Archive for the ‘DISEASE/ILLNESS’ Category

HAIR

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

HAIR:

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“The hair is the richest ornament of women.”

Martin Luther (1483 – 1546)  German religious reformer.   

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Prologue:

There is universal human interest in hair and hair-styling throughout history and around the world. Hair has served as a signifier of class, gender, ethnicity, conformity/non-conformity, authority, and power throughout history. Attitudes towards hair, such as hairstyles and hair removal, vary widely across different cultures and historical periods. While some of us define ourselves by our faces and bodies, others place a lot of weight on how our hair looks. After all, hair is our body’s fashion statement. You’re born with a natural hair color, shape and hairstyle. A large part of your personal appearance is determined by your hair. Some people want to restore their hair, some want to remove it, and others just want a fancy hair style or color. Hair, whether present or absent, restored or removed, abundant or scarce, long or short, bound or unbound, colored or natural; marks a person as clearly as speech, clothing, and smell. Hair is also the only body structure that is completely renewable without scarring. It reflects a person’s gender, racial identification, sexual availability and desirability, age, marital status, social status, religion, personal beliefs, self-esteem, attitude, and even political stance. It may also act as a basis for discrimination in treatment by others. It plays a big role in determining how people are attracted to us, and whom we’re attracted to. I am attracted to women with long hair and repulsed by women with short hair. Hair is often seen as rather irrelevant medically, as human hair loss is not life threatening. Nevertheless, hair is very important for most people. A recent study says that an average woman spends 10 days a year making sure her hair looks perfect. It further says that 10 minutes each day are devoted to washing and conditioning, 15 minutes to blow drying and 15 minutes in styling the locks; that sums up to 40 minutes in total. One might sometimes wonder why women are willing to invest so much time and money into their hair. Well, it’s not just for vanity’s sake. Hair, in a way, is a mode of expression and the way you carry your hair talks a lot about your personality. A haircut has the knack of changing a woman tremendously, from both within and outside. A ‘bad hair day’ is a common expression for days when everything goes wrong! This reflects the important role hair plays in human communication in both social and sexual contexts, and explains why hair loss causes serious psychological distress.   

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The photo above shows same woman in two different hairstyles. Obviously, the one on the left is attractive.

No wonder humans are obsessed with hairstyles. Hair is the only body part of human beings that can be changed to influence social interaction.

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The visual above shows a woman who does not like straight hair even though she looks attractive. She wants wavy curly hair as portrayed below.

All the frustration of women stem from one thing: trying to change the texture of their hair. Curly headed girls want straight hair and straight haired girls want curly hair. This desire leads women to spend, on average, $35,000 on their hair over the course of their lifetimes. It also adds up to a staggering two and a half years spent washing, drying, and styling hair.    

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Hair symbolism:

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Is hair singular or plural?
When one says I was washing my hair, is it singular or plural? What is the singular for hair?

This seems to be one of those plural issues where a different plural is used when referring to the large uncountable group. “I found 3 gray hairs this morning” is proper but so is “I washed my hair this morning”. In the second case, your entire head covered with individual hairs is treated as a single object or group which is why it is referred to in a singular form. The word hair is usually used without article in singular number when it refers to all the hairs on one’s head in general. But if it refers to more than one hair, a few hairs, then it takes the plural form without an article, and needs a plural verb. George has brown hair, but I found a hair on the sofa and suspect he’s getting some gray hairs. George’s hair is brown, but one hair I found was gray, so I think there are probably more gray hairs on his head as well.  

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Interesting hair statistics:

 •You shed more hair in the fall and spring than in summer and late winter in response to the changes in seasons and daylight exposure.

•Asian men have little beard growth and a lower risk of developing androgenetic alopecia as, on average, they produce less testosterone than Caucasians.

•On average, each person has 5 million hair follicles of which 90,000 to 140,000 are scalp hair follicles.

•Typically, scalp hair fibers grow for two to seven years before being replaced by a new hair fiber.

•On average, healthy adult scalp hair fibers grow at 0.35mm per day.

•Eyelashes are the slowest growing hair fibers at less than 0.16mm per day.

•Chin hairs on young adult males are the fastest growing hair fibers at up to 0.42mm per day.

•Rate of hair growth declines with age. As a child, scalp hair grows at up to 0.41mm per day, but that drops to 0.32mm per day in old age.

•Hair fiber is as strong as copper wire of the same diameter. It has a tensile strength of around 1.6 x 10-9 N / m2 (one point 6 times ten to the power minus nine Newtons per meter square of hair cross section diameter).

•Normally, dry hair can be stretched one-fifth of its length before breaking. Wet hair can stretch between 40-50% of its length.

• On the scalp there is an average of 1,000 hairs per square inch or about 250 hair fibers per square centimeter.

•Normal people may lose up to 100 scalp hairs a day as a result of normal hair cycling.

•The numbers of hairs on the head vary with the hair’s natural color. Redheads have about 90,000; Black 108,000; while brown and blonde haired people have up to 140,000. The number of scalp hairs changes with ethnicity too. Far East Asians have as few as 80,000 scalp hair follicles.

•In terms of raw elements, on average, hair is composed of 50.65% carbon, 20.85% oxygen, 17.14% nitrogen, 6.36% hydrogen, and 5.0% sulfur. Hair also contains trace amounts of magnesium, arsenic, iron, chromium and other metals and minerals.

• Darker hair contains higher levels of carbon than blonde hair.

•Between 65% and 95% of hair fiber is made of proteins called keratins. Keratins are made from amino acids and in hair keratins the predominant amino acid is cysteine.

•One keratin protein molecule measures 10 nanometers across. 10,000 keratin protein molecules lying side by side cover the width of one human hair. So the cross section of one human hair can contain up to 78,000,000 keratin proteins.

•The average anchoring strength for a chest hair is 70 grams. That is, you can add 70 grams of weight to one chest hair before it breaks.

•Beards of men contain between 7,000 and 15,000 hairs.

•Men remove 8.4 meters of face stubble in their lifetime. It takes them approximately 3,400 hours to do so.

•Because hair is so strong you could hang between 5,600kg and 8,400kg from one head of hair without it breaking (although your neck would not take it!).

•As a rough guide, 20% of men in their 20s have male-pattern baldness, 30% in their 30s, 40% in their 40s, and 50% have male-pattern baldness in their 50s. If you get to age 60 without developing male-pattern baldness you will probably avoid it altogether.

•By age 50, 20% of women have thinning hair.

•Our eyebrows contain 550 hairs, give or take a few.  

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You may not be medically ill if you lose scalp hair but……….hair represents ‘inner self’ to world…..

Unlike other tissues of the body, scalp hair and body hair are not essential to our physical well-being. The loss of scalp hair by the physiologic process of balding (androgenetic alopecia) does not make us ill. The graying of hair by the physiologic process of aging does not induce any metabolic changes in our bodies. Why, then, do we care so much when we lose hair by balding or lose hair color by aging? We care because scalp hair isn’t just any tissue. It has special significance for us that is manifested in social, cultural and religious settings. Our hair-especially our scalp hair-is one of the principal presentations of “self” we make to the world. In modern cultures, this presentation of “self” is enhanced by a variety of products marketed by a multi-billion-dollar hair cosmetics industry, reflecting the importance we give to presenting a properly prepared image of “self” to ourselves and to the world. Great cultural and religious symbolism is attached to hair and its display in many societies. In some traditional cultures, there are social and/or religious rules governing how, when and to whom a woman may display her scalp hair. A religiously symbolic meaning is seen in the shaven, bald scalps of male monks who choose a life of chastity and poverty.  Scalp hair fashions of movie, television and pop music celebrities have a significant impact on hair styles of everyday life. The shaven, bald scalp of actor Yul Brynner in the 1970s and ’80s presented male baldness as a symbol of male power and sexuality. At about the same time, the wavy, thick locks of actor James Dean were a symbol of teen-age angst. The short, military style hair of actor Clint Eastwood mirrored a general acceptance of the “crew cut” as a symbol of male authority and discipline. Carefully shaped and styled hair is essential to the well-groomed look that traditionally symbolizes trustworthiness and sincerity in the business world. Contrarily, hair worn in a tangled and matted style may symbolize a significant cultural position when worn by a magnate of the pop music industry. The enforcement of short-hair style on women is a practice associated with punishment. Loss of her hair, and by implication her “self”, symbolizes the infraction of rules for which she is punished. In liberated countries of post-World War II Europe, women who were identified as collaborators with occupying troops were often shaven bald and forced to march down the street before jeering crowds. We don’t often think about the symbolic importance of scalp hair in our daily lives. Hair is, for most of us, a “fact of life”. We may suddenly find ourselves thinking about it when our hair begins to thin. Faced with the loss of an important part of our social and cultural “self”, we find ourselves making a decision: should hair loss be accepted as a “fact of life”, or is hair restoration an option we want to consider? The loss of scalp hair will not make us physically ill. However, loss of scalp hair may have emotional and psychological consequences.

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Introduction to hair:

Hair is one of the defining characteristics of mammals including humans. The presence of hair is a unique mammalian characteristic, helping mammals to maintain a stable core body temperature. Hair (and a coat of hairs, called fur or pelage) is uniquely mammalian. No other creature possesses true hair, and at least some hair is found on all mammals at some time during their lives. Hair and endothermy have aided mammals in inhabiting a wide diversity of environments, from desert to polar, both nocturnally and diurnally. The amount of hair reflects the environment to which the mammal is adapted. Polar bears have thick, water-repellent fur with hollow hairs that trap heat well. Whales have very limited hair in isolated areas, thus reducing drag in the water. Instead, they maintain internal temperatures with a thick layer of blubber (vascularized fat).

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Definition of hair:

Hair, a filamentous, often pigmented, outgrowth from the skin, is found only on mammals and often in a high-density of filaments per unit area. These threadlike fibers protrude from the outer layer of the skin, the epidermis, and grow from hair follicles in the inner portion of the skin, the dermis. Externally hairs are thin, flexible tubes of dead, fully keratinised epithelial cells; they vary in colour, length, diameter, and cross-sectional shape. Inside the skin hairs are part of individual living hair follicles, cylindrical epithelial downgrowths into the dermis and subcutaneous fat, which enlarge at the base into the hair bulb surrounding the mesenchyme derived dermal papilla. Each fiber comprises nonliving cells whose primary component is long chains (polymers) of amino acids forming the protein keratin. The keratinized cells arise from cell division in the hair matrix at the base of a hair follicle and are tightly packed together. Keratins also are a principle part of the cells in the nails, feathers, hooves, horny tissues, and tooth enamel of mammals. In humans, hair, with its variety of colors, textures, shape, length, density, and other qualities, adds to individual uniqueness and provides an aesthetic quality for others to see and appreciate.

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The hair thread has a cylindrical structure, highly organized, formed by inert cells, most of them keratinized and distributed following a very precise and pre-defined design. Hair forms a very rigid structure in the molecular level, which is able to offer the thread both flexibility and mechanical resistance. Hair is considered as a dead mater and it is only alive when it is inserted in the scalp (pilose follicle). When the thread emerges, it becomes dead matter although it appears to be growing since the fiber follows increasing its length by a speed of about 1.0 cm/month (Cade, 1995; Dias, 2004; Longo et al., 2006). Human hair has about 65-95% of its weight in proteins, more 32% of water, lipid pigments and other components. Chemically, about 80% of human hair is formed by a protein known as keratin (Kaplin et al., 1982; Wagner, Joekes, 2005), with a high grade of sulfur coming from the amino acid cystine – which is the characteristic to distinguish it from other proteins. Keratin is a laminated complex formed by different structures, which gives the hair strength, flexibility, durability, and functionality.

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Hair in non-human mammals:

The hair of non-human species is commonly referred to as fur when in sufficient density. The effectiveness of fur in temperature regulation is evident in its use in such mammals as polar bears, and its perceived beauty is evident not only in its historical use in fur coats, but also in the popularity of pet grooming. There also are breeds of cats, dogs, and mice bred to have little or no visible fur. Wool is the fiber derived from the fur of animals of the Caprinae family, principally sheep, but the hair of certain species of other mammals, such as goats, alpacas, llamas, and rabbits may also be called wool. No mammals have hair that is naturally blue or green in color. Some cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises), along with the mandrills, appear to have shades of blue skin. Many mammals are indicated as having blue hair or fur, but in all cases it will be found to be a shade of gray. The two-toed sloth can seem to have green fur, but this color is caused by algal growths. An animal’s coat of fur may consist of short ground hair, long guard hair, and, in some cases, medium awn hair. Not all mammals have fur; animals without fur may be referred to as “naked,” as in “naked mole rat.” 

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Hair and fur are chemically indistinguishable, having the same chemical composition, and are made of keratin. The primary difference between hair and fur is the word usage. The hair of non-human mammals refers as “fur,” while humans are said to have hair. So, basically, hair is a characteristic of all mammals. Fur is a reference to the hair of animals. But there are a few exceptions: when an animal has very coarse or sparse fur, as in the case of a pig or elephant, we usually call it hair.  One of the key differences between human and animal hair is the core of the hair follicle. In case of animals, the core allows for the coating of hair to provide excellent insulation from not only heat and cold, but also a fair amount of protection from rain as well. Along with these thermal regulating qualities, coarse nature of animal hair works as a great means of holding in cold or heat, as well as preventing rain and moisture. In contrast, human hair lacks this ability and does nothing to provide temperature regulation for the body. Another important distinction between human and animal hair is the growth pattern. In humans, the strands of hair tend to grow independently, while for animals hair growth tends to be more synchronized depending on the weather condition. While human hair has to be cut according to one’s preference , animal hair grows to a certain point and then simply fall out, to be replaced by new hair when and as the time is right.  Another noticeable difference between human and animal hair is the composition. Human hair generally have the same texture, while animal hair tends to include a double composition. The diameter of human hair ranges from 17 to 181 µm while fur is much thicker than the human hair.   

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Hair-like structures in invertebrates:

Although many other life forms, especially insects, show filamentous outgrowths, these are not considered “hair” according to the accepted meaning of the term. The projections on arthropods, such as insects and spiders are actually insect bristles, not hair. Seta is a biological term derived from the Latin word for “bristle”. It refers to a number of different bristle- or hair-like structures on living organisms. In zoology, most “setae” occur in invertebrates. Setae in annelids are stiff bristles present on the body. They help, for example, earthworms to attach to the surface and prevent backsliding during peristaltic motion. These hairs are what make it difficult to pull a worm straight from the ground. Setae in oligochaetes (a group including earthworms) are largely composed of chitin. They are classified according to the limb to which they are attached; for instance, notosetae are attached to notopodia; neurosetae to neuropodia. Setae on gecko footpads are small hair-like processes that play a role in the animal’s ability to cling to vertical surfaces. The micrometer-scale setae branch into nanometer-scale projections called spatulae on the footpads of geckos. Plants also have “hairlike” projections.  

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Hair and nail relationship:

Hair and nails are often stated to have much in common in relation to their origin, anatomical structures, and common involvement in many diseases. Hair and nails are predominantly epithelial structures derived from primitive epidermis and made up of keratinous fibrils embedded in a sulfur-rich matrix. It was first noted early in the 20th century that the nail unit was comparable in several respects to a hair follicle sectioned longitudinally and laid on on its side. The epithelial components of hair follicle and nail apparatus are differentiated epidermal structures that may be involved jointly in several ways as congenital and hereditary anomalies and acquired conditions such as alopecia areata, lichen planus, iatrogenic causes, and fungal infection. Multielemental characterization of human hair and nails shows that even after sample washing, many elements are enriched in the surface of the nails. Hair is actually a modified type of skin. Hair grows everywhere on the human body except the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, eyelids, and lips. Hair grows more quickly in summer than winter, and more slowly at night than during the day. Like hair, nails are a type of modified skin — and they’re not just for beauty. Nails protect the sensitive tips of our fingers and toes. Human nails are not necessary for living, but they do provide support for the tips of the fingers and toes, protect them from injury, and aid in picking up small objects. Without them, we’d have a hard time scratching an itch or untying a knot. Nails can be an indicator of a person’s general health, and illness often affects their growth. In humans, nails grow at an average rate of 3 mm (0.12 in) a month (as they are a form of hair).  Fingernails require 3 to 6 months to regrow completely, and toenails require 12 to 18 months. Actual growth rate is dependent upon age, sex, season, exercise level, diet, and hereditary factors. Nails grow faster in the summer than in any other season.  

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Social, religious, cultural and historical aspects of hair:

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Hair has great social significance for human beings. It can grow on most external areas of the human body, except on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet (among other areas). Hair is most noticeable on most people in a small number of areas, which are also the ones that are most commonly trimmed, plucked, or shaved. These include the face, ears, head, eyebrows, legs, and armpits, as well as the pubic region. The highly visible differences between male and female body and facial hair are a notable secondary sex characteristic.  Healthy hair indicates health and youth (important in evolutionary biology). Hair colour and texture can be a sign of ethnic ancestry. Facial hair is a sign of puberty in men. White hair is a sign of age or genetics, which may be concealed with hair dye (not easily for some), although many prefer to assume it (especially if it is a poliosis characteristic of the person since childhood). Male pattern baldness is a sign of age, which may be concealed with a toupee, hats, or religious and cultural adornments. Although drugs and medical procedures exist for the treatment of baldness, many balding men simply shave their heads. In ancient China, the queue was a male hairstyle worn by the Manchus from central Manchuria and the Han Chinese during the Qing dynasty; hair on the front of the head was shaved off above the temples every ten days, mimicking male-pattern baldness, and the rest of the hair braided into a long pigtail. Hair whorls have been discovered to be associated with brain development. In the time of Confucius (5th century BCE), the Chinese grew out their hair and often tied it, as a symbol of filial piety. Regular hairdressing in some cultures is considered a sign of wealth or status. The dreadlocks of the Rastafari movement were despised early in the movement’s history. In some cultures, having one’s hair cut can symbolize a liberation from one’s past, usually after a trying time in one’s life. Cutting the hair also may be a sign of mourning.

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Hairstyle may be an indicator of group membership. During the English Civil War, the followers of Oliver Cromwell decided to crop their hair close to their head, as an act of defiance to the curls and ringlets of the king’s men. This led to the Parliamentary faction being nicknamed Roundheads. Having bobbed hair was popular among the flappers in the 1920s as a sign of rebellion against traditional roles for women. Female art students known as the “cropheads” also adopted the style, notably at the Slade School in London, England. Regional variations in hirsutism cause practices regarding hair on the arms and legs to differ. Some religious groups may follow certain rules regarding hair as part of religious observance. The rules often differ for men and women. Many subcultures have hairstyles which may indicate an unofficial membership. Many hippies, metalheads and Indian sadhus have long hair, as well many older indie kids. Many punks wear a hairstyle known as a mohawk or other spiked and dyed hairstyles; skinheads have short-cropped or completely shaved heads. Long stylized bangs were very common for emos, scene kids and younger indie kids in the 2000s and early 2010s, among people of both genders. Heads were shaved in concentration camps, and head-shaving has been used as punishment, especially for women with long hair. The shaven head is common in military haircuts, while Western monks are known for the tonsure. By contrast, among some Indian holy men, the hair is worn extremely long.

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Tightly coiled hair in its natural state may be worn in an Afro. This hairstyle was once worn among African Americans as a symbol of racial pride. Given that the coiled texture is the natural state of some African Americans’ hair, or perceived as being more “African”, this simple style is now often seen as a sign of self-acceptance and an affirmation that the beauty norms of the (eurocentric) dominant culture are not absolute. It is important to note that African Americans as a whole have a variety of hair textures, as they are not an ethnically homogeneous group, but an ad-hoc of different racial admixtures.

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Social significance of African hairstyle:

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Maasai warriors with their traditional hair styling:  

The traditional hair styling in some parts of Africa also gives interesting examples of how people dealt with their head hair. The Maasai warriors tied the front hair into sections of tiny braids, while the back hair was allowed to grow to waist length. Women and non-warriors, however, shaved their heads. Many tribes dyed the hair with red earth and grease; some stiffened it with animal dung.

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The film Easy Rider (1969) includes the assumption that the two main characters could have their long hairs forcibly shaved with a rusty razor when jailed, symbolizing the intolerance of some conservative groups toward members of the counterculture. At the conclusion of the Oz obscenity trials in the UK in 1971, the defendants had their heads shaved by the police, causing public outcry. During the appeal trial, they appeared in the dock wearing wigs.  A case where a 14-year-old student was expelled from school in Brazil in the mid-2000s, allegedly because of his fauxhawk haircut, sparked national debate and legal action resulting in compensation.

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Head hair:

The remarkable head hair of humans has gained an important significance in nearly all present societies as well as any given historical period throughout the world. The haircut has always played a significant cultural and social role. In ancient Egypt, head hair was often shaved, especially among children, as long hair was uncomfortable in the heat. Children were often left with a long lock of hair growing from one part of their heads, the practice being so common that it became the standard in Egyptian art for artists to depict children as always wearing this “sidelock.” Many adult men and women kept their heads permanently shaved for comfort in the heat and to keep the head free of lice, while wearing a wig in public. In ancient Greece and ancient Rome, men and women already differed from each other through their haircuts. The head hair of a woman was long and generally pulled back into a chignon hairstyle. Many dyed their hair red with henna and sprinkled it with gold powder, often adorning it with fresh flowers. Men’s hair was short and even occasionally shaved. In Rome, hairdressing became ever more popular and the upper classes were attended to by slaves or visited public barber shops. Contemporary social and cultural conditions have constantly influenced popular hair styles. From the seventeenth century into the early nineteenth century, it was the norm for men to have long hair, often tied back into a ponytail. Famous long-haired men include Oliver Cromwell and George Washington. During his younger years, Napoleon Bonaparte had a long and flamboyant head of hair. Before World War I, men generally had longer hair and beards. The trench warfare between 1914 and 1918 exposed men to lice and flea infestations, which prompted the order to cut hair short, establishing a norm that has persisted. However it has also been advanced that short hair on men has been enforced as a means of control, as shown in the military and police and other forces that require obedience and discipline. Additionally, slaves and defeated armies were often required to shave their heads, in both pre-medieval Europe and China. Growing and wearing long hair is a lifestyle practiced by millions worldwide. It was almost universal among women in Western culture until World War I. Many women in conservative Pentecostal groups abstain from trimming their hair after conversion (and some have never had their hair trimmed or cut at all since birth). The social revolution of the 1960s led to a renaissance of unchecked hair growth.

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Body hair:

The attitudes towards hair on the human body also vary between different cultures and times. In some cultures, profuse chest hair on men is a symbol of virility and masculinity; other societies display a hairless body as a sign of youthfulness. In ancient Egypt, people regarded a completely smooth, hairless body as the standard of beauty. An upper class Egyptian woman took great pains to ensure that she did not have a single hair on her body, except for the top of her head (and even this was often replaced with a wig (Dersin 2004). The ancient Greeks later adopted this smooth ideal, considering a hairless body to be representative of youth and beauty. This is reflected in Greek female sculptures which do not display any pubic hair. In Western societies, it became a public trend during the late twentieth century, particularly for women, to reduce or to remove their body hair.  

Religious practices vis-à-vis hair: 

Islam stipulates many tenets with respect to hair, such as the covering of hair by women and the removal of armpit and pubic hair. Women’s hair may be hidden using headscarves, a common part of the hijab in Islam and a symbol of modesty required for certain religious rituals in Orthodox Christianity. Russian Orthodox Church requires all married women to wear headscarves inside the church; this tradition is often extended to all women, regardless of marital status. Orthodox Judaism also commands the use of scarves and other head coverings for married women for modesty reasons. Certain Hindu sects also wear head scarves for religious reasons. Multiple religions, both ancient and contemporary, require or advise one to allow their hair to become dreadlocks, though people also wear them for fashion. For men, Islam, Orthodox Judaism, Orthodox Christianity, Roman Catholicism and other religious groups have at various times recommended or required the covering of the head and sections of the hair of men, and some have dictates relating to the cutting of men’s facial and head hair. Some Christian sects throughout history and up to modern times have also religiously proscribed the cutting of women’s hair.  To Christians, even the Bible says, “God loves us and cares so much about us that even all the hairs of our head has well counted” (Matt.10:30).     

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Hair and Sikhism:

Sikhs have an obligation not to cut hair (a Sikh cutting hair becomes ‘apostate’ which means fallen from religion) and men keep it tied in a bun on the head, which is then covered appropriately using a turban. The Sikh religion forbids cutting or shaving any bodily hair. Orthodox Sikhs always carry a dagger with them, lest someone try to force them to do something against their religion. Hair is a gift from God, therefore why should anyone give it away by cutting it? Hair is one of the five articles of faith for Sikhs. Sikhs live the way God made humans and never cut their hair. For Sikhs hair is the symbol of love for God and the respect for everything God has given us.

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Religious and cultural reason of hair removal:

Head-shaving is a part of some Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Jain and Hindu traditions. Buddhist and Christian monks generally undergo some form of head-shaving or tonsure during their induction into monastic life; in Thailand monks shave their eyebrows as well. Head shaving is part of the process of becoming a Buddhist monk. The Head Shaving Ceremony is about renunciation. Renunciation from common mundane life and all its illusory pleasures. By renouncing not only one’s old “sense desire based” lifestyle but also all attachments, one enters into a monastic lifestyle aimed at the attainment of Buddhahood. The Buddha also renounced his home-life at a young age by leaving his palace and cutting off his long hair. Amongst Hindus in the case of death of a father, the eldest son is to remove his hair (on the head) before the cremation ceremony. Brahmin children have their heads ritualistically shaved before beginning school. In a temple in South India, ‘Tirupati’, and in many other temples in the South of India, removal of hair is considered as an ‘offering’. Throughout the Islamic world, hair removal is considered in the context of religious law. For the faithful, there is detailed discussion of exactly how this must be aproached. Amongst Muslims, hair removal is part of an impulse towards general purity and cleanliness.

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Short hair and military:

There are several reasons why men are required to wear their hair short when they are in military service. The tradition extends back to Roman times and earlier but Roman records are the most complete from an historical basis. Keeping the hair short was a form of discipline. Not only was it seen as a kind of proof that the soldier was keeping his “equipment” in good order it also showed the commanders that the army was following orders and obeying the chain of command. This is still how it is used today. Another reason for the short hair was to keep the helmet tightly fastened onto the head. Long hair would allow the helmet to slide around and expose the soldier to injury. Probably the most important reason for cutting hair was for reasons of cleanliness. Long hair is hard to maintain and harbors oil, dirt and parasitic insects. Romans loved their baths and spent hours scraping the hair off of their entire bodies. Today, even with our soaps, depilatories and insecticides as well as deodorants and perfumes it is easier and efficient to shave off the hair to stay clean and clean smelling.  Military Culture suggests that short hair and a shaved face equates to being clean and disciplined while long hair and a beard indicates slovenliness, poor hygiene and even effeminate inclinations.  

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Hair and literature:

“The Gift of the Magi” is a short story, written by O. Henry (a pen name for William Sydney Porter):

Jim and his wife Della are a couple living in a modest apartment. They have only two possessions between them in which they take pride: Della’s beautiful long, flowing hair, almost to her knees, and Jim’s shiny gold watch, which had belonged to his father and grandfather. On Christmas Eve, with only $1.87 in hand, and desperate to find a gift for Jim, Della sells her hair for $20, and eventually finds a platinum fob chain for Jim’s watch for $21. She found the perfect gift at last and runs home and begins to prepare dinner, with 87 cents left. When Jim comes home, he looks at Della with a strange expression. Della then admits to Jim that she sold her hair to buy him his present. Jim gives Della her present – an assortment of expensive hair accessories (referred to as “The Combs”), useless now that her hair is short. Della then shows Jim the chain she bought for him, to which Jim says he sold his watch to get the money to buy her combs. Although Jim and Della are now left with gifts that neither one can use, they realize how far they are willing to go to show their love for each other, and how priceless their love really is. The story ends with the author comparing the pair’s mutually sacrificial gifts of love with those of the Biblical Magi: The magi were wise men – wonderfully wise men – who brought gifts to the new-born King of the Jews in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Let it be said that of all those who give Christmas presents; these two were the wisest because they sacrificed their priceless belongings. They are the magi. This is the best story in literature about hair….  

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Evolution of hair:

Hair has its origins in the common ancestor of mammals, the Synapsids, or possibly a subclade, the Sphenacodontoidea, about 310 million years ago. It is currently unknown at what stage the synapsids acquired mammalian characteristics such as body hair and mammary glands, as the fossils only rarely provide direct evidence for soft tissues. An exceptionally well-preserved skull of Estemmenosuchus, a therapsid from the Upper Permian, shows smooth, hairless skin with what appears to be glandular depressions. The oldest known fossil showing unambiguous imprints of hair is the Callovian (late middle Jurassic) Castorocauda, an early mammal. The more advanced therapsids could have had a combination of naked skin, whiskers, and scutes. A full pelage likely did not evolve until the therapsid-mammal transition. The more advanced, smaller therapsids could have had a combination of hair and scutes, a combination still found in some modern mammals, such as rodents and the opossum.

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Human type I hair keratin pseudogene ϕ hHaA has functional orthologs in the chimpanzee and gorilla:

Evidence for recent inactivation of the human gene after the Pan-Homo divergence:

In addition to nine functional genes, the human type I hair keratin gene cluster contains a pseudogene, ϕ hHaA (KRTHAP1), which is thought to have been inactivated by a single base-pair substitution that introduced a premature TGA termination codon into exon 4. Large-scale genotyping of human, chimpanzee, and gorilla DNAs revealed the homozygous presence of the ϕ hHaA nonsense mutation in humans of different ethnic backgrounds, but its absence in the functional orthologous chimpanzee (cHaA) and gorilla (gHaA) genes. Expression analyses of the encoded cHaA and gHaA hair keratins served to highlight dramatic differences between the hair keratin phenotypes of contemporary humans and the great apes. The relative numbers of synonymous and non-synonymous substitutions in the ϕ hHaA and cHaA genes, as inferred by using the gHaA gene as an outgroup; suggest that the human hHaA gene was inactivated only recently, viz., less than 240,000 years ago. This implies that the hair keratin phenotype of hominids prior to this date, and after the Pan-Homo divergence some 5.5 million years ago, could have been identical to that of the great apes. In addition, the homozygous presence of the ϕ hHaA exon 4 nonsense mutation in some of the earliest branching lineages among extant human populations lends strong support to the “single African origin” hypothesis of modern humans.

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Molecular evolution of HR gene:

A study examines the molecular evolution of HR (gene for post-natal hair follicle development) and provides a well defined phylogeny, which infer the orthologs and paralogs and reconstruct its history. The gene duplication history establishes a very distant relationship between HR and its putative paralogous counterparts KDM3A, KDM3B and JMJD1C. Phylogenetic tree confirms the presence of HR in all hairy animals (therian and prototherian), but no recognizable ortholog of mammalian HR was found in any of the non-mammalian vertebrate animal analyzed. This intriguing observation, suggested a key role of HR in hair evolution during mammalian history. In light of this interest, a comparative sequence analysis was performed to estimate the functional constraints on primates, rodents and carnivores HR. Evolutionary rate difference is coupled with structural and biochemical information to infer for potential functional changes at the sequence level among primate HR. In addition variations in domain topologies were explored by comparative analysis of known functional domains of HR protein.

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The figure shows molecular evolution of HR gene in primates. The data demonstrates an acceleration of HR sequence evolution in human branch and suggests that the ability of HR protein to mediate postnatal hair-cycling has been altered in the course of human evolution signifying positive Darwinian selection during human evolution. 

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Hairs are typical to mammals and it seems HR as well. Therefore it is conceivable to argue that both explanations, i.e. recruitment of ancient gene for new functions or mammalian specific post-duplication neofunctionalization of one gene copy, reconcile with the indispensable role of HR not only in mammalian hair growth but also in origin of this novel trait (hair cover) in Mesozoic mammalian ancestors. It is of note that, HR might be indispensable for hair follicle development because in mammals (human/mouse) null and hypomorphic HR alleles leads to AUC (Alopecia universalis congenital) after a single cycle of normal hair growth. The hair loss usually begins soon after birth and within first few weeks of postnatal life the animals are completely hairless. Biochemical and genetic data suggests that HR protein corepressor functions induce hair follicle rest to regrowth (telogen-anagen) transition by promoting Wnt signaling in hair follicles. In this respect, HR functions are considered indispensable for hair regrowth once they shed after birth (first hair cycle). Therefore it is advocated that the HR mediated deployment of Wnt signaling in hair cycle was one of the key evolutionary steps that lead to the establishment of postnatal hair cover in ancestral mammalian forms. 

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 Are we hairless?

 Strictly speaking, No. 

Compared to other primates, Yes.

According to Schwartz and Rosenblum (1981), the density of human hair follicles on the skin is actually about what one would expect for an animal of the same size. The outstanding question is why so much of human hair is short, underpigmented, vellus hair rather than terminal hair.

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Story of evolution of human hair highlights:

•Humans are much less hairy than typical mammals of their size, a survey of animal data confirms

•Chimps are also much less hairy, and the study suggests our common ancestor was less hairy too

•Evolution likely played a role in human “hairlessness,” but the mechanism remains uncertain.

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A major difference between humans and other primates is the great reduction of body hair in humans relative to other primates. The question of this difference has often been asked in the context of the loss of human hair, but this is not strictly true. Modern humans are not hairless in the sense of being glabrous, but rather have had a significant diminution of body hair length and thickness relative to other primates. The only hair structure that has been truly lost in the human condition is the vibrissae, which are the sensory whiskers that are common in most mammals (Van Horn 1970). Other categories of hair form are seen commonly in humans, and are no different developmentally from other African Apes. The hairlessness of humans compared to related species may be due to loss of functionality in the pseudogene KRTHAP1 (which helps produce keratin) in the human lineage about 240,000 years ago. Mutations in the gene HR can lead to complete hair loss, though this is not typical in humans. In order to comprehend why humans are essentially hairless, it is essential to understand that mammalian body hair is not merely an aesthetic characteristic; it protects the skin from wounds, bites, heat, cold, and UV radiation. Additionally, it can be used as a communication tool and as a camouflage. To this end, it can be concluded that benefits stemming from the loss of human body hair must be great enough to outweigh the loss of these protective functions by nakedness.

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Humans are the only primate species that have undergone significant hair loss and of the approximately 5000 extant species of mammal, only a handful are effectively hairless. This list includes elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, walruses, pigs, whales and other cetaceans, and naked mole rats. Most mammals have light skin that is covered by fur, and biologists believe that early human ancestors started out this way also. Dark skin probably evolved after humans lost their body fur, because the naked skin was vulnerable to the strong UV radiation as would be experienced in Africa. Therefore, evidence of when human skin darkened has been used to date the loss of human body hair, assuming that the dark skin was needed after the fur was gone. Most species evolved as the climate in Africa changed, to adjust their thermoregulation to the intense UV and sunlight at the equator, mostly by panting. Early hominids likely possessed fur similar to other large apes, but about 2.5 million years ago they developed a greater distribution of sweat glands that enabled them to perspire over most of the body. It is not clear whether the change in body hair appearance occurred before or after the development of sweat glands. Humans have eccrine sweat glands all over their bodies. Aside from the mammary glands that produce a specialized sweat called milk, most mammals just have apocrine sweat glands on their armpits and loin. The rest of their body is covered in eccrine glands. There is a trend in primates to have increased eccrine sweat glands over the general surface of the body. It is unclear to what degree other primates sweat in response to heat, however. The sweat glands in humans could have evolved to spread from the hands and feet as the body hair changed, or the hair change could have occurred to facilitate sweating. Horses and humans are two of the few animals capable of sweating on most of their body, yet horses are larger and still have fully developed fur. In humans, the skin hairs lie flat in hot conditions, as the arrector pili muscles relax, preventing heat from being trapped by a layer of still air between the hairs, and increasing heat loss by convection.

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It was expected that dating the split of the ancestral human louse into two species, the head louse and the pubic louse, would date the loss of body hair in human ancestors. However, it turned out that the human pubic louse does not descend from the ancestral human louse, but from the gorilla louse, diverging 3.3 million years ago. This suggests that humans had lost body hair (but retained head hair) and developed thick pubic hair prior to this date, were living in or close to the forest where gorillas lived, and acquired pubic lice from butchering gorillas or sleeping in their nests. The evolution of the body louse from the head louse, on the other hand, places the date of clothing much later, some 100,000 years ago.

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Balding, where terminal hair switches to vellus hair, usually occurs at around thirty to forty years of age. In prehistoric times, most individuals did not survive to adulthood, let alone reaching their fourth decade and therefore balding tends to act as a signal of maturity. In women survival to such an advanced age is usually coupled with a decrease in fertility, but in men fertility is retained beyond middle-age. The persistence (but non-ubiquity) of balding in men, coupled with its general absence in women, suggests that there was a selection pressure against balding in women (perhaps in the form of a pressure against signals of advancing age), but variations in hair patterns among men did not prevent their reproductive success leading to stable polymorphisms (perhaps representing different mating strategies); for example some men could have benefitted from baldness by signaling advanced maturity and social status; while other men simulated the appearance of youth and vigor by retaining their hair.

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Hypotheses to explain hairlessness of humans as compared to primates: 

Historically, some ideas have been advanced to explain the apparent hairlessness of humans, as compared to other species. Several hypotheses explained hairlessness as a thermoregulatory adaptation to hot and dry savanna. The most known thermoregulatory hypothesis in modern paleoanthropology was proposed by Peter Wheeler (1984, 1985). He suggests that a need for decreased body hair originated as a response to climate change that began approximately 3 million years ago. At this time, the earth entered a period of global cooling that had a dehumidifying effect on the main early human habitats in East and Central Africa. Lush, wooded forests gave way to dry, grassland savannah; because of this, early humans were required to travel farther in search of food and water. As early humans diverged from their chimpanzee-lineage, they also became omnivorous in order to maximize calorie intake, an important distinction in a nutrient-scarce environment. Prey, however, are moving targets, and though early humans changed the traditionally ape-like appearance of the australopithecines and adapted long, strong legs to facilitate sustained running, dense, hairy coats still posed a potentially fatal risk of causing overheating during the chase. It is posited that thick hair got in the way of the sweat evaporating, so humans evolved a sparser coat of fur. Although hair provides protection against harmful UV radiation, since our hominin ancestors were bipedal, only our heads were exposed to the noonday sun. Humans kept the hair on our head which reflects harmful UV rays, but our body hair was reduced. The rise in eccrine glands occurred on the genes that determine the fate of epidermal stem cells in human embryonic development.

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Another hypothesis for evolution of hair on humans proposes that Fisherian runaway sexual selection played a role (as well as in the selection of long head hair), as well as a much larger role of testosterone in men. Sexual selection is the only theory thus far that explains the sexual dimorphism seen in the hair patterns of men and women. On average, men have more body hair than women. Males have more terminal hair, especially on the face, chest, abdomen, and back, and females have more vellus hair, which is less visible. The halting of hair development at a juvenile stage, vellus hair, would also be consistent with the neoteny evident in humans, especially in females, and thus they could have occurred at the same time. This theory, however, has significant holdings in today’s cultural norms. There is no evidence that sexual selection would proceed to such a drastic extent over a million years ago when a full, lush coat of hair would most likely indicate health and would therefore be more likely to be selected for, not against, and not all human populations today have sexual dimorphism in body hair. Today, we’re sexier with no hair. Charles Darwin was one of the first to suggest this, although he didn’t put it so bluntly. He merely noted that hairlessness may have been a factor in sexual selection and that women, historically the object rather than the initiator of pursuit, have less hair than men. Many later scientists have suggested variations on this theme. However, it can’t be the entire explanation. While nakedness may increase lust, a fat lot of good that does you if the other party has frozen to death.

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A further hypothesis is that human hair was reduced in response to ectoparasites. The “ectoparasite” explanation of modern human nakedness is based on the principle that a hairless primate would harbor fewer parasites. When our ancestors adopted group-dwelling social arrangements roughly 1.8 millon years ago, ectoparasite loads increased dramatically. Early humans became the only one of the 193 primate species to have fleas, which can be attributed to the close living arrangements of large groups of individuals. While primate species have communal sleeping arrangements, these groups are always on the move and thus are less likely to harbor ectoparasites. Because of this, selection pressure for early humans would favor decreasing body hair because those with thick coats would have more lethal-disease-carrying ectoparasites and would thereby have lower fitness. However, early humans were able to compensate for the loss of warmth and protection provided by body hair with clothing, and no other mammal lost body hair to reduce parasite loads.

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Another view is the “naked love” hypothesis proposed by James Giles, which suggests that hairlessness evolved as a consequence of bipedalism.

Naked Love theory for hairlessness:

Many theories have been put forth to explain how humans, in contrast to other primates, have evolved into near hairless beings. Lecturer in Philosophy, James Giles, has developed a new theory. His view, called ‘The Naked Love Theory’, is being published in the MIT Press Journal. Dr Giles argues human nakedness has its origin in the ancestral mother-infant relationship. Skin-to-skin contact between mother and infant was experienced as affectionate and pleasurable by the mother. This would have encouraged ancestral females to carry their infants, which was essential for the infant’s survival because with the advent of bipedalism infants could no longer hold onto the mother. ‘Hairlessness is ultimately the adaptive consequence of bipedalism. This is because ancestral infants lost their prehensile feet and therefore the ability to grasp the mother’s fur with their feet, something that other primate infants must do,’ says Dr Giles. ‘Early bipedal mothers were thus under much pressure to use their newly freed arms to carry the infant. Carrying an infant, however, is hard work and requires much effort. Therefore, in ancestral times infants survived only if mothers had a strong desire to hold them. ‘Some evolutionary mechanism was required to select for a strong maternal desire to hold the infant and this is where naked skin came into play,’ he says. Because of this contact, especially in breast-feeding—which many women report to be erotically pleasurable—the desire to hold the infant would have been stronger in mothers possessing a hairless mutation that also enabled them to give birth to hairless infants. Survival of these infants would have then been greater than hair-covered infants. The hairlessness that began to appear through this mechanism of maternal selection, Dr Giles says, was then reinforced by sexual selection in the male-female sexual relationship. This is because a hairless sexual partner would have enabled the individual to recreate the pleasure of skin-to-skin contact that he or she had originally experienced as an infant. According to Dr Giles, ‘It is not just nursing mothers who enjoy skin-to-skin contact. Infants who are breast-feed in full naked contact with the mother experience fewer problems, show less distress and breast-feed longer than infants who are separated from their mother by clothing.’ ‘The Naked Love Theory’ also helps to explain the evolutionary origins of romantic love. ‘One thing that distinguishes us from our closest primate relative is the intensity and duration of sexual intercourse,’ he says. ‘While sexual intercourse for chimpanzees typically lasts about seven seconds, with human beings it’s more like 7 minutes.’ One of the reasons for this, argues Dr Giles—who is also the author of ‘The Nature of Sexual Desire’—is the extensive caressing of naked skin that human beings typically enjoy in sexual intercourse due to our lack of fur. This provided the pre-condition for the extensive long-term romantic attachments that human beings are capable of. Although some other primates have long term attachments, our closest relatives tend not to have them or form only short-term consort- ships. ‘Numerous biological features were, of course, prerequisite for the emergence of romantic love, but without human nakedness and all that it entails for skin-to-skin contact, it is doubtful that romantic love as we know it would have ever appeared,’ he says. 

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The wild card is fire, needed not just to keep the cave warm but for cooking, another critical step. Recent archaeological analysis suggests hominids were using fire as of a million years ago. If it turns out hairlessness and mastery of fire occurred around the same time, we have a plausible sequence of events. Once they were no longer at the mercy of the elements, hominids could indulge a yen for less hirsute mates without jeopardizing their offspring. If the tendency to hairlessness long preceded fire we have more of a puzzle, although not necessarily an insoluble one: the random genetic mutation that made hairlessness possible might have occurred in the ancient past but not expressed itself till conditions were favorable. We know, for example, that Homo erectus lived 1.8 million years ago in the Caucasus region, which had cold winters then as now. Without fire, these protohumans must have had hairy coats to survive. Once our ancestors had acquired both fire and clothing, there was nothing to prevent nakedness from becoming dominant, and at some point the capacity to grow abundant body hair evidently was lost.

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Why did humans evolve with hair only in certain spots, i.e. head, pubic?

Hair on the head probably serves a dual purpose: preventing heat loss when it’s cold (body heat is lost rapidly through the head, which is why mothers caution us to wear a hat in winter) and protecting the scalp from ultraviolet radiation and the sunburn and skin cancer it can cause (bald people are especially prone to skin cancer on the scalp).  Pubic and axillary (armpit) hair are examples of secondary sexual characteristics: external structures (other than genitals) that can be used to distinguish the sexes. Other secondary sexual characteristics include facial hair in males, breast development in females and body structure in both sexes (wider hips in females, broader shoulders in men, etc.) These traits appear at the same time as reproductive maturity and are often under control of the same hormones. In fact, the word “puberty” comes from the Latin root “pubes,” which means hair. Today, the amount, appearance and pattern of pubic hair are one of the criteria by which physicians determine what stage of pubertal development an adolescent is in. For our ancestors, pubic and axillary hair were probably one of several visual signals that an individual was fully mature, and therefore could be considered as a potential mate by a member of the opposite sex. The different patterns of pubic, facial and body hair in humans (along with other secondary sexual characteristics) result in sexual dimorphisms in mature humans: males look different than females.

