While many of us may wish for long, luscious, healthy hair, we are not always that lucky. Growing your hair requires time, effort and patience! Often people who have dry, damaged or very thin, limp hair struggle to grow their hair. This may partly be due to a poor diet, underlying diseases, hormonal changes, certain medications, hair treatments such as bleaching, dyeing, tight braiding, blow drying, straightening or hot curlers.
Most people are not even aware that the hair on their heads has a lifespan of their own and that shedding of hair is normal, natural and healthy. To understand how your hair works, you firstly have to understand the anatomy of hair and how hair grows.
Anatomy of Hair
Hair is composed of two basic structures – the follicle which is found in the skin and the hair shaft lies above the skin. The follicle consists of several layers and each layer has its own specific functions. At the base of the follicle is a stocking-like structure called papilla which contain capillaries and supply blood to the cells.
Surrounding the bottom part of papilla is a structure known as the bulb. The follicle is surrounded by two sheaths – inner and outer sheaths. There primary function is to protect the hair shaft and to help shape it so that it grows in the correct direction. The inner sheath runs next to the hair shaft, ending at the sebaceous gland. The outer sheath runs next to the gland, ending at the erector pili muscle – hair stand on end when this muscle contracts.
The hair shaft is made up of three layers of dead, hard protein called keratin. The innermost layer is called the medulla and may not always be present in the hair shaft. The cortex is situated in the second layer and makes up most of the hair shaft – this is part of the hair that provides bounce and curl.
Pigment cells that are spread throughout the cortex determine the color of your hair. The outermost layer is known as the cuticle and is responsible for the hair’s luster and sheen.
Hair Growth Cycle
There are three phases of the hair growth cycle – anagen, catagen and telagen phases.
Anagen (growing) phase is defined as the growing or the ‘on’ phase where the hair cells grow faster - hair cells divide and new hair growth occurs. The anagen phase normally lasts for approximately 1000 days, as long as two to six years. The length of the anagen phase determines how long your hair will grow.
Catagen (transitional) phase also often referred to as the transitional phase runs about two to three weeks. During this period, your hair stops growing and the hair follicle shrinks and stops growing.
Telagen (dormant) phase is the final resting or dormant phase which lasts for about five to six weeks. During this phase hair may fall out or remain connected to the hair follicle until the growth of new hair forces it out. This usually occurs when you brush or comb your hair or notice stray hairs in the bath. Approximately 10 to 15% of a person’s hair is experienced during the telogen phase.
Hair Growth Disorders
There are two types of hair growth disorders known as hirsutism and hypertrichosis. Hirsutism is a condition which predominantly affects women where abundant thick and dark hair growth occurs in areas of the body mostly found on men – face, chest and areola. Hypertrichosis is a condition which results in excessive hair growth in areas of the body where visible hair is not normally present.
Herbal remedies are a more natural alternative to help promote and stimulate healthy hair growth. These remedies are safe and gentle to use on the body and hair without the harsh side effects that strong chemicals have to offer.
Two well known herbs such as Ginkgo biloba and Rosmarinus officinale encourages healthy blood supply and circulation to the hair follicles and scalp, and also supports the body’s system. Other herbal ingredients include Xanthoxylum clavaherculis, Equisetum arvense, Achillea millifolium and Avena sativa supports the thyroid and all mechanisms involved in hormonal balance in the body.
Tips to maximize hair growth
* Follow these helpful tips for long, abundant hair:
* Eat a healthy diet that is filled with fresh vegetables, fruit, lean meat and fish.
* Get plenty of sleep and rest to ensure that your body allows hair growth
* Increase your intake of zinc and iron supplements to help hair grow faster
* Eliminate smoking, caffeine, carbonated sodas, sugary and fatty foods as they block hair growth
* Have regular scalp massages or rub your scalp with your finger tips when shampooing your hair to stimulate hair follicles
* Brush your hair daily and use a soft bristle brush to prevent breakage
* Avoid using hot water, hot blow dryers, hair straightners or other hair tools that may damage hair
* Have regular treatments such as hot oil or protein treatments to protect the hair’s shafts
* Have regular trims to get rid of split ends – at least every eight weeks
* Wash your hair regularly as an oily scalp can clog follicles and prevent hair from growing
* Consider hair extensions, clip-on braids and ponytails or long wigs for instant