Coconut oil is another good choice, but in reality any vegetable oil (olive, sunflower, sweet almond) will do provided you are happy with its natural aroma. A few drops applied at regular intervals throughout the day can be very beneficial. It is important not to overload the hair. If your hair is short sprinkle a few drops of oil onto the palms of your hand and then rub them together. Massage your hands over your hair (avoid direct massage onto the scalp, try to concentrate on the hair only). It is immediately obvious when you have overdone it as the hair becomes lank and dull. If your hair is excessively dry and/or very wiry or curly, you can repeat this process until you get the desired effect.

If your hair is long then begin applying the oil to the bottom and driest portion of the hair first. Work your way up the hair shaft towards the scalp, again it is important not to overload the hair with oil. A little oil applied at regular intervals will work much better than a lot applied all in one go.

If you are using a natural moisturiser on your face in the morning and you find that you have slightly greasey fingers afterwards, simply massge in the excess onto your dry ends - it works just as well as applying neat oil.

In the next post I will talk about styling your hair naturally - and then we will tackle the subject of hair dye.  Including full instructions for using henna and other natural hair dyes.


  1. Once again, very interesting. I have learnt so much from your posts. I would not have thought that short hair would benefit from brushing or rubbing oil into it. I remember years ago using the VO5 hot oil conditioner, that you hearted in a bowl of water, put on the hair, left for a while, then rinsed off - I think, or maybe washed it, I can't remember. I used to love that. Can I do the same with olive oil do you think?

  2. You most certainly can do the same with olive oil and it is very beneficial to both hair and scalp - but it could make your hair a bit lank and heavy, it all depends upon the type of hair you have to start with.


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