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Evolution of hair color:

It is believed the very first hominids lived on the continent of Africa. Since Africa is directly on the equator, sunlight shines directly down throughout the entire year. This impacted evolution as it drove the natural selection of pigments in humans as dark as possible. Dark pigments, like melanin, help block harmful ultraviolet rays from penetrating into the body through the skin and hair. The darker the skin or hair, the more protected from the sunlight the individual is. Once these human ancestors started migrating to other places throughout the world, the pressure to select for skin and hair colors as dark as possible let up and lighter skin colors and hair colors became much more common. In fact, once the human ancestors reached latitudes as high north as what are known today as the Western European and Nordic countries, skin color had to be much lighter in order for the individuals living there to get enough Vitamin D from the sunlight. While darker pigmentation in skin and hair block unwanted and harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun, it also blocks other components of sunlight that are necessary for survival. With as much direct sunlight as countries along the equator get on a daily basis, capturing Vitamin D is not an issue. However, as human ancestors migrated farther north (or south) of the equator, the amount of daylight varied throughout the year. In the winter, there were very few daylight hours in which the individuals could get out and obtain the necessary nutrients. Not to mention it was also cold during these times which made it even more unappealing to get out during the daylight at all. As these populations of migrating human ancestors settled in these colder climates, pigments in the skin and hair started to fade and give way to new color combinations. Since hair color is polygenic, many genes control the actual phenotype of hair color in humans. That is why there are so many different shades of colors seen in different populations throughout the world. While it is possible that skin color and hair color are at least somewhat linked, they are not so closely linked that various combinations are not possible. Once these new shades and colors emerged in various areas around the world, it started to be less of a natural selection of traits than a sexual selection. Studies have been done to show that the less abundant any given hair color is in the gene pool, the more attractive they tend to be for suitors. This is thought to have led to the proliferation of blonde hair in Nordic areas, which favored as little pigment as possible for maximum absorption of Vitamin D. Once blonde hair began to be seen on individuals in the area, their mates found them more attractive than the others who had dark hair. Over several generations, blonde hair became much more prominent and proliferated over time. The blonde Nordics continued to migrate and found mates in other areas and hair colors blended. Red hair is most likely the result of a DNA mutation somewhere along the line. Neanderthals also most likely had lighter hair colors than those of their Homo Sapiens relatives. There was thought to be some gene flow and cross breeding of the two different populations in the European areas. This probably led to even more shades of the different hair colors. A group of studies have recently shown that genetic patterns at the EDAR locus, a region of the modern human genome that contributes to hair texture variation among most individuals of East Asian descent, support the hypothesis that (East Asian) straight hair likely developed in this branch of the modern human lineage subsequent to the original expression of tightly coiled natural afro-hair. Specifically, the relevant findings indicate that the EDAR mutation coding for the predominant East Asian ‘coarse’ or thick, straight hair texture arose within the past ~65,000 years, which is a time frame that covers from the earliest of the ‘Out of Africa’ migrations up to now.

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Flaws in evolutionary theories of human hair for thermoregulation and UV protection:

Experts assert that head hair was evolutionarily advantageous for pre-humans to retain because it protected the scalp as they walked upright in the intense African (equatorial) UV light. While some might argue that, by this logic, humans should also express hairy shoulders because these body parts would putatively be exposed to similar conditions. Also tightly coiled hair that grows into a typical African population would have greatly reduced the ability of the head and brain to cool in the intense sun and the effective ‘woolly hat’ that such hair produced would have been a disadvantage to African people.

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In my view, there are holes in most theories of evolution of human hair. Evolutionary biologically the only reason for hair in humans is sexual dimorphism; men look different than women because of difference of hair between men and women in location, length, thickness, density and texture; resulting in sexual attraction for propagation of species. In my view, if all men and women are born without any body hair, they would live comfortably but sexual attraction between men and women would be greatly reduced resulting in possibility of human species getting extinct. Clothing, along with modern technology such as air conditioning and heating, has made the insulating properties of body hair obsolete. However, the evolutionary selection of body hair as a signifier for sexual selection (i.e., body hair can be viewed as physically attractive) would persist indefinitely and hence humans would retain head & body hair in future.  

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Hair anatomy, physiology and structure:

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Hair Origin in fetus:

A developing fetus has all of its hair follicles formed by week 22. At this time there are 5 million follicles on the body. One million of those are on the head, and 100,000 are on the scalp. This is the largest number of follicles we will ever have – follicles are never added during life. As the size of the body increases as we grow older, the density of the hair follicles on the skin decreases. Follicles are formed only once in the lifetime of an individual. The hair follicle is formed as a small fingerlike structure from the embryonic epidermis. The embryonic epithelium and mesenchyme of mammals has in them the necessary elements that induce the formation of follicles. At the pre-natal stage, the primitive epithelium and the underlying mesoderm send out growth signals and the follicles begin forming from the primitive epidermis. Complete hormonal or neural circuits are not required for the hair follicles to begin forming. This has also been proved when hair follicles have been found to grow in organic cultures of embryonic skin. Once the necessary signals are received, the epithelium grows downwards into the dermis, forming a small plug that joins with the dermal papilla at the base. The dermal papilla is a mesenchymal condensation composed of specialized fibroblasts. The fibroblasts control the matrix cells (keratinocytes) and in this way determine the size of the hair. A human is born with a fixed number of follicles, which does not change throughout its lifetime. About 5 million hair follicles are formed in humans at birth. The distribution of the hair follicles and their spacing is genetically predetermined and does not change throughout the lifetime of the mammal. The follicles in different parts of the body are different and produce hair fibers of different size, shape and color. The fibers are coarse when they form the body hair or scalp hair. These are known as terminal hair. The finer downy hair on the face is known as vellus hair. The hair follicles are formed as an epithelial finger. 

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Hair in mammals is composed of the hair follicle and the hair shaft. Hairs grow out of pits in the skin called follicles. Hair growth begins inside the hair follicle. The only “living” portion of the hair is found in the follicle. The hair that is visible is the hair shaft, which exhibits no biochemical activity and is considered “dead”. The base of the hair, sunk in the skin, is called the root, and the part that emerges to the exterior is the shaft. Seen lengthwise, almost all hair can be divided into three main sections: the bulb (or root), the shaft (the middle section), and the tip (where the hair thins). The base of the root is called the bulb, which contains the cells that produce the hair shaft. Follicles often lie next to a skin gland called a sebaceous gland. These glands secrete an oily substance sebum, which lubricates the hair and conditions it. Next to the follicle may be a small, involuntary arrector pili muscle. Hairs normally lie nearly parallel to the skin or at an acute angle to it. Contraction of the arrector pili muscles causes the hair to erect (become more perpendicular to the skin), and at the same time, pulls down on the skin and causes the bumps and pits known as “gooseflesh.” The innermost part of a single hair is called the medulla, which is surrounded by a mid-layer known as the cortex.  Finally, the outermost layer of a hair is the cuticle.  In general, hair is made up of proteins called keratins, although other substances that are secreted by the body can be found on hairs too. Healthy hair will have an outer cuticles made from dead, keratinized cuticle cells that overlap each other in a roof tile effect. The outer cuticle is the strongest part of the hair fiber and protects the inner cortex. The inner cortex of the fiber is also made from dead keratinized cells that have been flattened and squeezed together. The cortex is often-thick layer that appears featureless except that it may be pigmented. At the center of most hairs is the medulla, made up of large, cuboidal cells, often distinctively colored and interspersed with air pockets. The arrangement of scales, thickness and color of the cortex, and distribution and color of medulla cells are often diagnostic of species. Using a microscope, a researcher can easily examine the cortex and medulla of individual hairs. Cuticular scales are more difficult to visualize; to see them, they usually imbed a hair in substances such as ethyl acetate, then remove it and examine its impression. An excellent set of instructions for examining hairs can be found in Teerink (1991). Numerous keys for identifying individual hairs have been published (e.g., Miles, 1965; Mayer, 1952; Teerink, 1991).

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Hair fiber is composed by three main structures: cuticle, cortex and medulla. The main factor to be consi­dered in the human hair is the high amount of the amino acid cystine, which may be degraded and afterwards may be re-oxidated under a disulphidic bounding form. This is the basis for the permanent curling process. Cystine is very stable; this is the reason why human hair may be found relatively intact, even after several years after the death of an individual. Proteins with α-helix structure wind each other by their left side, as if they were two stretched ropes (winded to each other, curled). When the hair is stretched, this curl gives it a kind of elasticity. Proteins which are winded in the hair have long filaments of unknown microfibers which link to each other to form bigger structures, in order to produce cortex cells. This enchained structure offers the capillary fiber more strength and elasticity (Wilkinson, Moore, 1990; Robbins, 1994; Wagner, Joekes, 2005).

Cuticle:

At the follicular level, a single layer of cells gives rise to the cuticle, a protective layer covering the core of the fibers. It is mainly composed of b-keratins and displays a scaled structure, possessing between seven and ten superimposed layers with the cuticle edges pointing toward the tip of the fiber. The cuticle covers the hair thread from the scalp to the end as overlapping layer and it is the most impor­tant component of the human hair, since it may be more or less affected by cosmetic treatments. On the cuticle, cosmetic products, such as conditioners, hair sprays, mousses and gels are deposited. Dyers, straightening and curling products also spread themselves through the cuticle to expand their effects by the hair fiber. There are approximately 8 to 11 layers of cuticle, which are over­lapped in the distal direction of the thread, depending on the type, condition, and length of the hair. Each layer is formed by only one cell. Each cell of the cuticle has a rectangular shape and they overlap in such way, that only 1/6 of them are exposed (Wilkinson, Moore, 1990; Robbins, Crawford, 1991). The layers of cuticle are:

• Layer A: a resistant structure containing cystine (>30%). The cross links of proteins, in this layer, not only give physical resistance but also makes them relatively resistant to chemical attack. These properties protect the fiber against both mechanical and chemical attacks.

• Exocuticle: also known as Layer B, corresponds to 55% of the cuticle area and it is rich in cystine (~15%), and it is physically rigid (but less intensi­vely than Layer A).

• Endocuticle: with low grade of cystine (~3%), it is much softer than the superior layers and there are evidences that it swells with water. When the cuticle is wet, its rigid layers become quilted with alternate consecutive soft (as gel) and hard layers. This process also intensifies the apex of the surface stages of the thread, which also explains that the friction coefficient is higher in the wet hair than in the dry one. When the endocuticle is swelled it has a more brittle structure, which explains both breakage and scaling of threads if they are combed when they are still wet.

• Cellular membrane complex (CMC): these cells, with constant thickness (30 nm), separate all the cells in the cuticle. The 18-methyl eicosanoic acid (18-MEA) is one of the very important lipid com­ponents of the CMC. This lipid is also bound in a covalent way to the hair external surface. 18-MEA is the main lipid in the hair composition contributing to the wet and dry combing proprieties.

• Epicuticle: this is considered the most important part of the cuticle, from the polymers deposition point of view and it is the most external layer. The lipid bond (18-MEA) to protein matrix gives the cuticle a substantive hydrophobic surface.

The epicuticle represents a residual of the cuticle cells membrane and has a proteic nature. It is composed by about 25% lipids and 75% proteins, with 12% of cystine, which represents a high content of sulfur. The protein matrix is directed to the hair fiber surface and it is abundant in cysteil groups, near the surface, which are acidulated by fat acids (lipids) (Juez, Gimier, 1983; Robbins, 1994; Ruetch, Weigmann, 1996; Swift, 1999). Those lipids, involving mainly the 18-methyl eicosanoic acid (about 30Å, or 3 nm), form a hydrophobic region (about 50-70Å, or 5-7 nm). This cuticle hydrophobic aspect is important because hydrophobic materials as silicones, fat alcohols, oils and polymers have great affinity for hydrophobic surfaces and they will not settle on hydrophilic surfaces. As the cuticle surface undergoes abrasion during the washing and drying processes, as well as in the combing, this hydrophobic layer is removed by washing the surface of Layer A. Layer A and their following layers may be oxidized to more hydrophilic layers. The condition of the cuticle is responsible for the hair visual and tactile properties, it has the potential to assist in diagnosis of health disorders and may also be used forensically to provide information on the identity of the hair’s owner (Juez, Gimier, 1983; Robbins, 1994; Ruetch, Weigmann, 1996; Swift, 1999; Gurden et al., 2004).

Cortex:

The cortex occupies most of the hair area (75%). In the same way as the cuticle, it has cells filled by cross links of cystine and hard cells separated by the cell membrane complex (CMC). Each one of the cortex cells has a spindle shape, with a 50-100 μm length and a 3 μm diameter. Each cell distal surface is rough, irregular, and they tie crossly to each other (Wilkinson, Moore, 1990; Robbins, Crawford, 1991; Robbins, 1994; Schlake, 2007). The cuticle tightly encircles the cortex that forms the most voluminous part and the heart of the hair fiber. The cortex is made up of cortical cells, which comprise the macrofibrils, long filaments oriented parallel to the axis of the fiber. Each macrofibril consists of intermediate filaments (IF), known also as microfibrils, and the matrix. It has been established that the molecules that aggregate to form the IFs in keratin fibers are type I and type II keratin chains, arranged parallel to one another and in the axial register. After the formation of the alfa-helices, it is believed that the two types of chains associate to form a dimer, which then aggregates with another dimer to form a tetramer. Finally, the formation of a pseudo-hexagonal structure (the IFs structure) occurs by the association of seven or eight tetramers. Type I chains are net acidic, with pH values in the range of 4.5–5.5, while type II chains are neutral-basic with pH around 6.5–7.5. As a consequence, the IFs are low in cystine (6%), whereas the matrix contains up to 20% of total amino acid residues. The matrix proteins that surround the IFs through intermolecular disulfide bonds act as a disulfide crosslinker holding the cortical superstructure together and conferring high mechanical strength, inertness and rigidity to keratin fibers. High sulphur proteins, ultra-high sulphur proteins and high glycine-tyrosine proteins are present in matrix proteins (c-keratins), depending on their cysteine, tyrosine and glycine content. Apart from albinos, all normal humans have melanin hair pigmentation, whatever the colour. Dispersed throughout the structure of the cortex in granular form are the melanin pigment particles. The number, chemical characteristics and distribution pattern of these cells determine the colour of the hair. Like all polymeric structures, keratin fibers consist of long, tightly bound molecular chains held together in many different ways from covalent bonds to weaker interactions such as hydrogen bonds, Coloumbic interactions, van der Walls interactions and, when water is present, hydrophobic bonds. Hair reactivity is complex and depends not only on the presence of reactive groups in the fiber, but also on their availability.

Medulla:

The medulla is a thin cylindrical layer in the center of the hair thread containing high lipid rate concentration and poor cystine. Its function is not yet completely eluci­dated, although its cells may become dehydrated and its spaces may be filled with air, which affects both color and shine in white brown and blond hair. The medulla has a small effect on most of the aspects of cosmetic hair treat­ments and they are only present in terminal hairs (Robbins, 1994; Cade, 1995; Oliveira, 2000). Recently, Wagner et al. (2007) studied the medulla using electron microscopy and observed that medulla presents three distinct subunits (globular structures, unorganized cortical cells and smoo­th covering layer), and also, two kinds of medulla were identified: thin and thick.

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Hair fibers have a structure consisting of several layers, starting from the outside:

1. the cuticle, which consists of several layers of flat, thin cells laid out overlapping one another as roof shingles,

2. the cortex, which contains the keratin bundles in cell structures that remain roughly rod-like.

3. the medulla, a disorganized and open area at the fiber’s center (seen only in thick terminal hair).

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Hair follicle:

The hair follicle is a highly dynamic organ found only in mammals. Although frequently overlooked, the follicle is fascinating from many viewpoints. For cell and developmental biologists it has an almost unique ability in mammals to regenerate itself, recapitulating many embryonic steps en route. For zoologists, it is a mammalian characteristic, significant for their evolutionary success and crucial for the survival of many mammals-loss of fur or faulty colouration leads to death from cold or predation. Human follicles also pose a unique paradox for endocrinologists as the same hormones, androgens, cause stimulation of hair growth in many areas, while simultaneously inhibiting scalp follicles causing balding.

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The epidermis through which each individual hair projects is largely made up of epithelium and lacks blood vessels, while the underlying dermis, wherein reside the hair follicles from which each hair grows, comprises not only the follicles but also connective tissue, blood vessels, sweat glands, and other structures. A hair follicle is a cavity in the skin that contains the root of a hair and grows hair by packing old cells together. Attached to the follicle is a sebaceous gland, a tiny sebum-producing gland found most everywhere but not on the palms, lips, and soles of the feet. The thicker the density of hair, the more sebaceous glands are found. At the base of the follicle is a large structure called the papilla. The papilla is made up mainly of connective tissue and a capillary loop. Cell division in the papilla is either rare or non-existent. Around the papilla is the hair matrix, a collection of epithelial cells often interspersed with melanocytes (cells that produce melanin). Cell division in the hair matrix is responsible for the cells that will form the major structures of the hair fiber and the inner root sheath. The hair matrix epithelium is one of the fastest growing cell populations in the human body. The cells in the bulb divide every 23 to 72 hours, faster than any other cells in the body.

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Your hair grows from follicles within the skin. The part of the hair inside the follicle (below the skin’s surface) is known as the hair root, while the portion you see protruding from the head is the hair shaft. At the base of the hair root is the hair bulb where nutrients are received and new cells are formed.  Also within the hair follicle are the dermal papilla (a cone shaped protrustion at the base of the follicle which feeds blood – and therefore nutrients – to the hair bulb), the sebaceous gland (or oil gland) which lubricates and keeps the hair healthy and shiny, as well as the arrector pili, a tiny muscle anchored to the follicle. The arrector pili respond to stimulus (fear or cold) causing them to contract and make the hair stand up straight. Taking nutrients from the dermal papilla, the hair bulb generates new hair cells. As these cells move up through the hair root, they mature through a process called keratinization, fill with fibrous protein and lose their nucleus. When the cell loses its nucleus it is no longer alive. By the time the hair emerges from the skin it is merely fiber made of keratinized proteins. The fibrous protein emerging from the hair follicle as the hair shaft has a specific construction. It forms a strand with three layers: an outer covering of overlapping keratin scales called the cuticle, a middle layer of keratinized protein fibers called the cortex, and, usually, a central ‘core’ of round cells called the medulla. A medulla is almost always found in coarse hair, and often is absent from naturally blonde hair and very fine hair.  In fact, your hair is approximately 91 percent protein, and is made up of long chains of amino acids. These chains are found within the fibers of the cortex of the hair. The amino acids of these chains are made up of the elements carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and sulfur (are also the building blocks of the skin and nails) and are joined together by peptide bonds. Long chains of these peptide bonds are called polypeptide chains. The polypeptide chains are in turn joined by side bonds. There are three types of side bonds: salt bonds, hydrogen bonds, and disulfide bonds. The salt and hydrogen bonds are most prevalent, but are weaker and are broken by heat and moisture. It is the action of salt and hydrogen bonds that allow the use of wet roller sets and curling or flat irons to change the amount of curl in the hair. Disulfide bonds are fewer, but are much stronger. When you get a permanent wave service, or a relaxer, it is the disulfide bonds that are broken and reformed to give you the change in the amount of curl. Each type of side bond accounts for about one-third of the hair’s strength.

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The matrix cells (keratinocytes) at the base of the follicle differentiate and push upwards, forming three enclosed cylinders. The central most cylinder forms the shaft (fiber). The outermost cylinder forms the outer root sheath (ORS) that separates the whole structure from the dermis. The middle cylinder, the inner root sheath (IRS), molds and guides the shaft in its passage outward. The shaft and the IRS move outward together. These sheaths protect and mold the growing hair shaft. The inner sheath follows the hair shaft and ends below the opening of a sebaceous (oil) gland, and sometimes an apocrine (scent) gland. The outer sheath continues all the way up to the gland. A muscle called an erector pili muscle attaches below the gland to a fibrous layer around the outer sheath. When this muscle contracts, it causes the hair to stand up. The sebaceous gland is important because it produces sebum which is a natural conditioner. The sebaceous glands act as lubricants for the skin and hair, maintaining moisture content and prevent the skin and hair from drying out and cracking.  More sebum is produced after puberty. The sebum production decreases in women throughout their lives. The production also decreases in men, but not as much as in women. Certain species of Demodex mites live in the hair follicles of mammals (including those of humans), where they feed on sebum.

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At the base of the follicle is the dermal papilla, which is a condensed mesenchymal mass composed of specialized fibroblasts. The fibroblasts in the dermal papilla determine the length of the hair because they control the number of matrix cells (keratinocytes). On the outer root sheath, we also find the “bulge”. This is a cluster of cells biochemically different from the others, having properties of epithelial stem cells. The bulge region is also rich in nerve endings and contains neuropeptides that control the proliferation of follicles. All mature follicles undergo a growth cycle consisting of phases of growth (anagen), regression (catagen), rest (telogen), and shedding (exogen). The anagen follicle consists of a so-called “permanent” portion above the muscle insertion and a cycling portion below. Because the hair shaft may not shed before the next anagen starts, it is important to appreciate that the hair cycle with respect to the shaft is different from the hair cycle with respect to the follicle; in other words, the fully formed telogen shaft (“club hair”), adherent to the pilary canal wall, may rest completely independently of the cycle expressed in the underlying follicle.

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Stem cells:

The hair follicle is made up of a permanent region, which consists of the infundibulum and isthmus, and a variable region, known as the hair shaft factory, which includes differentiated epithelial cells, the hair matrix, and dermal papilla (DP) cells.  After hair follicle morphogenesis, various stem cells are maintained in the follicle stem cell niches, such as epithelial stem cells (with CD34 and CD49f-positive cell markers) in the bulge region of the permanent portion, neural crest-derived melanocyte precursor cells for hair pigmentation in the sub-bulge region of the follicle permanent region, and multipotent mesenchymal precursor cells in the DP cells. The interaction between epithelial stem cells and mesenchymal precursor cells mediates the hair cycle, which depends on the activation of these cells during telogen-anagen transition and the anagen, catagen and telogen phases. The follicular epithelial stem cells retain the ability to differentiate into outer root sheaths, hair matrix, inner root sheaths, and hair shafts during the anagen phase. The DP and the dermal sheath cells coordinate to regulate cell proliferation, cell differentiation and the fate of the hair matrix cells and thus engender different hair types.

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Some forms of chemotherapy that kill rapidly dividing cells may lead to temporary hair loss, by their action on rapidly dividing hair matrix epidermal cell population (keratinocytes) which produce hair. The dermal papilla is usually ovoid or pear shaped with the matrix wrapped completely around it, except for a short stalk-like connection to the surrounding connective tissue, which provides access for the capillary. Once chemotherapy is stopped, stem cells again re-divide to generate matrix epidermal cells (keratinocytes) to produce hair.

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Hair structure synopsis:

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Are hair shafts permanent?

No.

Hair shafts are not permanent, but continually grow and are replaced. In some species, such as humans and cats, each follicle appears to grow independent of the others, but in other species, such as the rat, mouse, and rabbit, the replacement pattern is undulant.

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Do hair follicles of same region follow identical growth cycle in humans? 

No.

The follicles in each region follow set cycles with similar durations for growth periods but are not all cycling together so the hair shedding is never in complete synchrony.  Human hair grows autonomously, that is each hair is on its own individual cycle. If all our hair were on the same cycle, we would molt!  Animals that shed have hair follicles that synchronize their rest phase so that all of the follicles enter the rest phase at once. This way, all of the hair falls out at one time. A dog that sheds will lose its hair in large clumps. Many animals can also switch the coloring agent in the hair follicle on and off — so in the summer, the hair is pigmented ­brown with melanin, but in the winter it is not pigmented, leaving the hair white.

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If hair shaft is non-living, why does it hurt to pluck?

When you pluck hairs, you are pulling them out of their follicles. This literally rips the root of the hair out. Since you have nerve ending all over your skin and body, you feel this happening and it can hurt a little. When you cut hair, it is painless as no nerve ending is stimulated.

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Do multiple hairs grow out of one follicle?

Normally single hair grows from a single hair follicle and exits from single hair canal to the surface of the scalp/body. However, having some hair follicles that produce 2-3 hairs is quite common and normal especially in vellus hairs. Beards and body hair seem more affected (for males) than the scalp. Scalp hair follicles that appear to have multiple strands emerging from the same follicle these are usually aberrations or caused by hairs that have split vertically along the shaft. Most of the time this condition is not problematic and does not lead to folliculitis. Pili multigemini on the other hands is even more hair coming out of one follicle as e.g. 5-15 hairs. This comes with a higher risk of folliculitis and is a rare condition compared to the 2-3 hair case. It has been observed in animals too and is clearly a mood of nature but nothing too freaky. The aesthetic and thus psychosocial impact on humans can be serious though.  

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Pili multigemini:

Multiple hairs in a follicle may suggest pili multigemini which is also called compound hairs, are considered rare although there have been no studies to define the actual frequency in the general population. Pili multigemini is listed as a “rare disease” by the Office of Rare Diseases (ORD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This means that Pili multigemini, or a subtype of Pili multigemini, affects less than 200,000 people in the US population.  The name describes a condition where several separate hair fibers bunch together and emerge from the skin through a single hair canal. The hair looks like a bunch of flower stalks in a vase. Pili multigemini is an uncommon hair condition also called compound hair follicles or pili bifurcati. A person with this disorder will notice several strands of hair that appear to be growing from a single hair follicle. It is usually present on the scalp of children and infants, and the facial hair of men. The cause of pili multigemini is unknown, although there may be a genetic link. Treatment for this condition focuses on the removal of the affected hair follicles to present the appearance of uniform hair growth. Diagnosis of pili multigemini may occur after a physician makes a visual examination of the scalp and hair. Three or more strands of hair are commonly observed growing out of a single hair follicle. Some men have been diagnosed with pili multigemini of beard and facial hair; it has sometimes been located on the hairs on the back of males. The follicles with multiple strands exiting from them may appear in a linear formation on the face or the back. Extreme cases of pili multigemini have been observed where as many as 36 strands of hair were observed exiting from one hair follicle. Less severe cases have been reported where the patient had an average of 20 hairs growing out of each follicle. Most people with pili multigemini average 3 to 10 hairs per hair cluster. Under microscopic examination, multiple strands of hair do not grow out of one hair follicle. The roots of several hair follicles are clustered together below the scalp. These strands of hair group together to exit from the scalp through a single hair canal. Another pili multigemini symptom is the abnormal depth of the hair follicle within the scalp tissue. The roots are buried further within the scalp than normal hair follicles, making plucking the hairs difficult. Hair that is affected by this condition may be more coarse and curly than other normally growing hairs. There are few treatments for pili multigemini. Electrolysis to destroy the affected hair follicle may be used if the appearance of the hair growth is unsightly. Some patients undergo cryosurgery to remove the hair follicles exhibiting signs of the condition. A simple method some people use is to shave the specific hair follicles that are growing more than one hair strand at a time.   

Tips that may be useful to prevent pili multigemini:

 1) Excess protein food must be avoided (Like meat, Mutton and Albumin).

 2) Vitamin B12 supplements may help to reduce the intensity.

 3) Increase in the fiber content of food will reduce the pili multigemini disorder.

4) Avoiding of over exposure of hair to sun radiation.

5) Reduction of usage of shampoo (with excess sodium lauryl sulphite and detergent based shampoos).

6) Do not expose hair to air flow (e.g. during traveling) and UV radiation.

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Types of body hair in humans:

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Human hair can be distinguished into three main categories of hair that include lanugo, vellus and terminal hair types. Lanugo hair is the first hair produced by the developing hair follicles during prenatal development. This hair forms subdermally by the third or fourth month of fetal development, and by the fifth month the hair structure has appeared on the external surface of the skin of the fetus. This hair tends to be long, unpigmented and very fine, and is generally shed by the eighth month of fetal development, though it may persist until a month or more after birth (Gray 1974). The first hair that is produced during the post-natal life of an individual is vellus hair. The vellus hair is generally short, unpigmented, very fine, and unmedullated. This is the hair that primarily covers the human body in most individuals, the hair that covers the so-called “hairless” parts of the skin, such as the forehead or the nose. This hair may also replace terminal hair in individuals with androgenic alopecia, the typical form of baldness that is seen in many human beings. Terminal hair tends to be long, coarse, pigmented, and medullated. Among humans, terminal hair covers the scalp, axillae, pubic area, and the face and chest of some males. Hair follicles are capable of producing either vellus or terminal hair, and under hormonal stimulation can switch from producing one to the other (e.g. during puberty, when vellus hair in the pubic region begins to be replaced by terminal hair, or in baldness when vellus hair replaces terminal hair) (Montagna 1976).

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Chemical composition of Hair Elements found in Hair:
Hair is made of protein which originates in the hair follicle. As the cells mature, they fill up with a fibrous protein called keratin. These cells lose their nucleus and die as they travel up the hair follicle. Approximately 91 percent of the hair is protein made up of long chains of amino acids. The amino acids are joined to each other by chemical bonds called peptide bonds or end bonds. The long chain of amino acids is called a called a polypeptide chain and is linked by peptide bonds. The polypeptide chains are intertwined around each other in a helix shape. There are various elements found in the hair including keratin, lipids, water and trace elements. The average composition of normal hair is composed of  45.2 % carbon, 27.9% oxygen, 6.6% hydrogen, 15.1% nitrogen and 5.2% sulphur. The keratin found in hair is called “hard” keratin.  This type of keratin does not dissolve in water and is quite resilient. So what is keratin made from?  Keratin is an important, insoluble protein and it is made from eighteen amino acids. The most abundant of these amino acids is cystine which gives hair much of its strength.

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Hair growth:

Hair grows in cycles of various phases. Each phase has several morphologically and histologically distinguishable sub-phases. Prior to the start of cycling is a phase of follicular morphogenesis (formation of the follicle).

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There are three main phases of human hair growth: anagen (growth phase), catagen (regression phase), and telogen (resting phase), and some authors add fourth phase exogen (shedding). The anagen phase is further subdivided into proanagen, mesanagen, and metanagen. Anagen is the active growth phase of the hair, and the state in which any individual hair will spend most of its life cycle. In the proanagen phase, the initiation of growth with RNA and DNA synthesis in a follicle occurs, which then quickly progresses through mesanagen to metanagen with the resulting maximum hair length and thickness achieved. In this mature state of proliferation and differentiation, the hair follicle is made up of eight concentric layers, and melanogenesis will occur within pigmented hair follicles. The anagen phase is followed by catagen, which is a period of controlled regression of the hair follicle where the dermal papilla migrates upward and the growth of hair is reduced. This results in a weaker fit of the hair in the root sheath and a thinner hair. Finally, the hair follicle will enter the telogen phase, a resting state where little or no growth occurs, and where the hair will fall out or can easily be pulled out. At this stage a new dermal papilla will begin forming in the dermis and a new hair will begin to grow, forcing the old hair out of the skin if it has not already been removed. In many mammals, adjacent hairs go through these cycles in waves (the loss or gain of the “coat” in particular climatic seasons), but in humans the hair proceeds through these stages independently of any other follicle. There is also a shedding phase, or exogen, that is independent of anagen and telogen, in which one of several hairs from a single follicle exits. Normally up to 90 percent of the hair follicles are in anagen phase while, 10–14 percent are in telogen, and 1–2 percent in catagen. The cycle’s length varies on different parts of the body. For eyebrows, the cycle is completed in around 4 months, while it takes the scalp 3–4 years to finish.  Growth cycles are controlled by a chemical, signal-like, epidermal growth factor.

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The figure below shows phases of hair growth in a typical terminal hair of scalp:

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Head hair naturally remains in the anagen phase for an extended period of time, up to several years. Hair on your arms, however, will move on to the catagen phase in a matter of weeks. This is when the hair stops growing and transitions to the dormant telogen phase. The hair stops lengthening and eventually falls out naturally through shedding or external trauma such as pulling. Liebovitz says some types of hair develop anagen sensitivity as we grow older. The long term exposure of hair follicles to hormones such as testosterone will disrupt and lengthen their growing period. That’s why nose, ear, and eyebrow hair can reach troll-doll proportions without regular trimming as we age.  Hair growth can be extremely sensitive to male hormones, according to Dr. Sarah Baker, an instructor of Dermatology at Northwestern University. “dihydrotestosterone (DHT)is produced in hair follicles and different areas of hair on the body respond to DHT differently,” Baker says. According to Baker, testosterone causes hair to grow in the beard, pubic, and underarm area, and it causes hair to shrink on the scalp, which develops into hair loss or hair thinning. At the end of telogen the follicle stem cells starts proliferating and the growth stage begins again. A number of signaling pathways/molecules have been implicated in regulating different steps of hair follicle cycling. For instance, Wnt/β-catenin, BMP and Shh pathways act as anagen-stimulating signals, whereas the catagen is induced by TGFβ family pathway and growth factors such as FGF5 and EGF. Key molecular players for anagen maintenance include, IGF1, HGF and VEGF.

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Hairs are produced in anagen, the growth phase. Once a hair reaches full length, a short apoptosis driven involution phase, catagen, occurs, where cell division and pigmentation stops, the hair becomes fully keratinised with a swollen “club” end and moves up in the skin with the regressed dermal papilla. After a period of rest, telogen, the dermal papilla cells and associated keratinocyte stem cells reactivate and a new lower follicle develops downwards inside the dermal sheath which surrounded the previous follicle. The new hair then grows up into the original upper follicle. The existing hair is generally lost; although previously thought to be due to the new hair’s upward movement, a further active shedding stage,

exogen, is now proposed. Hair follicle regeneration is characterised by dramatic changes in its microanatomy and cellular activity. Hair follicle transition between distinct hair cycle stages is governed by epithelial-mesenchymal interactions between the keratinocytes of the follicular epithelium and the dermal papilla fibroblasts. Cell fate during hair follicle growth and involution is controlled by numerous growth regulators that induce survival and/or differentiation or apoptosis. During hair follicle active growth and hair production, the activity of factors promoting proliferation, differentiation, and survival predominates, while hair follicle regression is characterised by activation of various signaling pathways that induce apoptosis in hair follicle cells.

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The figure below shows anti and pro-apoptotic molecules in hair follicle responsible for cell multiplication or apoptosis. Multiplication leads to hair growth and apoptosis leads to hair shedding. These molecules are under influence of hormones and growth factors.

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Molecular evolution of HR, a gene that regulates the postnatal cycle of the hair follicle:

Hair is a unique mammalian trait that is absent in all other animal forms. Hairlessness is rare in mammals and humans are exceptional among primates in lacking dense layer of hair covering. HR was the first gene identified to be implicated in hair-cycle regulation. Point mutations in HR lead to congenital human hair loss, which results in the complete loss of body and scalp hairs. HR functions are indispensable for initiation of postnatal hair follicular cycling.  Alopecia universalis congenita (AUC) is characterized by the absence of scalp and body hairs causing complete baldness. Initial hair growth is normal, but after birth once the hair is shed the follicles fails to regenerate and hair loss becomes permanent. This led to the conclusion that gene underlying AUC is highly specific mediator of hair follicle cycling. Mutations in the human hair gene (HR) on chromosome 8p12 have been associated with this disease phenotype through genetic linkage analysis. Genetic studies with rodents and human hairless gene have revealed molecular mechanisms by which HR functions in hair development and growth. HR protein has been shown to interact with multiple nuclear receptors, including thyroid hormone receptor (TR), the retinoic acid receptor-related orphan receptors (ROR) and the vitamin D receptors (VDR). HR also interacts with histone deacetylases (HDACs), modifies chromatin structure and resulting in transcriptional repression. During hair cycling in mammals the HR protein regulates hair follicle regeneration (telogen to anagen transition) by promoting Wnt signaling. In HR mutants, over-expression of Wnt signaling inhibitors occurs, preventing the Wnt pathway and resulting in failure of hair follicles to regrow. Thus initial hair growth is normal (during early development) but once the hair is shed it does not grow back resulting in AUC phenotype. This observation implicate the mammalian HR as one of the master regulator of hair cycle which is indispensable for telogen to anagen transition and thus to reinitiate postnatal hair growth.

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Time of human hair growth cycle:

Scalp:

The time of these phases varies from person to person. Different hair color and follicle shape effects the timings of these phases.

1. anagen phase, 2–6 years (occasionally much longer)

2. catagen phase, 2–3 weeks

3. telogen phase, around 3 months

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The table below shows maximum length, diameter and time of anagen phase of scalp hair of Caucasian females:

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Note:

The above table shows positive correlation between diameter of hair and maximum length of hair.

The larger the size of hair follicle, larger the diameter of hair and longer will be the length of hair (vide infra).

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Remember, longer the time duration of anagen phase, longer will be length of hair. Since most body hair including scalp hair and beard grow at almost same rate (except eye lashes), the length of any hair is solely determined by duration of anagen phase of hair follicle. 

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Basically the longer-hair follicle, found on the scalp, has a longer growth phase than pubic or axillary (arm pit) hair follicles. So the hair on the scalp is shed very slowly compared to the other regions resulting in time for the hair shaft to grow longer before it is shed.
Average estimated growth rates:
Scalp hair is ~1 cm/month or 0.34 to 0.36 mm/day throughout life. Growth phase is 3-6 years.
Genetic variation in some population’s gene pool- there are members with longer follicle growth phases so the population average tends to longer hair.
Eyelash/brow growth rates have been reported at 0.16 mm/day. Body hairs on arms, legs, eyelashes, and eyebrows have a very short active growth phase of about 30-45 days.
Beard hair at 0.38 mm/day.
Pubic and axillary (armpit) hair grows almost as fast as scalp hair at 15 but slows with age and has a much faster follicle turn over time.

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How fast does Hair grow?

The most oft-quoted average rate of human hair growth is 6 inches (15 centimeters) per year. However, the majority of studies measuring the rate of hair growth didn’t take into account the race of study participants. It’s known, for instance, that Caucasian hair differs from Asian and African hair in several ways, e.g., density (how closely hair strands are packed together) and the angle of hair growth. A 2005 study in the International Journal of Dermatology also found a difference among races in the rate of hair growth. For example, Asian hair grows the fastest, while African hair grows the slowest. The average hair growth rate of Asian female participants was nearly 6 inches per year. Comparatively, African female participants’ hair grew 4 inches (10 cm) per year, while Caucasian female participants’ hair grew a little more than 5 inches (13 cm) per year. The hair growth rate of the male participants didn’t significantly differ from that found for women. Researchers also think that hair grows quicker in the summer due to dietary changes (eating more fruits and vegetables), as well as shifts in hormones and increased exposure to UV radiation. But any seasonal increase in hair growth would be so marginal as to be unnoticeable.  With age the speed of hair growth might slow down to as little as 0.25 cm or 0.1 inch a month.  Cell division is responsible for the hair growth cycle. The new cells push the hair forward to make it longer, so the new hair is added at the root. There are about 100.000 hairs on a healthy scalp of hair. Each of these hairs will, in normal healthy conditions, last for one up to six years. People lose about 100 hairs per day, in normal conditions. The fallen hairs are replaced by new hair. Baldness occurs when new hairs are not being produced anymore. Hair grows at about the same speed all over your head. There is no perceptible difference between the fringe, nape, crown etc.  Hair usually takes about two years to reach shoulder length, and at approximately 80–90 cm (32–36 inches) for most people, waist-length hair usually takes about seven years to grow, including occasional trims.  

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Does hair stop growing after a certain period or length?

Yes.

There are women who have hair that reaches way down their backs, but for others, growing hair to that length feels impossible.  For some, it seems hair gives up at some point, or perhaps has reached its full-growth capacity. We are genetically pre-programmed to grow our hair to a certain length. The anagen phase can range anywhere from two to six years; this is what will determine the maximal length we can achieve for scalp hair.

Can certain events “shock” hair and essentially affect length? 

Yes.

Lifestyle and general health factors can contribute to that picture. Stressful periods can cause an increase in the amount of hair we lose. It is not uncommon that three months or so following a very difficult time we can see an increase in hair loss when hair is washed or styled.

What about as we get older, does growth slow down?

Yes.

 Older age can bring with it variables that are not optimal for hair growth. Thus it seems that it grows more slowly.

The bottom line:

 Maximum hair length is determined by one’s anagen phase (period of growth), which can range anywhere from two to six years. Hair length is completely controlled by the length of the anagen phase of your hair follicle.  How long this period lasts is generally determined mostly by genetics, but can also be affected by hormones, and even extreme stress.  More specifically, there is a chemical signal that ultimately controls the exact growth cycle. Obviously hairs on your arms or legs have a very different anagen period than hairs on your head, thus why your leg hair doesn’t grow two feet long without trimming.  Further, different people, thanks mostly to their genetics, have differing lengths of the anagen period for a given body part compared to other people. For the hair on your head, the average length of the anagen phase is about 2-7 years.  For your arms, legs, eyebrows, etc., this phase usually lasts just 30-45 days. However, in extreme cases which are quite rare, some people have anagen periods for their heads as small as most people’s anagen phases for their arms and legs.  For these people, their hair never naturally grows more than a few inches long. The opposite is also true; with people whose anagen phase can last decades for their scalp hair. Both of these extremes are very rare though. At any given time about 85%-90% of your hair is in the anagen phase, 1-2% is in the catagen phase, and 10-14% is in the telogen phase.  However, extreme stress can trigger the anagen phase to stop prematurely and hair can rapidly progress to the telogen phase, even as much as 70% of the hair on your body. When this happens, the majority of your hair that should still be growing can fall out all at once.

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How to calculate your anagen phase duration?

Under normal circumstances, though, you can get a rough estimate of how long your anagen phase is based on how long your hair grows naturally without cutting on a given area.  First, assuming your hair isn’t already as long as it can get, measure your hair length, then exactly a month later measure it again and note the difference.  Now you have your growth rate (usually about 1 cm every 28 days or 1 inch every 71 days).  So if, without cutting, the hair on your head eventually grows 16 inches long max, then your anagen phase lasts: (inches x period per inch).  So using the average of 1 inch every 71 days, (16 inches x 71 days/inch) = approximately 1136 days or 3.11 years.

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Does cutting hair increases hair length?

Absolutely No.

Relatively Yes.

 When you cut it, it will grow back to its maximum length, this is just because when the cycle restarts, new hair comes in that can grow to the maximum length, eventually replacing the old hair that will be shorter than it could have been because you cut it. As you might have now guessed from the fact that hair growth is completely controlled by what’s going on under the surface, within your hair follicles, and that genetics and hormones are the primary things determining hair growth length, which are in no way affected by shaving, shaving does not in any way alter your hair growth rate nor does it alter the color of the hair. 

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Terminal length concept: maximum hair length of scalp hair especially in women:

Terminal length is real, although it could be more accurately called terminal time. It has nothing to do with hair breaking. Each strand of hair has a set maximum length of time that it can grow. (This is generally a few years.) After that time is up, the strand falls out, and a new strand starts growing in. For Caucasians, terminal length is generally somewhere between waist and knee, although there are exceptions. This is when the strands have grown for as long as possible.  If your hair grows half an inch a month and you have a growth phase of six years, your terminal length is 36 inches, if you never cut your hair at all during that time. If you get one-inch trims four times a year, your hair is not going to grow any longer than 12 inches, since you’re cutting off most of the growth.  If you want long hair, you can’t cut it that often. Of course, you also don’t want to have long hair with damaged ends.  Some people buy a pair of hair scissors and periodically go through and cut off each individual split, rather than getting trims, so their hair can grow longer. Generally, when you get near terminal length, you’ll start noticing a lot of taper; where the hair at the ends is much thinner than the hair at the scalp. It’s pretty rare for women to grow completely to terminal for this reason; full butt-length hair looks better than thin knee-length hair.  Anyway, the best way to grow your hair long is to leave it alone. Don’t heat style, don’t perm or relax, and don’t dye. (When you do these things your hair does break, which causes your length to not increase.)   

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Are we underestimating maximum hair length of scalp hair?

Many women will by now know that hair will on average grow for between 2 to 6 years. This figure is widely quoted as the average length of the anagen phase (when hair is actively growing during its growth cycle). This would therefore translate to a maximum hair length from anywhere between 8-12 inches (shoulder to armpit length) at the low end to 24 to 36 inches (waist length to tailbone length) at the higher end  This all assuming a yearly average growth rate of between 4 and 6 inches. However what many people do not know is that the widely quoted scientific figure is in fact based on 2 to 3 small scale studies which account for as few as 2 individuals. There are in fact no studies which actually track a reasonable group of individuals over a period of years to firmly determine how long the hair growth cycle actually is. Furthermore there is evidence that this 2-6 year widely accepted length could be considerably wrong. One interesting study which measured hair length of visitors to US theme parks and hair lengths recorded online on long hair sites, came to the conclusion that the average normal length of the anagen phase could be as long as 12 to 14 years. This translates to 48-72 inches at the low end and 56-84 inches at the high end. Both of these figures translate to a maximum hair length of below tailbone to ankle length and beyond. To be clear, this means that the average person can grow hair to well below tailbone even with a 4 inch per year hair growth phase. The scientific truth is that the maximum hair length that a human being can achieve is not well established and human hair may keep growing for 6 years or longer.

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The hair care factor for hair length:

Hair length is linked to genetics but this only determines how fast and how long your hair will grow. It does not account for how well you handle it. Sometimes women look at other family members to determine how long their hair will grow but this can be hugely erroneous. If the vast majority of women in your family have very short hair without intentionally cutting it, it does not mean that their hair is incapable of achieving longer lengths. It may in fact indicate that the methods that they use to care for their hair cause it to break. In addition, if you happen to be the only one in your family whose hair appears not to be able to achieve a longer length, the fact is that your hair texture is probably quite different from your other family members. It may be the case that the standard routine used by the rest of your family does not apply to you. This is especially true if your family is of mixed heritage. Once hair is outside of the follicle, the onus is on the owner to maintain it. The less damage it sustains, the more likely it is to be able to achieve its maximum length (i.e. still be present 6 or 12 years after emerging.) If you find that your hair keeps breaking at a certain length, you need to change what you are doing at that length in order to help it overcome the breakage. The length of your hair’s growth phase is determined by genetics, although your diet and lifestyle habits can definitely influence your hair’s health. You can’t encourage your hair to grow longer than heredity dictates, but by treating it kindly, you can help it maximize its potential and prevent it from breaking before its time.

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Hair length is measured (in centimeters or inches) from the line of the scalp on the forehead up over the highest point of the skull to its termination. In cosmetology, hair lengths are usually categorized according to the part of the body where the bulk of the longest hair terminates: chin level, shoulder length, mid-back level, waist length, hip-length, classic length (extends to almost upper thigh-length, where the legs meet the buttocks), thigh-length, knee-length and ankle/floor length hair. Hair usually takes about two years to reach shoulder length and waist-length hair usually takes about seven years to grow, including occasional trims. Terminal length varies from person to person according to genetics and overall health.

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The maximum hair length that is possible to reach is about 15 cm (6 in) for infants (below the age of 1), about 60 cm (24 in) for children, and generally 100 cm (40 in) for adults. Some individuals can reach excessive lengths. Lengths greater than 150 cm (59 in) are frequently observed in long hair contests.  Xie Qiuping had the longest documented hair in the world, measuring 5.627 m (18 ft 5.54 in) in May 2004. According to Clarence R. Robbins in Chemical and Physical Behavior of Human Hair (Springer, 2002), most humans can grow their hair as long as 100-150cm.

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Why does the hair on your arms stay short, while the hair on your head can grow very long?

Each hair on your body grows from its own individual hair follicle. Inside the follicle, new hair cells form at the root of the hair shaft. As the cells form, they push older cells out of the follicle. As they are pushed out, the cells die and become the hair we see. A follicle will produce new cells for a certain period of time depending on where it is located on your body. This period is called the growth phase. Then it will stop for a period of time (the rest phase), and then restart the growth phase again. When the hair follicle enters the rest phase, the hair shaft breaks, so the existing hair falls out and a new hair takes its place. Therefore, the length of time that the hair is able to spend growing during the growth phase controls the maximum length of the hair. The cells that make the hairs on your arms are programmed to stop growing every couple of months, so the hair on your arms stays short. The hair follicles on your head, on the other hand, are programmed to let hair grow for years at a time, so the hair can grow very long.

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Control of hair growth in mammals:

Seasonal changes in Hair Growth:

Seasonal changes usually occur twice a year in temperate regions with coordinated waves of growth and moulting to produce a thicker, warmer winter coat and shorter summer pelage. These are linked to day-length, and to a lesser extent to temperature, like seasonal breeding activity; nutrient availability can also affect hair type because of the high metabolic requirements of hair production.

Hormonal Regulation of Hair Growth:

Hair follicles are under hormonal regulation due to the importance of coordinating alterations in insulative and colour properties of a mammal’s coat to the environment or visibility to changes in sexual development. Apart from seasonal changes, the most obvious regulators of human hair growth are androgens, as long as individuals have good nutrition and normal thyroid function. Pregnancy hormones also effect hair growth causing diffuse hair loss post-partum.

Pregnancy:

Lynfield found more scalp follicles were in anagen during the second and third trimesters (95%) and for about a week after birth; by six weeks this fell to about 76%, remaining low for 3 months. Pregnancy hormones maintain follicles in anagen, but after birth many enter catagen and telogen, causing a synchronised partial shedding or moult. This may be particularly noticeable in autumn due to seasonal shedding. Which hormones are involved is uncertain, although oestrogen and prolactin are possibilities. Human follicles have prolactin and 17b-oestradiol receptors, but 17b estradiol inhibits cultured human follicles, and rodent hair growth, accelerating catagen onset, the opposite of the pregnancy effect. Prolactin reduces human follicular growth in vitro supporting a role in post-partum shedding.

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Androgen and hair in humans:

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The figure below shows Androgenic hair:

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Androgenic hair, colloquially body hair, is the terminal hair that develops on the human body during and after puberty. It is differentiated from the head hair and less visible vellus hair, which are much finer and lighter in color. The growth of androgenic hair is related to the level of androgens (male hormones) in the individual. Due to a normally higher level of androgen, men tend to have more androgenic hair than women. From childhood onward, regardless of biological sex, vellus hair covers almost the entire area of the human body. Exceptions include the lips, the backs of the ears, the palms of hands, the soles of the feet, certain external genital areas, the navel and scar tissue. Androgenic hair follows the same growth pattern as the hair that grows on the scalp, only the anagen phase is shorter, and the telogen phase is longer. While the anagen phase for the hair on one’s head lasts for years, the androgenic hair growing phase lasts a few months. The telogen phase for body hair lasts close to a year. This shortened growing period and extended dormant period of androgenic hair explains why the hair on the head tends to be much longer than other hair found on the body. Differences in length seen in comparing the hair on the back of the hand and pubic hair, for example, can be explained by varied growth cycles in those two regions. The same goes for differences in body hair length seen in different people, especially when comparing men and women. Hair follicles are to varying degrees sensitive to androgen, primarily testosterone and its derivatives, with different areas on the body having different sensitivity. As androgen levels increase, the rate of hair growth and the weight of the hairs increase. Genetic factors determine both individual levels of androgen and the hair follicle’s sensitivity to androgen, as well as other characteristics such as hair colour, type of hair and hair retention. Rising levels of androgen during puberty cause vellus hair to transform into terminal hair over many areas of the body. The sequence of appearance of terminal hair reflects the level of androgen sensitivity, with pubic hair being the first to appear due to the area’s special sensitivity to androgen. The appearance of pubic hair in both sexes is usually seen as an indication of the start of a person’s puberty. There is a sexual dimorphism in the amount and distribution of androgenic hair, with males having more terminal hair (particularly facial hair, chest hair, abdominal hair, and hair on legs and arms) and females having more vellus hair, which is less visible. The genetic disposition determines the sex-dependent and individual rising of androgens and therefore the development of androgenic hair. Women retain more of the less visible vellus hair, although leg, arm, and foot hair can be noticeable on women. It is not unusual for women to have a few terminal hairs around their nipples as well. In the later decades of life, especially after the 5th decade, there begins a reduction in body hair especially marked in the legs. The reason for this is not known but it could be due to poorer circulation, lower free circulating hormone levels or other reasons.  

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Androgens have paradoxically different effects on hair follicles depending on body site, stimulating beard growth while inducing regression in some areas of the scalp. The mesenchyme derived dermal papilla at the base of the hair follicle regulates many aspects of the growth of follicular epithelium, and is probably the site of androgen action. Since 5 alpha-dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is considered to be the active intracellular androgen in many target tissues and is required for some androgen-mediated hair growth, such androgen-sensitive cells should contain enzyme 5 alpha-reductase.

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Human hair follicles show Paradoxically Different intrinsic responses to Androgens:

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Sexual hair:

Sexual hair is that which responds to sex steroids and grows primarily on the face, chest, lower abdomen, the pubis, and in the axillae. In androgen-sensitive areas, androgen stimulates hair follicles, inducing the growth of thicker, longer, and darker hairs. Thereafter, the hair exhibits typical cycles of growth, involution, and rest, but does not change in character, even if high androgen levels are not sustained. Because androgen stimulation of hair follicles requires the conversion of testosterone to DHT, the sensitivity of hair follicles to androgens is determined, in part, by the local level of 5α–reductase activity, helping to explain the varying extent of hirsutism observed in women with similar levels of androgen excess. Based on data from animal studies and on patterns of human disease, the following summarizes the effects of steroid hormones on hair growth:

1. Androgens, particularly testosterone, stimulate growth and increase the diameter and pigmentation of hair. Androgens also increase the proportion of time terminal hairs spend in anagen, except on the scalp, where androgen decreases the duration of anagen.

2. Estrogens have actions opposite those of androgens, generally resulting in slower growth of finer and lighter hair.

3. Progestins have little or no direct effect on hair growth.

4. Pregnancy, characterized by high levels of both estrogen and progesterone, can induce greater synchrony among hair follicles, leading to periods of growth or shedding.

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Observations in studies of the effects of male castration demonstrate an important clinical characteristic of hair growth. Males castrated before puberty do not grow a beard or other sexual hair, but when castrated after puberty is completed, the beard and sexual hair continue to grow, albeit more slowly and with finer caliber hair.

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Different Hair at different sites on the same human:

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Head hair (scalp hair):

Head hair is a type of hair that is grown on the head (sometimes referring directly to the scalp). This is the most noticeable of all human hair, which can grow longer than on most mammals and is denser than most hair found elsewhere on the body. The average human head (an average scalp measures approximately 120 square inches or 770 cm²) has about 100,000 hair follicles. Each follicle can grow about 20 individual hairs in a person’s lifetime. Average hair loss is around 100 strands a day. The absence of head hair is termed alopecia, commonly known as baldness. Anthropologists speculate that the functional significance of long head hair may be adornment. Long lustrous hair may be a visible marker for a healthy individual. With good nutrition, waist length hair—approximately 1 meter or 39 inches long—would take around 48 months, or about 4 years, to grow. Hair density is related to both race and hair color. Caucasians have the highest hair density, with an average growth rate, while Asians have the lowest density but fastest growing hair, and Africans have medium density and slowest growing hair.

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Beard:

A beard is the collection of hair that grows on the chin, upper lip, cheeks and neck of human beings and some non-human animals. In humans, usually only pubescent or adult males are able to grow beards. However, women with hirsutism, a hormonal condition of excessive hairiness, may develop a beard. When differentiating between upper and lower facial hair, a beard specifically excludes the moustache. Over the course of history, men with facial hair have been ascribed various attributes such as wisdom, sexual virility, masculinity, or a higher status; however, beards may at times have also been perceived to be associated with a loss of refinement. The beard develops during puberty. Beard growth is linked to stimulation of hair follicles in the area by dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which continues to affect beard growth after puberty. Hair follicles from different areas vary in what hormones they are stimulated or inhibited by; dihydrotestosterone also promotes balding. Dihydrotestosterone is produced from testosterone, the levels of which vary with season; thus beards grow faster in summer.

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Facts about beard:

•There are about 30,000 beard hairs on the face of the average man—the greatest concentration on the chin and upper lip

•42% of men report that they prefer to be clean shaven, 34% say they have a moustache, 19% have sideburns, 17% have a goatee, 6% have a full beard, and 3% have a soul patch

•The average shave lasts 3 ½ minutes

•The average man spends 10-15 hours a year shaving

•The average man will have spent 900 hours shaving (the equivalent of 37 1/2 days) between ages 15 and 75

•The majority of men, 84%, shave at the sink. Another 15% of men shave in the shower

•The average man begins to shave regularly when he begins to work regularly

•Men between the ages of 18 and 24 shave an average of four times a week

•Men over the age of 35 shave an average of six times a week

•Length of beard an average man would grow if he never shaved: 1 to 3 feet

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Shamsher Singh of Punjab, India, had his beard officially measured in 1997 at an impressive 6 ft. from the end of chin to the tip:

The figure below shows man with long beard.

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Charles Darwin first noted a possible evolutionary explanation of beards in his work, The Descent of Man, which hypothesized that the process of sexual selection may have led to beards. Modern biologists have reaffirmed the role of sexual selection in the evolution of beards, concluding that there is evidence that a preponderance of females in the past found mates with beards more attractive than mates without beards.

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Will any man be able to grow a beard or mustache?

The answer to this question appears to depend mainly on his genetic makeup. There is considerable variance in both the developmental pace and the quantity of facial hair that different men are able to grow. These varying developmental patterns seem to be largely related to inherited traits– though keep in mind that a guy may not be able to accurately predict his own facial hair growth based on that of his male relatives.

What can you do to make your beard grow thicker?

Not much, 90% of how your beard looks is determined by genetics and age. However, good alimentation and grooming habits will help maximize what you have and keep the hair in optimal shape.

Will shaving make your beard grow in thicker or faster?

No, shaving will not make your facial hair grow in any thicker or faster. There are a couple of reasons why your hair might feel like it is growing in thicker after shaving. First, hair tends to be thicker and darker near the root and becomes thinner near the end of the hair as it grows out. When you shave a hair, you are cutting it close to the thicker root end, creating a much shorter hair with a sharper edge close to the skin’s surface. This leaves a stiffer “stubble” effect when you rub your face in the day or two following your shave. Once the hair grows out, it will begin to feel softer again.

How long does it take to reach natural maximum beard length?

Here again, it will depend on genetics. Every man has a maximum length his beard hairs can reach – that length will evolve with age and that length is different on all parts of the face. For example, hair in the middle of the upper lip is somewhat short, while hair on the chin can grow feet.

What can you do to make your whiskers softer?

Hair is covered with one or more protective outer layers called the cuticle. The more cuticle layers there are, the coarser the hair feels. Conditioner is designed to soften the cuticle layers, so try using it on your beard. As a general rule, shorter whiskers often feel stiffer than longer whiskers — just like an inch-long piece of wire feels stiffer than a foot-long piece of the same wire. Trimming is another factor. Trimming leaves whiskers with blunt, sharp ends. Those ends start to round off after a few days.

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Cowlicks:

A hair whorl or cowlick is a patch of hair growing in the opposite direction of the rest of the hair. Hair whorls occur in most hairy animals, on the body as well as on the head. Hair whorls can be either clockwise or counterclockwise in direction of growth. Most people have clockwise scalp hair-whorls. Parietal whorls which are considered to be normal scalp patterns could be a single whorl or double whorls. Cases of triple parietal whorls are less common but do not necessarily indicate abnormality. Amar J. S. Klar conducted research to see if there was a genetic link between handedness and hair-whorl direction. He found that 8.4% of right handed people and 45% of left handed people have counterclockwise hair-whorls. His research indicates that a single gene may control both handedness and hair-whorl direction.  Most people are born with their cowlicks.  People that suffer hair loss from chemotherapy or other illness may be horrified to discover that a new cowlick pattern will emerge along with their regrowth of their hair. No one is exempt from the dreaded cowlick.  Lots of famous people have cowlicks.  Famous beauty super model Claudia Schiffer is reported to have not one, but two cowlicks at the front of her hairline.  There are many options for dealing with the dreaded wild hair.  While some of the drastic options include plastic surgery, electrolysis and waxing, other options include corrective hair styling and use of styling aides to help tame the crazy hair. There are many circumstances that should guide your selection of the appropriate option for dealing with your cowlick.  If your image is integral to your career, you may want to consider drastic measures. If your cowlick can be tamed with the right hairstyle, styling tools or hair accessories, consider these as good options involving minimal hassle. Once the dynamics of your own particular cowlick is understood you can select a treatment option that will suite your needs and allow you to adjust to the ongoing challenges of your hair.

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Hair bonds and hair properties:

It is now clear that hair cortex consists of protein keratin. The polypeptide chains of keratin are bound by various bonds. There are vertical bonds and horizontal bonds. Vertical bonds are end bonds that lie parallel to hair shaft. Horizontal bonds are hydrogen bonds, salt bonds and disulfide bonds that lie perpendicular to hair shaft.

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Bonds of cortex:

The cortex is largely keratin protein, which comprises coiled chains of amino acids. The chains are cross-linked, much like a ladder with rungs, only the links form different types of bonds, as opposed to one horizontal rung.

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The middle layer of the hair, the cortex, is made up of millions of polypeptide chains cross-linked with each other by three different types of side bonds. The bonds that link up the polypeptide chains of the hair are hydrogen, salt and disulfide bonds.

1. Hydrogen bonds account for one-third of the hair’s strength. The hydrogen bond is a weak physical side bond that is easily broken by water or heat. Hydrogen bonds can be reformed by drying or cooling the hair. These bonds are very abundant in the hair. Hydrogen bonds are broken every time hair gets wet; then they reform. That’s why wet hair is fragile, and you can dry it into a new shape. Lack of moisture can reduce these bonds. They’re weak, but there are so many, they account for almost 1/3 of the hair’s strength, so you definitely want to shore them up.

2. Salt bonds are also weak physical side bonds that can easily broken by weak alkaline or acid solutions and changes in pH. Another 1/3 of hair’s strength comes from weak salt bonds that depend on pH. These bonds can be reformed by normalizing the pH level of the hair.

3. Disulfide bonds are chemical side bonds. These bonds are stronger and fewer than hydrogen and salt bonds and cannot be broken by heat or water. A disulfide bond is joined to the sulphur atoms of two cysteine atoms to create cystine. [Cystine itself is a disulfide, containing two cysteine molecules. However both cystine and cysteine are used interchangeably in hair science.]  Although the disulfide bonds are fewer than the physical bonds, they are the key factors in supplying the hair its’ strength and durability. Disulfide bonds are the permanent bonds that get broken during chemical processes like perming and relaxing. In perming, some but not all the bonds are reformed into a new shape. That’s what makes straight hair curly—it’s also why repeated perming creates mushy, spaghetti-like strands. Disulfide bonds are permanently broken during relaxing, to make the hair straight. (Some newer products like Surface Hair by Wayne Grund claim to loosen the bonds instead of breaking them.) Once these bonds are broken, the hair is naturally weaker.  

4. The sugar bond is formed between the side chain of an amino acid having an OH group and an acidic amino group. It gives the hair toughness but little strength (5%).

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When hair is wet, hydrogen and salt bonds break which reform after hair dries, returning hair to normal texture. Both bonds contribute to hair’s elasticity and strength, which means hair is weaker and more susceptible to breakage when wet. Extra care needs to be taken when combing wet hair, as the process can be very damaging. When dry, damaged hair is typically more difficult to style and comb. Poor manageability often results in the need to use excess combing force which can further damage and break individual hair fibers. 

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Hair properties:

Hair consists of an outer hydrophobic lipid epicuticle, a layer of flattened overlapping cuticle cells surrounding the elongated polyhedral cortical cells. The normal cuticle has a smooth appearance, allowing light reflection and limiting friction between the hair shafts. It is responsible for the luster and texture of the hair. (Draelos, 1991) The cuticle may be damaged by frictional forces like brushing. The cortical cells surround an optional and often discontinuous central medulla. The cortical layer determines many of the mechanical properties of the hair. The surface of the hair is covered in a covalently bound, monomolecular layer of a unique, branched, fatty acid – 18-methyl eicosanoic acid. The cortex consists of closely packed spindle-shaped cortical cells filled with keratin filaments that are orientated parallel to the longitudinal axis of the hair shaft (Dawber and Messenger, 1997), and an amorphous matrix of high sulfur proteins (Dawber, 1996). The intermediate filament hair keratins (40–60 kDa), comprising 400–500 amino-acid residues in heptad sequence repeats, form hard keratin polypeptide chains which pair together to form protofilaments (Dawber and Messenger, 1997). The keratin chains have a large number of sulfur-containing cysteine residues. Cysteine residues in adjacent keratin filaments form covalent disulfide bonds forming a strong crosslink between adjacent keratin chains. (Feughelman, 1977) The disulfide bonds contribute much to the shape, stability, and texture of the hair. These disulfide bonds remain intact when the hair is wet allowing the hair to resume its original shape. Other weaker bonds link the keratin polypeptide chains together such as Van der Waal interactions, hydrogen bonds, and Coulombic interactions known as salt links. (Feughelman, 1977) These weaker bonds can be overcome with water. Combining the outer, intensely hydrophobic layer and the cortex confer the physical properties of luster (shine) and volume (body) so essential for the appearance of “health”. 

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Shine:

Shine is one of the most important and desired cosmetic attributes of the hair. From the physical point of view, it is related with the way by which the hair reflects and diffuses the incident light beam. Thus, any factor which changes light reflection would have influence on shine. Since this is a surface propriety, cuticle is the main responsible by it. Damages on cuticle (opening and breakage of scales), as well as dust particles and scalp secretions built up over threads reduce the shine. The increase of curls bending reduces its visualization and darker hair seems to be more brilliant than the light ones. When a light beam reaches the hair surface, a part of it is reflected, another part is absorbed, and a third part is dispersed. The amount of light corresponding to each of these phenomena depends on the surface geometry, on the refraction index of the thread, and on the light incidence angle. Factors influencing the shine perception, by order of importance are: reflection, light dispersion, alignment, and color.

These factors present favorable effect of hair shine:

• continuous and thin film over the scales;

• film with high refraction index;

• reflection being higher than diffuse dispersion.

These factors present unfavorable effects:

• higher light dispersion;

• film coating – irregular or discontinuous – over threads;

• chemical treatments as permanent waving and disco­loration, which cause changes on the flat positioning of the cuticle due to the scales lifting (Reimer et al., 1995; Ishii, 1997; Starch, 1999; Schueller, Romano­wski, 2001).

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Colour of hair (vide infra)
Hair colour depends on the number and pigment granules in the cortex. The cuticle is translucent so that the colour shows through. Black and brown hairs contain the pigment melanin, blonde hair contain the yellow-red pigment pheomelanin, white hair have little or no pigment present, grey hair is considered to be a mixture of white and coloured hairs. Most hair contains a mixture of pigments.

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Strength:
Hair is extremely strong. The organisation of keratin within its cortex allows it to resist a strain of up to about a hundred grams. A lock of 100 hairs can thus withstand a weight of 10 kilograms. As to the average head of hair, it could withstand 12 tons, if the scalp were strong enough! These properties vary greatly depending on the shape of the hair. Breaking under a strain of 60 grams after an elongation of 40%, African hair seems to be the most fragile. At the other end of the scale, Asian hair is the strongest, withstanding a weight of 100 grams and an elongation of 55%. For either of these features Caucasian hair occupies an intermediate position. 

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Elasticity:

Elasticity is an important attribute of healthy hair and can be defined as the ability of the hair to be stretched without damage. As a result, the more elastic the hair, the less prone it is to damage from styling. By delicately handling a reasonably long hair it can easily be shown that it behaves like a piece of elastic; after extending slightly, it returns to its original length. The use of the extension-meter which progressively stretches a hair at the rate of 1 cm per minute allows precise study of the modifications hair undergoes before it breaks. Thus, for lengthening of up to 5%, hair is elastic. This is due to the structure of the keratin molecule. Called keratin a in its natural state, stretching arranges it into keratin b. When the stretching stops it returns to its initial form like a spring. Then the hair enters a condition known as flowing where, almost without effort, it can elongate by 25%: keratin a unwinds as keratin b. Beyond that, keratin b begins to resist. However, in this phase before breaking, the hair can still be elongated and it often breaks only after its length has actually doubled!

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Plasticity:

The hair has another property: at least for a while, it keeps the shape it has been given. Thus, if a hair is wound around a pen and after several hours the pen is removed, the hair retains its curled shape. This is known as the plasticity of hair. In combination with water and heat, this property allows temporary modification of the hair’s shaper by using, for example, the technique of blow-drying. 

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Water absorption:

Another factor influences the properties of hair, namely water. Wet hair is heavier than dry hair: this seems obvious and it is. However, this simple observation illustrates an important characteristic of hair: it is permeable. Despite the close fitting scales of its cuticle and the sebum which naturally coats it, a hair in good condition can absorb more than 30% of its own weight of water. If the hair is already damaged by other factors, this percentage can reach 45%. Its length can thus increase by 2% and its diameter by 15% to 20%! The hair takes up water even without bathing, showers or shampooing. In fact, it is permeable to water vapour which is always present in the surrounding air to a greater or lesser extent. This is what makes hair so much more difficult to manage in humid weather. The table below shows as relative humidity (RH) increases, moisture content of hair increases.

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Porosity of hair:
Liquids may pass between the cuticles scales into the cortex, the porosity depending on the state of the cuticle. If the cuticle has been damaged or if the scales have been lifted by a treatment with dry heat, steam or alkalis, the porosity is increased. Substances coating the air shaft, such as the natural oils of the scalp, conditioning creams or lacquer, decrease the porosity. Hair is more porous towards its points due to normal wear and tear through brushing and combing, and also to possible chemical damage. Porosity is important in perming and colouring because porous hair may soak up chemicals too quickly. Chemical are drawn up by a capillary action into the narrow air spaces of the cortex. Porosity is how porous or ‘open’ or absorbant the hair is. If the scales on the outside layer of the hair strand are lying down tightly against one another, like the shingles on a roof for example, the hair is considered to be non-porous. This means that hair will appear shinier, will be more difficult to curl and style, will tend not to get tangled, and will be more resistant to chemical treatments such as color or perms. Asian hair tends to be some of the most non-porous hair. If the hair’s cuticle scales are not so tightly sealed against each other, hair will appear to be more ‘fluffy’ or frizzy (with little or no shine). It will tend to get tangled a lot. But it accepts chemical treatments much better and tends to hold styles very well and for a long time. These are qualities of ‘porous’ hair. Afro-textured hair is typically very porous.

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The figure above shows closed and raised cuticle layer of hair.

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Static electricity:

Static electricity buildup, by the way, is what happens when electrons are stripped from the hair. Rubber combs do this very nicely, which is why combing your hair on a dry day makes the hair ‘frizz out’; because the positive charges on your hair are repelling each other! The contact of hair with certain synthetic garments can go as far as to produce sparks. More often, it is sometimes enough to take off a pullover to see your hair stand up on your head. Similarly, a plastic ruler rubbed on a piece of material then placed near the hair has a tendency to attract it. These phenomena are associated with the hair’s ability to become charged with static electricity. Since keratin is a good insulator, it is mainly friction which gives hair an electric charge: this effect is said to be triboelectric . It increases when the hair cuticle is damaged, encouraging the exchange of electric charges. It decreases on the other hand when the hair is damp: the plastic ruler held close to damp hair has no effect.  In general, static hair happens more in the winter, when hair is dehydrated. Damaged hair is even more likely to suffer the finger in a light socket look in the depths of winter, especially when you run a brush through it. The best way to prevent this is to keep hair very moisturized and well conditioned. Leave-in conditioners can be lifesavers, as can moisturizing shampoos and hairsprays. The trick is to keep brushing to a minimum and keep hair hydrated.

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Texture or feel of hair can be:

* fine
* medium
* coarse

When we refer to hair as being ‘fine’, ‘medium’ or ‘coarse’, we mean that each hair is fine, medium or coarse. The texture of hair is determined by its circumference and the condition of the cuticle. Fine hair has a small circumference and a closed cuticle, coarse hair has a much larger circumference and the cuticle will be more open. This will lead to the hair being more porous. The texture of hair can determine what looks you are able to achieve. If hair is naturally coarse or if it appears to be coarse because the cuticle is open and damaged, you will not be able to successfully achieve a smooth look. The texture of hair can vary significantly according to hair colour and racial type. A combination of some properties determines the texture or feel of the hair which depends on
– the thickness
– the degrees of roughness of the cuticle
– the moisture level of the cortex
– the length of the hair: very short hair seems stiff while long hair seems softer

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Hair texture is measured by the degree of which one’s hair is either fine or coarse, which in turn varies according to the diameter of each individual hair. There are commonly four major categories recognized for hair texture: Fine, medium, coarse, and wiry. Within the four texture ranges hair can also have thin, medium, or thick density and it can be straight, curly, wavy, or kinky. Hair conditioner will also alter the ultimate equation. Hair can also be textured if straighteners, crimpers, curlers, and so forth are used to style hair. Also, a hairdresser can change the hair texture with the use of special chemicals.

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If Everyone’s hair is made of Keratin what causes straightness and curliness of hair?

Around 90% of your hair is made up of keratin, a fibrous protein. There are many different kinds of keratins, and in addition to hair they also key components of both skin and nails. In the hair keratin monomers bind with one another to form long filaments. One way that they bind is through disulfide bridges that occur between individual cysteine amino acids. These disulfide bridges between different areas of the hair shaft are the ultimate cause of curliness (as well as the bad smell when your hair burns, that’s from the sulfur). The difference between curly hair and straight hair is the shape of the shaft of hair. A very round shaft allows less disulfide bonds, and those that are present are in line with one another, resulting in straight hair. The flatter the hair shaft becomes, the curlier hair gets, because the shape allows more cysteines to come in contact with one another and form the necessary disfulfide bridges. See the figure below:

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What makes Curly hair Curly and Straight hair Straight?

•Shape and opening of the follicle: If you have curly hair, your follicle is probably very flat in diameter. Straight-haired people have circular follicles. As for the wavy bunch? They have oval-shaped follicles.

•The number of twists per unit length: Even the straightest of hair twists as it grows. The more twists, the more curl.

•Humidity in the air: Hair, which is porous by nature, easily absorbs moisture molecules in the air, making the hair curl or frizz.

•Hormones and medication: Changes to the shape of the follicle caused by hormones and medication can alter the texture of your hair and the way it grows.

•The position of the hair bulb in the follicle: The bulb is located at the bottom of the hair shaft. People with really curly hair may have a hooked end towards the bottom of the shaft, meaning their hair grows at more of an angle. Straight hair means little to no hook.

•The number of disulfide bonds in the hair: Simply put, the way protein structures are arranged in each hair shaft effect how hair behaves. The more disulfide bonds that occur between hair proteins, the curlier the hair and vice versa. So it would make sense that curly hair – with more disulfide bonds – would be stronger than straight hair. However, straight hair is generally stronger than curly because oil from the scamp is distributed more evenly when a person has straight hair than a person with curly hair, which causes curly hair to be drier and more fragile.  

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Straight wavy and curly hairs are all normal examples of normal hair presentation. The difference between straight, wavy, and curly hair is in the shape. Straight hair is circular, or nearly circular in cross section. Wavy hair has a more oval cross section and curly hair has a very flat oval cross section. The circular cross section of straight hair means it has optimum strength in any direction transversely across the fiber. Because wavy and curly hair fibers are oval in cross section, they are stronger and less flexible in one direction but more flexible across the flatter side of the oval cross section. The result is curls in hairs adjacent to each other are all aligned together so the curls all run the same way. Why do the curls all run the same way? Because the hair follicles in the skin are all aligned in the same direction.  Not surprisingly, curly hair is made by curly hair follicles and straight hair by straight hair follicles. The curl of curly follicles means that when the cells of the hair fiber are incorporated, those that are on the inner curve are flattened less than those on the outer curve. Cells added to the hair fiber on the outer curve are flattened and stretched more. The result is to fix a curl into the hair fiber across the oval cross section. The curl is permanent and if the hair fiber is pulled and let go the fiber will spring back into its original curl just as tensile steel springs do.

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Thickness of hair fiber:

The size of hair follicle determines the diameter of hair, larger the diameter, coarser the hair; smaller the diameter, finer the hair. Larger the hair follicle size, more number of keratinocytes are multiplying to produce hair and therefore the hair will not only be thicker but also longer. In other words, thicker hair = longer hair… It appears that the thicker your hair is, the faster and the longer it will grow. When androgens act on vellus hair follicles of chin at puberty in boys, hair follicles enlarge in size producing terminal hair known as beard. When the same androgens act on some hair follicles of scalp, hair follicles undergo atrophy producing vellus hair instead of terminal hair (androgenic alopecia). The diameter of your hair strand is what determines how thick your hair is. The diameter of human hair varies from 17 to 180 micrometers.  This size is dictated by the diameter of the hair follicle and thick hair is a product of large follicles, while fine hair comes out from small follicles.

 Factors that can determine the thickness of a hair strand include:

i. Genetic makeup

ii. Hair color. Black hair is thicker than is red hair.

iii. Age: Babies have finer hair than adults.

iv. Proximity to the root: Hair that is closer to the root of the hair is thicker in diameter to the ends.

v. Damage: Your hair strand can reduce in thickness from damage from relaxers, flat irons, etc  

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Density of hair:

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Distribution of hair is not uniform, in the body that is 40-60 follicles / cm ², the scalp is of 200-400 follicles / cm ² and in the male chin reaches 900 follicles / cm ²

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The density of someone’s hair refers to how much hair exists in an area on the scalp. For example, if you take one inch of a person’s head, hold the hair and see a lot of bare scalp, that person has very thin hair. Density can be either thin, medium, or thick depending on how much scalp is visible. Texture, however, refers to the actual hair strand itself. If an individual hair strand is very large in circumference, we would call that a coarse hair strand. If a hair strand is incredibly skinny in width, we would call that a fine hair strand. It’s important to note that someone can have very thick hair in density, but fine strands in texture. This hair type happens to be the most prone to tangling. Or a person can have very coarse hair in texture and very thin density. Sometimes, this can be very confusing to hairdressers and clients alike. The number of hairs on the scalp depends on many influences and varies enormously but average densities on scalp are believed to be:

* for natural blonde hair – 130,000
* for natural red hair – 80,000
* for natural brown hair – 100,000
* for natural black hair – 100,000

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Physiological and pathological causes of change in hair texture:

The hair texture you grow up with becomes part of your identity. You learn to style it in a way that flatters you and fits your lifestyle. It can be unsettling if it changes. Over time, your hair may become curly, straight, thin, or coarse. Many things can make hair change texture.

Physiological:

A child with silky fine hair may have a head full of kinky curls when puberty hits. Another baby may start out with fine ringlets only to have them turn stick straight when she gets older. As our body ages, we see changes in our hair texture. Further aging causes gray hairs that are thicker and wirier, so your hair gets coarser as they multiply. Androgens secreted at puberty causes vellus hair to become terminal hair which are longer and thicker. You may find that your hair feels fuller when you’re pregnant. But you’re not actually growing more hair (and the strands themselves aren’t any thicker) – you’re just losing it more slowly than you usually do. During pregnancy, higher levels of estrogen prolong the growth phase, resulting in less shedding of hair and thicker tresses. Some women also notice that their hair becomes shinier during pregnancy or that it changes in texture (curly hair might become straighter, for example). Your postpartum locks probably won’t be as luxurious. After giving birth, the growth/rest cycle goes back to its previous pattern, so you may notice more hair falling out. 

Pathological:

Chemotherapy can cause big changes in your hair texture or none at all. If you lose your hair during treatment, it may grow back thicker, curlier, or straighter all over or just in some spots. Hormones have a major effect on hair texture. Hormones influence the hair in several different ways since they are regulators of the body’s metabolism. Thyroid hormones, androgens and insulin affect hair texture.  Protein deficiency disorders like Kwashiorkor and Marasmas are characterized by dry and light-coloured hair. Similarly, zinc deficiency causes diffuse hair loss, lighter coloured hair and eczema. Similar changes are seen in cases of fatty acid deficiency. A deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids can cause dry, brittle hair and split ends.  Vitamin & iron deficiency affects hair texture. A vitamin A deficiency can cause dull, dry hair, while too much vitamin A can potentially cause hair loss. A common symptom of anemia caused by an iron deficiency is brittle hair. Brittle hair splits and breaks more easily, and may also have a course or dry texture. Biotin, also known as vitamin H, is a B-complex vitamin. B-complex vitamins promote healthy hair growth and maintenance. Specifically, biotin plays a critical role in breaking down amino acids used in the synthesis of protein. Protein assists in forming strong, lustrous hair. A biotin deficiency may cause hair loss, dry eyes, and cracked lips.  Alcohol and smoking also affect hair texture. The drugs can also affect texture and shade, research shows, but hair should re-grow three to ten months after treatment has ended. In many cases, medications are thought to affect hair by interfering with its growth cycle. The drugs that may be causing your hair to change are valproate, fluoxetine, imipramine, amitriptyline and doxepin, lithium, acitretin,  etretinate, contraceptive pills, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, ibuprofen, retinoids, warfarin etc.

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There have been other interesting cases of hair texture change, including one that was documented in the Archives of Dermatology. In that case, a teenager lost some of his hair (a condition known as aleopecia areata), and his doctors prescribed a steroid-laced cream to help the hair grow back in the areas where it had fallen out. The boy’s hair did grow back, but instead of growing back in his natural tight curls, it came back straight, resembling the hair he had in childhood. The researchers, from the University of Miami, said they haven’t yet figured out whether or not it was the cream, a change in how the follicles regrew, or an unknown cause that remains to be answered.

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pH of hair:
Hair and skin are both covered by a very thin fluid layer comprised of oil, salt and water, called the mantle, which is slightly acidic (pH = 4.5 – 5.0). This acid mantle is very important in maintaining the proper moisture balance in our hair and skin. So human hair and skin has a natural ph level of 4.5-5.5 pH. This level helps to keep mold, fungi and bacteria from our scalp. It is also instrumental in making the cuticle scales lie flatter against the surface of the hair shaft, which makes hair smoother and shinier as the flat scales reflect light more coherently. Scales that lie more snugly against the hair shaft also prevent moisture loss more efficiently, which helps hair to be stronger and healthier. With the normal exposure to the environment as well as washing and styling, this acid mantle can become contaminated or removed and must be restored with the use of properly pH-balanced products. Since our hair natural ph is on the acidic side, using products to alkaline will leave the hair shaft open causing breakage. People with curly hair should use hair care products which are acidic (pH 4 to 5.5) because hair cuticles are already partially open.  People with straight hair should use pH balanced products but may not need to apply extra products because the sebum moves through your hair, creating a natural pH balance.  

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Hair is not tolerant to extremes of pH, this is what happens to it as pH changes:

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Mildly acidic products can be applied to the hair to harden the outer layer, flatten the cuticles, and shrink the diameter of the hair. This serves to make the hair glossy, shiny and less prone to tangling and snagging on adjacent hair strands. Hair that is close to its ideal pH of 4.5 – 5.0 is also at its peak strength. Shampoos and conditioners that are mildly acidic also have been noted to provide longer life to the color of hair that has been dyed. Most modern shampoos and conditioners are formulated to be slightly acidic, having a pH around that of the hair’s acid mantle (4.0-5.0). Alkaline products cause the hair to swell, the cuticle to lift and remove oils from the air. This results in frizzy, dull, brittle hair that is prone to breakage and tangling. Extremely alkaline solutions cause the disulfide bonds between keratin protein molecules to break down and can eventually dissolve the protein completely. These types of solutions are the ones used to perm or relax the hair and can be extremely damaging, especially to hair that is already fragile.

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pH of hair and electrical charge:

The isoelectric point is the pH at which a particular molecule or surface carries no net electrical charge. Unaltered human hair (virgin hair) has an isoelectric point near 3.67. However, sebum, water and salt solution (mantle) makes hair raise pH to 5 thereby hair surface acquire negative charge.

Minerals and negative charge of hair:

Minerals affecting the hair are charged positive. Hair is charged negative. Positively charged minerals are attracted to the negatively charged hair.  When a positively charged mineral comes in contact with negatively charged hair on the scalp or skin, it attaches on like a magnet. Air alone can act as a catalyst and cause minerals to bond to hair creating a wall of tiny rocks that are usually invisible to the eye, but can block solutions preventing proper penetration of color, perm, and relaxer chemicals. Minerals found in water at home are continuously exposed to hair during bathing. Since warm water is usually selected to wash hair, the cuticle is opened, allowing positively charged elements, such as minerals, to get inside the cuticle and attach to the protein. 

Which common minerals affect hair?

Calcium, Iron, Copper, Magnesium, Silica and Lead.

What is the effect on hair?

When calcium attaches to hair, it creates an invisible limestone wall on hair and can also irritate skin since it can attach onto body hair.  Iron will slowly cause hair to tint darker, add weight to the hair, and prevent proper chemical processing. Heavy amounts of iron will tint light-colored hair orange and cause dark hair to become darker with red, brassy overtones. Oxidized iron actually functions as an oxidizer in hair in much the same way that mild peroxide attacks the hair. It can cause an excessive dry feeling in the hair and may actually change the textural appearance of the hair. As with other minerals, iron can contribute to hair loss, scalp issues and skin irritations. Copper discolors hair causing blonde hair to turn green and dark hair to tint darker. Usually bound to calcium or magnesium, silica forms a very hard wall on hair. Water borne silica can build up on the hair, causing the same effect as calcium. Lead will also cause hair to feel dry and prevent the proper processing of perms, color, and relaxers.  

Most airborne particles like pollen, dust, and smoke carry a positive electrical charge. Dirt and soil particles can be mixed, most are negatively charged and some are positively charged. Positively charged pollen, dust, smoke etc can get attracted to negatively charged hair and bind to it.   

In a nutshell, negative hair charge has 2 implications:

1. Since hair is negatively charged, positively charged pollen/dust/smoke/minerals get bound to scalp and hair. So negatively charged anionic surfactants of shampoo get bound to dust/minerals and remove it.

2. During a normal hair washing procedure performed at neutral pH, the surface of hair acquires further negative charges. For this reason, most conditioners and gels possess cationic polymers in order to counteract these negative charges, thereby improving hair texture and feel.    

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Different people have different hair types:

In general, there are four different hair types: straight, wavy, curly and kinky. It is critical that you determine your natural hair type, because once you know this, you can start using products that will help you to achieve the look you always wanted.

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The figure below shows straight and curly hairs:

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Type 1: Straight:

The main characteristics of straight S1a hair are:

- Hangs loose and free.
– Sleek.
– Shiny (reflects light easily).
– Hard to damage.
– Very hard to curl.
– Easily becomes oily.

Type 2: Wavy:

It lies between straight and curly hair. There are three sub categories: W2a, W2b, and W2c. They all form different “S” shaped curves or curls.

- W2a is thinner than other two forms; as a matter of fact, 2a hair is fine. Strands have just a hint of a bend in them. S-waves are loose and stretched out throughout the hair. This type can easily be styled straight or curly.
– W2b is a little thicker, with S-waves being shorter, more distinct.
– W2c is thick and coarse, with very distinct S-waves.
– Both 2b and 2c are more resistant to styling.
– Wavy hair is more susceptible to frizz.
– Has little bounce.
– It has more shine than curly hair, but less than straight.

Type 3: Curly

It has a much tighter curl pattern. It is categorized in C3a, C3b and C3c. All three subcategories form a definite “S”. The only difference is in the size of the curl.

- 3a hair type has a looser curl pattern – spiral curls.
– 3b hair has a tighter curl pattern – ringlets.
– 3c hair has a very tight curly look – corkscrews.
– Wavy hair has a lot of body.
– Can be styled in different styles.
– Does not have lots of sheen.
– Prone to damage.
– Easily frizzes in the humid climate.

Type 4: Kinky

Most African-American women have this hair type. It has extremely defined curls which are tightly coiled. There are also three varieties: K4a, K4b and K4c.

- K4a has a tightly coiled “S” pattern to it.
– K4b/c is more wiry with a zig-zag pattern.
– Kinky hair is driest of all types.
– Ii is most fragile of all other types.
– Has very little elasticity.
– It breaks very easily.

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Human hair comes with all sorts of colors, textures and shapes. Notably, African hair is more coiled and dry; Asian hair is straighter and thicker; and Caucasian hair is somewhere in between with around 45% having straight hair, 40% having wavy hair, and 15% having curly hair. These variations are determined by many genes and genetic polymorphisms in combination with environmental factors.

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Hair and race:

Terminal hairs can be classified by ethnic background, for which three broad categories are used in forensics:

1. Mongoloid hair is unique in that the medulla is usually unbroken, running the length of each hair.  In most other human hair types, the medulla is either missing or fragmented.  Other distinctions of Mongoloid hair include the thickest cuticle and thickest overall diameter (at up to 120 micrometers), and a round cross-section.  People of Asian and Native American descent typically have this kind of hair.

2. Caucasoid hair, found in people of European, Middle Eastern, and Latin American descent, is oval in shape and each hair is fairly even in color (pigmentation) from one to the next. Hairs of Caucasoid or Caucasian origin can be of fine to medium coarseness, are generally straight or wavy in appearance, and exhibit colors ranging from blonde to brown to black. The hair shafts of Caucasian hairs vary from round to oval in cross section and have fine to medium-sized, evenly distributed pigment granules.

3. The finest hairs are Negroid with a diameter as small as 60 micrometers, found in people of African descent, although there is much overlap in diameter between these and Caucasoid hairs.  The cross-section of a Negroid hair is the flattest of the three.  Pigmentation tends to concentrate in specific areas, so the color of each hair is less uniform than in the other two.  Finally, Negroid hairs tend to twist and curve far more than Mongoloid and Caucasoid hairs.

These categories become somewhat less useful for identifying people of mixed ancestry, and there is a great deal of overlap in average diameter and overall shape between the three.

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Genetic polymorphism of hair vis-à-vis race:

The gene for curly hair in Caucasians:

It has been long established that curly hair is a dominant trait in Caucasians and straight hair is recessive. This means two things: 1) if a person carries one allele for curly hair and another for straight hair, this person will have curly hair; 2) curly hair is a simple trait and is most likely determined by one single gene. However, a single gene has yet to be found to be solely responsible for the curly (or straight) hair trait in Caucasians.  A recent genome wide association scan has found a SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) called rs11803731 in the TCHH gene which accounts for about 6% of hair curliness. The TCHH gene encodes a protein called trichohyalin, which is known to be expressed at high levels in hair follicles and has been shown to be involved in the cross-linking of the keratin filaments found in hair. The ancestral allele of this SNP (the A-allele) is present in the worldwide population. Sometime during human history, a mutation leads to the emergence of the T-allele. The T-allele causes an amino acid to change from leucine to methionine at position 790 of the TCHH gene. The function of this change is not clear. Nevertheless, Caucasians carrying the T-allele are more likely to have straight hair (about 70%) than those without the T-allele (about 50%). From this we can infer that curly hair is the ancestral trait while straight hair evolved much later.

The genes for thick straight hair in Asians:

Most people of East Asian descent have thick, straight hair. This corresponds with a SNP (rs3827760) in the EDAR gene which is involved in hair follicle development. The ancestral allele of this SNP is the A-allele. The G-allele is the newly derived allele that leads to the thick, straight hair. In certain parts of Asia, almost all people have the G-allele. People with the GG genotype at this SNP have thicker hair compared to those with the AA genotype due to the modification of a single amino acid in the protein. Those with the AG genotype have hair slightly thinner than those with GG, but still thick when compared to Europeans and Africans (likely AA).

Does straight hair provide any selection advantage?

Straight hair seems to be a new trait in human evolution. It is associated with the newly emerged alleles in both the TCHH gene and EDAR gene. The distributions of these straight hair related alleles support the hypothesis that our human ancestors had curly hair; the straight hair found in East Asians and Caucasians likely developed independently.  So what is so good about straight hair? It must provide some biological advantage for hair health. It has been observed that oily hair is typically straight and that individuals with both curly and oily hair are extremely rare. One theory is that the oils secreted into the hair shaft by the sebaceous glands can travel down the shaft of straight hair more easily.  Studies indicate that the G-allele of the SNP rs3827760 in the EDAR gene responsible for the East Asian hair type arose during the past 65,000 years, when early humans were migrating ‘Out of Africa’ into Europe, then Asia. During the Ice Age, thicker hair might have been advantageous to protect against the cold. The EDAR gene is also involved in skin gland function. A study found that increased EDAR activity can cause enlarged skin glands (sebaceous glands found in abundance on face and scalp) and enlarged eyelid glands (meibomian gland) among other effects. These enhanced gland functions, may result in increased skin lubrication/protection and decreased evaporation which might have been positively selected during the cold, dry Ice Age.

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In a nutshell, no matter what your race is; straight hair are oily and difficult to break. Curly hair are dry and easy to break.

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Natural hair color:

Hair fiber has no color, bleach any hair and the fiber looks white simply because it reflects light. Hair color is provided by pigments produced by cells called “melanocytes”. The pigments are called “melanin”. Melanin actually means black so strictly speaking we should only use this word when talking about black hair. However, today scientists and dermatologists use the word melanin when talking about any kind of hair pigment blonde, red, brown, or black. In humans, melanocyte cells are found diffusely scattered in the skin and also in little clusters in the hair follicles. Melanocytes respond to various stimulants to produce more or less melanin. Sunlight exposure makes the melanocytes in the skin produce more pigment and we get a tan. In some other mammals, such as rats and mice, melanocytes are exclusively found located in hair follicles and not in the skin between the hair follicles. Rats and mice cannot get sun tans. However the melanocytes of the skin and the melanocytes of the hair follicles are essentially the same. It is thought that the melanocytes in hair follicles can act like a storage depot for supplying the skin with melanocytes. This becomes very apparent then the skin is damaged and depleted of melanocytes. Studies show the melanocyte cells migrate from the hair follicles to repopulate the melanocyte deficient skin. Melanocytes in hair follicles are primarily located in the hair bulb at the bottom of hair follicles. They sit in a group just above the dermal papilla along with the matrix cells (keratinocytes) that produce the hair fiber. For the melanocytes, this is the ideal location to produce pigment and have it incorporated into the growing hair fiber. There are melanocytes located in other regions of the hair follicle such as the root sheaths that surround the hair fiber. However, it is thought that these melanocytes do not significantly contribute to coloring the hair fiber. Melanocytes produce melanin pigment proteins in their cell cytoplasm. The pigment is accumulated in membrane bound vesicles in the cell called “melanosomes”. Melanocytes are usually very easy to identify in a skin biopsy because they are full of these melanosomes. In black hair producing follicles, the melanosomes in the melanocytes are very large oval shaped and gradually become densely filled with pigment proteins. People with lighter colored hair have less melanin protein in their melanosomes. Blonde haired people have melanosomes with a low density and patchy deposition of melanin. People with red and blonde hair have melanosomes that are smaller and spherical in shape and the individual melanin pigment granules inside the melanosomes are also smaller. The matrix keratinocytes that produce the hair fiber cluster around the melanocyte cells. The melanocyte cells release their melanosomes to the keratinocytes through dendritic processes. The keratinocytes actively phagocytose the melanosomes (which means the keratinocytes “eat” the melanosomes by surrounding them and pulling them into the cell). Once the keratinocyte cells have melanosomes inside them they are then formed into the hair fiber and thus the hair fiber has color. Thus, from the start, the hair acquires its colour, a colour made to last throughout the life of the hair, i.e. an average of 3 years, with exceptions exceeding some ten years. All the more extraordinary when you realise that a hair contains no more than 1% of melanin!

Only two pigments:

A melanocyte produces two types of melanin: eumelanin and phaeomelanin .

 Eumelanin occurs in the form of a small rice-like granule having a colour varying between browny-red and black. It is generated by an amino acid, tyrosine , being transformed by an enzyme , tyrosinase . Phaeomelanin has a less precise shape and can be seen in the form of diffuse spots. Its colour varies from yellow to red. It differs from eumelanin, because, in addition to tyrosine, another amino acid is involved in its production, known as cysteine , which is rich in sulphur. The proportions of these two melanins determine the colour of the hair. But, while it is easy to understand that Japanese black hair contains virtually only eumelanin and that Irish red hair is very rich in phaeomelanin, it is more surprising to discover that Scandinavian blond hair is also mainly formed from eumelanin. This is linked to the immense range possible in the mixtures of the two pigments, a range in terms of type as well as quantity. So the distribution of melanins, determined by each person’s genetic inheritance, offers an infinite palette ranging from the lightest blond to the deepest black. Generally, if more eumelanin is present, the color of the hair is darker; if less eumelanin is present, the hair is lighter. Levels of melanin can vary over time causing a person’s hair color to change, and it is possible to have hair follicles of more than one color. Unpigmented hair results from an interruption of the synthesis chain of melanin. Bleaching is achieved by oxidation with hydrogen peroxide, which leads to a disintegration of the melanin granules.

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Different hair colors:

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Two types of pigment give hair its color: eumelanin and pheomelanin. Pheomelanin colors hair orange and yellow. All humans have some pheomelanin in their hair. Eumelanin, which has two subtypes of black or brown, determines the darkness of the hair color. A low concentration of brown eumelanin results in blond hair, whereas a higher concentration of brown eumelanin will color the hair brown. High amounts of black eumelanin result in black hair, while low concentrations give gray hair. Pheomelanin is more chemically stable than black eumelanin, but less chemically stable than brown eumelanin, so it breaks down more slowly when oxidized. This is why bleach gives darker hair a reddish tinge during the artificial coloring process. As the pheomelanin continues to break down, the hair will gradually become orange, then yellow, and finally white. The genetics of hair colors are not yet firmly established. According to one theory, at least two gene pairs control human hair color. One phenotype (brown/blond) has a dominant brown allele and a recessive blond allele. A person with a brown allele will have brown hair; a person with no brown alleles will be blond. This explains why two brown-haired parents can produce a blond-haired child. The other gene pair is a non-red/red pair, where the non-red allele (which suppresses production of pheomelanin) is dominant and the allele for red hair is recessive. A person with two copies of the red-haired allele will have red hair. The two-gene model does not account for all possible shades of brown, blond, or red (for example, platinum blond versus dark blond/light brown), nor does it explain why hair color sometimes darkens as a person ages. Several gene pairs control the light versus dark hair color in a cumulative effect. A person’s genotype for a multifactorial trait can interact with environment to produce varying phenotypes. 

Black hair:

Black hair is the darkest color. It has large amounts of eumelanin and is less dense than other hair colors. It can range from soft black to blue-black or jet-black.

Brown hair:

Brown hair is characterized by higher levels of eumelanin and lower levels of pheomelanin. Of the two types of eumelanin (black and brown), brown-haired people have brown eumelanin; they also usually have medium-thick strands of hair. Brown-haired people are often known as brunette.

Blond hair:

Blond (or blonde) hair ranges from nearly white (platinum blond, tow-haired) to a dark golden blond. Strawberry blond, a mixture of blond and red hair, is a much rarer type containing the most amounts of pheomelanin. An important thing to note about blond hair is its non-recessive gene behavior. However, this is not to be confused with strawberry blond hair, which is a recessive gene.

Red hair:

Red hair is caused by a mutation in the MC1R gene. It’s also a recessive trait, so it takes both parents passing on a mutated version of the MC1R gene to produce a redheaded child. Because it’s a recessive trait, red hair can easily skip a generation. It can then reappear after skipping one or more generations if both parents, no matter their hair color, carry the red hair gene.

The “Melancortin 1 Receptor” or MC1R for short:

Everyone has Melancortin 1 Receptors, but in red heads this is mutated. This mutation in the MC1R also causes them to have light skin from having less eumelanin pigmentation and more phaeomelanin pigmentation.  This is a genetic advantage for people living in parts of the world where there is little sunlight.  Having lighter skin lets more sunlight through, which stimulates the production of Vitamin D, which in turn is useful for preventing rickets.

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There are three basic factors that determine all the natural hair colors:

They are:

a. The thickness of the hair

b. The total number and size of pigment granules

c. The ratio of eumelanin to phaeomelamin

This is very important to remember when a colorist is changing the existing hair color of a client.  All three factors are important.  The density of pigment granules and the size of the granules vary from one race to another. Another important factor is the amount of cortex in coarse thick hair. The cortex is larger than in fine hair and therefore has a higher density of pigment. Blonde hair has fewer and smaller pigment granules of phaeomelanin. This makes blonde hair easier and quicker to lighten.

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Conditions affecting hair color:

In a February 2005 Science article (Nishimura, et al.) Harvard scientists proposed that a failure of melanocyte stem cells (MSC) to maintain the production of melanocytes could cause the graying of hair. This failure of MSC maintenance may result in the breakdown of signals that produce hair color. There are other factors that can change the pigmentation of hair, making it lighter or darker. Scientists have divided them by intrinsic (internal) and extrinsic (external) factors:

Intrinsic factors:

  • Genetic defects
  • Hormones
  • Body distribution
  • Age
Extrinsic factors:

  • Climate
  • Pollutants
  • Toxins
  • Chemical exposure

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Stress:

Anecdotes report that stress, both chronic and acute, may induce achromotrichia earlier in individuals than it otherwise would have.  Proponents point to survivors of disasters, such as Titanic survivor Harold Bride, or high-level politicians such as Bill Clinton to support this view. There is some evidence for chronic stress causing premature achromotrichia, but no definite link has been established.

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Medical conditions:

Albinism is a genetic abnormality in which little or no pigment is found in human hair, eyes, and skin. The hair is often white or pale blond. However, it can be red, darker blond, light brown, or rarely, even dark brown. Vitiligo is a patchy loss of hair and skin color that may occur as the result of an auto-immune disease. In a preliminary 2013 study, researchers treated the buildup of hydrogen peroxide which causes this with a light-activated pseudo-catalase. This produced significant media coverage that further investigation may someday lead to a general non-dye treatment for grey hair. Malnutrition is also known to cause hair to become lighter, thinner, and more brittle. Dark hair may turn reddish or blondish due to the decreased production of melanin. The condition is reversible with proper nutrition. Werner syndrome and pernicious anemia can also cause premature graying. A 2005 uncontrolled study demonstrated that people 50–70 years of age with dark eyebrows but gray hair are significantly more likely to have type II diabetes than those with both gray eyebrows and hair.

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Aging hair:

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Gray and white hair:

Gray or white hair—sometimes colloquially called “salt and pepper” when it is ‘peppered’ throughout dark hair—is not caused by a true gray or white pigment, but is due to a lack of pigmentation and melanin. The clear hairs appear as gray or white because of the way light is reflected from the hairs. Gray hair color typically occurs naturally as people age. For some people this can happen at a very young age (for example, at the age of 10). The same is true for white hair. In some cases, gray hair may be caused by thyroid deficiencies, Waardenburg syndrome or a vitamin B12 deficiency. At some point in the human life cycle, cells that are located in the base of the hair’s follicles slow, and eventually stop producing pigment. The Journal of Investigative Dermatology published a study in 2005 which found that Caucasian people will begin to gray in their twenties and early thirties while Asian people begin graying in their late thirties, but most African people can retain their original hair color until their mid-forties.  People with albinism may have white hair due to low amounts of melanin.

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Children born with some hair colors may find it gradually darkens as they grow. Many blonde, strawberry blond, light brown or red haired infants experience this. This is caused by genes being turned off and on during early childhood and puberty. Changes in hair color typically occur naturally as people age, eventually turning the hair gray and then white. This is called achromotrichia. Achromotrichia normally begins in the early to mid-twenties in men and late twenties in women. More than 60 percent of Americans have some gray hair by age 40, but white hair can appear as early as childhood. The age at which graying begins seems almost entirely due to genetics. Sometimes people are born with gray hair because they inherit the trait. The order in which graying happens is usually: nose hair, hair on the head, beard, body hair, eyebrows. Two genes appear to be responsible for the process of graying, Bcl2 and Bcl-w. The change in hair color occurs when melanin ceases to be produced in the hair root and new hairs grow in without pigment. The stem cells at the base of hair follicles produce melanocytes, the cells that produce and store pigment in hair and skin. The death of the melanocyte stem cells causes the onset of graying. It remains unclear why the stem cells of one hair follicle may die well over a decade before those in adjacent follicles less than a millimeter apart.

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Four signs of aging hair:

1. Going Gray:

That first white strand is a tell-tale sign of aging hair. The average person notices their first gray hair in their 30s and most people by their 40s. Hair goes gray when cells stop producing pigment, which happens naturally with age. By age 50, 50 percent of people have gray hair. Scalp hair often starts graying usually at the temples and extends to the top of the scalp. Hair color becomes lighter, eventually turning white. Body and facial hair also turn gray, but usually later than scalp hair. Hair in the armpit, chest, and pubic area may gray less or not at all. Graying is determined by your genes. Gray hair tends to occur earlier in Caucasians and later in Asians. Nutritional supplements, vitamins, and other products will not stop or decrease the rate of graying. 

2. Thinness:

It’s perfectly normal to lose about 100 hairs per day, no matter your age. Hair strands become smaller and have less pigment. So the thick, coarse hair of a young adult eventually becomes thin, fine, light-colored hair. Many hair follicles stop producing new hairs. On the other hand, as you age, your body and facial hair are lost but hairs that remain may become coarser. Women may lose body hair. Facial hair may get coarser, especially on the chin and around the lips. Men may grow longer and coarser eyebrow, ear, and nose hair. For both men and women, it’s normal (albeit unpleasant) to get thinning hair as you age. For women, hormonal changes can affect hair growth patterns as well. It’s not uncommon for menopausal women to experience hair thinning and hair loss simultaneously. For example, they may notice less hair on their legs but more hair on their upper lip or chin. The hair follicles get smaller and smaller so that they produce a hair that you can’t see. They are the finest hairs that exist, and that’s why [men can] look bald. That can also happen in women and that’s what we call female pattern balding. All men to some extent have a change in their hairline — not the hairline when they were 16. 

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3. Dryness:

Our oil glands shrink over time and they don’t produce oil efficiently. When you’re younger, oil travels down the hair follicle and naturally coats the hair. If you’re old, you’re not producing as much oil leaving your hair much drier than you remember from your teen days. The best remedy for this is to put oil in your hair.

4. Brittleness:

It’s true that as you age, your hair also loses some of its elasticity causing it to become brittle. Yet, often, dry, brittle hair is less related to aging and more related to the products you use. Hair that is repeatedly treated with chemicals — bleaches, hair straighteners, permanent dyes — can become stiff, dry and prone to breakage.

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Older people tend to develop gray hair because the pigment in the hair is lost and the hair becomes colorless. Gray hair is considered to be a characteristic of normal aging. The age at which this occurs varies from person to person, but in general nearly everyone 75 years or older has gray hair, and in general men tend to become gray at younger ages than women. It should be noted however, that gray hair in itself is not actually gray. The gray head of hair is a result of the contrast between the dark and the white/colorless hair forming an overall “gray” appearance to the observer. As such, people starting out with very pale blond hair usually develop white hair instead of gray hair when aging. Red hair usually does not turn gray with age; rather it becomes a sandy color and afterward turns white. In fact, the gray or white appearance of individual hair fibers is a result of light scattering from air bubbles in the central medula of the hair fiber. Some degree of scalp hair loss or thinning generally accompanies aging in both males and females, and it is estimated that half of all men are affected by male pattern baldness by the time they are 50 (Springfield 2005). The tendency toward baldness is a trait shared by a number of other primate species, and is thought to have evolutionary roots.

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Premature Gray Hair is Genetic:

Going gray isn’t always related to aging. If you’re not yet 40 and see more than a few gray hairs, chances are it runs in your family. Gray usually isn’t a sign of poor health, though anemia, thyroid issues, vitamin B-12 deficiency, and vitiligo can cause premature graying. 

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The figure below denotes change in type of hair as human grows from fetus to old age:

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Graying of hair and hydrogen peroxide in hair follicle:

New research finds that going gray is caused by a massive build up of hydrogen peroxide due to wear and tear of our hair follicles. The peroxide winds up blocking the normal synthesis of melanin, our hair’s natural pigment. All of our hair cells make a tiny bit of hydrogen peroxide, but as we get older, this little bit becomes a lot. We bleach our hair pigment from within, and our hair turns gray and then white. The researchers made this discovery by examining cell cultures of human hair follicles. They found that the buildup of hydrogen peroxide was caused by a reduction of an enzyme that breaks up hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen (catalase). They also discovered that hair follicles could not repair the damage caused by the hydrogen peroxide because of low levels of enzymes that normally serve this function (MSR A and B). Further complicating matters, the high levels of hydrogen peroxide and low levels of MSR A and B, disrupt the formation of an enzyme (tyrosinase) that leads to the production of melanin in hair follicles. Melanin is the pigment responsible for hair color, skin color, and eye color. The researchers speculate that a similar breakdown in the skin could be the root cause of vitiligo. As any blue-haired lady will attest, sometimes hair dyes don’t quite work as anticipated. This study is a prime example of how basic research in biology can benefit us in ways never imagined. The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology has reported that human gray hair is triggered by the accumulation of hydrogen peroxide. They found low levels of the enzyme catalase, which breaks down hydrogen peroxide and relieves oxidative stress in patients suffering from vitiligo. Since vitiligo can cause eyelashes to turn white, the same process is believed to be involved in hair on the head (and elsewhere) due to aging.

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Mechanisms of Hair Graying: Incomplete Melanocyte Stem Cell Maintenance in the Niche:

Hair graying is the most obvious sign of aging in humans, yet its mechanism is largely unknown. Here, researchers used melanocyte-tagged transgenic mice and aging human hair follicles to demonstrate that hair graying is caused by defective self-maintenance of melanocyte stem cells. This process is accelerated dramatically with Bcl2 deficiency, which causes selective apoptosis of melanocyte stem cells, but not of differentiated melanocytes, within the niche at their entry into the dormant state. Furthermore, physiologic aging of melanocyte stem cells was associated with ectopic pigmentation or differentiation within the niche, a process accelerated by mutation of the melanocyte master transcriptional regulator Mitf.

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The condition of the hair has been at the center of attention of human civilization since ancient times. Hair ageing comprises decrease in hair pigmentation (graying) and decrease in hair production (alopecia). Like the skin, the hair follicle is subject to intrinsic and extrinsic ageing. Intrinsic factors are related to individual genetic and epigenetic mechanisms with interindividual variation. Examples are familial premature graying and AGA. Extrinsic factors include smoking and UVR. Experimental evidence supports the hypothesis that oxidative stress also plays a role in the ageing process of the hair follicle. Reactive oxygen species are generated by a multitude of endogenous and environmental challenges. The body possesses endogenous defense mechanisms, such as antioxidative enzymes and non-enzymatic antioxidative molecules, protecting it from free radicals by reducing and neutralizing them. With age, the production of free radicals increases, while the endogenous defense mechanisms decrease. This imbalance leads to the progressive damage of cellular and molecular structures, presumably resulting in the ageing phenotype. New insights into the role and prevention of oxidative stress could open new strategies for intervention and reversal of the hair graying process and age-dependent alopecia. Topical antiaging compounds that are currently under investigation include photoprotectors, such as cinnamidpropyltrimonium chloride and solid lipid nanoparticles as carriers for UV blockers, oral supplementation with l-cystine and l-methionine, and topical melatonin. 

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Pollution and hair:

A study suggests men living in polluted areas are more likely to go bald than those who enjoy a cleaner atmosphere.

The discovery raises the prospect that yet more treatments for the often confidence-sapping condition could be developed.

Academics at the University of London linked the onset of male pattern baldness to environmental factors, such as air pollution and smoking. They believe toxins and carcinogens found in polluted air can stop hair growing by blocking mechanisms that produce the protein from which hair is made. Baldness is known to be hereditary but the research suggests environmental factors could exacerbate hair loss.  Male-pattern baldness, which affects two-thirds of men, usually develops gradually, typically starting with the appearance of a bald spot in the crown and thinning of the temples. Although it can strike at any time, many men first become aware of it as they approach their 30s. The study, published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, involved removing hair follicles from balding men and then studying the samples in laboratories.  Mike Philpott, from the school of medicine at Queen Mary, University of London, said: “We think any pollutant that can get into the bloodstream or into the skin and into the hair follicle could cause some stress to it and impair the ability of the hair to make a fiber.  “There are a whole host of carcinogens and toxins in the environment that could trigger this.”It suggests that if you stop smoking or live in an area with less air pollution, you may be less predisposed to hair loss. “There is an inherited basis to hair loss, but we have now identified environmental factors that are important too.”  The research raises the hope that scientists may be able to develop treatments for balding men such as creams that are able to combat the effects of pollution on hair follicles. The most important way to keep your hair healthy, in any environment, is to wash it with a fortifying shampoo and condition it regularly. Be careful not to overwash you hair, as this may weaken and damage the hair. Additionally, if you live in a polluted area, consider wearing a scarf or hat while you are outdoors in order to protect your hair from harmful chemicals and allergens.

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Weather and hair:

Warm air = moist air
Cold air = dry air
When it’s warm outside, the air is full of water vapor, but too much water vapor can make hair flat, and hard to style, it’s simply too moist to hold its form. In the winter, the air is cool, and dry. That’s why it gets all full of static when you run a brush, or comb through it. This too makes it hard to style, and holds its form. When the humidity is between 50 – 80%, hair will hold its shape well, and style more easily.

Summer:

The physical side bonds in our hair are broken by the application of heat and water. This is why we are able to style the hair using wet sets on rollers, and by using blow-dryers, curling irons and flat iron. Exposing styled hair to a hot, humid environment causes these side bonds to break again allowing the hair to return to its natural state. Naturally straight hair will have its curls begin to collapse. Naturally curly hair that has been ironed will begin to frizz and slide back into its curly state. Some styling products can help to seal the hair shaft and make the hair resistant to the effects of weather, but they can only do so much in very intense weather situations. Another “weather effect” that’s common in the summer is sun damage. In the same way that UV rays from the sun affect the melanin in the skin, it also causes changes in the melanin in the hair. Prolonged sun exposure can lighten the hair, and sometimes, when dealing with artificial hair color, can alter the color to an undesired shade. The UV rays penetrate the hair shaft and disperse the melanin that gives the hair its color.

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Protect Hair from the Sun:

The sun is no kinder to your hair than it is to your skin. Sun exposure can dry out hair, especially if it’s color-treated. Use a light hair spray with SPF protection — or wear a hat when the sun is strongest. Frequent summer trims can keep your ends looking healthy.

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You hair needs sunscreen too!

The blazing summer heat can take a toll on our beauty. While we all know the importance of applying sunscreen on our skin to protect it from harmful rays, what about our hair? It needs protection too. While sunscreen for hair is quite a new concept, it is catching up and even experts recommend using it. Dr Kiran Lohia, MD says hair sunscreen is extremely useful. ‘Essentially, UVA and UVB rays from the sun damage the cuticle of the hair resulting in dryness, brittleness and damaged hair. You can notice that the top layer of the hair is much frizzier and thinner than the layers that are not exposed to the sun,’ she says. Damaged hair can break easily and constant breakage can lead to loss of hair. Also, hair becomes unmanageable and unruly. These harmful rays can affect the protein of our hair known as keratin which is responsible for making our hair stronger. Although, unlike its effects on our skin, it may not lead to cancer, the rays are still damaging to our hair’s overall appearance. If you have coloured hair, it is all the more important that you protect your locks from the heat as it will fade out faster and even lead to sweat and problems like itching and dandruff on the scalp. Since in India, most people have dark hair, it is less affected by the harmful UV rays but prolonged exposure can lead to colour changes.

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Winter:

The most common weather-related effects on the hair during winter come from the cold (or specifically the constant changes from cold to warm environments) and from static. Cold, dry air can cause the cuticle layer of the hair to lift, and going into a warm, dry interior environment then leeches the moisture out of the hair, leaving it dry and frizzy. This also provides the perfect conditions for static, which can make the hair very unruly. “Winter brings dryness from every direction, which sucks the moisture out of our skin, lips, hair and even our eyes,” says Jessica Krant, a board-certified dermatologist, founder of Art of Dermatology on 5th Avenue in NYC and Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

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Wind:

Wind can also damage the hair. Aside from mussing up your perfectly styled hair and causing knots & tangles in loose hair, the wind can also cause your hair to become dry and brittle. Wind can impart a drying effect on your hair by increasing the rate of evaporation of moisture in it. Exposure to strong persistent winds can create tangles and snags in wavy and curly long hair. The wind buffets the hairs against one another which rough the cuticle layer causing the hairs to catch on one another. In addition, hair that is repeatedly buffeted in strong or gusting winds can develop split ends as the hairs brush against one another.

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Humidity:

On a humid day, dry hair will attract and absorb the water vapor in the air, causing the structure of the molecules in your hair to break down. If your hair is fine, the excess moisture absorbed will become too heavy for your strands, causing loss of volume and shape. If you have thick hair, the added moisture will cause your strands to expand, resulting in seemingly uncontrollable frizz.

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Hair and nutrition:

Since hair is made primarily of proteins, new hair growth depends on having an adequate supply of protein in order to create healthy hair cells. It is important to remember that the body can produce only 11 of the 20 amino acids needed to grow your hair, and that the rest must come from somewhere else. This is where diet comes into play. If your diet is high in carbohydrates and fats, but low in proteins, you’re not giving your body what it needs to promote healthy hair growth. It’s also likely that a less-than-balanced diet will not contain the vitamins and minerals your body needs. Vitamins are catalysts which assist the body in its biochemical functions, and different vitamins have different biochemical functions they assist. Beta-carotene, vitamins A, B, C, E, zinc, iron, copper, Omega fatty acids, biotin, folic acid are all important for healthy hair growth. You can get optimal amounts of these essential nutrients by eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and taking supplements.  Any vitamin that is recommended to promote the growth or maintenance of healthy skin will likewise benefit the hair. A healthy diet containing meat, fish, eggs and dairy products is a good source for the needed amino acids which the body can’t produce for hair growth, as are food combinations like peanut butter and bread, rice and beans; and beans and corn. And if you’re unsure of whether you’re getting the right nutrition, a good multi-vitamin can make sure you’re getting more of what you need.  

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Do your hair and fingernails grow after death? No…

Different cells die at different rates. After the heart stops beating, oxygen supply to the brain is cut off. With no glucose store to rely on, nerve cells die within three to seven minutes. Transplant surgeons must remove kidneys, livers and hearts from donors within thirty minutes of death and get them into recipients inside six hours. Skin cells, meanwhile, are longer lived. Grafts can still be successful if taken 12 hours after death. In order for fingernails to grow, new cells need to be produced and this can’t happen without glucose. Fingernails grow by an average of 0.1mm per day, a rate which slows as we age. A layer of tissue beneath the base of the nail called the germinal matrix is responsible for producing the vast majority of the cells which form the newest-growing part of the fingernail. The new cells push the older ones forwards, making the nail appear to lengthen from the tip. Death puts a stop to the supply of glucose, and therefore to fingernail growth. A similar process occurs for hair. Each hair sits within a follicle that drives its growth. At the base of the follicle is the hair matrix, a group of cells that divide to produce the new cells that make hair strands longer. These cells divide very rapidly, but only when supplied with energy. This comes from the burning of glucose, which requires the presence of oxygen. Once the heart stops pumping oxygen round the body in the blood, the energy supply dries up, and so does the cell division that drives hair growth. So why do myths persist about stubble growing on dead men’s chins and fingernails lengthening? While such observations are false, they do have a biological basis. It is not that the fingernails are growing, but that the skin around them retracts as it becomes dehydrated, making them appear longer. When preparing a body, funeral directors will sometimes moisturize the fingertips to counteract this. The skin on a dead man’s chin also dries out. As it does so it pulls back towards the skull, making stubble appear more prominent. Goosebumps caused by the contraction of the hair muscles can add to the effect.

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Hair color change after burial:

Potential change to hair color can be explained more scientifically by examining the chemistry of melanin which is responsible for hair color in life. All hair contains a mixture in varying concentration of both black-brown eumelanin and red-yellow phaeomelanin pigments, which are susceptible to differential chemical change under certain extreme burial conditions (for example wet reducing conditions, or dry oxidising conditions). Importantly, phaeomelanin is much more stable to environmental conditions than eumelanin, hence the reactions occurring in the burial environment favor the preservation of phaeomelanin, revealing and enhancing the red/ yellow color of hairs containing this pigment. Color changes occur slowly under dry oxidising conditions, such as in the burials in sand at Hierakonpolis. Whether the conditions within the wood and plaster coffin contributed to accelerated color change, or whether this individual naturally had more phaeomelanin pigmentation in his hair is hard to say without further analysis. 

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Functions of hair:

Many mammals have fur and other hairs that serve different functions. Hair provides thermal regulation and camouflage for many animals; for others it provides signals to other animals such as warnings, mating, or other communicative displays; and for some animals hair provides defensive functions and, rarely, even offensive protection. Hair also has a sensory function, extending the sense of touch beyond the surface of the skin. Guard hairs give warnings that may trigger a recoiling reaction. In some mammals, such as hedgehogs and porcupines, the hairs have been modified into hard spines or quills. These are covered with thick plates of keratin and serve as protection against predators. Displacement and vibration of hair shafts are detected by hair follicle nerve receptors and nerve receptors within the skin. Hairs can sense movements of air as well as touch by physical objects and they provide sensory awareness of the presence of ectoparasites.

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Hair can be found all over human body, except for the palms of hands and at the soles of feet. The purpose of hair is protective: the hairs on the body keeps a person warm, nose hairs prevent dust and dirt from entering the respiratory system, and eyebrows prevent sweat from entering the eyes. Hair also acts as contact sensors through the elongation of the hair shaft. As with the traits of any animal, we have evolved in certain ways based on our environment and the need to adapt to that environment. The hair on our heads provides warmth for cooler seasons (since we lose approximately 25% of our body heat through our scalp). The hair on the head also provides protection from UV rays, and from minor injuries. As discussed earlier, evolutionary biologically, hair is part of sexual dimorphism and sexual attraction.  Also, since breeding attractive offspring is important, (even prehistory; attractive offspring were more likely to have multiple mates furthering their offspring’s chance of survival) hair is an integral part of the human experience.

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Hair and thermoregulation:

Body hair is one of the most important features of the mammal thermoregulatory system. Hair can act as an important heat retention and heat prevention device in mammals. By trapping a layer of dead air against the skin, a layer of hair can act as an extremely efficient insulation, reducing the rate of convective heat loss to the environment. However, this exact same system acts as a way to prevent heat gain from the environment by the same principle; by using this layer of dead air to reduce the rate of convective heat gain from the environment to the skin. Besides insulation, the layer of hair on mammals is important in reducing the radiation from direct and indirect sunlight, and can thus act to reduce heat gain from the environment in two ways. Although hair can impede heat loss through sweating, it is important in thermoregulation for maintaining body heat in either colder environments or at night and for the reflectance of solar radiation away from the body. Dense hair cover is very efficient for both of these purposes, and it is an important question to ask why the selection for increased sweating efficiency for heat loss would be more important than the selection for the heat retention mechanism of hair cover and the heat prevention mechanism of solar radiation reflectance. Dense hair cover is an effective heat retention device, but only in smaller animals. As animals in increase in size, the effectiveness of hair cover decreases. This is due to the reduced ratio of skin area to volume as mass increases. As body size increases, the amount of metabolically derived heat increases dramatically, but the ability of the organism to effectively lose this heat is retarded by the decreased ratio of surface volume. Thus, the percentage of heat lost to the environment by conduction decreases, simply because the organism loses the ability to lose heat as size increases. This means that the hair cover is less and less evolutionary meaningful for the retention of body heat. The corollary of this axiom is that as body size increases, and the metabolic heat load increases, there is an increased need for mechanisms to remove heat in hotter environments or in periods of high metabolic heat production. So as body size increases, dense hair becomes less and less effective at retaining body heat, and more and more maladaptive for removing body heat (Schwartz & Rosenblum 1981; Robertshaw 1985).

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Why do humans get “goosebumps”?

Goosebumps are a physiological phenomenon inherited from our animal ancestors, which was useful to them but are not of much help to us. Goosebumps are tiny elevations of the skin that resemble the skin of poultry after the feathers have been plucked. These bumps are caused by a contraction of miniature muscles that are attached to each hair. Each contracting muscle creates a shallow depression on the skin surface, which causes the surrounding area to protrude. The contraction also causes the hair to stand up whenever the body feels cold. In animals with a thick hair coat this rising of hair expands the layer of air that serves as insulation. The thicker the hair layer, the more heat is retained. In people this reaction is useless because we do not have a hair coat, but goosebumps persist nevertheless. In addition to cold, the hair will also stand up in many animals when they feel threatened–in a cat being attacked by a dog, for example. The elevated hair, together with the arched back and the sideward position the animal often assumes, makes the cat appear bigger in an attempt to make the dog back off. People also tend to experience goosebumps during emotional situations, such as walking down the aisle during their wedding, standing on a podium and listening to a national anthem after winning in sports, or even just watching horror movies on television. Quite often a person may get goosebumps many years after a significant event, just by thinking about the emotions she once experienced, perhaps while listening to the romantic song to which she danced many years ago with the love of her life.  The reason for all these responses is the subconscious release of a stress hormone called adrenaline. Adrenaline, which in humans is produced by adrenal gland, not only causes the contraction of skin muscles but also influences many other body reactions. In animals, this hormone is released when the animal is cold or facing a stressful situation, preparing the animal for flight-or-fight reaction. In humans, adrenaline is often released when we feel cold or afraid, but also if we are under stress and feel strong emotions, such as anger or excitement. Other signs of adrenaline release include tears, sweaty palms, trembling hands, an increase in blood pressure, a racing heart or the feeling of ‘butterflies’ in the stomach.

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Why pubic hair?

There are many theories behind why humans have pubic hair. One thought is that the hair that grows around the genitals and under the arms lock in sexually stimulating scents called pheromones. Pheromones are sexual odors that generate sexual arousal in other people. Scientists believe that pubic hair traps these odors so that potential mates can detect them. For some, scents released from these areas are noticeable and can increase sexual desire. For others, pheromones might not be obvious but may be subliminally sensed. Some people believe that pubic hair keeps our genitals warm. Others believe that the purpose of pubic hair is to prevent dirt from entering the vagina. With or without purpose, pubic hair can be ornamental and eye-catching to its owner or to others. How you style your pubic hair is up to you. Pubic hair is unique in amount, color and consistency. Some women let their pubic hair grow into a full coverage of the pubic area while others prefer to keep their hair trimmed. Some seasonally prefer to have a neatly shaven “bikini line”. There are also women who choose to remove some or all of their pubic hair. Shaving, waxing or removing your pubic hair is by no means permanent. As the hair starts to grow back, however, it can be very itchy and uncomfortable.

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Eyebrows and eyelashes:

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Eyebrows are two little bands of hair growing right above our eyeballs. The ancestors of modern people were a lot hairier, but over time, a lot of that hair was lost. Somehow our eyebrows remained! They aren’t just there for decoration. They act a lot like gutters do on houses. They catch any sweat or rain or dirt running down your forehead and make it run off to the sides of your eyes. If sweat got into your eyes, it would probably sting. Eyebrows, just like eyelashes and eyelids, actually work to protect your eyes! Eyebrows also help us communicate. If you see people raise their eyebrows very high, it probably means they’re excited or surprised. If they lower their eyebrows, it may mean they are sad or mad. One of the easiest ways to show how we’re feeling is by using our eyebrows! Eyelashes and eyebrows help to protect the eyes from dust, dirt, and sweat. The eyelash grows at the edges of the eyelid and protects the eye from dirt. The eyelash is to humans, what whiskers are to cats; they are used to sense when dirt, dust, or any other potentially harmful object is too close to the eye. The eye reflexively closes as a result of this sensation.

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The Hair Follicle: A Specialised UV Receptor in the Human Skin?

Coat colour changes in polar animals are related to seasonal variation in photic inputs. A research work was performed to study the photoresponses of hair follicular melanocytes in human skin. The melanocytes, being photosensitive cells, can function as UV biosensors, since dendrites extend towards the source of UV light. Fifty-one skin biopsies from the margin of vitiligo were subjected to whole skin organ cultures. These were exposed to a pulse of UV light to study hair bulb melanocytes in vitiligo. It is observed that the melanocytes are seen within the anagen matrix. These melanocytes are poorly dendritic in control and dark-incubated cultures. On UV exposure, they become highly dendritic, the dendrites extending towards the hair shaft in 93.5%. They show prominent catechol oxidase and noradrenaline positivity, all features of UV responsiveness. The melanocytes within the hair follicle are not directly exposed to UV light. The melanocyte dendricity and the alignment of dendrites towards the shaft on UV exposure indicate that the columns of the cells in the hair shaft act as an efficient fiber-optic system, transmitting UV light. Morphologically, the keratinocytes in the hair shaft are arranged in compressed linear columns which resemble the coaxial bundles of commercial fiber-optic strands as is observed in plants. Keratinocytes in the inner and outer sheaths do not show this arrangement. Thus the hair follicle functions as a specialised UV receptor in the skin responding to nuances of photic inputs in human skin. This is reflected in coat colour changes in animals exposed to large variations in day-night cycles.  

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Hair and psychology:

Hairstyle affects perception of Intelligence: I disagree…

According to a study by Yale Professor Marianne LaFrance, a woman’s hairstyle influences how other people perceive her: shorter hair, smarter woman. In her study, LaFrance showed her test subjects five separate pictures of the same woman. In each image, the woman had a different haircut—a short crop, long curly hair, no hair, long straight hair and a bob. LaFrance then had the study’s participants rate “each person” (that is, the same person but with different hair) on certain perceived traits, like intelligence, wealth and open-mindedness. LaFrance found that the most traditionally feminine hair was considered to indicate the least intelligent woman. She connects femininity and hair length by saying that a longer, more traditionally feminine hairstyle indicates the least amount of intelligence—and the disturbing implications of increased femininity alongside decreased intelligence go far beyond hairstyle. I disagree with the author. Long hair denotes good health as women with poor health will not be able to maintain long lustrous hair. Intelligence and health are correlated worldwide as intelligent people know how to maintain good health. So to conclude that feminine hairstyle indicates poor intelligence is bad science.   

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Hair and personality: 

What your Hairstyle says about you: 

In Reading People: How to Understand People and Predict Their Behavior – Anyplace, Anytime, author Jo-Ellan Dimitrius points out that extremes in hair length, volume, color, or style can provide details about a woman’s personality.

Short Hair:

 If a woman has a well-maintained and carefully-cut short hairstyle, it can reveal that she is artistic and wants to express herself through her hair. Any high-maintenance hairstyle can be a sign of wealth or that a woman cares about her looks, but short hair requires frequent trips to the stylist, a sign that the woman is okay with spending money to look good. According to Dimitrius, “Spending a significant percentage of one’s income on hair—or any other aspect of personal appearance—suggests vanity, a need for acceptance, concern about others’ perceptions, and possibly insecurity.”

Long Hair:

Long hair can have multiple meanings. Many women believe that long hair makes them more sexually appealing, but it can also show a bohemian spirit or a need for freedom. Women over forty with long hair can be trying to hold onto their youth (and sex appeal) and may be unrealistic in their perceptions of themselves.

Gray Hair:

 Women who go “naturally” gray are comfortable with who they are. They have their own opinions about what looks good and what they like.

Mohawks, Multi-Colored Hair, Unique Styles:

 Obviously this shows that the wearer bucks tradition and doesn’t care what people think of her. The wearers are usually young and adventurous, but wearing these styles into adulthood reveals a woman who has little regard for what conventional society (employers, authority figures) thinks of her.

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What does your Hairstyle say about Your Personality?

Bangs – If you wear bangs, then you are playful, mystic, cute and childish but with a strong personality. Bangs also ooze sexuality since they draw attention to your eyes, so people may perceive you as flirty. If you want to instantly refresh your style and look seductive, visit your hair salon and ask your hairdresser to give you a fringe cut.

Ponytail – This simple and creative hairstyle is ideal for those who love sports and recreation, as well as for accenting facial features if attending a special event. Women who wear ponytails are powerful; know what they want, confident and strong-willed. If you’d like to appear confident, gather your hair in high or low ponytail. If your hair is not as long, use hair extensions to achieve this look.

Long Wavy Hair – Even though wavy locks convey a laid-back style, they suggest a lot of time spent in front of a mirror symbolizing self-admiration. Also, women who wear their hair this way are perceived as sexy, beautiful and very feminine. Power is another characteristic associated with this look, if you want to leave a powerful impression, go with wavy locks.

Long Straight Hair – This hairstyle symbolizes sensuality, low-maintenance and dominance. It is a very elegant and romantic style and it’s appropriate for both every day style and night of glamour.

Bob Hairstyle – If you prefer bob-cut, you are daring, elegant and do not bother with what people think or say about you.

Pixie Style – Be confident, daring and bold with a pixie cut. This hairstyle that reveals facial features is often considered to be a risky move, but at the same time very artistic and confident.

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Hair color and personality:

Hair color has often been associated with an individual’s personality. The natural color of your hair or the artificial color that you are thinking of getting done reveals a lot about how you feel and how you are perceived by others. That is the probable reason that blondes are considered to be sexy while aggression is associated with women having the tinge of red in their locks. Check out what different hair colors reflect about your personality.

1. Black hair:

Asians generally have exotic black hair that reflect their desire to move on and being bold in their lives. Women with black hair are generally considered tempestuous and extremely gracious. Also, if you live outside Asia and you are not an Asian and you color your hair black, then you may be considered rebellious or a punk-rock fan. Women with dark hair are also considered mysterious.

2. Red hair:

Red is associated with hotness. Therefore, women having natural red hair are considered hot looking and even hot tempered. They are often perceived as having strong notions and opinions and may appear extremely seductive. Mostly, women who dye their hair red may look sexy as well as strong and aggressive. They might also be mistaken for being crazy or stupid. Some of them may also be considered unattractive and their attraction level on a scale is either too high or too low. Red is a rare color so before you get it, consult your beautician and select a perfect tone of this color.

3. Brown hair:

Brunettes or women with brown hair are considered as honest and responsible. Since the color is too common, it might make a female appear boring or monotonous. Therefore, if you decide to go with brown, have an extreme haircut with bangs or get a few strands highlighted with copper color. Brown color can make you look really attractive if you manage to reduce its sameness.

4. Blond hair:

Women with blond hair have been considered as the epitome of sexiness all around the world. Marilyn Monroe, the ultimate sex symbol was a blonde. But blonde color is definitely hard to maintain and therefore, women with natural or dyed blonde hair may be considered as high-maintenance females. Also, blondes are stereotyped as being dumb and unprofessional. Therefore, if you are ready to experiment with this color, then make sure that you feel confident about the look. Women with dyed blonde hair can appear as attention seeker. Select the correct for fair, medium or dark skin.

5. Unusual shades:

If you believe in having unusual hair colors like blue, violet or green, then you are definitely a confident and rebellious individual who believes in herself. You are envied for your freedom of expression and your ability to do something out of the box. Make sure that you carry yourself with confidence and smile. 

So, select a color that reflects your personality and let people drool over your appearance.   

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Hair, gender and sex:

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Do women naturally have more scalp hair than men?

No. density of hair on scalp has no sexual correlation. However, androgenic alopecia (AGA) induced by androgens in genetically susceptible individuals occurs more commonly in men than women. Fifty percent of men by age 50 years and 40% of women by menopause have some degree of AGA.   

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Do women have longer scalp hair than men?

Yes. The maximum length of your hair is determined by the speed at which your hair grows and the length of the growth cycle (anagen phase of hair growth cycle). Women’s growth cycle is from four to seven years, whereas men’s growth cycle is shorter, varying from two to four years. The speed of hair growth is almost same as discussed below.

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The figure above shows young Sikh boy having long hair as his religion prohibits hair cutting. This proves that man can have long scalp hair if his anagen phase is lengthy. Even though length of anagen phase is shorter in men as compared to women, there are some men who have long anagen phase and can have scalp hair as long as women.    

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Why do men have more body hair than women do? 

Testosterone, the male sex hormone (androgenic hormone) is responsible for the distinguishing characteristics of the masculine body and the female sex hormone namely estrogen is responsible likewise for the feminine body. In a foetus the sex organ develops from the newly organised genital ridge. If the foetus is a male the male chromosome causes the genital ridge to secrete testosterone, which decides the development of foetal testes and if the foetus is a female the female chromosome causes this ridge to secrete estrogen, which decides the development of female gonads (ovaries). In male foetal testes the testosterones begin to elaborate at about the seventh week of embryonic life, during which the development of male body characteristics, including the formation of a penis and scrotum rather than the formation of clitoris and a vagina occurs. The testosterone production increases rapidly under the stimulus of anterior pituitary gonadotropic hormones at the onset of puberty and lasts throughout most of the remainder of life, but dwindling rapidly beyond the age of 50 and gradually becoming 20 to 50 per cent of the peak value by the age of 80. The re-initiation of testosterone secretion after puberty causes the increase in size of the male genital organ eightfold before the age of 20 years. In addition it also causes the `secondary sexual characteristics’ of the male beginning at puberty and ending at maturity. One among the secondary sexual characteristics is the distribution of body hairs. Beard appears, hairline on scalp (on the top of the head) recedes anterolaterally, pubic hair grows with male pattern (triangle with apex up), and hair appears in axillas.  Although body hair is increased by androgens, scalp hair is decreased. So there is possibility of development of baldness in man who has large quantity of androgenic hormones. The testosterone secretion rate is 4-9 mg/ day in normal adult males resulting in the plasma testosterone level as 300-1000 nanogram/ decilitre (ng/dl), which is only 30-70 ng/dl in adult woman. This is the only reason for the presence of more body hair in men than in women.

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Do men have faster-growing hair than women?  

Yes, male hair does grow faster than female hair at least according to the one study on the subject (J Invest Dermatol, 56:5, pp 362-365, 1971). However the difference was not much, only about 6.5% longer on average (or about 0.75mm per month). The difference is too small to be appreciated. Men’s and women’s hair grows at equal rates on average – approximately ½-inch per month. Of course, there is some slight variance from individual to individual, but this isn’t significant in determining any superior growth rate in men or women. It is, however, often believed that men’s hair grows faster, but this is because of a trick of relativity. Typically, men’s hairstyles are significantly shorter than those of women. It is not uncommon for a man’s haircut to include sections that are less than ½-inch in length. Because of this, a man’s hair will seem to grow faster, since in a month’s time any section of less than ½-inch will effectively double in length. That same amount of growth in a hairstyle that is even 4 inches long becomes barely notable by comparison. For women, there is often a significant increase in the rate of hair growth as a result of pregnancy hormones.

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Hair’s sexuality:

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“Hair is called a secondary sexual characteristic,” says Philip Kingsley, one of the UK’s leading trichologists, and the man who coined the term “bad hair day”. “You can’t flaunt your primary sexual characteristics in public, at least not in western society, so that’s what makes your hair so important from a social viewpoint: it’s about sexuality and morale. Lots of women, and men, find that if they are not happy with their hair then they are unhappy people.”  Hair does not in itself have any intrinsic sexual value other than the attributes given to it by individuals in a cultural context. Some cultures are ambivalent in relation to body hair, with some being regarded as attractive while others are being regarded as unaesthetic. Many cultures regard a woman’s hair to be erotic. For example, many Islamic women cover their hair in public, and display it only to their family and close friends. Similarly, many Jewish women cover their hair after marriage. During the Middle Ages, European women were expected to cover their hair after they married. Even in cultures where women do not customarily cover their hair, the erotic significance of hair is recognised. Some hair styles are culturally associated with a particular gender, with short head hair styles and baldness being associated with men and longer hair styles with women and girls. Hair, especially head hair, is regarded as a person’s secondary sexual characteristic. In the case of women especially, head hair has been presented in art and literature as a feature of beauty, vanity and eroticism. Hair has a very important role in the canons of beauty in different regions of the world, and healthy combed hair has two important function, beauty and fashion. In those cultures considerable time and expense is put into the attractive presentation of hair, and in some cases to the removal of culturally unwanted hair.

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Give a man two pictures of the same woman – in one her hair is long and in the other her hair is short – which one will he pick? If you guessed the long hair version – you are right. It doesn’t matter if the long hair is flattering or frayed because his reaction is primeval. According to evolutionary psychologists, long hair indicates a woman’s happiness, health and general well-being. Cave paintings reveal the celebration of long-haired women; the longer the hair the more fertile…and therefore, the more desirable. Men’s views haven’t changed much since cavemen times. Just watch a shampoo commercial: long, silky hair tossed and twirled…a visual shorthand for sexual attractiveness. It is important to appreciate hair in its role as a sexual object, between sexuality and hair: To caress someone’s hair, to fondle or play with it, even to smell it, is consciously or not a sexual act. While kissing, men love to play with the hair of a woman. It is not only because women get excited when their partners play with the hair. It is mainly because men love to lose themselves in between the strands of loose hair. It makes them feel erotic and also excites their partner at the same time! How we style it, how its cut, the care we give it and the way we display it indicates to the world in a multitude of ways our sexual feelings, aggressions, insecurities, confidence or inhibitions. Women with long, lustrous hair send messages of sexual fertility. The most popular female film stars, models and singers, past and present, have long loose hair. Long hair is thought of as being more feminine, softer and more sensual.

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The most savage seductresses – sirens, mermaids, Lorelei – all exploited manes in which male destinies might become entangled.  Mortal enchantresses, too, were never without luxuriant tresses with which to lasso their prey. The longer and more untrammelled a woman’s hair, the more potent and dangerous her sexuality. Tumbling tresses also boast of more positive sexual associations.  Renaissance brides adopted flowing locks as an emblem of virginity, sexuality and fertility.  In ages in which inadequate nutrition played havoc with beauty, resplendent hair was a sign of fruitfulness, its unleashing implying the intimacy of the bedchamber. Where long hair suggested sex, short hair has been a mark of revolution; of women putting political rather than sexual objectives first.

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Many men would find woman in the photo above as sexy merely by looking at her long hair. Long-haired women are rated highly attractive, regardless, of whether their facial attractiveness is valued high or low. Mesko and Bereczkei (2004) found that long and medium-length hairstyles had a significant, positive effect on women’s attractiveness, whereas other hairstyles (short, bun) did not significantly influence the values of physical beauty.

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Long Hair or Short Hair?

In informal Attractive Women Survey:

•Only 5% of respondents picked short hair as being attractive on women.

•In contrast, a whopping 70% prefer long hair, out of over 5000 votes.

In informal Attractive Men Survey:

•Only 8% of respondents picked long hair as being attractive on men.

•In contrast 48% prefer short hair, out of over 1000 votes.

These results are very much in line with the socially accepted norm that women should have long hair, and men should have short hair. A 2008 poll reported by the Daily Mail also showed similar results, with 56% of men preferring long hair on women (43% prefer long and wavy hair, and 13% prefer long and straight hair). Only 22% of the men picked a short hairstyle (e.g. classic bob, pixie crop, bowl cut). 

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Trichophilia:

Hair fetishism, hair partialism, or trichophilia is a partialism in which a person sees hair, most commonly head hair, as erotic and from which the person experiences sexual arousal. Technically, hair fetishism is called trichophilia, which comes from the Greek “trica-”, which means hair, and the suffix “-philia”, which means love.  Arousal may occur from seeing or touching hair, including head hair, pubic hair, axillary hair, chest hair, or fur. Head hair arousal may come from seeing or touching very long or short hair, wet hair, certain colors of hair or a particular hairstyle. Pubic hair fetishism is a particular form of hair fetishism. In order to determine the relative prevalence of different fetishes, scientists obtained a sample of at least 5000 individuals worldwide, in 2007, from 381 Internet discussion groups. The relative prevalence were estimated based on (a) the number of groups devoted to a particular fetish, (b) the number of individuals participating in the groups and (c) the number of messages exchanged. Of the sampled population, 7 percent were turned on by scalp hair (as opposed to 12 for underwear, but only 4 for genitals, 3 for breasts, 2 for buttocks, and less than one for body hair).

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Does Women’s Hair Signal Reproductive Potential?

This study explores the possibility that women’s hair signals their reproductive potential. Evolutionary psychology and related approaches are considered as rationales for the belief that women’s hair is a signal for mate selection and attraction. A sample of women were approached in public places and surveyed as to their age, hair quality, marital status, hair length, children, and overall health. A significant correlation between hair length and age indicated that younger women tend to have longer hair than older women. Hair quality was correlated with women’s health. Consistent with the principle of intersexual selection, the results of this study indicate that hair length and quality can act as a cue to a woman’s youth and health and, as such, signify reproductive potential. Shiny, strong hair provides a cue to recent good health, developmental condition, and genotypic quality. Tellingly, long hair is often preferred across cultures, and long, lustrous hair is often associated with beauty. In short, long hair is often associated with beauty in women because it is highly correlated with youth, health, and reproductive potential.

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There have been studies that prove men are attracted to long hair because it signifies good health and fertility. Subconsciously men are hardwired to notice tiny details in women such as fullness of the cheeks, color of the skin and other more sexual details that indicate a good candidate for passing on genes with a good partner. On a purely animalistic (pre health care caveman days) level a woman that is healthy enough to grow nice long hair is probably not sickly or vitamin deficient. It is a biological advantage for a male to pass on his genes to a female that is healthy enough to carry his offspring to term and beyond.

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Intelligence and health are correlated worldwide as intelligent people know how to maintain good health. Intelligence enhances individuals’ care of their own health because it represents learning, reasoning, and problem-solving skills useful in preventing chronic disease and accidental injury and in adhering to complex treatment regimens. Therefore, in my view, women who can maintain long lustrous hair are not only healthy but also intelligent.

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Women spend a great deal of time, money, and attention making their hair as attractive as possible. While this energy is often spent in order to make a woman feel more confident, it also serves to make a woman more attractive to men. Fashion and beauty magazines offer tips and advice on how women can make their hair as appealing as possible to men. While all men vary in preferences, the majority of men report preferring long hair on women. “I think men like it because it’s more feminine,” explains one college student. “I love to run my fingers through my girlfriend’s hair.” Touching and playing with woman’s hair is also regarded as one of the more obvious flirtation techniques. Hairstyle preferences are often thought to be a result of cultural norms and expectations. According to this theory, men’s preference for long hair is due to the fact that long hair requires substantial commitment of money, time, and daily care. Such factors would indicate that a woman has a good financial status, self-respect, and concern for her overall health and well being. Men may find longer-haired women more attractive because these characteristics are desirable qualities in a partner. However, this preference for long hair goes beyond social or cultural expectations for women’s beauty. Research has demonstrated that there is an evolutionary reason for men to prefer long hair to short hair on women. According to evolutionary theory, features considered attractive by the opposite sex serve as indicators of reproductive fitness. Experiments and observations have demonstrated that a woman’s hair plays a major role in how men rate a woman’s attractiveness. The quality and length of hair serves as a marker of genetic strength and overall health. Several studies have demonstrated that men find women with medium-length to long hair more attractive than shorter haired counterparts. Men also rate long haired women as healthier and fitter than short haired women.

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Sexuality of woman: long hair vs. short hair:

Men have built-in obsession with long and luscious locks, falling coyly across the breasts, denoting youth, femininity and passivism. Although whilst this may be true for many men, to suggest that all men are only turned on by women with long hair, is a stereotype in itself. Many men adore short crops, seeing them as cute and sexy and in daring to ditch the long locks, being an admirable quality in a woman. Whilst a silky, long mane was considered the ultimate sign of a vivacious and sexually activity, women who have short, sexy hair styles, flirtatiously mocking a man’s ingrained sexual associations, are seen by many, as a woman in her prime. The very nature of stereotypes means that it is all but impossible to lose the stigma surrounding the subject of the stereotype, and hair styles are no exception. Short hair and lesbianism is closely interrelated as many gay women do choose to wear their hair short as a symbol of ‘masculinity’. To suggest however, that women who have short hair are devoid of sexuality and cut off their hair to ‘curb sexual appetite’, is fundamentally incorrect. Whilst this may be true for a relative minority of women, who may have come out of a bad relationship and have cut off their hair to make a statement that they are ‘taking a break’ from men and sex, most women who have short hair, have just an active sex life as women with long hair – regardless of their sexuality. It may be acceptable to consider that a woman with short hair might be gay, but to suggest that she is devoid of sexual activity is essentially unacceptable, as gay women can have an equally fulfilling sex life as straight women. Women can send out many positive signals with her hair, whether it is long or short. Because of the ideologies associated with sex and sexuality that have been so deeply ingrained into our culture for hundreds of years, many men probably do find long hair more sexually rousing than short. But the tides are turning, and as women are now ‘en par’ with men in all walks of life, a successful woman donning a stylish hair cut, is a sign of intelligence, power and confidence – in and out of the bedroom.

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 Men are supposed to have short hair and women long. Is this true across all cultures?

There are a number of examples of men with long hair throughout history, and across many cultures – Chinese ‘queues’, Sikh men who will not cut the hair and bind it underneath turbans. There are many wonderful photos of Native American Indians with fab little accessories. As for women, orthodox Judaic women cut their hair on marriage and often wear wigs; and for many final commitment ceremonies, a nun’s hair would be shaved before the head is covered by wimple and veil.

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Color of hair and sexuality:

A research paper entitled ‘Hair Colour and Courtship: Blond Women Received More Courtship Solicitations and Redhead Men Received More Refusals’ published in the academic journal ‘Psychological Studies’. In the first study conducted, female subjects, wearing blond, brown, black or red coloured wigs, were observed while sitting in a nightclub. In a second study, male collaborators wearing different coloured wigs asked women in a nightclub for a dance.  The intriguing results are that blond women were more frequently approached by men, whereas blond males did not receive more acceptances to their requests. However, in both conditions, red hair was associated with significantly less attractiveness. Researcher points out that previous surveys across the globe find dark fringes account for more than 90% of all natural hair, whereas blond accounts for only 2%, while red makes up only 1% worldwide. One theory had been that women who change their hair colour, prefer less common tints, so as to increase how they might stand out and therefore attract male attention. Although psychologists argue that women are less interested in men’s physical characteristics, when it comes to what determines attractiveness, (compared to men’s preferences in women), it seems that red hair was associated in this experiment with dramatically less responsiveness to men’s courtship requests from women.  Viren Swami and Seishin Barrett, psychologists at the University of Westminster, London, had earlier conducted a similar experiment. In their study the female subject, a natural brunette, dyed her hair blond and red. She sat in various nightclubs over many weeks, and the experimenters observed and counted how many men approached her during a one hour period. When she was blond, 60 men came up to her, while brunette the figure dropped to 42 and then when red, male interest languished at 18 approaches. Swami and Barrett also surveyed men in these same nightclubs probing them on attitude to female hair colour, using pictures of the same female confederate with different hair colours. In the study entitled ‘British men’s hair color preferences: An assessment of courtship solicitation and stimulus ratings’, when she was brunette the woman was actually rated as most attractive from her image, so how come the men actually approached her more, when she was blond? One theory Swami and Barrett propose is based on the fact that their female confederate in the experiment was also rated as more ‘needy’ by men when she was a blond in the photographs, than when she was a brunette or redhead. The study has recently been published in the ‘Scandinavian Journal of Psychology’ and argues blonds being perceived as needier may have encouraged men to make approaches, possibly because it induced greater feelings of dominance or confidence in them, which in turn reduced their inhibition.

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Why do Europeans have so many Hair and Eye Colors? Strong sexual selection:

Most humans have only one hair color and one eye color. Europeans are a big exception: their hair is black but also brown, flaxen, golden, or red; their eyes are brown but also blue, gray, hazel, or green. This diversity reaches a maximum in an area centered on the East Baltic and covering Northern and Eastern Europe. If we move outward, to the south and east, we see a rapid return to the human norm: hair becomes uniformly black and eyes uniformly brown. Why this color diversity? And why only in Europe? Some believe it to be a side effect of natural selection for fairer skin to ensure enough vitamin D at northern latitudes. Yet skin color is weakly influenced by the different alleles for hair color or eye color apart from the ones for red hair or blue eyes. Some have no effect at all on skin pigmentation. Others put the cause down to intermixture with Neanderthals. Yet, according to the mtDNA that has been retrieved, no genetic continuity is discernible between late Neanderthals and early modern Europeans. Perhaps there was some gene flow between the two groups, but certainly not enough to account for the large number of Europeans with neither black hair nor brown eyes. For others still, this color diversity arose through random factors: genetic drift, founder effects, relaxation of natural selection, etc. But these factors could not have produced such a wide variety of hair and eye hues in the 35,000 years that modern humans have inhabited Europe. The hair-color gene (MC1R) has at least 7 alleles that exist only in Europe and the same is probably true for the eye-color gene (OCA2). If we take the hypothesis of a relaxation of selection, nearly a million years would be needed to accumulate this amount of diversity.  Moreover, it is odd that the same sort of diversification has evolved at two different genes whose only point in common is to color a facial feature. Thus, some kind of non-random process seems to have targeted hair and eye color per se, that is, as visible characteristics. But how? And why? For some, including the geneticist Luigi L. Cavalli-Sforza, the answer is sexual selection. This mode of selection intensifies when males outnumber females among individuals ready to mate, or vice versa. The sex in excess supply has to compete for a mate and resorts to the same strategies that advertisers use to grab attention, such as the use of bright or striking colors. In other animals, bright colors are usually due to sexual selection. Sometimes the result may be a “color polymorphism”. A potential mate will respond not simply to a bright color but also to a rare one that stands out from the crowd. By enhancing reproductive success, however, such a color will also become more common and less eye-catching. Sexual attraction will then shift to less common variants, the eventual result being an equilibrium that maximizes color diversity. This sort of rare-color advantage has been reported in humans. An American researcher, Thomas Thelen, prepared three series of slides featuring attractive women: one with 6 brunettes; another with 1 brunette and 5 blondes; and a third with 1 brunette and 11 blondes.  Male subjects then had to select the woman in each series they would most prefer to marry. For the same brunette, preference increased significantly from the first to the third series, i.e., in proportion to the rarity of the brunettes. This rare-color preference may account for the wide range of human hair and eye phenotypes we see today. But why is hair and eye color so much more diverse in Europe than elsewhere? Perhaps because sexual selection was much stronger among ancestral Europeans than in other human populations.  

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Men hair:
In males, graying hair and baldness may be adaptive for the bearers because they induce respect and social maturity. Bald men were judged less attractive as romantic partners but more attractive as mentors. Facial hair signals sexual maturity and dominance, males with beards were perceived as more aggressive, older, and less appealing than those with clean-shaven faces.

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Facial hair of men and its attractiveness for women:

Writing in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, the researchers conclude: Facial hair, or beardedness, is a powerful sociosexual signal, and an obvious biological marker of sexual maturity.  Facial hair may have been sexually selected by females on the basis of associated male success, despite its threatening appearance. Clean-shaven faces therefore may suggest appeasement, as well as being an obvious sign of sexual immaturity. Increasing levels of facial hair were associated with increased perceptions of aggression, in that bearded faces were perceived as being the most aggressive, whilst clean-shaven faces were rated as being the least aggressive. And as facial hair increased in a linear fashion, so did female ratings of masculinity and dominance.  In desirability for a short-term relationship, a female preference for male faces with stubble or light beard was found, with clean-shaven and fully bearded faces being the least preferred. This indicates that females are not selecting faces displaying relatively high or low masculinity, but are rather preferring males who are clearly mature – post-pubertal – but not too masculinised. The same pattern was found for preferences for a long-term relationship.

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Are dudes with beards really more attractive?  A little scruff goes a long way:

A new study boldly trumpets that men with scruffy facial hair are considered significantly more attractive than their beard-deficient brethren. Compared to previous beard-attractiveness studies — which are apparently a thing — this research zeroed in on the precise amount of scruff that straight women and straight men find most desirable. The magic daily number for growing out your whiskers, sexily? A whole 10 days. The latest manly-man findings come courtesy of researchers Barnaby J. Dixson and Robert C. Brooks of the Evolution & Ecology Research Centre at the University of New South Wales. Their methodology was fairly straightforward: They showed 350 straight women and 250 straight men pictures of the same guy with varying degrees of facial hair as seen in the figure below:

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Facial hair “strongly influences people’s judgments of men’s socio-sexual attributes,” they concluded. Those judgments, however, were based on a few different factors beyond evolutionary psychology: Women judged faces with heavy stubble as most attractive and heavy beards; light stubble and clean-shaven faces as similarly less attractive. In contrast, men rated full beards and heavy stubble as most attractive, followed closely by clean-shaven and light stubble as least attractive. Men and women rated full beards highest for parenting ability and healthiness. Masculinity ratings increased linearly as facial hair increased, and this effect was more pronounced in women in the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle, although attractiveness ratings did not differ according to fertility.

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The findings don’t exactly jibe with a 2012 joint study of beard attraction by psychologists from Canada’s University of Lethbridge and New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington. Researchers used similar methodology to discover that while ladies found men with beards “older and more aggressive” (alpha males, in other words), they still preferred the mugs of clean-shaven guys.

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Are bald men more or less attractive?

It is a question that has been debated time and time again – do men look more attractive, or less attractive, when they lose their hair. The crux of the debate is about the lengths men will go to in order to keep their hair, on the basis that having hair makes them appear more attractive. The results of the “with or without hair” comparison of photo in a study is sadly conclusive. The photos were polled to an audience of online daters, and the man with ‘hair’ was rated more highly. So is it a foregone conclusion then? Is the harsh reality that men simply become less attractive when they lose their hair? The evidence would certainly suggest that, and it would also explain why so many men fuel a multi-billion dollar global hair loss industry by purchasing lotions, pills, systems and transplants to prevent or hide their thinning hair.

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Daily routine hair care:

Hair care is an overall term for parts of hygiene and cosmetology involving the hair on the human head. When the term hair care is used without context, it means hair care of scalp hair.

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Natural protection of hair and scalp:

The living parts of hair (hair follicle, hair root, root sheath, and sebaceous gland) are beneath the skin, while the actual hair shaft which emerges (the cuticle which covers the cortex and medulla) has no living processes. Damage or changes made to the visible hair shaft cannot be repaired by a biological process, though much can be done to manage hair and ensure that the cuticle remains intact. The sebaceous glands in human skin produce sebum, which is composed primarily of fatty acids. Sebum acts to protect hair and skin, and can inhibit the growth of microorganisms on the skin. Sebum contributes to the skin’s slightly acidic natural pH somewhere between 5 and 6.8 on the pH spectrum. This oily substance gives hair moisture and shine as it travels naturally down the hair shaft, and serves as a protective substance preventing the hair from drying out or absorbing excessive amounts of external substances. When sebum is present in excess, the roots of the hair can appear oily, greasy, and darker than normal, and the hair may stick together. When sebum and sweat combine on the scalp surface, they help to create the acid mantle, which is the skin’s own protective layer.  

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Hair care to support natural protective mechanism and not oppose it:

Hair care will differ according to one’s hair type and according to various processes that can be applied to hair. Scalp skin, just like any other skin on the body, must be kept healthy to ensure a healthy body and healthy hair production. If the scalp is not cleaned regularly, by the removal of dead skin cells, toxins released through the skin or external hazards (such as bacteria, viruses, and chemicals) may create a breeding ground for infection. However, not all scalp disorders are a result of bacterial infections. Besides natural mechanism, sebum is also distributed down the hair shaft “mechanically” by brushing and combing. One way to distribute the hair’s natural oils through the hair is by brushing with a natural bristle brush. The natural bristles effectively move the oil from the scalp through to the hair’s mid-lengths and ends, nourishing these parts of the hair. Brushing the scalp also stimulates the sebaceous gland, which in turn produces more sebum. Washing hair removes excess sweat and oil, as well as unwanted products from the hair and scalp.

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Combs:

Combs have been on the scene ever since humans had hair on his head. The date perhaps goes beyond the time of the Old Stone Age. Man being man and not a lion would not be content to let his mane run wild and free. So he had to find some ways to tame it. First on the list of combing operations must have been the use of fingers. So in a way the fingers are the first combs of history. A comb is a solid tool, usually flat and always with teeth. It is used for caring for human hair and cleaning other fluffy stuff like fiber. The etymology goes back to ancient Greece and Sanskrit meaning tooth or to bite. Among tools perhaps it is the oldest. Exquisite combs have been found digging up the ancient Persian Empire going back about 5000 years and at the time of the first Indo-European migrations. Many of the historical combs can be seen in museums. In the Hermitage Museum there is an exquisitely carved comb belonging to the Scythian period ca 400 BC termed the Salokha comb. On the head are depicted three human figures, one being on horseback, about to kill an animal. Combs were not always used for cosmetic purpose. It was used to comb out hair parasites like lice that took shelter in human hair. The fact is that as yet, no traditional civilization has been found that did not use combs! If you share combs then you have to share parasites also. Parasites love traveling from scalp to scalp via the comb route. Parasites travel in groups with families and eggs. Thus a comb is extremely popular with lice, fleas, mites and fungus. Sometimes the matter becomes serious because the comb is said to have been a carrier for the Black Plague, that finished off nearly one third of Europe in the Middle Ages. There are special nit combs and flea combs to tackle the menace of macroscopic vermin. The comb may be turned into a musical instrument by stringing across its teeth the leaf of a plant or a thin piece of paper. Humming on it with cropped lips produce a heavenly ethereal sound. This principle is used in a musical instrument called the kazoo. The shape, material and length of the teeth determine the harmonic qualities of the comb. Police investigators love combs. This is the first item they will seek in the crime scene. From the comb they will carefully collect samples of hair and dandruff for clues. The latest DNA testing procedure makes the hair on the comb an important item for proving or disproving accusations.  Combs have been frequently mentioned in many religious books. Among Hindus, during the period of mourning the family is not supposed to brush, comb or oil the hair. For some groups this continues for a fortnight. After the last rites the men shave off their hair while the women get back to the earnest job of combing the tangled mass. Indian mendicants take the vow of not combing their matted locks. It dangles in knotty splendour and revered by all. In mythology the River Ganga splashed on to the matted locks of Lord Shiva to find shelter and support. Combs are universal and no corner of the globe is without it. But each has its own style and use of special material. Wooden combs are still quite common in village fairs in Asia. Usually these are made of boxwood and wood of cherry and pine trees. The best wooden combs are made by hand and polished. Some combs are made from the horns of buffalos. The early ones were made from ivory and bones. Silver, gold, tin and brass were also used. Tortoise shell and horn combs were more pliable and soft than other ones as these could be easily moulded. Generally combs are shaped from the raw material specific to the locality. It has its down side. In China, exquisite turquoise feathers were used to make classy combs and led to the near extinction of the species. The collector of African combs will be able to identify the locale from the wood used in each specific comb. When the sentiments for ivory was getting two strong and supply becoming low, two brothers, Isaiah and John Hyatt in 1869 after playing around in the laboratory for some time discovered celluloid. The first plastic consisted of nitrocellulose and camphor. A revolution was kicked off in the world of combs. They became cheaper and faster to make while keeping up the appearances of ivory and tortoise shell. It meant good news to the animals that got a breather to comb the nature reserves without fear. Combs are no longer the prerogative of humans. All one has to do is to pay a visit to the pet shop. There are various types of combs and brushes for cats, dogs and horses. There are different varieties specific to each family of dogs and cats.  Combing has an acupuncture effect. The nerves get stimulated. Holistic medicine practitioners strongly advise the use of combs to get over a feeling of depression. To come back to a feeling of well being with a bounce just vigorously comb your hair. For the best effect keep changing the comb so that the teeth are sharp and pointed for the required results. Collectors can share interesting experiences. One collected a delicate honey-amber coloured piece with 21 teeth still intact, from an African flea market! A woman’s crowning glory is her cascade of long tresses. The comb not only smoothes it out but also can be used to keep it in place. Some were carved and decorated with rhinestones. In yesteryears men fell in love with the rippling long tresses of women. Another big sized comb with its back broken off had its top made of rhinestone. It came from a church white elephant sale. Research in combs is still relatively new but efforts are on to rope in enthusiasts and scholars to find out more about the oldest tool in the history of mankind. This led to the formation of a club in 1993, The Antique Comb Collector’s Club. It is a non-profit organization intense in its search to comb the past for information and antique pieces.

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Brushes and combs are used to organize and untangle the hair, encouraging all of the strands to lie in the same direction and removing debris such as lint, dandruff, or hairs that have already shed from their follicles but continue to cling to the other hairs. There are all manner of detangling tools available in a wide variety of price ranges. Combs come in all shapes and sizes and all manner of materials including plastics, wood, and horn. Similarly, brushes also come in all sizes and shapes, including various paddle shapes. Most benefit from using some form of a wide tooth comb for detangling. Most physicians advise against sharing hair care instruments like combs and clips, to prevent spreading hair conditions like dandruff and head lice. The historical dictum to brush hair with one hundred strokes every day is somewhat archaic, dating from a time when hair was washed less frequently; the brushstrokes would spread the scalp’s natural oils down through the hair, creating a protective effect. Now, however, this does not apply when the natural oils have been washed off by frequent shampoos. Also, hairbrushes are now usually made with rigid plastic bristles instead of the natural boar’s bristles that were once standard; the plastic bristles increase the likelihood of actually injuring the scalp and hair with excessively vigorous brushing.

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There are three basic types of comb that can be used to style hair: plastic combs, wooden combs and metal combs. All three types have their own benefits and disadvantages, and the selection of a type of comb can depend on the needs and demands of the user. Metal combs are less popular than plastic combs but more popular than wooden ones. A metal comb is sturdy, flows smoothly through hair and causes very little static or hair loss, but it might cause an allergic reaction. A major pro of using a wood comb is that it can be effective for detangling hair. Plastic combs used in the hair may create static, while wood versions usually do not. A wood comb is often the best choice for curly or long hair that may get caught in plastic combs since the teeth aren’t usually as thick. Wooden combs also don’t tend to pull and snag the hair like their plastic counterparts often do.  Never use a fine tooth comb for your hair. It is better to use a wide toothed comb. This will reduce hair breakage. 

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Untangle hair:

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Some experts on hair care are of the opinion at it is best to use combs with wide teeth instead of hairbrushes and plastic combs having fine teeth. Wooden combs are supposed to anti-static without sharp seams. This prevents snapping and tangling of hair. The hairbrush continues to be popular. It is bigger than the usual comb and is used for managing and styling hair. To avoid infection it is best to observe comb hygiene. Like the toothbrush there should be a separate comb for each individual. The purpose of combing your hair is to distribute the natural oils of your scalp throughout your hair. If you don’t comb or brush your hair (with a boar bristle type brush), the oils will stay at your scalp and leave the rest of your hair dry and your hair can become damaged and brittle. You must get into the habit of combing your scalp to have naturally shiny hair.

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Can do you damage hair while combing?

Combing the hair is trivial but important activities that women do every day. If calculated, you spend a lot of time to do this trivial. But although trivial, it turns out combing the hair can affect the appearance of the hair. It may be necessary to apply a hair serum to protect your mane before using a comb or hair brush. Hair serum fortifies and supports your hair. Before combing, it is important to divide your hair into smaller sections and then comb. Never run a comb randomly on entire mane. Here are some ways that actually make hair combing damage hair:

Combing when wet:

As discussed earlier, wet hair is more fragile than dry hair and breaks easily. You can see it how much hair falling out when combed in wet conditions. Therefore, you should dry the hair before combing it. Fine-toothed combs and finely-tined brushes (as well as bristled-brushes) all exert a lot of pressure on the wet hair because they either a) try to force the hair between tightly-spaced teeth or tines and/or b) try to direct the hair in multiple directions at once. Wet hair will stretch to the point of misshapenness, and often break off when placed under too much stress. The best way to detangle and groom wet hair is with a wide-toothed comb. You can use the wide-tooth comb first and then work your way to finer-toothed or tined styling tools. Your hair is weakest when it is dripping wet and so combing it then will cause it to break. On the other hand combing your hair when it is dry will also break it off because your hair is not as flexible as it should be. When your hair is damp it can better withstand the force of a comb.  

Combing the hair from root to tip:

Though you often comb the hair straight from root to tip, in this way, it makes the hair pulled from the root and easy to hurt. For correct combing habit, begin a few inches away from the hair root. If you have tangled hair, then you might use slight force to untangle it which can damage hair root. So to untangle hair, comb from tip to root. Always use your fingers or a wide-tooth comb to get knots out of each other. Remember, all cuticle cells of hair point from root to tip and hence combing from tip to root can damage cuticle of hair. 

Too often combing:

There are women who are too worried about condition & style of their hair, so keep combing hair often. In fact, too much combing the hair will make the hair pulled from its roots and even fall out. You can really comb with fingers just to reassure yourself that the hair is neat.

Wearing dirty comb:

At least once a week, comb should be washed. Dirty comb will just move the dirt and the bacteria to the scalp, which means slowly the dirt will accumulate there, clog pores and scalp infection will follow.

Comb used 100 % plastic:

It turns out that combs made of plastic material generate static electricity over hair. Static electricity will make the hair less refined and eventually cause injury to the trunks of the hair that you cannot see.

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The right way to comb your hair is shown in figure below:

The woman combs hair from root to tip (cuticle cells point from root to tip) holding hair above combing region to prevent strain on hair root:

 

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Combing vs. brushing:

Combing the hair is actually better for the hair than brushing it, because the comb only tries to arrange the strands of hair in specific directions. Brushes on the other hand put stress on the hair shafts in multiple directions at once and generally create more tension in the hair (which is why brushing gives such smooth results more quickly than a comb). While natural bristle brushes are excellent for distributing natural oils and removing dirt from the hair when used to brush dry hair, brushing the hair too much is not good. Over-brushing can lead to split-ends and breakage. Therefore, while you should brush the hair every day, only do so until the hair is smooth and tangle-free. Combing is a safe alternative. Just remember to make sure you don’t press too hard with the comb, lest you scratch your scalp. Some experts believe that combing your hair is not enough as you need to brush your scalp to have healthy, strong and shiny mane. It stimulates blood circulation and promotes hair growth.

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Does Brushing damage Hair?

Using a hair brush is seen as a convenient way to detangle hair; however, brushing hair incorrectly can result in split ends and damaged hair. Most hairbrushes, including plastic bobble-tipped brushes and boar bristle brushes, cause damage and split ends when used to detangle hair. This is not the fault of the brushes per se; rather, the brushes are not being used correctly. Hairbrushes have bristles placed too densely to sweep through tangled hair without ripping hairs out. The correct way to use brushes is not for detangling, but for polishing, distributing the hair’s natural oils and smoothing the hair after detangling. The best way to detangle hair is to use your fingers or a wide-toothed comb. Start gently combing at the tips of the hair and work your way gradually up the length with longer and longer strokes. Work from the bottom of any tangles: attacking them from the top simply compresses the knots and makes them harder to undo. Only once your hair is detangled should you pick up a brush! If you are practicing some form of natural hair care such as water-only washing, start by brushing any dirt and dust out of the length of your hair. Then work from the scalp in long, even strokes to catch the sebum (natural scalp oils) and distribute it down the length of the hair, where it will condition the hair shafts instead of remaining clumpy and greasy-looking at the roots. Boar bristle brushes are excellent for spreading sebum and giving the scalp a therapeutic massage at the same time. Vegan alternatives, quill brushes or any kind of synthetic brushes can also be used. However, cheaply-made bobble-headed brushes should be avoided. The bobbles serve no purpose and in poorly-made brushes tend to split and crack away from the bristles, leaving cracks which catch and tear hair. Soft-bristled brushes are available for those who do not like the feel of harder bristles. Wielding a hairbrush is by no means an essential component of hair care! Many people with curly or frizzy hair find hairbrushes add unwanted volume to their hair, destroy the definition of their curls and result in ‘poofy’ unmanageable hair. Using a wide-toothed comb, fingers or a pic to comb hair is a preferable option in this case. Even straight-haired people often prefer to avoid using a hairbrush. This is fine, although it may make some forms of natural hair care such as water-only washing more difficult. 

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Procedure for Brushing the Scalp:

In a lot of situations, brushing the hair is a necessary evil. By comparison with combing the hair, brushing can be more harmful to the hair if overdone than combing would be. Because of this, you should use caution when brushing your hair so as to avoid brushing it too much. However, in cases where the scalp produces an overabundance of sebum, brushing is important. It stimulates the circulation in the scalp which helps balance sebum production. It also helps to distribute the oil present along the shaft of the hair, lubricating it and helping the hair look healthier. You just have to do it properly. The starting point on the scalp really doesn’t matter in brushing for this purpose, and the number of brushstrokes depends on the length of your hair. If your hair is very short (less than 2 inches long) you can simply choose a place to start and brush it first in one direction until you’ve brushed all the hair in that direction, then go back over the head and brush it in the opposite direction. The key is making sure you’ve managed to brush-over and massage the entire scalp. For longer hair, the process is much the same, but you may need to use a comb to part the hair so you can brush it in the direction you’ve chosen. With very long hair this becomes imperative. You will want to part the hair ½ inch at a time and brush smoothly from scalp to ends. On the sides and back of the head, use vertical partings to make it easy to manage the hair and avoid tangles and snarls. Remember to always use a natural bristle brush (boar’s hair or similar) and even, but gentle, pressure. Brush the partings until the brush passes smoothly through the hair, or 2-3 passes, whichever is less. With longer hair, because you have to do the parting and make multiple passes with the brush, you only need to work in one direction, so long as you cover the entire scalp. Afterward, use a wide-tooth comb to reconfigure the hair into the style you need for the time of day. In other words, if you brush the hair before bed, then comb it into the style you sleep in, and if you brush it in the morning, use the comb to return the hair to whatever configuration lets you style it as you normally would.

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Does massaging the scalp promote Hair Growth?

The scalp covers the skull and consists of three layers: the skin, a layer of tissue and blood vessels, and a muscle called the occipitofrontalis muscle, which extends from the eyebrow to the back of the head. The scalp contains more blood vessels than other portions of skin on the body. This portion of skin contains approximately 100,000 hairs, more than any other part of the skin. Hair follicles are where hair grows from. Contained within the scalp and nourished by the blood vessels underneath the skin of the scalp, under optimal conditions the follicle will maintain healthy hair growth. However, the follicle is prone to the same clogging that other skin pores are prone to. For this reason maintaining a healthy, clean scalp is important for hair growth. Scalp massages promote hair growth in two ways, by helping to unclog the hair follicle from dead skin and increasing blood flow to the hair follicle encouraging healthy hair growth. Massaging the scalp with oils such as jojoba, coconut, almond, lavender and olive can help regulate the oil production of the scalp and aid in loosening additional dead skin cells. Scalp massages are recommended for administering scalp treatments for dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis. When washing hair with an anti-dandruff shampoo, the product needs to be massaged into the scalp for the active ingredients to remove dead skin cells. Scalp massage is only beneficial in promoting hair growth in certain cases of temporary hair thinning and hair loss. If your hair loss is the result of a medical condition please consult your doctor, as there may be specific remedies or treatments needed to help promote hair growth. If your hair loss is permanent, the main benefit a scalp massage can give you is to help promote the healthy growth of your remaining hair and provide relaxation benefits. If you are experiencing hair thinning or hair loss, consult your doctor or dermatologist first to rule out any underlying health condition that could be the root cause of your hair loss.   

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Is it true that if you comb your hair very often and massage your scalp every day, it will make your hair grow faster?

No, it’s not true.

If it were, some people would do nothing but comb their hair constantly until it was dragging the ground behind them. That’s not to say that combing the hair and massaging the scalp has no benefit. In fact, combing (or brushing) the hair to stimulate the scalp, and scalp massage are great ways to help regulate oil production in the hair follicles. It helps to loosen and remove dead skin cells which could clog the pores of the scalp and block the follicles which can cause other irritation and problems. In order to be of the best benefit, this should be done prior to shampooing the hair. Stimulating the scalp – whether through massage or combing/brushing – helps to promote circulation in the skin of the scalp. The increased circulation regulates the scalp temperature and moisture levels, and that in turn can slow down the production of sweat as well as distributing the oils produced in the follicles along the hair shaft. There’s little evidence that massaging your scalp will slow hair loss or improve any scalp conditions — but it can do wonders to relieve stress. Your scalp is covered with nerve endings that make it super-sensitive to touch. Rubbing your scalp may help release tension. Massage may also trigger the release of feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin. 

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Backcombing:

Backcombing (also known as teasing or ratting) is a way of combing hair which is used to create volume as well as to create certain hairstyles. Backcombing means repeatedly combing the hair towards the scalp, causing the hair to tangle and knot up. This method is often used in creating various big hair styles such as beehives and bouffants. Teasing or backcombing is most definitely harmful to hair. When an undamaged hair fiber is viewed under the high magnification of certain microscopes, you can see that the cuticle cells all point downwards. These cells are like hair’s armor, protecting its core. Teasing or backcombing goes against the direction of the cuticle cells, so the action can create damaged hair or completely strip cuticle cells from the hair fiber. Rather than creating lift and volume through this damaging practice, hairstyling products can be a much less damaging alternative to backcombing. 

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Hair washing:

Hair needs to be cleansed, preferably on a regular basis. Never washing your hair is unsanitary: natural oils, hair products, scalp buildup and air pollution all build up on your hair. Think about never washing it out, or only washing once a month or so. This will also lead to microbial growth over scalp. Hair washing is the cosmetic act of keeping hair clean by washing it with shampoo or other detergent products and water. Hair conditioner may also be used to improve hair’s texture and manageability. Two-in-one shampoos, which have both detergent and conditioning components, are now commonly also used as a replacement for shampoo and conditioner. Most hairdressers, in countries such as Canada, the U.S., and European and Latin American countries, offer a hair wash as a service before or after a haircut. This is usually done to make hair more manageable for the hairdresser who will be performing the hair cut. After a haircut, it can help remove any loose strands of hair that may be bothersome to the client. It is also quite a relaxing practice, and many clients enjoy a hair wash as their favorite part of a haircut. Hair can be washed even with plain water.

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How often hair wash?

There are no hard-and-fast rules concerning how often to wash your hair. As kids, many of us were taught to wash our hair daily and suffered no ill effects from doing so. The key is to wash the hair when it becomes soiled (or if it becomes oily). This means that different people could have different needs for washing their hair. Those who work in environments where they sweat a lot or are exposed to dust and dirt will probably need to wash their hair daily in order to keep the hair and scalp clean. However, others who work in office environments (with climate-control) in sedentary jobs probably wash their hair more often than is specifically necessary. The trick is to be smart regarding your hair care regimen. It’s perfectly acceptable for anyone to wash their hair daily if they prefer to do so, but you would not want to use a stringent shampooing product for daily cleansing, since it would be very hard on the hair. So, choose a gentle formula shampoo if you’re looking to wash your hair daily, and always follow it up with a good conditioner.

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Our bathing and hair washing routines are based on a strange system of depleting the skin and hair of their natural oils by lathering up with soap and shampoo, and then replenishing them with moisturizers and conditioners. We carry out this (usually) daily ritual for a couple of reasons: By Western standards, the appearance of oily, unwashed hair is generally unacceptable — and it just feels kind of gross to go without a bath or shower for more than a couple of days. Secondly, these natural oils can lead skin conditions like acne vulgaris, where sebum becomes backed up in the hair follicles, creating a smorgasbord for bacteria, which break the fats into fatty acids and inflammation of hair follicle.  But if there are benefits and drawbacks to both washing and not washing your hair, it seems like there’s a balance to be struck.  

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Protect shine with Lukewarm Water:

Hot water can strip the protective oils that act as a natural conditioner. And your hair’s natural shine can disappear. This doesn’t mean you have to suffer through cold showers to avoid dull hair. Instead, use lukewarm water to wash your hair.

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Shower before You Swim:

Avoid chlorine damage by rinsing your hair before entering the pool or wearing a swim cap. If your hair is already saturated with water, it won’t absorb as much from the chemical-laden pool. Use a pH-balancing hair product to further protect your hair.

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Shampoo:

Shampoo is a hair care product that is used for the removal of oils, dirt, skin particles, dandruff, environmental pollutants and other contaminant particles that gradually build up in scalp & hair. The goal of using shampoo is to remove the unwanted build-up without stripping out so much sebum as to make hair unmanageable. Using shampoo also allows the hair to be nourished and healthy. The word shampoo in English dates to 1762, and is derived from Hindi chāmpo, itself derived from the Sanskrit root capayati, which means to press, knead, soothe.  Shampoo was first introduced in Britain by a Bengali entrepreneur from Bihar named Sake 19th century. Later, Sake Dean Mahomed together with his Irish wife, opened “Mahomed’s Steam and Vapour Sea Water Medicated Baths” in Brighton, England. His baths were like Turkish baths where clients received a treatment of champi (shampooing). Very soon due to Sake Dean Mahomed fame as a bathing expert he was appointed ‘Shampooing Surgeon’ to both George IV and William IV. In the 1860s, the meaning of the word shifted from the sense of massage to that of applying soap to the hair. Earlier, ordinary soap had been used for the hair made it uncomfortable, irritating, and unhealthy looking. During the early stages of shampoo, English hair stylists boiled shaved soap in water and added herbs to give the hair shine and fragrance. Kasey Hebert was the first known maker of shampoo, and the origin is currently attributed to him. Commercially made shampoo was available from the turn of the 20th century.  Originally, soap and shampoo were very similar products; both containing the same naturally derived surfactants, a type of detergent. Modern shampoo as it is known today was first introduced in the 1930s with Drene, the first shampoo using synthetic surfactants instead of soap. Shampoo is generally made by combining a surfactant, most often sodium lauryl sulfate with a co-surfactant, most often cocamidopropyl betaine in water to form a thick, viscous liquid. Other essential ingredients include salt (sodium chloride), which is used to adjust the viscosity, a preservative and fragrance. Many shampoos are pearlescent. This effect is achieved by addition of tiny flakes of suitable materials, e.g. glycol distearate, chemically derived from stearic acid, which may have either animal or vegetable origins. Glycol distearate is a wax. Many shampoos also include silicone to provide conditioning benefits. 

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First, shampoos do not feed, resuscitate, enliven or revive hair. They can’t, for the simple reason that hair is not alive. It is a shaft of dead proteins, notably including a tough fibrous material called keratin that also shows up in fingernails. So what can shampoos do? They can clean hair, a none too difficult task. All that is required is removal of the thin layer of oily material known as sebum. Produced by sebaceous glands in the skin, it coats and protects the hair. Unfortunately, sebum also acts as a virtual magnet for dirt and residue from hair treatment products. In essence, shampoos are simply detergents. They are a different type of cleaning media than ordinary laundry or hand detergents because of their application to different types of hair. Shampoos are used to remove excess oil, dirt and skin debris from the hair known as sebum.  A good shampoo will perform this function while leaving the hair manageable.  Prime ingredients in all shampoos are substances called surfactants, short for “surface-active agents.” Responsible for cleaning action and lathering properties, they largely determine the hair’s condition after shampooing. There are many kinds, all sharing a common feature. Their molecules are composed of long chains of atoms in which one end is hydrophilic, attracted to water. The other end, termed hydrophobic, is repelled by water but shows great affinity for oily substances. Cleaning action works like this: The hydrophobic end secures itself in the oily layer of sebum while the hydrophilic end remains anchored in water. As the hair is rinsed, the soiled sebum is washed away. Anionic surfactants carry a negative charge when ionized. It provides a lot of the lather and detergency in the shampoo because of their excellent cleanings, foaming, and solubility properties. The most commonly used anionic are sodium laureth sulphate and sodium lauryl sulphate.

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Key features of shampoo:

Type of Shampoo Key Features
Clarifying Shampoo Contain heavy – duty surfactants. Used to deep clean hair and remove the gunky build – up of conditioners, sprays, and gels.
Volumizing Shampoo Add body to limp hair. Contain proteins that bond to hair and “pump it up”
Moisturizing shampoo Best choice for dry, flyaway hair, make split ends look better, pull moisture onto hair to keep it from getting too dry.
Revitalizing Shampoo Made for color – treated, permed, and damaged hair. Use as a gentler cleanser, protect color from fading.
Dandruff Shampoo Contain medication that loosens and rinses away those annoying flakes.
2-in – 1 Shampoo With conditioner, save time.
Swimmer’s Shampoo Remove chlorine and other minerals.

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All-natural:

Some companies use “all-natural”, “organic”, “botanical” or “plant-derived” ingredients (such as plant extracts or oils), combining these additions with one or more typical surfactants. In India, a variety of herbs and their extracts are used as shampoos. A very effective shampoo is made by boiling soapnuts with dried Indian gooseberry (aamla) and a few other herbs, using the strained extract. This leaves the hair soft, shiny and manageable. Other products used for hair cleansing are shikakai (Acacia concinna), soapnuts (Sapindus), hibiscus flowers and arappu (Albizzia amara).

Baby shampoo:

Shampoo for infants and young children is formulated so that it is less irritating and usually less prone to produce a stinging or burning sensation if it were to get into the eyes.

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Shampoo and conditioner:

Often hair is washed as part of a shower or bathing with shampoo, a specialized surfactant. Shampoos work by applying water and shampoo to the hair. The shampoo breaks the surface tension of the water, allowing the hair to become soaked. This is known as the wetting action. The wetting action is caused by the head of the shampoo molecule attracting the water to the hair shaft. Conversely, the tail of the shampoo molecule is attracted to the grease, dirt and oil on the hair shaft. The physical action of shampooing makes the grease and dirt become an emulsion that is then rinsed away with the water. This is known as the emulsifying action. Sulfate free shampoos are less harming on color treated hair than normal shampoos that contain sulfates. Sulfates strip away natural oils as well as hair dye. Sulfates are also responsible for the foaming effect of shampoos. Shampoos have a pH of between 4 and 6 and do not contain soap. Soapless shampoos are acidic and therefore closer to the natural pH of hair. Acidic shampoos are the most common type used and maintain or improve the condition of the hair as they don’t swell the hairshaft and don’t strip the natural oils. Conditioners are often used after shampooing to smooth down the cuticle layer of the hair, which can become roughened during the physical process of shampooing. There are three main types of conditioners: anti-oxidant conditioners, which are mainly used in salons after chemical services and prevent creeping oxidation; internal conditioners, which enter into the cortex of the hair and help improve the hair’s internal condition (also known as treatments); and external conditioners, or everyday conditioners, which smooth down the cuticle layer, making the hair shiny, combable and smooth. Conditioners can also provide a physical layer of protection for the hair against physical and environmental damage.

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Only shampoo your scalp, condition your hair. Hair commercials may lead you to believe that sudsy shampoo should lather your locks from root to ends, but not only is this waste of shampoo, but also it’s bad for your hair. Shampoo, by design, washes away oils, which is great for cleansing your scalp but unnecessary and damaging with regard to the lengths of your hair. Conditioner, on the other hand, is designed to detangle, moisturize and, well condition, which is great for the lengths of your hair (especially the ends) but conditioner on your scalp leads to limp locks, a greasy scalp and makes you have to wash your hair more often.

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Shampoo brand: Don’t let Brands clean your Wallet:

What are you really getting for extra money spent on specialty products? Consumer Reports tested products on 1,700 ponytail samples and found that pricy shampoos were no better than cheaper ones. What should you buy? Choose shampoos and conditioners designed for your hair type, such as those for oily, fine, or color-treated hair.

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Shampoo Smartly:

Hairstylists love to say you can reduce the times you shampoo to three times a week. But if you have fine and/or oily hair, you don’t have to walk around looking dirty. Shampoo daily, but “thoroughly drench your hair with water before you lather up,” says New Orleans dermatologist Mary P. Lupo. “Then concentrate on just the hair two inches closest to the scalp, since that’s where sebum collects. And rinse really, really well under the coldest water you can stand.” Bonus: This will smooth the cuticle so frayed ends are less obvious.

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Hair conditioner is a hair care product that changes the texture and appearance of hair:

For centuries, natural oils have been used to condition human hair. These natural products are still used today, including essential oils such as tea tree oil and carrier oils such as jojoba oil. Modern science has advanced the hair conditioner industry to include those made with silicone, fatty alcohols, and quaternary ammonium compounds. These chemical products allow the benefits of hair conditioner without feeling greasy or heavy. There are several types of hair conditioner ingredients, differing in composition and functionality.  

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How Hair Conditioner Works:

Hair, as you may know, is composed of a protein called keratin. This fact is important because keratin has a high percentage of those amino acids which have negative charges sticking out, like the hairs on a nettle. The next thing you need to know is that most hair conditioners contain positively charged molecules called cationic surfactants. Soap, shampoo, and other cleaners contain surfactants (also called detergents) that are anionic; that is, negatively charged. These cleaners are very effective at removing dirt, but they also remove natural oils and positive charges from the hair. The positively charged surfactants in hair conditioner are attracted to the negative charges in your hair, and do not rinse out completely with water. When the hair dries, it is coated with a thin film, which adds weight, makes the hair easier to comb, and prevents static electricity from building up and ‘frizzing’ the hair.  

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Inherent contradiction in shampoo and conditioner:

1. Shampoo removes natural oil (sebum) from scalp and hair. Conditioner deposits mineral oil on hair. Conditioners are oils, whereas surfactants in shampoos are designed to remove oil, making their combination problematic. 

2. Shampoo in general is negatively charged (anionic) while conditioner is positively charged (cationic). Therefore if you wash your hair with the negatively charged shampoo and instead of rinsing it off, you apply a positively charged conditioner, you end up trapping a mix of shampoo and conditioner on your hair.

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Logic to overcome contradictions:

1. Sebum traps dead skin cells, dirt, dust, pollutants and microbes. Hence by shampooing, scalp is made clean. Now hair without sebum would become dry and brittle, so conditioners smoothens and layers cuticle to maintain moisture content and prevent tangling of hair.

2. You must rinse off shampoo with water before you apply conditioner.

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Hair conditioners come in several different types. ‘Pack’ conditioners are heavy and creamy in consistency. They contain high percentages of ‘fatty’ surfactants, and are used when the hair is damaged. Such conditioners are left in the hair for a long time, and will virtually ‘glue’ split ends and stripped scales into place. ‘Leave-in’ conditioners are lightweight, and will contain lighter-weight ‘oily’ surfactants, which add little weight to the hair. Ordinary conditioners have a balance between the two. There are also ‘hold’ conditioners; which are combination products that provide the benefits of conditioning while also holding the hair in place like a mousse. This effect is achieved using cationic polymers. Finally, there are some conditioning ingredients which are not cationic. These do not offer the best results, but they have benefits of their own. Some anionic surfactants, which carry no electric charge, will stick to the hair in useful quantities. Unlike cationic surfactants, they can be mixed with anionic surfactants to produce conditioning shampoos. Other ingredients, like esters, oils, and polymers, are added to improve luster, add comb-ability, and assure that the conditioning ingredients stay mixed in the bottle.

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Here’s what happens when you use your shampoo and conditioner in one:

•While conditioning agents and shampoo surfactants are combined in the bottle, the conditioning agents remain suspended through all conditions encountered during product distribution and use.

•When you lather, the conditioning agents are still suspended. You’re only getting the shampoo during this time.

•When you rinse, the conditioning agents are released, depositing a conditioning ingredient on your hair that makes it feel soft, like conventional conditioners do. This ingredient is removed during later shampoos to prevent buildup.

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Amino acid replacement shampoo and conditioner:

Hair primarily consists of a protein called keratin, which is made of 21 different amino acids. Common hair care practices, such as blow drying, coloring, and styling, cause a reduction in the amino acid level of the hair. Recent research has identified three amino acids — histidine, tyrosine, and lysine – that, when added to products like shampoo or conditioners, help repair hair by restoring the amino acid balance.

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Peptide in hair care:

Some of the ingredients used in anti-aging skin care products, such as collagen, peptides, and sunscreens, are now found in hair care products. Many of these products penetrate the hair and help increase its moisture. Peptides, for example, provide extra conditioning and make the hair shaft stronger by depositing a shield on the shaft.

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No Poo Movement:

No poo (no shampoo) is a collective term for methods of washing hair without commercial shampoo. Closely associated with environmentalism, the ‘No poo’ movement consists of people rejecting the societal norm of frequent shampoo use. Some adherents of the no-poo movement use baking soda or vinegar to wash their hair, while others use diluted honey. Other people use nothing, rinsing their hair only with warm water.

Theory of no poo:

In the 1970s ads featuring Farrah Fawcett and Christie Brinkley asserted that it was unhealthy not to shampoo several times a week. This mindset is reinforced by the greasy feeling of the scalp after a day or two of not shampooing. Using shampoo every day removes sebum, the oil produced by the scalp. This causes the sebaceous glands to produce oil at a higher rate, to compensate for what is lost during shampooing. According to Michelle Hanjani, a dermatologist at Columbia University, a gradual reduction in shampoo use will cause the sebum glands to produce at a slower rate, resulting in less grease in the scalp.

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Shampoo or no poo:

Modern shampoo has been around since the 1930s, and in the decades that followed, it became one of America’s most heavily advertised products. The harsher formulas of those initial iterations of shampoo meant that most women were washing their hair only once a week. But as formulas got gentler in the 70s and 80s, daily shampooing became the norm.  But some wonder if we were sold a bill of goods. That trend toward everyday cleansing might have triggered a vicious cycle, some experts say — shampoo cleanses by stripping the hair of its natural, necessary oils, causing the scalp to produce more oil in response, making it impossible for some to skip shampoo for even one day without sprouting a gigantic greaseball.  When you over-shampoo your hair, your hair is over-secreting oil in order to survive.  Some stylists say that’s because once the shampoo is no longer stripping the hair of its natural oils every day, the scalp must learn to scale back production of those oils. But many dermatologists, including Dr. Wilma Bergfeld of the Cleveland Clinic, are skeptical of the no-poo idea. She’s mostly concerned that some might take the idea too far, failing to adequately remove scalp oil and subsequently inviting millions of microbes to a delicious feast. That’s when things can start to get smelly.  In recent years, “no poo” has become something of an underground beauty trend that’s split into two camps: beauty mavens who believe they’ve found hair care’s dirty little secret, and environmentally minded folks who want to use fewer plastic products and products with fewer chemicals.  Europeans and Australians have a more lax attitude toward shampooing, but in the U.S., the thought of going more than 48 hours without shampoo makes many squirm. Still, the idea seems to be finding its footing here — beauty blogs and message boards are abuzz with ‘poo eschewers, and some stylists say more of their clients are asking about it.

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Why go poo-free?

1. Shampoo is a detergent:

Shampoo cleans your hair, but it also strips it of all the healthy oil your body naturally produces. These oils protect your hair and keep it soft and strong. Shampoo was only introduced in the early 20th century — before that, people relied on good-old soap, which can wash hair just as well without removing important oils. But soap doesn’t work well in alkaline water, and when water in civilized areas started becoming more mineral-heavy, soap became a challenge. It made the scales on hair stand up, making it weaker and rougher. So shampoo was introduced, marketed with its only benefit of working in both hard and soft water. Detergent is harsh on hair.

2. Shampoo has all sorts of chemicals:

Skin is our largest organ, and it’s extremely porous — substances can easily enter the bloodstream directly through our skin, and they can stay for a long time. There is a distinct possibility that various chemicals of shampoo get absorbed through scalp skin into the blood stream. People adopt “No poo” practices for many reasons, but one reason is concern about the effect of ingredients typically found in commercial hair care products. Shampoo typically contains chemical additives such as sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate. There are health concerns about these chemicals, which can irritate the skin of sensitive people (or of anyone if not thoroughly rinsed).  Such chemical additives are also believed by some consumers to dry out their hair. The Environmental Working Group, based in Washington, DC, compared the ingredients in 42,000 personal care products against 50 toxicity and regulatory databases and found that most shampoos have at least one chemical that raises concern (although the hair care industry counters by claiming that the chemicals are safe in the concentrations used). The group flagged the following groups of ingredients as hazardous: fragrances (the ingredients forming the fragrances are not disclosed), parabens (linked to endocrine disruption and neurotoxicity concerns), DMDM hydantoin (allergy concerns), 1,4-dioxane (which The Environmental Protection Agency has labeled as a probable human carcinogen). Some shampoos also include silicone derivatives (such as dimethicone), which is claimed to coat the hair. While it is claimed that silicone derivatives protect the hair and make it more manageable (dimethicone is a common ingredient in smoothing serums and detangling conditioners), the film that proponents assert coats the hair is also claimed to prevent moisture from entering the hair, eventually drying it out. In 2013, the FDA announced a review of triclosan, contained in antibacterial shampoos and soaps. Triclosan was found to affect hormone levels in animals. It has also been found to contribute to antibiotic resistance.  Most shampoos also contain mineral oil, which is a byproduct when gasoline is distilled from crude oil. It’s added to shampoo (along with hundreds of other products) to thickly coat the strands, giving hair an artificial shine. And since it can’t absorb into skin, like the other ingredients, it acts as a barrier on our scalp, preventing oil from being released — thus requiring more shampoo to strip away the grease. This is why the more shampoo you use, the more you need.

3. Shampoo is an unnecessary cost:

So because shampoo isn’t really necessary, using it creates this cycle that requires a dependence on the stuff, along with other hair products. In order to combat the stripping of protective oils, we need an artificial protectant called conditioner. And because now my hair is coated with unnatural substances, it requires more unnatural substances to keep it styled, strong, and workable. The list of hair pomades, waxes, gels, mousses, and detanglers available could take up pages on this article.

4. Pollution:

Shampoo and other beauty products are sources of pollution. The containers which hold them are often made of plastic, which contributes to plastics pollution. Reducing plastic waste is therefore a major reason people go ‘no poo’.  Besides the containers, the products themselves contain chemical pollutants which are not always processed by waste treatment, especially in 3rd world countries. One study shows that the fungicide present in anti-dandruff shampoos is present in environmental water at elevated concentrations, which can have negative effects on algae and plants.

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In the 2010 book Packing for Mars, Soviet research is quoted as the skin halts its production of sebum—after five to seven days of not bathing….The time taken to break the cycle after adopting “no poo”-practices varies, however a “two- to six-week period” is typical.  A much longer period, as long as a year, can be necessary to transition over to no-Shampoo. The purest form of “No poo” adoption is to use only water to wash hair, however there are other approaches possible by people wishing to avoid oil-stripping substances and chemicals that they consider unnecessary for the maintenance of their hair. Methods for washing hair without shampoo include washing with dissolved baking soda followed by an acidic rinse such as diluted vinegar.  Also honey and various oils (such as coconut oil) can be used. Following a 2007 radio interview that Australian Richard Glover held with Matthew Parris (a Times columnist “who hadn’t shampooed for more than a decade”), Glover “decided to challenge his audience to go without shampoo for six weeks”. Of the over 500 participants in the challenge, 86 percent reported that “their hair was either better or the same” following the challenge. Dermatologist Jim Leyden tried an experiment of paying prisoners not to wash their hair for a month to determine whether they developed dandruff—and found that they did not.

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Others use different means to keep their hair clean. Dry powder products are available on the market that absorbs some of the natural oils. The remnants are removed by blotting with cheesecloth and combed out. Baking soda also serves a similar purpose. Coupled with a raw egg and a final rinse with lemon juice, it provides an all-natural hair cleaning regimen.

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Does the No Poo method of using baking soda damage Hair?

Evidently, baking soda is very alkaline and, although it may make hair soft in the beginning, it will overtime damage hair. This is the reason the No Poo method fails for many people: it is not pH balanced for the scalp or hair. With a pH of 9, baking soda is a known alkaline irritant. The first principle of shampooing: make sure your shampoo says it is pH-balanced and avoid those that are alkaline. Alkaline shampoos strip the hair’s natural oils and disrupt the acid mantle, causing dehydration and leading to porous, fragile hair. Using highly alkaline solutions on your hair (baking soda, bronners soaps, etc.) can make your hair soft and manageable as the disulfide bonds in your internal hair structure being weakened by the alkaline solution… To then bring your hair down to its proper pH a acidic solution ACV (apple cider vinegar) is used, this is called clarifying. This dual process is not healthy for your hair or your scalp. Due to the strong alkalinity of baking soda, it has no place in hair care. The basic pH of baking soda can damage hair even when it is followed by the acidic vinegar.  

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Hair wash with only plain water:

The idea behind water-only hair washing dates back hundreds of years. With a lack of abrasive chemicals around, our ancestors cleaned their hair and bodies with rough brushes and good old hot water. This abrasion technique breaks up dirt and oil and the hot water washes it away. When we use shampoo on our hair and make it squeaky clean, we’re stripping the hair of its natural oils. Our scalps then go into a continuous cycle of overproducing sebum which makes hair greasy and oily. The idea behind water-only hair washing is if you can lay off the soapy stuff then your hair will stop overproducing sebum which will leave your scalp in a healthy and balanced state. Using a shampoo with strong detergents day after day destroys the natural balance of oils in the scalp, and the number of hairs you lose when you wash your hair also increases. By not using shampoo and other products, you can wash your hair without exposing your skin to irritants. Those who have fragile hair can cause the proteins in hair to become damaged, just by having certain types of shampoo on their skin. Healthy bacteria also live in the skin of your scalp. They protect the scalp. When you use cleansing products including detergents, the healthy bacteria can’t proliferate. Bad bacteria increase in number, and they also cause a “smell”. By simply massaging lukewarm water into your hair, the skin won’t be damaged and your hair won’t smell either. The important thing is to wash your hair with water every day to remove sweat, and to remove the skin that should be exfoliated anyway. Saying that this has an effect on thinning hair is not to say that “your genetically thinning hair will suddenly get better and you’ll have a luscious head of hair”, but rather that “thinning hair caused by shampoo really will improve” and “even in cases where hair is thinning due to genetics, the hair will seem to have more volume because it will have more body”. If you live in an area with soft water, it is easy to rinse away dead skin cells/flakes and remain with soft, fluffy hair. Hard water areas however don’t seem to wield quite such good results, making the hair have a slightly tacky film to it. To keep the scalp healthy and to break down the build-up of dead-skin/flakes, make sure you massage your scalp thoroughly when sloshing just water through your hair. On the other hand, if you think about it, although the natural oils are good for the condition of your hair and scalp, particles of dust and general atmospheric dirt and pollution get trapped in this sebum and accumulate, eventually leading to lacklustre hair. And it’s the oils that condition and maintain your hair and, when you use only water to wash hair, unlike sweat, which’s water soluble and can be removed from your hair just by washing in water alone, the oils won’t wash away with plain water. So all the dirt, dust, toxins and pollutants trapped & dissolved in oil will remain in scalp despite hair wash. Hair wash with only plain water was a good idea thousands of years ago when environment and water was clean. Today with pollution, dirt and dusts, we need occasional hair wash with good mild shampoo to clean scalp of all the sebum loaded with dirt, dust and pollutants. I therefore suggest that daily hair wash with only water is a good idea even today provided water is soft and once in a week/fortnight use shampoo to cleanse scalp depending on hair type and exposure to dirt, dust and pollutants.

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Dry shampoo:

Dry shampoo has become a popular alternative to regular shampoo in recent years. It absorbs the oil that makes your hair look greasy without drying your scalp out. A dry shampoo is a product that uses dry, oil-absorbing ingredients like cornstarch to clean hair without water. You simply spray in the dry shampoo, fluff with your fingers, and brush it out. You’ll get a root lift and your style will look refreshed. 

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Hair Drying:

Hair dryer:

Hair dryers speed the drying process of hair by blowing air, which is usually heated, over the wet hair shaft to accelerate the rate of water evaporation. Excessive heat may increase the rate of shaft-splitting or other damage to the hair. Hair dryer diffusers can be used to widen the stream of air flow so it is weaker but covers a larger area of the hair. Proper technique involves aiming the dryer such that the air does not blow onto the face or scalp, which can cause burns. A blowdryer or hair dryer is an electromechanical device designed to blow cool or hot air over wet or damp hair, in order to accelerate the evaporation of water particles and dry the hair. Blowdryers allow to better control the shape and style of hair, by accelerating and controlling the formation of temporary hydrogen bonds inside each strand. These hydrogen bonds are very powerful (allowing for stronger hair shaping than even the sulfur bonds formed by permanent waving products), but are temporary and extremely vulnerable to humidity. They disappear with a single washing of the hair. Hairstyles using blowdryers usually have volume and discipline, which can be further improved by the use of styling products and hairbrushes during drying to add tension, hold and lift. Stretching your hair with a brush while you incinerate it with a blow-dryer is not so hot for your hair’s health. But you can fight frizz less harshly. A good-quality blow-dryer dries so quickly that there really isn’t time for the hair to overheat. Frequent blow-drying is hard on your hair and can actually lead to hair loss. When you do blow dry, turn down the heat. Finer hair is especially sensitive to damage from heat, but even thick manes need some tender care. Protect your hair before styling by using a conditioner or a heat styling product.

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Air drying:

After your shower allow your hair to drip while you dry off the rest of your body. Then use your towel to blot your hair. Take the long part of your hair and wrap it in the towel. Squeeze and hold for a few seconds. Remove towel and then wrap your hair again using a different part of the towel. Squeeze again and hold for a few seconds.

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What’s the healthiest way to dry your hair? If you said, “air-drying, obviously,” you’d be mistaken. With the right technique, using a blow-dryer is actually better for your mane’s health than letting it air-dry, according to a recent study from Korea. Too much heat can damage the cuticle by trapping water inside the cortex and actually causing the water to boil. Sounds like a case for air-drying, but get this: The study found that while the heat of a dryer can cause more damage than not using one, using a hair-dryer at the right distance and temperature can actually cause less damage than letting hair air-dry. That’s because when hair comes in contact with water, it swells. The longer the swelling goes on (say, for the 2 hours it took for hair to air-dry in the study), the more pressure it puts on the delicate proteins keeping hair intact, which can lead to more damage. Here’s the just-right formula for drying your hair the healthiest way possible: First, let your hair dry naturally, about 70-80% of the way dry. Then, with your dryer on the coolest setting (don’t touch that hot setting!), blow your hair dry, keeping the dryer about 6-inches away from hair at all times and moving it around continuously. You get gorgeous, healthy hair, without the heat.

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I have a different view. If you live in a temperate country like India, ambient temperature is not cold most of the time and relative humidity of air is not high unless you live on seashore. So sitting under fan will dry hair in few minutes. Also if you have long hair, it retains more water and hence longer time for air drying unless you spread hair loose and free to increase surface area.

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Hairstyle:

A hairstyle, hairdo, or haircut refers to the styling of hair, usually on the human scalp. The fashioning of hair can be considered an aspect of personal grooming, fashion, and cosmetics, although practical, cultural, and popular considerations also influence some hairstyles. A hairstyle is achieved by arranging hair in a certain way, occasionally using combs, a blow-dryer, gel, or other products. The practice of styling hair is often called hairdressing, especially when done as an occupation. Hairstyling may also include adding accessories (such as headbands or barrettes) to the hair to hold it in place, enhance its ornamental appearance, or partially or fully conceal it with coverings such as a kippa, hijab, tam or turban.  Throughout times, people have worn their hair in a wide variety of styles, largely determined by the fashions of the culture they live in. Hairstyles are markers and signifiers of social class, age, marital status, racial identification, political beliefs and attitudes about gender. In many cultures, often for religious reasons, women’s hair is covered while in public, and in some, such as Haredi Judaism or European Orthodox communities, women’s hair is shaved or cut very short, and covered with wigs.  Only since the end of World War I have women begun to wear their hair short and in fairly natural styles. A hairstyle’s aesthetic considerations may be determined by many factors, such as the subject’s physical attributes and desired self-image or the stylist’s artistic instincts. Physical factors include natural hair type and growth patterns, face and head shape from various angles, and overall body proportions; medical considerations may also apply. Self-image may be directed toward conforming to mainstream values (military-style crew cuts or current “fad” hairstyles such as the Dido flip), identifying with distinctively groomed subgroups (e.g., punk hair), or obeying religious dictates (e.g., Orthodox Jewish have payot, Rastafari have Dreadlocks, North India jatas, or the Sikh practice of Kesh), though this is highly contextual and a “mainstream” look in one setting may be limited to a “subgroup” in another. 

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Different hair styles:

Layered cut can add bounce and fullness. Sweep thinning hair into an updo, or add clip-ons hairpieces for a look that’s more subtle than a full wig. Avoid tight styles such as cornrows, ponytails, or pigtails. They can cause breakage and pull out hair at the root, causing scarring that prevents regrowth.

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Hair dressing may include cuts, weaves, coloring, extensions, perms, permanent relaxers, curling, and any other form of styling or texturing.

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Hair cutting:

Hair cutting or hair trimming is intended to create or maintain a specific shape and form. Its extent may range from merely trimming the uneven ends of the hair to a uniform length to completely shaving the head. The overall shape of the hairstyle is usually maintained by trimming it at regular intervals. There are ways to trim one’s own hair but usually another person is enlisted to perform the process, as it is difficult to maintain symmetry while cutting hair at the back of one’s head. Although trimming enhances the hair’s appearance by removing damaged or split ends, it does not promote faster growth or remove all damage along the length of the hair. Stylists often wash a subject’s hair first, so that the hair is cut while still slightly damp. Compared to dry hair, wet hair can be easier to manage in a cut/style situation because the added weight and surface tension of the water cause the strands to stretch downward and cling together along the hair’s length, holding a line and making it easier for the stylist to create a form.

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Cutting and trimming:

Because the hair on the head is normally longer than other types of body hair, it is cut with scissors or clippers. People with longer hair will most often use scissors to cut their hair, whereas shorter hair is maintained using a trimmer. Depending on the desired length and overall health of the hair, periods without cutting or trimming the hair can vary. Many people will confuse what a haircut is versus what a trim is. A haircut is usually performed in order to change one’s hairstyle, while a trim helps to keep away split ends and keep the hair well-groomed.  Cutting hair tends to take off more hair than trimming hair does. When hair is trimmed, only the first few centimeters need to be removed, whereas haircuts can sometimes result in the loss of many inches of hair.

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Shaving:

Shaving is accomplished with bladed instruments, such as razors. The blade is brought close to the skin and stroked over the hair in the desired area to cut the terminal hairs and leave the skin feeling smooth. Depending upon the rate of growth, one can begin to feel the hair growing back within hours of shaving. This is especially evident in men who develop a five o’clock shadow after having shaved their faces. This new growth is called stubble. Stubble typically appears to grow back thicker because the shaved hairs are blunted instead of tapered off at the end, although the hair never actually grows back thicker. Many razors have multiple blades purportedly to ensure a close shave. While shaving initially will leave skin feeling smooth and hair free, new hair growth will appear a few hours after hair removal.

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Guide to Haircut Frequency:

It’s important to know that hair grows on an average of one half inch every four weeks. Of course, some people’s hair grows a little faster and some grows a little slower. Regular haircuts do not make your hair grow faster. Rather, regular trims will prevent your hair from breakage and split ends that will make your hair appear to grow slower. The most important aspect in growing your hair out is to communicate with your hair stylist and have the ends of your hair trimmed slightly at regular intervals. This will minimize hair breakage, and maximize your growth potential!

Long Hair:

If your hair is long, and you want to keep it long, it is very important to get regular haircuts in order to keep your long hair healthy looking. Long hair is very old. Like anything that ages, the older your hair gets, the more fragile it is. Long hair is typically more susceptible to breakage, split ends, and to appearing thinner. If you color or highlight your long hair, it is even more likely to have damage. Regular haircuts will help keep your hair strong and healthy. Long hair should be trimmed at least every 8 to 12 weeks. If you notice more breakage or split ends, it could be cut as frequently as every 6 to 8 weeks.  

Medium Length Hair:

The same rules generally apply for medium length hair as they do for long hair. Regular haircuts at 6 to 12 week intervals are very important to keep your hair healthy in appearance. If you like the length of your hair, a trim every 6-8 weeks will keep your hair at your preferred length. If you are growing your hair out, opt for a trim every 8 to 12 weeks instead.

Short Hair:

Short hair, especially if you want to keep your short style, will need a haircut more frequently in order to remain fresh. If you have short hair, you already know that it appears to be grown out quickly. Short hair should be trimmed every 4 to 8 weeks to keep the shape of your haircut fresh. As previously mentioned, if you are trying to grow your hair out, you will want to consider haircuts every 6 to 12 weeks.

Chemically Processed Hair:

 If you color, highlight, perm, or chemically straighten your hair on a regular basis, you may notice that your hair needs trimmed more frequently. Chemical processes can cause hair to break, split, or become very dry. More frequent haircuts may help prevent over-drying and breakage.

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Haircut in space:

Haircuts also occur in space at the International Space Station. During the various Expeditions astronauts use hair clippers attached to vacuum devices for grooming their colleagues so that the cut hair will not drift inside the weightless environment of the space station and become a nuisance to the astronauts or a hazard to the sensitive equipment installations inside the station.

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Short Haircut Benefits for Men:

Most men like to get short haircut rather than long cut. Men like it because there are many benefits they can get:

1. It requires to be trimmed regularly to keep it in shape. So, it will remove split ends & keep your hair clean.

2. Low maintenance. If you are a very busy man & don’t have the time for hairstyling, you can get short hairstyle.

3. If you have a well-proportioned face shape, you can show off your beautiful face shape. Short haircut can work best for you.

4. It looks good on men. Men with short hair will look more sexy, masculine, strong, & professional.

5. It represents the simple life.

6. It works much better in sports & outdoor activities because it is a lot easier to manage & to wash pretty often.

7. It is easier to take care of than longer hair.

8. Short hair will keep your head fresh & cool in the summer.

9. It will save your money because it requires much less hair products than long haircut

10. It reflects decisiveness, logic, outgoing, self-confidence, and ready for any challenge.

11. Most men will look younger if they wear short hair.

12. It is clean and healthy. It is light & airy. So, it can absorb much less heat, dust, UV rays, chlorine or salt water when swimming, etc.

 13.Manipulation: The advantages of having shorter hair not only means less manipulation (if you can keep your hands out of your hair in those idle moments) but also translates to your strands being able to withstand a little more manipulation than longer lengths. New growth is stronger therefore can handle a little more manipulation than longer lengths which explains why when you see someone who constantly rocks a short haircut and loves to dye their hair every color under the sun but still has healthy hair. Well the constant cutting of your ends to achieve a shorter look eliminates any damage that can occur when using a chemical such as dye on your locks.

14. Easier Detangling: Longer lengths with curly hair causes the strands to become much more susceptible to tangling and single strand knots. Especially since the longer your hair the older the strands are due to natural wear which can cause breakage as well as the bulk end of the strands to become finer than the density closer to the root area which is commonly known as ‘feathering’.

15. Sleep with short hair is more comfortable.

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Disadvantages of cutting long hair in women:

1. Bad hair days are really bad hair days when you have a short hair cut. With long hair, you can put your hair into a ponytail if all else fails, but with short hair, you really have to work at it with a curling iron to get it worthy of walking out the door!

2. Hair styling takes longer each day when you have short hair. Having long hair means you can comb and go for the most part. With short hair, plan on extra time to comb, blow dry, style with a curling iron and mousse, and don’t forget the hair spray to keep it all in place.

3. You freeze in the winter time with a short hair cut. Long hair provides more insulation to your head so you stay warm longer. Even your shoulders benefit from the warmth and heaviness of long hair.

4. You could be mistaken for a man if you are sporting a short hair cut. This will apply more to flat-chested women.

5. You will blend in with the crowd. Long hair makes you stand out as short hair is more common these days.

6. If you hate your new short hair style, it will take years to grow back out to the same length as before.

7. More money spent on hair cuts to keep your short hair style neat and beautiful. Hair products needed to style and maintain your short haircut will be expensive.

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Advantages of cutting long hair in women:

1. Less time spent washing and drying long hair. A short hairdo can be washed and dried in a third of the time that long hair takes. Depending on what short hairstyle you are sporting, it could be wash and go! A dream of anyone with long hair!

2. Less headaches from the weight of long, thick hair on your head. A feeling of lightness instead of heaviness atop your head. After you get your long hair cut, you will feel a weight has been lifted off of you.

3. No more having to tie your long hair up into ponytails or back away from your face to keep from being blinded by hair.

4. You will be able to see on windy days! No more hair in your face as you are driving down the road with your top down or window down!

5. Eating dinner will mean less time pulling stray hairs out of your mouth and more time actually eating food.

6. Kids will no longer be walking on, standing on, sitting on, and pulling your hair.

7. Cheaper haircut prices and less hairdye needed for short hair.

8. Short hair will be so much cooler in the summertime!

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Why you should get a Haircut at a Salon:

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Never cut your own hair as shown in the figure above.

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For many people, visiting a professional salon is necessary to obtain and maintain a stylish and manageable haircut, especially if you color your hair and need to keep it professionally maintained. Trimming split ends from your hair regularly ensures it continues to grow well and stays healthy at all times. In addition, maintaining your hair also helps it grow faster and can improve its appearance greatly, as well-manicured hair looks and feels smoother and sleeker than hair that receives no professional attention. There are several benefits to getting a haircut at a salon, and it can help to know some details about these when deciding whether to make an appointment with a hair stylist.

Getting a Haircut at a Salon gives you a Professional Look:

One of the main benefits of getting a haircut at a salon is that it gives you a professional look at all times. Hair stylists usually have many years of experience and expertise in the industry and can give you a style that makes you appear more attractive. In addition, having a professional style can help boost your self-confidence, since knowing you have a trendy and appealing hairstyle can help you feel better about your appearance. Finally, having professionally styled hair can make caring for your hair between salon visits much easier, since good hairstyles are much easier to maintain properly.

Getting a Haircut at a Salon promotes Healthy Hair:

In addition to giving you a sophisticated and professional appearance, getting a haircut at a salon also promotes healthy hair by providing your hair with the nutrients it needs to grow well. Hair care professionals use advanced products on your hair, most of which offer your hair moisture therapy and nutrients traditional shampoos and conditioners do not provide. Moisturizing your hair often and properly is essential, especially if your stylist colors your hair, as hair color can drain your hair’s natural softness and moisturizers. Many salon professionals even provide leave-in conditioners for your hair, which can mitigate any damage your hair endures when you color it.

Getting a haircut at a salon is the best way to ensure your hair always looks professional and healthy, as hair stylists can give you a great look that is sure to keep your hair looking its best. While visiting a salon may require a financial investment and can take several hours if you want the stylist to color your hair, the high-quality services you receive, as well as the salon-quality products a professional uses on your hair, make this worthwhile.

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Software application for appropriate hair style and hair color:

Choose appropriate haircut and hair color by using application: Midas Touch:

If you are like thousands of others who agonise over a haircut, an app called Midas Touch can help you make that crucial decision. Some salons use an app called Midas Touch that allows clients to digitally experiment with different hair styles. This is how it works. You tie back your hair and photograph yourself. Digitally superimpose various hairstyles on your image. Try out short, medium and long hair options. It is astounding to see what a difference a haircut makes to your appearance.  You now know how you would look in a blunt, with layers, with curls, without, in a page-boy cut, an asymmetrical style and with side parting, centre parting and no parting…the combinations are unending. It doesn’t stop there. You love a style you see, but wish it did not have the long fringes; you can get rid of them. You want a longer fringe?  Swipe a finger and voila, there is just a hint of your eyes peeping from behind the curtain of hair…you can even borrow from several different styles and customise your style. Unique virtual hairstyles software tries 1000′s of hairstyles and hair colors on a photo of yourself. Do countless makeovers on a photo of yourself and see exactly what you will look like before getting your hair cut or styled! The app also lets you decide on the colour you want to choose for your hair. You want your hair all black? Well here is how you will look. You want a streak of red in front? Okay here goes…You want purple in every other swathe of hair? There you go. The app is a boon. Instead of going underground because of an unwise colouring decision or an inappropriate haircut, you can see what suits you best. Once you have satisfied yourself with your choice, thrash out the pros and cons with your stylist. He will be able to advise you on whether the colour is suitable for your hair texture and style. Once that is confirmed and reconfirmed, go ahead and have that cut.

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Does cutting or shaving hair stimulate hair growth?

It is a common belief, but cutting or shaving hair does not stimulate growth. Hair fiber is dead; if it is cut there is no way for the dead hair to send a signal back to the hair follicle in the skin to grow more hair. The studies to prove hair cutting did not stimulate growth were done back in the 1920s but the belief still persists.  Several studies have been conducted where volunteers shaved half of their beard or scalp hair and left the other half untouched. The shavings were collected and measured and the hair left untouched was also measured. The results showed that the amount of hair produced was exactly the same whether the hair was regularly shaved or not. Shaving does not cause terminal hair to grow back thicker or coarser or darker. This belief arose because hair that has not been cut has a tapered end (due to wear), whereas, after cutting, there is no taper. It appears thicker, and feels coarser because of the sharper, unworn edges. The fact that shorter hairs are “harder” (less flexible) than longer hairs also contributes to this effect.  Hair can also appear darker after it grows back because hair that has never been cut is often lighter from sun exposure. In addition, as humans grow older hair tends to grow coarser and in more places on the face and body. For example, teenagers may start shaving their face or legs at around 16, but as they age hair will start to grow more abundantly and thicker, leading some to believe this was due to the shaving, but in reality is just part of the aging process.  

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Braiding, ponytails and updos:

Tight or frequent braiding may pull at the hair roots and cause traction alopecia. Rubber bands with metal clasps or tight clips, which bend the hair shaft at extreme angles, can have the same effect. If hair is pinned too tightly, or the whole updo slips causing pulling on the hair in the follicle at the hair root are other scenarios that can cause aggravation to the hair follicle and result in headaches. Although many African- Americans use braiding extensions as a form of convenience, it is important not to keep the braids up longer than needed to avoid hair breakage or hair loss. Ponytails and braids are great way to showcase your personal style. But when they’re too tight, they can break off hair and damage the roots. Wearing a tight style around the clock can even make your hair fall out. Set your hair free every night! For braided styles meant to last months, leave hair a little loose at the scalp. If you wear heavy extensions, give your hair a break after three months. Take a time out from styling. For better hair days, the best thing you can do is — nothing. All the tugging, combing, brushing, drying, and chemically treating of hair damages the shafts. Even vigorous towel-drying can damage hair. Gently blot wet hair with a towel. If you have damaged hair, take a break from styling. As the damaged hair grows out, the new growth will be healthy. Curly hair is more likely to break and become dry and brittle. Gently using a pick keeps curls looking better than combing or brushing. Conditioners with polymers can smooth hair and make it more manageable. Look for polyvinylpyrrolidone on the label. Don’t overdo the use of flat-irons and relaxers, which can damage hair.

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Hair styling Products:

Styling products aside from shampoo and conditioner are many and varied. Leave-in conditioner, conditioning treatments, mousse, gels, lotions, waxes, creams, clays, serums, oils, and sprays are used to change the texture or shape of the hair, or to hold it in place in a certain style. Applied properly, most styling products will not damage the hair apart from drying it out; some styling products contain alcohols, which can dissolve oils. Many hair products contain chemicals which can cause build-up, resulting in dull hair or a change in perceived texture.

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Hair gel:

Hair gel is a hairstyling product that is used to stiffen hair into a particular hairstyle.  Cationic polymers are one of the main functional component of hair gel. The positive charges in polymer cause it to stretch, making the gel more viscous. Hair gels resist natural protein conformations and allow hair to be styled and textured. This is because the stretched-out polymer takes up more space than a coiled polymer and thus resists the flow of solvent molecules around it. The positive charges also bind the gel to the negatively charged amino acids on the surface of the keratin molecules in the hair.

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Note:

If your hair is dry or damaged, avoid styling products with high alcohol content like hair gel as alcohol content can make hair brittle and much harder to style.

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Hair wax:

Hair wax is a thick hairstyling product containing wax, used to assist with holding the hair. In contrast with hair gel, most of which contain alcohol, hair wax remains pliable and has less chance of drying out. Consequently, hair wax is currently experiencing an increase in popularity, often under names such as pomade, putty, glue, whip, molding gum, or styling paste. The texture, consistency, and purpose of these products vary widely and each has different purported purposes depending on the manufacturer.

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Pomade:

Traditionally, pomade is a type of hair wax that also adds shine to one’s hair. The name “pomade” is derived from the French word pommade, meaning “ointment” and the Latin word for apple, pomum, because the original recipe was made with mashed apples. In the early 19th century, bear fat became the common pomade ingredient, while petroleum jelly, beeswax and even lard were later used in the early 20th century. Legendary classics such as Murray’s Superior Hair Dressing Pomade were staples in Don Draper’s era. Recently, it’s been making a comeback but under different guises—brands may label waxes or even creams, a pomade. True pomade is a blend of wax and oil (while true hair waxes will be just wax or almost all wax). Pomade can range from a light shine to a high shine, but its biggest advantage is that it’ll create a more natural, wet look. So why pomade over gel? Pomade can achieve that same strong, wet and neat look without drying out or flaking like gel.

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Hair spray:

Hair Spray is a common cosmetic product that is sprayed onto hair to keep it stiff or in a certain style. The spray can be dispensed from a pump or aerosol spray nozzle. Hair spray products are a blend of simple industrial polymers that provide structural support to hair. These frequently include copolymers of polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) and polyvinyl acetate (PV). This copolymer mixture is usually modified to achieve the desired physical properties (adhesive strength, foaming, etc.), using plasiticers such as aminomethyl propanol, surfactants such as Benzalkonium chloride, and other agents like dimethicone. These active ingredients make up only a small portion of a hairspray (aerosol can). The majority of a canister is filled with volatile solvents necessary to solubilize and aerosolize the copolymer mixture. These include simple alcohols like ethanol or tert-Butanol to solubilize the active ingredients, and Dimethyl ether or mixed hydrocarbons as propellants.

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Hair mousse:

Hair mousse is a hairstyling product added to hair for extra volume and shine. It is often dispensed in an aerosol foam spray or in cream form. Hair mousse adds volume to hair and often provides both conditioning and hold, without any clumps or build-up. Hair mousse is purple while in the can and turns an off-white color upon coming in contact with the air. One of the lighter-weight hair styling products, hair mousse is applied to wet hair before drying and styling. Hair mousse may also be referred to as styling foam. Hair mousse can be used on naturally curly or permed hair to reduce frizz and define curl. As a versatile hair styling product, hair mousse is a popular choice for both short and long hairstyles. When hair mousse is applied to wet hair that is allowed to air dry, the hair is often left with a “wet” look that can be “crunchy” feeling, but unlike hair gel, hair mousse combs out easily for a softer look. When hair mousse is applied to wet hair that is dried with a hair dryer, it provides additional volume and hold.

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Hair serum:

Hair serum is a hair care solution which makes the hair shine and stops it from tangling. It protects the hair from the damages done by overexposure to the sun and hair styling products. The effect of the serum application remains until the next wash. It should be applied after a hair wash. Hair serum forms a thin protective layer on the hair strands. It returns the moisture lost due to exposure to sun or heat generated from the hair styling gadgets. It is primarily used for dry and frizzy hair, which breaks easily, or hairs that have under gone excessive chemical treatments like perming, coloring.

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Application of hair-oil:

 1. It is not true that oil nourishes your hair and makes it grow thicker, longer and darker. Something applied to your hair externally can in no way nourish it or help it grow longer, for the simple reason that hair beyond your scalp is lifeless. Hair follicles get nutrition from blood and no hair-oil can nourish them. Only coconut oil prevents protein loss (vide infra) from hair shafts.

2. Hair-oil does not add shine and luster to hair. The fact is only the oil on your hair shines (and your mane looks greasy) and not you hair!

3. Hair-oil neither stops hair fall nor does it accelerate hair re-growth.

4. Oil on your hair doesn’t indicate that it is healthier as oil attracts dust and dirt and makes your hair a breeding ground for infections.

5. Hair-oil does act as a scalp conditioner, but for this you need to keep the oil on your scalp for at least eight hours. It is essential that your scalp is clean before you oil it. Oil massages are good as they help you relax. A good hair massage soothes the nerves and cools the brain. It is basically the massage that helps you relax and not the oil.

6. Only in dry damaged hair, hair-oil acts as sealant and maintains moisture in hair. 

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Hair styling Tools:

Styling tools may include hair irons (including flat, curling, and crimping irons), hair dryers, and hair rollers. Hair dressing might also include the use of hair product to add texture, shine, curl, volume or hold to a particular style. Hairpins are also used when creating particular hairstyles. Their uses and designs vary over different cultural backgrounds.

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Functional and decorative ornaments:

There are many options to adorn and arrange the hair. Hairpins, clasps, barrettes, headbands, ribbons, rubber bands, scrunchies, and combs can be used to achieve a variety of styles. There are also many decorative ornaments that, while they may have clasps to affix them to the hair, are used solely for appearance and do not aid in keeping the hair in place. In India for example, the Gajra (flower garland) is common there are heaps on hairstyles.

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Hair iron:

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A hair iron or hair tong is a tool used to change the structure of the hair using heat. There are three general kinds: curling irons, used to make the hair curly, straightening irons, commonly called straighteners or flat irons, used to straighten the hair, and crimping irons, used to create crimps of the desired size in the hair. Most models have electric heating; cordless curling irons typically use butane. Overuse of these tools can cause damage to hair. Straightening irons, straighteners, or flat irons, not to be confused with curling irons, work by breaking down the hair’s positive hydrogen bonds found in the hair’s cortex, which cause hair to open, bend and become curly. Once the bonds are broken, hair is prevented from holding its original, natural form, though the hydrogen bonds can re-form if exposed to moisture. They can use ionic and nano technology. They use mainly ceramic material for its plates. Low end straighteners use single layer of ceramic coating on its plates whereas high end straighteners use multiple layers of ceramic or even use 100% ceramic material for its plates.   

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Hair roller:  

A hair roller or hair curler is a small tube that is rolled into a person’s hair in order to curl it, making a new hairstyle. The diameter of a roller varies from approximately 0.8 inches (20 mm) to 1.5 inches (38 mm). The hair is heated, and the rollers strain and break the hydrogen bonds of each hair’s cortex, which causes the hair to curl. The hydrogen bonds reform after the hair is moistened. A hot roller or hot curler is designed to be heated in an electric chamber before one rolls it into the hair. Alternatively, a hair dryer heats the hair after the rolls are in place. Hair spray can temporarily fix curled hair in place.

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Hair removal practices:

We’re not talking about a haircut here. We are talking about removal of unwanted hair. Hair removal, also known as epilation or depilation, is the removal of body hair, and describes the methods used to achieve that result. Forms of hair removal are practiced for a number of reasons, including cultural, sexual, medical and religious. Forms of hair removal have been practiced in almost all human cultures since at least the Neolithic Era. The methods used to remove hair have varied in different times and regions, but shaving is the most common method. Hair typically grows all over the body, more so once you hit puberty. People want to get rid of some of their body hair for a number of reasons – it could be cultural, sexual, medical or religious. You should always only remove what you want to remove, don’t worry about what is considered the ‘norm’. There is no norm. Ultimately, hair is there for a reason, and it doesn’t like being ripped out. However careful we are, angry red bumps and irritated skin are a hazard, so read on to make sure you’re getting rid of any unwanted hair as safely as possible. Depilation is the removal of the part of the hair above the surface of the skin. The most common form of depilation is shaving or trimming. Another option is the use of chemical depilatories, which work by breaking the disulfide bonds that link the protein chains that give hair its strength. Epilation is the removal of the entire hair, including the part below the skin. Methods include waxing, sugaring, epilation devices, lasers, threading, intense pulsed light or electrology. Hair is also sometimes removed by plucking with tweezers.

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Medical reasons:

The body hair of surgical patients may be removed before surgery. In the past this may have been achieved by shaving, but that is now considered counter-productive, so clippers or chemical depilatories may be used instead. The shaving of hair has sometimes been used in attempts to eradicate lice or to minimize body odor due to accumulation of odor-causing micro-organisms in hair. Some people with trichiasis find it medically necessary to remove ingrown eyelashes. Incorrect shaving (shaving against the grain) can often cause ingrown hairs. People with alopecia often choose to shave their heads to hide the effects. Those with Alopecia areata and men facing male pattern baldness may choose to shave fully. 

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Methods of hair removal:

Shaving:

Probably the most used method of hair removal; it’s quick, cheap and fairly painless compared to some methods. However there is a risk of irritation or razor burn, and you’ll need to shave every couple of days to keep yourself hair-free. Use a clean razor every time and plenty of sensitive skin foam. Never dry shave, and shave in the direction of the hair growth.

Hair Removal Cream:

This contains chemicals which dissolve hair at the roots. It’s painless and the re-growth is softer than shaving, but it can be messy and the creams often smell pretty bad. It can also burn if it’s used in the wrong places.

Waxing:

Waxing involves hairs being yanked out and stuck to a wax strip. You can buy it in ready-to-use strips or Hot Wax Kits to do it yourself at home, or you can get it done in a salon. If you’re not sure what to do, a trip to the salon is probably better. Although it can be more painful, re-growth is slow and you get great results if it’s done properly.

Plucking:

Good old fashioned plucking. Plucking is cheap, easy and good for those stubborn little hairs that manage to cling on otherwise. But it’s no good if you’re getting rid of a whole leg of hair. Pluck in the direction of the hair growth, and be careful not to gouge those in-growing hairs with the tweezers.

Threading:

This is an ancient but increasingly popular technique where cotton thread is doubled, then twisted and rolled over the hair. It’s a bit like extreme plucking – it doesn’t harm the skin and is extremely accurate (good for brows). It only works on flat areas though, and can be extremely painful if not done properly so don’t try it at home!

Laser Removal:

Laser hair removal is a cosmetic method where a small laser beam pulses selective heat on dark target matter in the area that causes hair growth without harming the skin tissue. This process is repeated several times over the course of many months to a couple of years with hair regrowing less frequently until it finally stops; this is used as a more permanent solution to waxing or shaving. Laser removal is practiced in many clinics along with many at-home products.

Prescription oral medications:

There are drugs that directly attack hair growth or inhibit the development of new hair cells. Hair growth will become less and less until it finally stops; normal depilation/epilation will be performed until that time. Hair growth will return to normal if use of product is discontinued. Products include the prescription drug Vaniqa, with the active ingredient eflornithine hydrochloride inhibiting the enzyme ornithine decarboxylase, preventing new hair cells from producing putrescine for stabilizing their DNA.

Permanent hair removal:

Electrolysis is an expensive, but permanent method of hair removal. Once it’s done, it’s done though and you’re good to go forevermore. But it costs and it needs to be done by an expert. If you’re going down this route, find a reputable, recommended salon, preferably when you’re over 18, as hairs may fade after puberty. For over 130 years, electrology has been in use in the United States. It is approved by the FDA. This technique permanently destroys germ cells responsible for hair growth by way of insertion of a fine probe in the hair follicle and the application of a current adjusted to each hair type and treatment area. Electrology is recognized by the FDA as the only permanent hair removal method.

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Head shaving (vide supra):

Head shaving is the practice of shaving the hair from a person’s head. At different times and places people have shaved, all or part of, their heads for very diverse reasons: practical, religious, cultural, or aesthetic—so a shaven head has widely varying connotations depending on the context. Head shaving was often associated with manual workers such as seamen, dock workers and soldiers, as well as with prisoners and hospital patients. The practice of shaving heads has been used in the military. Although sometimes explained as being for hygiene reasons, the image of strict, disciplined conformity may certainly be a factor. Prisoners commonly have their heads shaven, often ostensibly to prevent the spread of lice, but may also be used as a demeaning measure. Having the head shaved can be a punishment prescribed in law, but also something done as “mob justice” – a stark example of which was the thousands of European women who had their heads shaved in front of cheering crowds in the wake of World War II, as punishment for associating with occupying Nazis during the war. Many Buddhists, Hajj pilgrims and Vaisnavas, especially members of the Hare Krishna movement, shave their heads. Competitive swimmers will often shave their entire body, including the head, to reduce drag while swimming.

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Leg shaving:

Leg shaving is the practice of removing leg hair by shaving the hair off using a razor or electric shaver. In addition, some people remove leg hair using waxing, sugaring, depilatories, depilation devices, or lasers, but shaving remains the least expensive method. It is a very common practice among women in Western countries, and is also done by some men, especially bodybuilders, cyclists, swimmers and some runners. In Western countries, the majority of women engage in leg shaving, doing so largely for aesthetic reasons.  

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Pubic hair removal in women unwarranted:

Hygiene may be the least vain justification for ripping hairs off of your mons pubis, but it’s not doctor recommended. Since getting Brazilian bikini waxes, which remove the entire patch of pubic hair from ones vagina, is an unnatural thing to do, women cite various reasons for the painful and expensive practice, as Ashley Fetters explains in her lengthy piece on the phenomenon over at The Atlantic. 60 percent of American women between 18 and 24 are sometimes or always completely bare down there not just because it’s sexy, or the porn stars made it cool, or cultural non-acceptance of body hair, but because it’s cleaner. But is it really cleaner? There’s a difference between odor and cleanliness. A smelly vagina doesn’t mean a dirty vagina. In fact, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say that a clean vagina will have a mild stench, which is a why they do not recommend douching.  As for hygiene, Dr. Emily Gibson argues over at the medical blog KevinMD that this type of hair removal opens up female genitalia to all sorts of nasty sounding infections. Pubic hair removal naturally irritates and inflames the hair follicles left behind, leaving microscopic open wounds. Rather than suffering a comparison to a bristle brush, frequent hair removal is necessary to stay smooth, causing regular irritation of the shaved or waxed area.  When that irritation is combined with the warm moist environment of the genitals, it becomes a happy culture media for some of the nastiest of bacterial pathogens, namely group A streptococcus, staphylococcus aureus and its recently mutated cousin methicillin resistant staph aureus (MRSA). There is an increase in staph boils and abscesses, necessitating incisions to drain the infection, resulting in scarring that can be significant. It is not at all unusual to find pustules and other hair follicle inflammation papules on shaved genitals. Not to mention, greater vulnerability to herpes and other STIs, cellulitis, and abrasions — all just from waxing. There can also be more extreme complications. One diabetic woman went to the hospital with herpes and a bacterial infection after a Brazilian, leading researchers to believe that women with weak immune systems open the body up to greater chance of infection after a wax.  

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Oily hair and dry hair:

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Oily hair:

The tiny oil production factories, called sebaceous glands, play an important role in keeping our skin and hair lubricated and protected. Those glands are everywhere on our body except on the hands and the soles of the feet. The highest concentration however is in the face and on the scalp. Hair follicles contain sebaceous glands which produce oil to keep hair healthy. Problems arise when these glands produce too much, or too little, which result in hair becoming too dry or greasy. The sebum is an oily, waxy substance that does many wonderful things for us, but at times it can get out of hand. Acne is one consequence of hyperactive sebaceous glands and oily hair is another very visible and disturbing demonstration of their power. Knowing your hair type will enable you to choose the right shampoo and a specific conditioner. Many men and women do not realize that they have a specific hair type. Hair typically falls into several categories: normal, dry, combination or oily.

Four signs that you have Oily Hair:

Oily hair is easily recognisable as it becomes lank soon after shampooing and quickly looks greasy and in need of another wash. The oily hair surface also attracts dirt and may cause hair to clump together. If you feel confused or uncertain about your hair type, try one of the following four tests for oily hair.

1) Check Your Pillows:

When you wake up in the morning, run your hand across your pillow. Oily hair secretes naturally oils while you sleep, which can make your pillow feel slightly greasy. You can also try laying down a thin sheet across the pillow before you go to sleep at night. When hair is oily, it will leave a thin film on the sheet. You might also notice that your skin feels greasy, especially if you have longer hair. The hair touches your skin, causing some of the oil to slide off on your face.

2) After a Shower:

You can also check your hair for oiliness after a shower or anytime that you wash your hair. Wait until your hair completely dries and slowly run your fingers through your hair. Some shampoos can strip the natural oils from your hair, making the strands feel dryer and rougher. Other shampoos moisturize your scalp, causing your hair to produce more oil. Once your hair dries, place one hand on your scalp and gently rub it across your hair. If your hand has any type of film on it, you have oily hair.

3) Take a Few Days Off:

If you take a daily shower, stop washing your hair for a few days. Examine your hair after at least 24 hours, looking for any dull strands. Oily hair often develops a greasy look when you do not wash it that makes hair look duller and lifeless. You can also give your hair a good shake and look for any white flakes, which indicate a dandruff problem. Dandruff is a common problem for those with oily hair.

4) The Tissue Test:

The best way to test whether or not your hair is oily is with the tissue test. When your hair is dry, place a piece of tissue paper on your scalp. Lightly run the paper across your head, making sure that you don’t press it against your scalp. Remove the tissue paper and look at the paper under a bright light. If the paper has any film or grease on it, you have oily hair

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What causes oily hair?

The causes have various roots – genetics, diet, hygiene and in some cases there is an underlying illness.  Some people are more prone to get acne and the same applies to oily hair. It is also said that fine haired men and women, who have more individual hairs per square inch – therefore more follicles and sebaceous glands, tend to have oily hair more often. The reason for this might also be the fact that fine hair becomes limp much quicker than thick, bristly hair and every disorder of the scalp becomes visible much quicker. One of the biggest mistakes that sufferers with oily hair often make is to wash their hair as often as they can to get rid of the oils and to clean the scalp. In fact it is a dry scalp that causes the little glands to produce more oil. A dry scalp, just like dry skin can be caused by harsh weather conditions like intense heat, much exposure to the sun, drying winds or to extreme cold.  Washing the hair not often enough is also damaging, since bacteria and toxins can build up and cause an irritation of the scalp, resulting in a higher production of sebum. Over time this can lead to more severe conditions, which may include fungi and infections.

How to get rid of oily hair?

First of all you have to make sure that the reason for your oily hair is not a medical condition. This out of the way, there are plenty of products and adjustments to your lifestyle that will help.

Nutrition is key:

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Most people do not get enough of daily liquid. Make sure to drink plenty of water to keep your skin and your scalp moisturized from the inside and to stay healthy. Remember: a dry scalp tends to produce more oil.  Eat your veggies. A balanced diet with lots of vegetables and whole grains will give you all the vitamins and minerals that you need for your body to work and look perfect. Studies have shown that eating much greasy and junk foods will increase the development of oily hair. The other extreme to stay away from all oils and fats is not a solution. Our bodies need essential fatty acids to properly function and balance is the key once again. Include those healthy fats in your diet. Nuts, olive oil, certain fishes and fruits are full of them.

Hair care and hygiene:

When washing your greasy hair it is most important to not dry out your scalp even more or to agitate it in any way. Your sebaceous glands need to calm down and the best way to help them is to use very mild shampoos and as little stimulation as possible. There are also many specialized shampoos on the market with more or less stories of success. If you choose to buy one of them, try a small bottle or test size first to see how your scalp reacts to it. Baby shampoo, perhaps with one or two drops of tea tree oil per washing, is a good and affordable alternative.  It will not help to wash the hair every day. That can actually make it worse. Wash it every second or third day and focus more on the hair itself than the scalp. Do not rub or massage your scalp if you can avoid it. As a rule of thumb choose clear shampoos with a balanced PH. Opaque shampoos like balsam or special protein shampoos contain too many ingredients that will make your hair even heavier and greasier. Make sure to rinse the shampoo out completely to avoid any irritating product build-up. Use lukewarm water for your rinse. Body temperature is the best. When using a conditioner, do not apply it to the scalp. Keep it in the lower half of your hair only. If you have short hair, try to totally forgo the conditioner.

Quick fix:

In between washes you can minimize the oily look with the application of dry shampoo. You can easily make it yourself by mixing one part of baking soda with one part of corn starch. Sprinkle on and brush out. Beware the brush. Keep brushing at a minimum to not distribute the oil all around and also to not agitate your scalp more than necessary. Always keep brushes and combs sanitized.

Natural remedies for greasy hair:

As mentioned before tea tree oil is among the gifts from Mother Nature that help with oily hair. Also reported for amazing results are rinses made out of rosemary, sage or stinging nettle. Use about 2 tablespoons of the dried plants to one liter of boiling water, let steep for 20 to 30 minutes and use the cooled solution as a rinse after washing your hair. Natural Aloe Vera might work great for you if applied directly to your scalp or a few drops of the essential oils of lemon, lemongrass or mint added to your shampoo.

Fighting hair oil with oil:

Since one of the main reasons for greasy hair is a dry scalp, one way to get rid of it is keeping the moisture up. This works best with a hot oil treatment on your scalp, about twice a month. You can use the store bought tubes or check your pantry for healthy olive or coconut oils. Caution: do not heat them up too much! “Hot oil” does not mean scalding. Keep it just slightly above body temperature for a good and safe effect.

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Dry hair:

Too little oil is secreted from the glands. Dry and rough hair is a problem faced by many people. This is because of unhealthy food habits and lifestyle that people are adapting. This is accompanied by pollution, dust and dirt. The excess use of chemicals and synthetic processes has also led to the damage of hair. The hair shaft may be damaged by highlighting or frequent exposure to elements like wind, sun, and salt or chlorine water, all of which cause the natural moisture to evaporate. This kind of hair is hard to control and feels rough to touch. It also lacks luster and looks brittle with little ends sticking up. Split ends are a common problem. 

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Reasons for dry hair:

•Blow drying, over exposure to sunlight, swimming and wind can cause dry hair.

•Using hair products that contain harsh chemicals also leads to dry hair.

•Shampooing hair very often to give it a squeaky clean feeling can deplete the natural oil present in the hair, making it dry and weak.

•Illness or nutritional deficiency can also lead to brittle and dry hair which can make it look lifeless and dull.

•A high mineral content in the water makes it hard and this can in turn make your locks dry.

•If you often go swimming, the chlorine used in swimming pool water can play havoc with your hair. It is extremely difficult to take it off from your hair leaving it dry and frizzy.

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Tips to manage dry hair:

•If your hair is dry, it’s best to introduce a conditioning and moisturising mask into your routine. Try it once a week and you will start to see a difference in your hair.

 •Use the right dry hair shampoo or mild shampoo and acid balanced conditioners can be helpful in treating your hair.

•Apply hair oil massage to dry flaky scalp frequently to avoid dry hair.

•Also, avoiding the use of styling products and accessories too often can calm down the frizz and dryness.

•Another tip is to get a trim every 2 months. This will make your hair more manageable and prevent split ends.

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Contrary to the belief that frequent shampooing washes away the natural oils and dries the hair, dry hair, more than any other kind of hair condition, needs a clean scalp to allow the hair follicles and sebaceous gland to function with maximum efficiency. Choose oil-based shampoos specifically formulated for dry hair and use a protein-enriched conditioner after every wash. If possible, dry your hair naturally and avoid using heated styling appliances. A professional hair treatment once a fortnight or even a week, can do wonders. For an intensive treatment, before shampooing, moisten the hair first with water and then coat it with oil so as to seal the water. The oil automatically seals the moisture and protein. After some time, shampoo, and then condition.

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The natural methods for dry hair care may take longer to show effects but they are permanent benefits.

Aloe vera – Aloe has very good dry hair care benefits. Aloe vera has properties that repairs the dry hair and makes the hair soft and smooth. Aloe vera is thus a good hair treatment for very dry hair. Aloe vera gel can be directly applied on the scalp and hair. The gel should be kept for some time and then rinse it with cold water. You may even use shampoo or conditioners that are made from aloe extracts.

Egg – Though, applying egg is sticky and stinky, but it is an excellent hair treatment for very dry hair. The egg has lot of proteins and vitamins which help in moisturizing the hair. It also contains certain enzymes that remove unwanted oils and dirt. To use egg, pour the egg white or yellow or a mixture of both in a bowl. You can even mix egg in your shampoo. Leave the egg for 20 minutes and then wash with cold water. Your dry hair care is done naturally.

Yogurt – Yogurt helps to clean the hair scalp by removing unwanted oils, dirt and dandruff. The fats in the yogurt help to moisturize the hair. Yogurt is a natural hair treatment for very dry hair. To use yogurt, apply it on the hair for 15-20 minutes. Rinse hair with water and then wash with shampoo to remove the stickiness of fats.

Beer – Beer has been proven to be a good hair treatment for very dry hair. Beer has large amount of yeast which helps to retain the moisture in hair and help in dry hair care. To use beer, pour some in the hair and massage your scalp and hair for 10-15 minutes. Wash the hair with cold water and repeat this every week for better results. There are some beer shampoos also available in the market which has good benefits for dry hair care. Beer can be used for hair treatment of very dry hair.

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Combination hair:

This is a combination of an oily scalp with dry hair. The scalp feels oily and has dandruff scales that stick, but the hair shaft is dry because the oil secreted from the glands is blocked by the dandruff flakes, thus preventing the flow of oil along the hair shaft. This in-between hair condition needs extra attention to bring it back to health. The first step is to clear the scalp of flaking scales by using a good anti-dandruff shampoo followed by an oil-based conditioner applied to the hair ends only. Always use a mild shampoo. At the first sign of damage, treat it with a conditioning and oil treatment.

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Essential oils, carrier oils and mineral oils for hair care:

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Essential Oils are also called EOs. Oil is considered “essential” in the sense that it carries a distinctive scent, or essence, of the plant from which the oil is extracted. Essential oils are volatile, and are usually derived from the non-seed parts of the plants. Essential oils are generally extracted by distillation. Essential oils are very useful in homemade hair care products and many of them are very good to treat scalp conditions such as tea tree oil for dandruff, rosemary to grow hair faster, lavender for dry scalp, and peppermint for itchy scalp and to stimulate hair growth. If you are a ‘do it yourselfer’ you can create some very beneficial hair care products for your hair or you can enhance your store bought products by adding a few drops to them for added benefits. Usually essential oils are used very sparingly because they are so concentrated.

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Fragrant Oils for Hair:

The best fragrances to use are the natural ones (synthetic fragrances can damage hair) and that is why pure essential oils, diluted in carrier oils are great when you want to add a nice scent to your hair. Put a few drops on your comb or in your final hair rinse water or in your favorite carrier oil and your hair will smell great while being conditioned.

Fragrant Essential Oil Suggestions:

Rosemary,

Lavender,

Sandalwood,

Jasmine.

Scalp Massage: Put 3-5 drops on your fingertips and lightly massage into scalp.

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Carrier oils:

Another type of oil for hair is called carrier oils. The oils are called carrier oils because they carry the essential oil onto the skin as discussed above. Carrier oils are also known as base oil or vegetable oil they are usually derived from seeds or nuts. Carrier oils are best used as natural and unadulterated as possible. Cold pressing and maceration are the two main methods of producing carrier oils. Carrier oils are very important in hair care; they are great moisturizers, strengtheners and very nourishing for hair. Carrier oils include coconut oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, castor oil etc. I will discuss coconut oil in detail.

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Coconut Oil as Protein and Moisture Support:

Coconut oil has many benefits for black and textured hair types. Over the years, considerable research has been conducted to better understand the oil and its benefits in hair care. Recent research points to coconut oil‘s benefits as both a sealant and hair protein reconstructor of sorts. These protein reconstructor benefits are especially interesting in black hair care applications. Solid at room temperature, coconut oil has been used for generations by women of color in those tropical paradises around the world where coconuts are indigenous and grow freely. Touted early on as a nutritional power food, coconut oil enthusiasts quickly began to look into some of the other benefits of coconut oil. Coconut oil is very unique hair oil. This versatile, low molecular weight oil is able to leverage its traditional oil status to seal the hair, but complements this sealing capacity with a strong affinity for hair proteins not found in other hair oils. Because moisturization and hydration are characteristics of water, coconut oil cannot rightfully be called a moisturizer in and of itself. It does however greatly support the moisturization of the hair fiber in ways that other oils cannot and have fallen short. Coconut oil benefits black hair in two important ways. First, coconut oil‘s hydrophobic oil characteristics allow it to inhibit the penetration of water from the surrounding air and environment. Second, coconut oil is able to bind to the natural protein structure of the hair. This helps the hair retain its natural moisture content and reinforces the hair fiber, making it stronger. While wet hair is able to absorb trace amounts of coconut oil residue into the hair fiber, coconut oil is only able to act on the surface of dried hair with no penetration into the hair fiber. In its sealant capacity, coconut oil acts as other oils. It simply coats and conditions the outer cuticle layer enhancing shine and increasing the hair fiber’s pliability. It also reduces friction and static electricity between the hair fibers. Using coconut oil as pre-shampoo treatment is better than using it post-wash. This is partly owing to the fact that coconut oil only seems to penetrate wet hair fibers. The constant swelling and shrinking of the hair fiber in response to typical washing, conditioning, and drying stresses the hair. When coconut oil is used on the hair as a pre-treatment, a small portion of coconut oil is absorbed into the hair fiber when the fiber naturally swells. This penetration effect is minimal on undamaged, healthy hair. Damaged, or porous hair, is the best candidate for coconut oil penetration because the cuticle is vulnerable and already relatively open. Coconut oil protects the hair by binding to the hair’s inner proteins which reduces the hair’s ability to swell in response to water. Coconut oil actually reduces the hair protein’s chemical ability to bind to water molecules which keeps water swelling in the hair fiber down to a minimum. Black hair, which is more susceptible to damage and high porosity problems, tends to take in more water during the washing process. This causes it to swell considerably more than normal, healthy hair when wet. The hair must then shrink back to normal size during drying, but the cuticle can fray, split, or crack as this happens. Damage may be especially pronounced when the hair cuticle is contracting from a state of intense swelling as in porous hair. Coconut oil helps reduce this water uptake and swelling by binding to the proteins and keeping excess water out. This results in less trauma to the hair fiber as it naturally contracts to dry.

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Mineral oils are derived from petroleum products. They are found in many hair care products including conditioners.

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Mineral oil vs. coconut oil:

Now I expand on the topic a bit and dig a little deeper into the similarities and differences of petroleum-derived mineral oil and plant-derived oils, specifically coconut oil. Both types of oils are found in various hair care products, and coconut oil is quite often used in homemade treatments, as well. The superior properties of natural oils are frequently lauded, so it should be interesting to review a few scientific comparisons backed by data.

Water in – water out:

Several published studies have summarized experiments done to evaluate and compare the emollient properties of mineral oil, coconut oil, and to a lesser extent, olive oil and safflower oil. In one paper, researchers reported using an analytical technique (dynamic vapor sorption, for those curious) to measure and determine the moisture diffusion coefficient for mineral oil, coconut oil, and other oils when applied to hair. They were interested in finding out was how much water vapor can penetrate into or diffuse out of hair that has been coated with oil. The data obtained in the experiments revealed that both coconut oil and mineral oil form a protective barrier that effectively prevents the diffusion of moisture out of the hair in low-humidity environments, thereby improving moisture retention and minimizing dry, fly-away hair. All of the oil-treated hair samples showed this effect, whereas the untreated control remained unchanged. It was noted that for coconut oil, the moisture-retention effects dissipated significantly over time. This is credible evidence that coconut oil absorbs into the hair shaft while mineral oil remains on the exterior surface. All of the treated hair fibers showed a reduction in absorption of moisture vapor from the atmosphere in damp conditions. This is advantageous in an anti-humectant topical treatment, as it provides some protection from frizz that often occurs in high relative humidity. However, this effect was not total, and each sample was found to absorb significant amounts of water over time. Extremely hydrophobic mineral oil performed the best in terms of its ability to seal water out of hair, while the more polar fatty acids such as coconut oil allowed greater transport of moisture through the cuticle and into the hair shaft. This can certainly be an undesirable attribute if frizz and the tell-tale halo are not qualities you prefer in your hair.

Curl Formation and Clumping:

Both coconut oil and mineral oil enhance clumping of adjacent hair strands. This mechanism aids in curl formation, definition of curl pattern, and curl retention. Capillary adhesion, the mechanism by which this is possible, occurs when oils form sufficiently thick films on the surfaces of hair strands and capillary forces between adjacent hairs attract them to one another, effectively binding them into clumps.  Researchers found that capillary adhesion between hair fibers remains constant with mineral oil, but is found to decrease over time with coconut oil, olive oil, and sunflower oil. The reason for this is that the very non-polar mineral oil molecules remain on the surface of the cuticle of the hair. In contrast, the saturated or mono-unsaturated fruit and vegetable oils in this study slowly penetrate into the cell membrane complex (CMC) and are transported into the hair shaft. As this diffusion occurs, the film thickness on the surface of the hair gradually decreases, which diminishes capillary forces. As a result the cuticle scale structure begins to dominate the behavior of the surface of the hair once more, and subsequent tangling and frizz can occur.

Penetration behaviors of Mineral Oil and Coconut Oil:

Many of the behaviors and performance of oils and moisturizers on the hair are affected by whether they remain on the surface or are absorbed into the hair. To get a more quantitative understanding of this, scientists performed direct study of the penetration behaviors of coconut oil and mineral oil on hair via spectrometry (secondary ion mass spec (SIMS) plus time-of-flight mass spec (TOF-MS). The results showed definitively that coconut oil does indeed penetrate the hair shaft, while mineral oil remains on the surface of the air. Both mineral oil and coconut oil have pretty compact structures which should physically permit diffusion through the porous external layer of the hair shaft. So why does coconut oil do so, while mineral oil does not?  The answer lies in the atoms. While the chemical structure of the molecules present in mineral oil is purely carbon and hydrogen, rendering them very non-polar, triglycerides such as those found in plant-derived oils contain carboxylic acid groups, which lend a little polarity to the molecules. This polarity confers an affinity to these oils for other polar molecules, such as the various keratinous proteins of which hair is comprised. Thus, it is this inherent attraction to other polar molecules, coupled with the relatively simple structure of coconut oil that enables it to diffuse through the cell membrane cortex of the hair and penetrate into the central cortex. Mineral oil has no such affinity for proteins, and remains on the more hydrophobic exterior surface of the hair.

Coconut oil and improved resistance to wash-wear:

The presence of coconut oil inside the cortex of hair provides multiple benefits. It acts as a plasticizer to soften the hair and provide more flexibility and toughness. Coconut oil also increases retention of keratin molecules within the hair shaft, which reduces protein erosion that normally occurs during wash cycles. Continuous loss of protein over time from routine washing damages hair and can result in color fading, split ends, and breakage, so anything that can moderate this phenomenon is beneficial. An additional advantage to coconut oil inside the hair shaft is that it decreases the amount of swelling of the hair shaft that normally occurs when immersed in water. Normally, when hair is saturated with water during the washing process, it absorbs up to 30% or more of its weight in water. This causes each strand to swell considerably, which can lead to several undesirable effects. Increasing the diameter of the hair shaft causes the outer covering of cuticle scales to lift and separate, which increases tangling and breakage. But, perhaps more subtle, is the damage done over time from many cycles of expansion and contraction. Hair is a highly complex biomaterial composed of layers of differing materials, ranging from varying types of keratin structures to pigment molecules to fatty acids. When it is saturated with water and swells and then subsequently dries via natural or thermal means, it undergoes what is known as differential drying and differential deformation (because each separate type of molecule within the overall structure dries and deforms at differing rates). This leads to moisture-induced stress on the hair, which can lead to delamination (cuticle layer stripping off), breakage, fiber fatigue, and rupture (split ends). This whole phenomenon is referred to as hygral fatigue. So, anything that reduces hygral fatigue is great for the health of your hair in the long term.

So which is better: mineral oil or coconut oil?

Well, both water insoluble oils have some distinct advantages for curly hair. By improving moisture retention within the hair shaft, they each can minimize drying and frizz which may occur in arid climates. Both enhance curl formation and clumping. However, in both of these things, mineral oil does the job better and for a longer time. On the other hand, coconut oil appears to have some real potential for improving the health and long-term vitality of hair, especially when it comes to wash-wear, whereas mineral oil is more of a topical treatment that is effective until it is washed away. Those with very porous hair may find that coconut oil penetrates too much into the interior of the hair, which can cause its own set of problems such as frizz, greasiness, and limp hair but advantages of coconut oil far outweighs few disadvantages.

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According to one study, which compared mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil as possible products for nurturing and conditioning hair, coconut oil was the only oil that reduced protein loss for both damaged and undamaged hair. These findings were true when used as either a pre-wash or post-wash grooming product, but coconut oil achieved the greatest results when used as a pre-wash treatment. Part of the reason for this is because coconut oil is hydrophobic, meaning it repels water. So when applied as a pre-wash conditioner, it inhibits the penetration of water into each strand, which would otherwise cause the cuticle, or surface of the hair shaft, to rise, making it prone to damage and breakage. Furthermore, when applied as a pre-wash treatment, a small amount of the coconut oil is able to penetrate deeper into the hair shaft during the wash, when the hair fiber swells slightly.  This can also explain why so many rave about the oil’s ability to prevent “the frizzies” in humid weather—this is another feature of its hydrophobic activity. The findings clearly indicate the strong impact that coconut oil application has to hair as compared to application of both sunflower and mineral oils. Both sunflower and mineral oils do not help at all in reducing the protein loss from hair. This difference in results could arise from the composition of each of these oils. Coconut oil, being a triglyceride of lauric acid (principal fatty acid), has a high affinity for hair proteins and, because of its low molecular weight and straight linear chain, is able to penetrate inside the hair shaft. Mineral oil, being a hydrocarbon, has no affinity for proteins and therefore is not able to penetrate and yield better results. In the case of sunflower oil, although it is a triglyceride of linoleic acid, because of its bulky structure due to the presence of double bonds, it does not penetrate the fiber, consequently resulting in no favorable impact on protein loss. More porous types of hair may find coconut oil particularly beneficial, such as African- and chemically treated hair.

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The figure below shows hair care hints for aging:

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Homemade Hair Treatments:

Eggs, yogurt and honey are, at first glance, all components of a tasty breakfast—but they also happen to be hair treatment ingredients, and affordable, all-natural ones at that. And they’re not the only ones.

For All Hair Types:

“The [raw] egg is really the best of all worlds. The yolk, rich in fats and proteins, is naturally moisturizing, while the white, which contains bacteria-eating enzymes, removes unwanted oils. For normal hair: Use the entire egg to condition hair; use egg whites only to treat oily hair; use egg yolks only to moisturize dry, brittle hair, Cox says. Use 1/2 cup of whichever egg mixture is appropriate for you and apply to clean, damp hair. If there isn’t enough egg to coat scalp and hair, use more as needed. Leave on for 20 minutes, rinse with cool water (to prevent egg from “cooking”) and shampoo hair. Whole egg and yolks-only treatments can be applied once a month; whites-only treatment can be applied every two weeks.

For dull Hair:

Styling products (as well as air pollution) can leave a film that both saps moisture and dulls shine—but dairy products like sour cream and plain yogurt can help reverse this damage. Lactic acid gently strips away dirt while the milk fat moisturizes.

To Use: Massage 1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt into damp hair and let sit for 20 minutes. Rinse with warm water, followed by cool water, then shampoo hair as you normally would. Treatment can be applied every other week.

For Itchy Scalp:

To fight flakes—brought on by poor diet, stress and climate, among other factors—try a lemon juice and olive oil mixture in your hair. The acidity in lemon juice helps rid your scalp of any loose, dry flakes of skin, while the olive oil moisturizes the [newly exposed] skin on your head.

To Use: Mix 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, 2 Tbsp olive oil and 2 Tbsp water, and massage into damp scalp. Let mixture sit for 20 minutes, then rinse and shampoo hair. Treatment can be applied every other week.

For Limp or Fine Hair:

To add body to hair, reach for an unlikely beauty beverage: beer! The fermented drink contains generous supplies of yeast, which works to plump tired tresses.

To Use: Mix 1/2 cup flat beer (pour beer into a container and let it sit out for a couple of hours to deplete carbonation) with 1 tsp light oil (sunflower or canola) and a raw egg. Apply to clean, damp hair, let sit for 15 minutes, then rinse with cool water. Or add flat beer only to a spray bottle and spritz onto dry hair. When the liquid evaporates, the remaining protein residue (from the wheat, malt or hops) continues to strengthen and structure hair. Treatments can be applied every other week.

For Dry or Sun-Damaged Hair:

Whatever your hair-dehydrating demon—hard water, sun overexposure, your trusty flat iron—nature’s sweetener can help. Honey is a natural humectant, which means it attracts and locks in moisture.

To Use: Massage approximately 1/2 cup honey into clean, damp hair, let sit for 20 minutes, then rinse with warm water. You can also add 1 to 2 Tbsp olive oil to loosen the honey for easier application. For extremely sun-damaged hair, trying mixing honey with 1 to 2 Tbsp of a protein-rich ingredient, like avocado or egg yolk, which will help replenish the keratin protein bonds that UV rays attack. Treatment can be applied once a month.

For Oily or Greasy Hair:

Used properly, [cornmeal or cornstarch] is an inexpensive way to remove oil and grease.

To Use: Pour 1 Tbsp cornmeal or cornstarch into an empty salt or pepper shaker and sprinkle onto dry hair and scalp until you’ve used it all. After 10 minutes, use a paddle hairbrush to completely brush it out. Treatment can be applied every other day.

For Frizzy Hair:

Home beauty experts swear by avocado—and not just to repair damaged hair. Its oils (which are light and moist like our own natural skin secretions) and proteins boast the best combination of nutrients for smoothing and weighing down unruly hair.

To Use: Mash up half an avocado and massage into clean, damp hair. Let sit for 15 minutes before rinsing with water. Amp up moisturizing power by combining mashed avocado with 1 to 2 Tbsp of a hydrating ingredient, like sour cream, egg yolks or mayonnaise. Treatment can be applied every two weeks.

For Residue-Ridden Hair:

Nothing eats through product buildup like baking soda. Sodium bicarbonate essentially breaks down anything acidic.

To Use: Mix 1 to 2 Tbsp baking soda with small amounts of water until a thick paste forms. Massage into damp hair and let sit for 15 minutes. Rinse with water, then shampoo hair. Treatment can be applied every two weeks.

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Hair spa at home:

Step 1: Massage your scalp-

This is the first step to start a hair treatment at home. Massage your head with any hair nourishing oil for 15-20 minutes. You can use olive oil, almond oil, coconut oil or sesame oil. The best is to mix equal parts of all of them and use it. Massage softly with your fingertips. It increases blood circulation and helps increase hair growth.

Step 2: Steam warm hair-

Dip a towel or cotton cloth in warm water and squeeze it to remove excess water. Wrap this towel around your head covering all your oiled hair. It helps oil penetrate deep inside the scalp and nourishes the hair. This step takes at least 15 to 20 minutes.

Step 3: Wash your hair-

Now wash your hair with a mild shampoo. Use cold or lukewarm water to wash your hair. Hot water bath causes dandruff, itchy and dry scalp, and weakens hair roots.

Step 4: Apply conditioner-

After shampooing, apply conditioner on your hair. You can either use homemade conditioner or any market product that suits your hair. For homemade conditioner, boil tea leaves in water and add lemon juice to it. Use this concoction as a conditioner after shampoo.

Step 5: Apply a hair mask-

This last step provides all required nourishment to your hair. You can buy a hair mask from the market or make it at home as per your needs and the things available at home. There are different homemade hair masks that you can try for the treatment.

  • Mix one or two eggs according to your hair length with some coconut oil. And apply it as hair mask. Cover the hair with a warm towel for minimum 20 minutes and then wash off with a mild shampoo.
  • Mash a ripe banana, and mix with olive oil, egg, honey, milk. Blend and apply on your hair. Leave it for 20 minutes and wash off. 
  • A mixture of banana, honey, yogurt and olive oil also does wonders to your hair. You can also apply this homemade hair mask.

Now you have learned how to do hair spa at home. Do it once every week or in 15 days and see the difference. You will definitely get the desired results very soon.

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Frizz hair:

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Technically speaking, frizz can be both a noun and a verb. As a noun, frizz is the messy tangle of hair that sits upon your head from time to time. As a verb, “to frizz” means to form your hair into knots, tight curls, or some other snag. Regardless of what makes your hair appear frizzy, the underlying cause is usually the same: a raised cuticle layer. As a result, the hair looks dry and frizzy instead of laying flat. On the other hand, the hair appears smooth when the cuticle layer stays flat. Frizzing of the hair is generally the result of the cuticle layer of the hair being elevated, or roughed up. When the cuticle is raised, the hair is more porous which also means that it can lose moisture and look and feel drier. When the hair’s cuticle is laying flat against the hair shaft, the hair looks shiny and smooth.  Some people’s hair is more susceptible to having the cuticle lift and makes the hair prone to frizz. This often occurs due to changes in atmosphere. For instance, days that are warm and humid can cause the hair to swell and the cuticle lift and therefore the hair will frizz. Other people, conversely, have what is known as resistant hair, and the cuticle of their hair is especially tight. The hair stays shiny and smooth-looking, but is often hard to color and/or perm since it repels water. The question of why some people have hair that tends to frizz and others don’t seem to have a problem with it is simply a matter of genetics. The porosity of the hair (which is a function of the way the hair’s cuticle layer lies) is one of the variables that make up an individual’s hair type. Normal porosity is generally assumed to be where the cuticle lays flat, but not too tightly against the hair shaft, and the hair will absorb water sprayed onto it after a few seconds of exposure. When the hair is more or less porous you get resistant hair (that is water repellant) and porous hair (that is quick to absorb and release water – and is also more apt to be frizzy). More the porosity of hair, more chance of frizz. Asian hair tends to the most non-porous hair, so less prone to frizz while African hair is very porous and more prone to frizz.  Curlies tend to have frizz more often than Straighties for one simple reason: dehydration. In general, curly hair is drier than straight hair. This leaves our hair susceptible to frizz. On the other hand, humidity in the air makes the bonds inside that protein break apart causing hairs to swell up – making your hair frizzy. So too much moisture in hair or too much dryness of hair make hair frizz. Another reason stems from the way we style our hair. As Curlies, we have to be extremely careful not to brush our hair. If we do, we encourage the cuticle layer to rise up, resulting in frizz. Hair conditioners, hair serum, hair oil; all layers cuticle and prevent drying of hair as well as prevent entry of moisture in hair, thereby prevent frizzing. Too frequent shampooing can deprive hair of its natural oil & damage cuticle thereby promotes frizzing. For curly hair, a good haircut by qualified hair stylish can also reduce frizz.  

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Quick hair care tips:

1) Consider a short hair style. Long hair is old hair. Old hair is weathered, damaged hair. To keep hair young, keep it short!

2) When washing hair don’t scrub. This flakes the cuticle through rubbing the hair fibers together. It is better to “milk” the hair from the forehead backwards in the same direction. This means you are smoothing your hands over your hair in the direction that the cuticle has grown. This should help reduce cuticle flaking and with the cuticle in better condition so the hair should keep its shine for longer.

3) If you have dry hair try to avoid daily hair washing if possible. Try every other day. Shampoo can be quite damaging to the hair fiber. It’s also taking away oils that you may need if you have “dry” hair. Teenagers and people who are very active or work in dirty conditions may have to wash every day in which case consider using a very mild shampoo with a separate conditioner.

4) Use a mild shampoo. Look at the shampoo ingredients. Avoid anything that contains harsh detergents such as sodium lauryl sulfate. Sodium laureth sulfate is milder and some shampoos do away with sodium sulfate based detergents altogether.

5) Avoid shampoos with plant oils in them. They are very popular, but they can be quite harsh oils. They are also more likely to promote scalp dermatitis. Find something with a light mineral oil content. Mineral oil is much less damaging to the hair fiber and skin. If you must use plant oil based shampoos look for one with Jojoba oil. This type of oil is the least allergenic of the plant oils and it cannot be utilized by bacteria as a food source.

6) If you have very dry hair, look for shampoos with humectants in them. Chemists serving African-American communities are more likely to stock these. African-Americans have particular trouble with dull, difficult hair and may find a variety of mild oil based products useful for application after washing. There is the potential for scalp irritation from the oils so pay close attention to how your scalp responds and avoid using them if you have any side effects.

7) Use a separate conditioner. These shampoo and conditioners all in one are okay for average hair but they are not good for dry hair. Separate conditioner plus very mild shampoo is much superior to a combined product. Apply conditioner in a milking fashion as with the shampoo.

8) If you have dull, dry, problem hair don’t even think about dying your hair or using relaxants or similar. Any chemical action on the hair like this breaks down the chemical bonds of the hair cuticle and cortex. Permanent damage quickly sets in and your dull, dry hair will rapidly get worse.

9) African American hair has a greater amount of low sulfur protein compared to high sulfur protein than observed in Asian or Caucasian individuals. This means it is more liable to damage from relaxers, bleaching agents, and dyes. Consider avoiding these harsh chemical treatments or reducing the frequency of use.

10) Brittle hair can be a genetic problem in which case the only option is a trip to the dermatologist. It might on occasion suggest a lack of appropriate nutrients. Although this is rather unlikely with a typical western diet, you might take a look at the supplements in the health food store. There are usually formulations specifically for hair typically including things like biotin, zinc, cysteine, silica, vitamin B complex etc. Don’t overdo supplements as some can be toxic in high doses. The recommended dosage on the bottle might be of benefit. You might try it and see.

11) Comb or brush in the direction of the cuticle (from hair root to tip). Find a metal comb or brush with metal teeth if possible. Plastic combs create static in dry hair making hair management more difficult.

12) If possible avoid air pollution and excessive exposure to sunlight both of which can act on the chemical bonds of hair follicles and increase the rate of weathering. It is difficult to avoid but consider a baseball cap or similar.

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Hair Extensions:

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Artificial hair integrations, more commonly known as hair extensions (rarely referred to as a hair hat), add length and/or fullness to human hair. Hair extensions are methods of lengthening one’s hair by incorporating artificial hair or natural hair collected from other individuals. These hair techniques are advanced and are used to change the hair drastically without looking unrealistic. Techniques of hair extensions include clip in/clip on, bonding & sealing, fusion, micro-ring, netting, tracking and lace fronts. Shampooing of artificial hair integrations can be as easy as shampooing real hair, with some considerations. For instance, many manufacturers suggest using a mild shampoo, or even a wig shampoo. Directions included with the integrations may indicate what type of shampoo to use; the methods of brushing, combing and drying that are most advisable; and what heat setting to use when drying the hair, or if it is even advisable to do so. The same care taken when shampooing must also be used when styling artificial hair. It’s often recommended that the texture of hair purchased should be the style in which the hair is worn. Using heat to straighten curly hair, or to curl straight hair, damages it. The more damage the hair sustains, the shorter the lifespan of the artificial hair. Most human hair extensions can be treated as real hair, albeit more gently. Since human hair extensions are usually heavily processed to achieve uniform color and texture, a mild shampoo is recommended, along with a light conditioner to reduce tangling. When shampooing it is suggested that a sulfate and alcohol free product be used, since those contents cause frizz and dry out the hair. Cool water is also recommended when shampooing, to reduce or prevent matting and excessive tangling. Having to remove snarls and tangles loosens the foundation of the integrations and further damages the hair. It is best to shampoo the hair in a top down motion. Always shampoo, condition and style in a downward direction.  Avoid pulling and tugging. Hair extensions that are too long or too heavy for fragile or fine hair can also cause breakage. Extensions should never be used on damaged or bleached hair.

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Pros and cons of hair extensions:

The Pros:

Clip in hair extensions come with many benefits. They are easy and quick to apply; generally only taking five minutes when well practiced. The extensions can be easily removed when desired; great for when you’re hitting the gym, or chasing a toddler and don’t want the long hair as a burden. Clip in hair extensions also give you a lot of opportunity to change your hair style completely without damaging your natural hair. Many women and girls choose to use hair extensions for special occasions like weddings and proms. They can add extra volume to curly hairstyles and up dos.

The Cons:

One con that some wearers of clip in hair extensions find is the routine of consistently having to put in the hair and remove nightly. It is highly recommended that you never sleep or swim with your hair extensions. If this is something that would be an inconvenience or bother, you may consider sew in or glue in methods of hair extensions. There have also been reviews of clip in hair extensions with complaints of irritation from the clips or hair pulling from the clips. This usually only occurs when you do not remove the extensions during sleep or strenuous activities. If you choose to wear your hair extensions when your scalp produces a lot of sweat, be sure to wash your extensions before your next use to prevent irritation. Those who have metal allergies also shouldn’t wear clip in extensions because your scalp will be exposed to clips. 

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Hair dye (hair color):

Color, as we see it, is actually the reflection of light off of the colored pigments in the hair shaft. It’s sort of like the color prisms you saw in elementary school: it fractured light into distinctive colors you could see. This is what happens with hair color except that you’re adding or subtracting colors to change from one color to another or to change the undertones. A shade of color is made up of different combinations of reflections off the pigments. That’s why hair color — both natural and dyed — looks different under fluorescent lights and in natural sunlight. Color levels are the degrees of lightness or darkness of a color seen by the eye. Hair color is assigned a level number from 1 to 10, with 10 being the lightest and 1 being black. Black reflects very little light and the lightest shades of blonde reflect the greatest amount of light. A colorist would say that a level 10 blonde is two steps lighter than a level 8 blonde. Your choice of hair coloring product depends on what you’re trying to accomplish and how long you want your color to last. Most women start with a lower commitment level and move up to a higher level over time. If you’re seeing more gray or your hair coloring isn’t covering gray as well as it did, you might need to move to a higher-level product. Level 3 is the only kind of product that can completely and permanently cover any amount of gray.

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Hair coloring is the practice of changing the color of hair. The main reasons for this practice are cosmetic (e.g., to cover gray hair, to change to a color regarded as more fashionable or desirable, or to restore the original hair color after it has been discolored by hairdressing processes or sun bleaching). Hair dyeing, which is an ancient art, involves treatment of the hair with various chemical compounds. Today, hair coloring is immensely popular, with over 75 percent of American women dyeing their hair.

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Natural Colorants:

People have been coloring their hair for thousands of years using plants and minerals. Some of these natural agents contain pigments (e.g., henna, black walnut shells) and others contain natural bleaching agents or cause reactions that change the color of hair (e.g., vinegar). Natural pigments generally work by coating the hair shaft with color. Some natural colorants last through several shampoos, but they aren’t necessarily safer or gentler than modern formulations. It’s difficult to get consistent results using natural colorants, plus some people are allergic to the ingredients.

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Temporary Hair Color:

Temporary or semi-permanent haircolors may deposit acidic dyes onto the outside of the hair shaft or may consist of small pigment molecules that can slip inside the hair shaft, using a small amount of peroxide or none at all. In some cases, a collection of several colorant molecules enter the hair to form a larger complex inside the hair shaft. Shampooing will eventually dislodge temporary hair color. These products don’t contain ammonia, meaning the hair shaft isn’t opened up during processing and the hair’s natural color is retained once the product washes out.

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Permanent hair color:

The outer layer of the hair shaft, its cuticle, must be opened before permanent color can be deposited into the hair. Once the cuticle is open, the dye reacts with the inner portion of the hair, the cortex, to deposit or remove the color. Most permanent hair colors use a two-step process (usually occurring simultaneously) which first removes the original color of the hair and then deposits a new color.

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The two main chemical ingredients involved in any coloring process are:

•Ammonia — This alkaline allows for lightening by acting as a catalyst when the permanent hair color comes together with the peroxide. Like all alkaline, ammonia tends to separate the cuticle and allow the hair color to penetrate the cortex of the hair. This chemical elevates the pH of the hair, and in doing so, the cuticle relaxes and lifts up. The problem with that is once you’ve disturbed the cuticle, the damage has started because the cuticle is not meant to be lifted up.

•Hydrogen peroxide (also known as the developer or oxidizing agent) — This ingredient, in varying forms and strengths, helps initiate the color-forming process and creates longer-lasting color. The larger the volume of the developer, the greater the amount of sulfur is removed from the hair. Loss of sulfur causes hair to harden and lose weight. This is why, for the majority of hair coloring, the developer is maintained at 30% volume or less. In order to get the color that you wanted, your current color has to be destroyed. Hydrogen peroxide breaks down your natural hair pigment, the process is known as bleaching or lightening. The melanin is still present, but the oxidized molecule is colorless. However, bleached hair tends to have a pale yellow tint. The yellow color is the natural color of keratin, the structural protein in hair. Also, bleach reacts more readily with the dark eumelanin pigment than with the phaeomelanin, so some gold or red residual color may remain after lightening. Hydrogen peroxide is one of the most common lightening agents. The peroxide is used in an alkaline solution, which opens the hair shaft to allow the peroxide to react with the melanin. Peroxide is very drying on the hair, which contributes to the damage of the hair. Now the cuticle is lifted, your pigment has been broken down, so now your hair should be straw-like. Various types of alcohols and conditioners may also be present in hair color. The conditioners close the cuticle after coloring to seal in and protect the new color. Once you rinse, your cuticle comes down because the color has deposited, but the damage is already done. 

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Allergic reactions are rare, but definitely worth testing for:

Allergic reactions to hair dye are pretty frightening, but they are also very rare. It’s estimated that four in one million people are sensitive to hair dyes. But they can happen and so you need to be careful. To do a patch test, apply a small amount of dye to the underside of your wrist or to the back of your ear. Then wait 24 hours to monitor any reaction. People usually only do a patch test the first time they color their hair, or when changing a color. However, if you want to be safe, a test should be done before every color application as an allergy can develop between uses.

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Hair color was traditionally applied to the hair as one overall color. The modern trend is to use several colors to produce streaks or gradations, not all work on top of a single base color. These are referred to as:

  • Highlighting, where sections of hair are treated with lighteners, usually to create blonde streaks.
  • Lowlighting, where sections of hair are treated with darker hair color.

There are also newer application techniques such as ombre, where hair is dark on the crown and bit by bit becomes lighter toward the ends and splashlights, where a horizontal band of bleached hair stretches from ear to ear

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Adverse effects of hair coloring:

Hair coloring involves the use of chemicals capable of removing, replacing and/or covering up pigments naturally found inside the hair shaft. Use of these chemicals can result in a range of adverse effects, including temporary skin irritation and allergy, hair breakage, skin discoloration and unexpected hair color results. Side effects of various products result in loss of hair and in extreme cases balding. If consumed by the body by means of inhalation or digestion certain hair dye brands have shown evidence of causing constipation and other dangerous disruptions within human organs. Additionally, there is ongoing discussion regarding more serious health consequences of hair color usage, including lead poisoning.

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Remember, even permanent hair color is not permanent as color fades with frequent shampooing and new growing shaft will be of original hair color, and therefore after several weeks, you may need to re-color again.

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Chemical treatment of hair:

Perm and rebonding:

Some of us have naturally curly hair but want it straightened; others have it naturally straight but want it curly. But whatever the style you like to wear, there’s chemistry involved in it! Hair is made mostly of a protein called keratin. Keratin molecules are arranged in straight bundles. These bundles are held together by disulphide bonds (-S-S-), which give strength to the hair. Disulphide bonds are made by the amino acid called cysteine. The cysteine of one keratin molecule forms a disulphide bond with the cysteine of the neighbouring keratin molecule. The more disulphide bonds there are in a strand of hair, the curlier it is. If you’d like your hair curled, it’s called a perm. If you like it straightened, that’s rebonding. In both cases, the steps are very similar.   

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Ammonium thioglycolate: the perm salt:

Ammonium thioglycolate (HSCH2CO2NH4) is a compound that can break disulphide bonds. This is because it contains a thiol group (-SH). The thiol group replaces one of the sulphur atoms in the disulphide bond, like this:
Keratin-S-S-keratin + 2HS-CH2CO2NH4 –> -HO2CH2CS-SCH2CO2H + 2NH3 + 2HS-keratin
When the disulphide bond is broken, the keratin bundles come apart, and hair is weakened. Ammonium thioglycolate is therefore used widely in beauty parlours when customers want their hair re-styled.  First, the beautician will wash your hair thoroughly to clean it. Then she applies perm salt (ammonium thioglycolate solution) to it for a short while. It releases ammonia, which loosens the hair and allows the glycolate to seep through. If you want a perm, your hair will be tied around curlers to get the curls you want. If you want it rebounded, it is pressed firmly among flat irons till it becomes straight. When the hair is shaped to your satisfaction, it needs to be strengthened again so that the style becomes permanent. For this, an oxidation lotion is applied. This contains hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), which reconstitutes the disulphide bonds.
2Keratin-SH + H2O2 –> Keratin-S-S-keratin + 2H2O

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A permanent wave, also known as a perm, is a chemical hair treatment that can be used to add curl and body to your hair. Every perm has two parts: the physical wrapping of the hair into shapes and a chemical bath that breaks and then reforms the disulphide bonds of your hair. Although uncommon, you can do a perm yourself at home, and if you choose to go to a salon, it can be helpful if you can accurately and exactly describe what you want. As the name implies, a perm is permanent – you’ll grow out new hair that won’t be permed, but the rest of it will be curled for up to 6 months, and a little less curly still after that. If you only want curly hair a few days a week, try hot rollers or a curling iron instead; if you want curly, wavy, or hair with body every day, a perm is the way to go. A perm can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours to accomplish. After that, you’ll have to let the perm “set” for 24 hours, which means no washing or styling your hair, and no pulling it back. Additionally, you won’t be able to wash your hair until 48 hours after the perm. Make sure your schedule can accommodate these limits.

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Perm chart:

 

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Another way to get your hair rebounded is to use lye soap or lye cream. This contains 5-10% of sodium hydroxide, which breaks the disulphide bonds. The hair loosens up, causing the curls to disappear. After treatment with lye soap, the hair is washed with water and conditioner to remove the sodium hydroxide, which can otherwise corrode the scalp.

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Harms of perm:

Hair is irreversibly altered after the perming process. Chemically-treated hair shafts are weaker and fracture more easily. This can lead to hair loss. Hair become fragile and has to be handled with extreme care after treatment. A natural reflex, like tucking your hair behind your ears or tying your hair in the first month after treatment, can be disaster. The process can also cause damage and burns to the skin and scalp. For example hair can be damaged if the various chemicals are left on the hair for too long, or if ironing is done with an iron at higher than 180ºc. Conventional methods of straightening hair use hair-straightening lotions, which result in dry, brittle, and split-ends prone hair. Rebonding gives you softer hair but higher risks because it uses more toxic chemicals. Maintaining the rebonded look means continual touch-ups, at least, every 6 months. This puts you at further risk of hair loss, eventually, and prematurely, leaving your full head of hair nothing but a memory.

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What is ‘keratin straightening treatment’?

It is the role keratin plays in the conditioning stage of chemical straightening. New developments in keratin hair products mean that damage can be repaired more completely than it has been in the past. Not that it’s a great idea to abuse your hair, but keratin does allow it to recover from some pretty harsh treatments. The main use of keratin is to repair and condition hair. The various keratin treatments that claim to be straightening are using other chemicals to achieve the straightening effect, not the keratin. The Keratin in a straightening system will help protect your hair against the damage that happens during the straightening process. If you are continuing to use irons at home, a shampoo and conditioner with Keratin will also help to protect your hair against further damage. Look for shampoos and conditioners that contain the ingredients “keratin” and “oxidized Keratin”, not just “hydrolyzed keratin” as these will confer greater benefits in terms of hair strength, volume and condition.

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Remember, chemical treatment of hair permanently alter the structure of the hair, although new hair growth is not affected. The drug interferon alpha has been reported as being shown to modify hair follicles causing permanent change in a person’s hair texture. 

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Hair days, good or bad:

Definition of “bad hair day”:

Bad hair day is a day when you feel that you do not look attractive, especially because of your hair, and everything seems to go wrong, and you are facing difficult situations and unpleasant experiences including accidents and disasters.

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Psychology behind good hair day:

Are you having “a good hair day”?

Most of us accept that looks matter. We know that our appearance impacts our personal, social and professional lives. We also know that how we feel influences how we look and vice versa—a phenomenon called beauty self-esteem. Although we’d like to believe “what is inside counts most,” scientific evidence, as well as common sense, tells us that an appealing appearance, good health and hygiene positively impacts our lives. So, what role does hair play in our self-esteem? To answer this question, let us approach it from several different perspectives.

1) Historically—Keep in mind that the role hair has played in people’s self-image goes way back to ancient history. As long ago as Greek and Roman times, elaborate wigs were signs of status and wealth. Beautiful hair was associated with royalty, worn like a crown. Cleopatra was famous for her thick, black locks. Samson’s long hair symbolized supernatural strength. During American Colonial times, upper class men and women wore white, curly wigs. Political figures and judges also adorned them as a sign of wisdom and sophistication. With decorative, attractive hair being highly valued throughout history, it’s likely it will continue to impact how we view ourselves today.

2) Developmentally—Another way to understand the psychology behind hair is to note its role biologically. For example, we instinctively view babies born with thick hair as healthier than those are with little or none. As children grow, we continue to see hair growth as a signal of good health. For adolescent boys, early facial hair is associated with virility, and on teen girls with signs of fecundity. Luscious thick hair is often equated with female sensuality and sexuality. Likewise, as we enter midlife, thinning or losing hair is associated with aging, loss of health, decreased fertility and virility.

3) Aesthetically—Hair frames the face, the feature considered most important in terms of first impressions. Face framing is used to even out your face. If you have a diamond shaped face, you want to put most of the volume on top of your head, and right by the nape of your neck going down to the sides of your cheek bones. If you have a chubby face, you want to avoid volume at the cheek bones, and stick with more volume toward the top. If you have an oval shaped face, that probably means you have a long and narrow face, and you don’t want to elongate it even more. Side parts will be the perfect choice for you, giving the illusion that your face is wider. Faces generally are viewed as playing a greater role than bodies when it comes to attraction between people. Following a person’s smile, eyes and skin, their hair is often the next feature people notice on first encounters. It is among the top three features—along with height and weight—used when describing others and one of the feature most often recalled after a social interaction occurs.

4) Self-Esteem—Our sense of attractiveness is strongly connected to confidence and positive self-esteem. Many men and women associate confidence with feeling in control, and hair is one way most of us can be in charge. For example, hair can be altered through cutting, coloring and highlighting, but controlled through straightening, curling and styling. Styled, well-kept hair gives us the external appearance of being well managed and it can contribute to feeling that way internally. Some people say that a manicure or pedicure creates a similar sense of feeling in control.

5) Beauty for the Ages—As people get older, they inevitably feel loss in a number of ways—decrease in strength, flexibility, height, cognition and acuity. Even people in very good health are faced with dealing with changes that are inevitable. Although hair loss, thinning and graying are natural consequences for most aging people, a lot can be done, without too much time, effort or money to enhance hair style. Unlike surgical and cosmetic interventions that are used to update other physical features (e.g., lasers, face lifts, tummy tucks, teeth implants), enhancements to our hair are much less radical, and yet they can make a huge difference in how we feel about our aging appearance.

 So, why does a “good hair day” matter?

The answer lies in all the reasons above. Our looks matter and hair matters a lot in our general sense of attractiveness. With so many unknowns surrounding us in today’s complicated world, it is nice to know that a good hair day is a simple, yet deeply “rooted’ solution to our desire to look and feel good at any age.

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Bad hair day:

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The average British female will spend the equivalent of 26 years of her life suffering from bad hair days. The incredible findings emerged in a poll of 2,000 women and shows most wake up with unruly hair at least three days a week. This means they spend 156 days a year with limp, greasy, uncontrollable or lifeless locks – a grand total of 9,828 ‘bad hair days’ based on the average woman’s lifetime of 63 years. It is incredible the impact bad hair can have on the day ahead. Women feel like entirely different people when their hair won’t behave – having flat, unmanageable tresses can make you feel tired, grumpy and less confident. In contrast, having great hair can make you feel more self-assured, you’re more likely to hold your head up high. So it is understandable that women will spend longer in front of the mirror trying to get their look perfected on days where they have to go to work, attend meetings or be around lots of other people. The survey also revealed 12 per cent of women have cancelled a date because of their hair, while the same percentage have rearranged an outing with their friends. One in ten girls wouldn’t meet a best friend if they felt their hair wasn’t up to scratch, and nine per cent wouldn’t go to a party.

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A new survey has unveiled the top 20 root causes for a bad hair day:

The most popular reason is unfortunately something we can’t control either, just plain bad luck. Almost half of respondents put some of their bad hair days down to ‘getting out of bed the wrong side’ – easily the most popular answer. The second most popular cause was the weather, with rain, humidity and summer heat waves all given as explanations for why we have bad hair on any given day by 42% of those polled. Bad hair days are often described as one of the great mysteries of modern life. Women have them up to three days a week – meaning 26 years of bad hair throughout their lives. Studies show that those bad hair days affect more than appearance – and they can shatter an individual’s self-confidence. Many people think this is just down to bad luck and there is nothing they can do to prevent bad hair days. But there are lots of simple ways to improve the health of your hair – the key is good diet, limiting stress and not damaging your hair through over bleaching. Women in particular blame lack of time to do their hair for not looking their best. The fourth most popular answer was a hang-over – with many respondents saying they found it impossible to get their hair sorted after a big night out. Another key factor was thinning hair – in both men and women. Sometimes this happens temporarily in women due to pregnancy or illness but many women suffer permanent hair loss which can be enormously damaging to their self-esteem. We have seen a big rise in women seeking hair transplants as a permanent solution to the problem.

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 Seven tips for avoiding bad hair days:

1. Food such as eggs, fish, bananas and spinach provide your hair with rich nutrients that stimulate hair growth, strengthen hair cuticles and give your hair that luster we all crave. A poor diet that lacks nutrients which result in dry, brittle, lifeless hair. You hair grows at a rate of half an inch every four to six weeks. If you change your diet now, you can expect to see better results in 3-6 months.

2. Avoid stress – stress affects your hormones, which results in poor-looking hair. An abundance of estrogen may help the growth and retention of hair, while too much testosterone can have the opposite effect.

3. Certain times of the month for women can be a problem – usually the third week of a woman’s cycle will trigger estrogen production which will in turn trigger increased oil production causing the hair to look limp and lifeless and making it difficult to get it into its normal style. A simple remedy is to shampoo twice rather than once.

4. Build-up of hair products – the ingredients in conditioners and styling products cling to our hair and do not get washed out during regular shampooing. It can make hair look straggly and limp. Find a shampoo that is specifically made for ridding their hair of this build-up.

5. Keratin is the protein that gives hair its structure. Humidity in the air makes the bonds inside that protein break apart causing hairs to swell up – making your hair frizzy. Even in winter months when the air turns drier, your hair may still not co-operate. The cold air, combined with dry heat in your home, can remove moisture from your hair, and leave it full of static. The key is to keep your locks trimmed and well-conditioned with high quality products. _

6. Get rid of static electricity on hair: Do not use plastic/nylon combs or brushes. Use all-natural bristle brushes. You can also use wooden or metal comb. Static is such a big problem in winter, especially if you wear a hat! To control static, keep a box of fabric softener sheet with you. Just rub one lightly over your hair. Or try a tiny dab of leave-in conditioner. Both work great! Conditioner will also keep hairs from sticking together — making styling easier. The more moisture your hair has, the less likely it is to fly, but be sure not to over-condition, it will leave hair unmanageable. If you still end up with static, try using a detangler spray. For even more protection, try a tourmaline comb, made from a mineral that neutralizes the static charge. 

7. De-grease quickly: No time to shampoo? Try a dry shampoo. It’s an aerosol hair powder/dry shampoo. Freshen up your style. Absorb oil and extend the life of your blow dry. Spray on at the roots to absorb excess oils and odors, then comb through and style as usual. Perfect when you only have a few minutes to do your normal hair-care routine.

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The Bad Hair Day App: Haircaster:

Bad hair days are inevitable, but if you knew how the conditions of the weather would affect your style in advanced, then you would certainly know what kind of hair day it will be. Haircaster is a great app that will show you how your local weather conditions will affect your hair, and keeping you informed of the danger of the frizz factor. This super cool beauty app analyzes the live weather conditions including: humidity, wind, rain and temperature. A simple display will let you know a range from “Perfect” to “Stay Home” based on your local conditions.  The App works with all hair types, and a cool feature is that you can add more than one location as you need, perfect for the traveler. Only 99 cents this app will help you know the future of your hair days.

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Hair damage:

From healthy hair to damaged hair:

Shiny hair with a smooth texture and clean-cut ends or tapered tips is generally perceived to be healthy. Hair texture and shine relate to hair surface properties, whereas the integrity of hair ends relates to the hair cortex. Hair can be straight, wavy or curly, blonde, black, brown, red, gray white, and its natural variations are important to our identity. Manipulation of the normal structure of the hair shaft is epidemic and dictated by culture, fashion, and above all, celebrity. Although cosmetic procedures are intrinsically safe, there is potential for damage to the hair. Loss of luster, frizz, split ends, and other hair problems are particularly prevalent among people who repeatedly alter the natural style of their hair or among people with hair that is intrinsically weak. This may be due to individual or racial variation or less commonly an inherited structural abnormality in hair fiber formation. Hair health is also affected by common afflictions of the scalp as well as age-related phenomena such as graying and androgenetic (androgenic) alopecia. Hair products that improve the structural integrity of hair fibers and increase tensile strength are available, as are products that increase hair volume, reduce frizz, improve hair manageability, and stimulate new hair growth.

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The cuticle is the outermost layer of the hair and serves to protect the hair fiber from environmental stressors and harsh salon processes. The cortex lies under the cuticle and constitutes approximately 80% of the hair’s mass (comprised mainly of keratin) and is responsible for hair’s strength, elasticity and flexibility. Normal grooming practices can damage the cuticle by lifting and breaking the individual scales, making it difficult to comb and style the hair. Furthermore, damage to the cuticle will also affect shine. Heat can also be very destructive; blow dryers and hot irons cause the inside of the hair fiber to expand quickly, which can crack the hardened cuticle. Chemical treatments and exposure to UV further compromise the cuticle’s integrity by increasing porosity. This can leave the hair susceptible to frizzing or becoming excessively dry and brittle. Chemicals can also penetrate the fibers more easily and weaken the inner structures. 

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Signs of Damaged Hair:

Split Ends

Excess Shedding

Hair thinning

Dulled Shine

Too Many Tangles

Lack of Moisture i.e. Dry and Brittle to the Touch (Healthy hair is supple and soft)

Rough Texture

Overly Porous

No Elasticity/Susceptible to Breakage

Becomes Spongy and Matted when Wet.

Color Fades or Absorbs too rapidly

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Most common causes of hair damage are:

1. Relaxing, Straightening and Texturizing/Perming

2. Bleaching and Coloring

3. Thermal Damage

4. Too Heavy or Incorrectly Applied Hair Extensions

5. Mechanical Damage (improper combing and brushing, braids & ponytails)

6. Over-shampooing

7. Hair Gel

8. Moisture either too much or too little

9. Lack of Protein or Too Much Protein

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Are your Moisture and Protein levels balanced?

Does your hair seem prone to constant breakage? Do you dread detangling for fear of the number of broken hairs in your comb? Does your hair break if you even look at it wrong? Dry, breaking hair can be a sign of many different things, but the main issue is usually a lack of moisture and/or protein. Moisture keeps your hair soft, manageable, and gives the hair elasticity. Days, weeks, and months of constant heat usage, chemical treatments, coloring sessions, and manipulation can leave your strands thirsty, and thirsty hair doesn’t live up to its full potential. Hair that is constantly deprived of moisture will snap with the slightest manipulation, split at will, and appear dull and lifeless. Protein is the other side of the same coin. Protein keeps your hair strong, healthy, and makes it malleable without breakage. As with moisture, constant heat usage, chemical treatments, etc can break down the protein bonds in your hair, which leaves the strands vulnerable to excessive breakage. Moisture and protein both have a place in a health hair care regimen, and it is up to you to determine which one your hair needs because the balance is always shifting. One way to know if your hair needs moisture or protein is to “”wet assess” a few shed or broken hairs. This is called the “strand test”. To do this, take a few strands (broken or shed) and wet them. After you’ve wet them thoroughly, apply slight “stress” by tugging on them. You should be able to tell if you need protein or moisture based on how the hairs behave.

Strand Test:

To do the strand test, take one of your ‘shed’ hairs and wet it. (Note, the difference between a ‘shed’ hair and a hair that has broken off is the ‘shed’ hair will have a little white bulb on the end)

While holding each end of the hair and stretching it:

-If the hair stretches slightly and returns to its original length without breaking, you are balanced.

-If the hair stretches and continues to stretch or stretches a little more than it should and then breaks (snaps), then you need more protein in your regimen.

-If the hair has very little to no stretch to it and instantly breaks (snaps), then you need more moisture in your regime.

Now, other than conducting the strand test, you can also tell by how your hair feels.

-While wet, if your hair feels weak, gummy, very stringy, or limp, you need protein.

-While dry, if your hair feels hard, dry, tangly, brittle, weak or any combination, you need moisture.

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Thin hair: Caring for Your Thinning Hair:

One of the first steps to improving the look of thinning hair is to experiment with styling products. Most women start with shampoo, and volumizing products do a good job of giving the appearance of fuller hair. It is also a good idea to avoid products with a lot of moisture, which only weighs the hair down. Two other options are cosmetic enhancements — powder and scalp concealer. The powder made up of keratin fibers that matches one’s hair color and is sprinkled on the hair and scalp. The products adhere by static electricity and create volume. Another option is a scalp concealer, a loose powder that is close to the color of the hair, that is applied directly to the scalp. It works to reduce the visibility of skin under thinning hair. There are also some styling tips that can be performed in a salon or at home, that can thicken and bulk up the hair’s texture. One is a good haircut. Although many women may be tempted to grow their hair out to have more of it, they should keep it relatively short, so it weighs less.  A combination of highlights and lowlights can create contour and the illusion of texture. Semi-permanent colors can also be good for thin hair. When dyeing thin hair, choose a shade that’s close to your natural color. The less contrast between your hair and scalp, the better. Avoid bleaching — the dramatic color change requires more chemicals, which can make hair break.

Boost Thin Hair with Silicone:

Thin, lifeless hair is a common complaint, yet few women know the best remedy. Heavy conditioners will just leave your hair limp. A better bet is to use products with silicone, such as dimethicone or cyclomethicone. These coat the strands with a thin film, creating fuller hair that doesn’t look greasy. The silicone stays put even after you rinse.

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Split ends:

Do split ends stop your hair from growing?

 No. Split ends are the result of stresses, daily abuse from styling and environmental factors that cause the ends of the hair to become damaged and frayed. The hair’s shaft cracks along the length and “splits” upward, sometimes in multiple pieces. The hair will still continue to grow as it normally does. The conflict comes because the development of split ends can damage the ends of the hair faster than the scalp can grow new length. In some cases, the hair doesn’t break off fully but ends up with barbs and rough ends that lead to tangles and snarls as the hairs brush against one another. This can cause additional hair damage and breakage. There is no true way to remove split ends, aside from cutting your hair, but you can take care of your hair and prevent their return. Identify whether you have split ends. The scientific name for them is Trichoptilosis, a longitudinal splitting of the hair fiber, and there are several types:

 -The generic end split,

-Splits occurring multiple times up the same strand of hair,

-A split occurring in the middle of the hair strand that will appear as a hole if the strand is bunched up.

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The figure below shows various types of split ends of hair: 

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Always use hair shears for trimming hair. Regular paper scissors can fray your ends and cause more splits down the road. Get a trim of at least 1/4 to 1 inches (above the level of split hair), and you should have solved the problem. It will remove split ends and keep your hair healthy and growing strong. Note that you really only need to trim when you have splits on the ends of the hair, so your schedule may vary with your hair type, how you treat your hair, and your style goals. Don’t rely on products that claim to “heal” split ends. They can seal the split end to help it look healthier, but they aren’t reversing the damage. These products can however help prevent future damage to otherwise healthy hair. Use conditioner every day on the hair. The hair needs protection and moisture every day. Hair that is well-conditioned will feel smooth and silky to the touch and will resist breakage and stresses better.

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Caring damaged hair:

The most readily visible signs of damaged hair – rough texture, over-porosity, dryness, and brittleness – are generally caused by damage to, and over extension of the cuticle layer of the hair shaft. This can come from blow-drying, wind, harsh shampoos and chemical treatments, as well as other heat-styling methods and environmental influences. By using conditioners that are pH balanced, protein enriched, and moisture restoring, you can smooth the cuticle layer and protect the hair shaft from further damage. When hair is damaged it’s important to use a good, moisture-rich conditioning treatment every week until it shows improvement, and to use a light spray-on, leave-in conditioner daily during styling. The problem of elasticity loss, susceptibility to breakage, can sometimes be hard to diagnose. Unless your hair shows lots of broken ends and significantly shorter hairs than you noted before, you may not be aware that there is a real problem. The best clue to poor elasticity could be sitting in your hairbrush. Do you have a lot of hair caught in your hairbrush? Do you have to clean your brush often because of built-up hair in the bristles? Unless you can tell that these hairs are all full- length and coming out at the root (in which case there may be other problems to be dealt with) you can be reasonably sure that you have a problem with hair breakage. The best treatment in this case is a protein rich conditioner, and/or weekly protein treatment, which will add strength to the hair shaft. Issues with color absorption and retention, and sponginess and matting when wet, are also porosity issues, but on a more severe level. These levels of damage require very intensive treatment and constant care in processing and styling. Some people with this level of damage to their hair find it easier to cut off the damaged hair and start fresh. However, this may not be an option, so it’s best if you take care of your hair before it becomes so damaged. The most important thing to remember is that your hair is not alive once it emerges from the scalp. Like the free edge (white part) of your fingernails, the hair is dead tissue. Because of this, don’t be tricked into believing promises made by products to heal or cure your hair damage. The conditioning treatments and products available today can help protect the hair, and can lessen some damage, but the best way to have healthy hair is always prevention.

Eating healthy is the key:
No matter how much you care for your mane, if you don’t eat a proper and balanced meal your hair will not grow healthy. Nuts, fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins, vitamin B complex, vitamin E and folic acid make your hair healthy and strong. Apart from this, take multivitamin supplements if you are suffering from hair fall.
Comb your hair often:
If you think that by combing your hair again and again, it could lead to hair fall — then you are wrong. I have already discussed correct way of combing hair. Your scalp produced sebum which while combing gets distributed all over your scalp and makes your hair shiny. Combing also massage your scalp which ensures good blood flow, making your hair and roots stronger.

Use coconut oil before hair wash (vide supra):
Use shampoos and conditioner suitable for your hair type:
Shampoos could strip your hair of essential oils, making your scalp dry and itchy. Thus choose one that is typically suited for your hair type. Read the labels before you pick up on a shampoo/ conditioner. Also do not use hot water while washing your hair it can make your hair rough. Instead opt for lukewarm water or cold water while washing. Use a shampoo with keratin actives that work at the cellular level of the hair structure and help re-construct damaged protein making the hair strong and resilient to damage.
Don’t style much:
Everyone wants to sport lustrous mane, but if you do too much of styling, it may spoil your hair. Excessive use of heat or chemical treatments can strip your hair of its protective layer and make your mane weak and damaged.

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Cotton pillowcases are bad for your hair. Cotton pillowcases – no matter the thread count – can snag your strands and cause breakage. Switch to satin or silk pillowcases for healthier hair!

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Your hair style may be causing hair damage and hair loss:

How you style your hair, along with the styling tools you use can cause significant hair damage. This damage can cause your hair to look brittle, frizzy and lackluster or even fall out. Having healthy hair is possible if you know how to care for your hair before and after styling. To prevent hair damage and hair loss, follow these tips:

•Dry your hair by wrapping it in a towel after a shower or bath. Another alternative is letting your hair air-dry.

•Most people should handle wet hair as little as possible as wet hair breaks more easily when combed or brushed. However, people with tightly curled or textured hair should comb their hair when wet to decrease the chances of hair breakage.

•Keep brushing to minimum. Brushing your hair 100 strokes each day can cause split ends.

•Reduce the use of “long-lasting hold” styling products. Using a comb to style your hair after you apply the product can cause the hair to break and can lead to hair loss over time.

•Allow your hair to partially air dry before you style or comb. Decreasing the number of times per week that you blow dry also helps limit damage.

•Flat irons should be used on dry hair on a low or medium heat setting, no more often than every other day. If you use a curling iron, only leave it in place for a second or two. No matter your hair type, excessive heat can damage your hair.

•Do not continuously wear braids, cornrows, ponytails and hair extensions. These styles pull on the hair and can cause tension that leads to breakage. If the tension continues, permanent hair loss can develop.  

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Does water damages hair:

The truth is that while we need moisture in our hair in order for it to be healthy, water can also be very damaging to your hair. In fact, the more damaged your hair is, the more damaging water is to it. That may seem a little counterintuitive, so let’s examine the reasons behind that statement. Normal, healthy hair has been found to absorb up to about 31% of its weight in water when it is immersed. Damaged and very porous hair can absorb in excess of 50% of its weight in water! This water absorption causes hair strands to elongate under the weight of the water and lose some of its tensile strength. Very curly hair has been found to lose almost 50% of its tensile strength when wet, which is really a quite significant reduction. Due to the loss of tensile strength when wet, hair that is combed or brushed while saturated with water has a much higher risk of breakage. Wet hair is also more prone to tangling due to the slightly raised cuticle surface that is typical for wet hair. For these reasons, it is extremely critical to use plenty of conditioner that has excellent slip properties in order to detangle your hair when it is wet. One good thing that occurs when hair is soaking wet is that it becomes a lot more elastic and stretchy. Combing through your tresses very slowly will enable you to derive the full benefit of the stretchiness of wet hair fibers, which will make the detangling process a bit easier. Another source of wear and tear on the hair from getting it soaking wet repeatedly comes from the swelling of the hair during the washing/wetting process, followed by uneven shrinking which occurs during drying/evaporation. This creates mechanical stresses on the surface of and inside the cortex of the hair strands and results in gradual fatigue of the fiber (wash-wear), which makes it more likely to fail (break) under stress. Different types of breakage can occur as a result of this fatigue, such as cuticle breakage, mid-strand fracture, and splitting. Some fatty acids, such as those found in coconut oil, have been found to reduce the effects of this type of wear and tear on hair, so it would seem prudent to utilize them in your hair care regimen, especially if you swim daily or wash your hair very frequently.  

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Hard water:

The effects of hard water on hair are also difficult to manage and can be quite damaging. Minerals dissolved in hard water deposit onto the surface of hair and after many washings can create a very unpleasant scaly build up. This accumulated layer of hard debris can cause hair to be dry and unruly, tangle easily, appear dull and lifeless, and lead to breakage. If possible, a water softening system can help prevent these issues. However, when that is not feasible, a clarifying shampoo or treatment may be necessary on a regular basis. A weekly rinse with a solution of distilled water and vinegar can be somewhat helpful as well. If you have hard water, expect to need to use larger quantities of conditioner in order to detangle and smooth your hair.

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Loss of fatty acids:

Frequent hair washing or swimming in pools or the ocean can lead to a gradual erosion of the fatty acid layer in the cuticle. This can lead to tangling, breakage, loss of surface sheen, and loss of body. Use of gentle products (such as mild cleansers, conditioner washes) can help slow down this process, as can making sure hair is saturated with conditioner prior to swimming. Wearing a swimming cap can also be a great way to protect your hair, but may not fit into your personal style.  

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In a nutshell, our hair becomes very fragile and vulnerable when it is saturated with water. So, while it is critical to wet and condition our hair in order to detangle and re-moisturize it, it is also frequently necessary to get our hair wet when we go swimming; and it is very important when treat wet hair exceptionally gently.

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Chlorine Damage:

Our hair gets exposed to chlorine both in swimming pools and in our shower. The effects of overexposure to chlorine can be excessive dryness, tangling, and breakage, as well as color fading. One way to minimize contact with chlorine in the swimming pool is to wet your hair prior to swimming and to saturate it with a good conditioner. This prevents the chlorine from entering the hair through the cuticle. After swimming, rinse hair immediately, in distilled water if possible. A mildly acidic rinse, in lemon juice, citric acid and water, or vinegar and water can also help remove chlorine from the hair. The acidic rinse also seals the cuticle, helping to maintain shine and minimizing tangling and breakage due to raised cuticle scales. Chlorine strips oil from the scalp and hair, so always follow up with a good conditioning treatment, as well. If you experience problems with a green tinge to your hair after swimming, it isn’t actually chlorine causing the problem, but copper buildup that occurs when the pH of the pool is too low. It can be removed to some extent via a good chelating agent (EDTA, citric acid), but definitely adjust the pH of the pool as well (or recommend it be checked if it is a public pool). 

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Does chlorine cause hair loss?

No. Normal exposure to chlorine does not cause hair loss. This myth was debunked after a study was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Dermatology. In the study, researchers compared the hair of 67 professional swimmers to that of 54 individuals who spent little to no time in the pool. Although swimmers’ hair exhibited signs of chlorine-induced damage (i.e. dryness and coarseness), swimmers were not significantly more likely to experience hair loss. However, there is evidence that suggests abnormally high exposure to chlorine might cause the scalp to become agitated, dry, and flaky. Thinning or shedding might occur as a result, but it’s important to understand that the chlorine exposure needed to bring about such side effects far exceeds that of a normal swimming pool.

Will chlorine change the color of my hair?

No. Chlorine does not change the color of one’s hair. Although prolonged pool-time might give hair a greenish tint, the discoloration is actually due to the oxidized metals in the water, like copper. However, color treatments and chlorine might make it easier for hair to turn green. As mentioned above, one of the primary side effects of chlorine exposure is that it causes dryness and irritation. When paired with hair treatments and dyes, hair can become extremely dry, porous, and brittle. Once porous, hair is primed to absorb more copper and other chemicals that cause discoloration.

Can I reduce the damage chlorine does to my hair?

Yes. Many people are surprised to know that chlorine damage can be significantly reduced simply by wetting hair with fresh water prior to getting in the pool. Strands of hair have the amazing ability to absorb moisture, much like a sponge. By thoroughly rinsing hair with fresh water prior to entering the pool, you make it more difficult for hair to absorb chlorinated water while swimming.

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Hair loss or gain:

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Considering an individual occurrence of body hair as abnormal does not implicitly depend on medical conditions, but also on cultural and social attitudes.

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Hair gain means you get extra-hair at body sites where such hair are not found in normal people.

Hair loss means you lose hair from body sites where you did possess hair earlier.

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What is hypertrichosis?  

An excessive and abnormal hair growth on the body of males and females is hypertrichosis. Hypertrichosis is usually described as an excessive quantity of hair in a normal location on one’s body compared to others of the same sex, age, and ethnic background. Hypertrichosis (also called Ambras syndrome) is an abnormal amount of hair growth over the body; extensive cases of hypertrichosis have informally been called werewolf syndrome, because the appearance is similar to the werewolf. The two distinct types of hypertrichosis are generalized hypertrichosis, which occurs over the entire body, and localized hypertrichosis, which is restricted to a certain area.  Hypertrichosis can be either congenital (present at birth) or acquired later in life. The excess growth of hair occurs in areas of the skin with the exception of androgen-dependent hair of the pubic area, face, and axillary regions. Men usually have hair on their chest. If a man had a lot of hair on his chest, it would be called hypertrichosis. But a woman with a full beard would be called hirsute. Women do not normally have a beard. When a woman has a lot of hair on the calf of the leg, it would not be called hirsutism but hypertrichosis. Women normally have hair on their calves. Women who have a few chin hairs and a few upper lip hairs would be called hypertrichotic but not hirsute.

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What is hypotrichosis?

Hypotrichosis is a condition of abnormal hair patterns – predominantly loss or reduction. It occurs, most frequently, by the growth of vellus hair in areas of the body that normally produce terminal hair. Typically, the individual’s hair growth is normal after birth, but shortly thereafter the hair is shed and replaced with sparse, abnormal hair growth. The new hair is typically fine, short and brittle, and may lack pigmentation. Baldness may be present by the time the subject is 25 years old. Hypotrichosis is a common feature of Hallermann–Streiff syndrome as well as others. It can also be used to describe the lack of hair growth due to chemotherapy. 

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Hirsutism:

Increased body hair on women following the male pattern can be referred to as hirsutism. Hirsutism is the excessive hairiness on women in those parts of the body where terminal hair does not normally occur or is minimal – for example, a beard or chest hair. It refers to a male pattern of body hair (androgenic hair) and it is therefore primarily of cosmetic and psychological concern. Hirsutism is a medical sign rather than a disease and may be a sign of a more serious medical condition, especially if it develops well after puberty. Hirsutism can be caused by either an increased level of androgens, the male hormones, or an oversensitivity of hair follicles to androgens. Male hormones such as testosterone stimulate hair growth, increase size and intensify the growth and pigmentation of hair. Other symptoms associated with a high level of male hormones include acne, deepening of the voice, and increased muscle mass. Growing evidence implicates high circulating levels of insulin in women for the development of hirsutism. This theory is speculated to be consistent with the observation that obese (and thus presumably insulin resistant hyperinsulinemic) women are at high risk of becoming hirsute. Further, treatments that lower insulin levels will lead to a reduction in hirsutism. It is speculated that insulin, at high enough concentration, stimulates the ovarian theca cells to produce androgens. There may also be an effect of high levels of insulin to activate insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) receptor in those same cells. Again, the result is increased androgen production. Signs that are suggestive of an androgen-secreting tumor in a patient with hirsutism is rapid onset, virilization and palpable abdominal mass.

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Pharmacological treatments of hirsutism include:

1. Spironolactone: Antialdosterone antiandrogenic compound.

2. Cyproterone acetate: A progestin that also has strong antiandrogenic action. In addition to single form, it is also available in some formulations of combined oral contraceptives.

3. Finasteride: 5 alpha reductase inhibitor that inhibits conversion of testosterone to more active 5 alpha dihydroxy testosterone (DHT)

4. Metformin: Antihyperglycemic drug used for diabetes mellitus. However, it is also effective in treatment of hirsutism associated with insulin resistance (e.g. polycystic ovary syndrome)

5  Eflornithine: Blocks putrescine that is necessary for the growth of hair follicles

6. Flutamide: Androgen receptor antagonist. The most effective treatment that was tested is the oral flutamide for one year. Seventeen of eighteen women with hirsutism treated with combination therapy of flutamide 250 mg twice daily and an oral contraceptive pill had a rapid and marked reduction in their hirsutism score. Amongst these, one woman with pattern hair loss showed remarkable improvement.

7. Combination oral contraceptives

Other methods:

Waxing

Shaving

Laser hair removal

Lifestyle change, including reducing excessive weight and addressing insulin resistance, may be beneficial. Insulin resistance can cause excessive testosterone levels in women, resulting in hirsutism. One study reported that women who stayed on a low calorie diet for at least six months lost weight and reduced insulin resistance. Their levels of Sex-hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) increased, which reduced the amount of free testosterone in their blood. As expected, the women reported a reduction in the severity of their hirsutism and acne symptoms.

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Hair signs that indicate bad health:

There is no denying that hair has become one of our most powerful accessories, an important part of our social appearance, affecting the way we view ourselves, and the way others view us. However, more important is the fact that hair is actually a barometer indicating good or bad health and more often than not hair problems are the first sign that something is going wrong with you internally. Disorders of the body like anaemia, thyroid problems, hormonal imbalance and problems related to general health can be diagnosed by doing a hair test. Therefore, problems with our hair should be taken seriously, because they are reflective of problems within.  Our hair reacts swiftly to changes in our body. It is nourished directly by the blood stream and any change in blood content on account of medication, hormones or lack of nutrients results in hair and scalp-related problems. Hair loss is nothing more than a signal of distress within the body. Once the signal is recognised and the reason for it determined and treated, the hair goes back to its normal pattern of shedding which is so subtle that we may not even realize it is happening.  

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Alopecia:

Alopecia is the medical term for excessive or abnormal hair loss. Up to one third of the population suffers from hair loss, and of that third, thousands are women. There are different kinds of alopecia. What all hair loss has in common, whether it’s in men or women, is that it is always a symptom of something else that’s gone wrong in your body. Your hair will remain on your head where it belongs if hormone imbalance, disease, or some other condition is not occurring. That condition may be as simple as having a gene that makes you susceptible to male or female pattern baldness or one of the forms of alopecia areata, or it may be as complex as a whole host of diseases. Fortunately, hair loss may also be a symptom of a short-term event such as stress, pregnancy, and the taking of certain medications. In these situations, hair will often (though not always) grow back when the event has passed. Substances, including hormones, medications, and diseases can cause a change in hair growth, shedding phases and in their durations. When this happens, synchronous growth and shedding occur. Once the cause is dealt with, many times hairs will go back to their random pattern of growth and shedding, and the hair loss problem stops. Unfortunately, for some women, hair loss becomes a life long struggle.

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What are the risk factors for alopecia?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing alopecia. Not all people with risk factors will get alopecia.

Risk factors for alopecia include:

Age

Family history

Illness

Improper care and maintenance of hair

Menopause

Pregnancy

Stress

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Alopecia may be localised or diffuse. Patients may notice hair shedding, poor hair quality, hair thinning or bald areas. There may be associated scalp disease or scarring.

 Hair loss can be due to:

• Decreased growth of the hair

• Increased shedding of the hair

• Breakage of hairs

• Conversion of thick terminal hairs to thin vellus hairs

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Anagen hair loss:

Anagen normally lasts two to seven years. Hair loss occurs when anagen is interrupted by certain medications (e.g. anti-cancer drugs), or by the ‘autoimmune’ disease, alopecia areata. This form of hair loss is known as anagen effluvium. Anagen hair is tapered or broken-off. Anagen hair loss in a child may be due to ‘loose anagen syndrome’. Clumps of hair come out with combing. The hair loss gradually becomes less as the child becomes an adult.

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Telogen hair loss:

Telogen lasts a few months and is terminated by a new anagen hair. The result is shedding a hair with a bulb at the end (club hair). It is normal to lose 50 or more telogen hairs a day, rather more in autumn and winter. Excessive shedding results in telogen effluvium, often a couple of months after an event such as child-bearing, fever, an operation, weight loss or certain medications. Sometimes there appears to be no recognisable cause, and the shortened hair cycle can continue for years (chronic telogen effluvium).

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Hair shaft abnormality:

If hair loss first occurs in childhood, it may be due to a genetic hair shaft defect. These are diagnosed by microscopic examination of the hair, and sometimes by scanning electron microscopy. A large number of different types of hair shaft abnormality have been described, including:

• Fractures: trichorrhexis nodosa, trichoschisis, trichoclasis (trichothiodystrophy)

• Irregularities: trichorrhexis invaginata (seen with ichthyosis in Netherton’s syndrome), Marie-Unna hypotrichosis (uncombable hair), pili bifurcati, pili annulati, pseudopili annulati, monilethrix (beaded hair), pseudomonilethrix

• Coiling and twisting: pili torti (twisted hair), woolly hair, trichonodosis (knotted hair)

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Scarring alopecia:

Trauma, infection and various skin diseases may injure the hair follicle resulting in localised areas of scarring and bald patches in which there are no visible follicles; this is called ‘cicatricial alopecia’.  Infections that may cause cicatricial alopecia include Staphylococcal folliculitis or boils, and animal ringworm infection (tinea capitis). Skin diseases that may cause cicatricial alopecia include folliculitis decalvans, lichen planopilaris, frontal fibrosing alopecia, alopecia mucinosa, discoid lupus erythematosus and scleroderma. Scarring hair loss of unknown cause is known as pseudopelade of Brocq.

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Scalp conditions:

Although scalp infections may cause permanent balding if neglected, early treatment of staphylococcal infections (impetigo and boils or abscesses), tinea capitis and kerion prevents permanent baldness. Hair loss caused by psoriasis, in which there are thick plaques of scale, recovers once the skin condition is controlled. Seborrhoeic dermatitis or atopic dermatitis can sometimes also cause hair loss.

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Trauma:

Hair can be pulled out by tight curlers or certain hair styles, sometimes resulting in permanently thinned areas (traction alopecia). The hair shafts can be broken by heat (hair dryer), or chemicals (perming solution or bleach) or brushing too often. Trichotillomania is a form of alopecia resulting from repetitive pulling, plucking and breaking of one’s own hair.

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Internal conditions: Other causes of hair loss are associated with poor quality hair:

• Iron deficiency

• Deficiency of thyroid hormone

Replacement of iron or thyroid hormone respectively may result in prompt regrowth.

Systemic lupus erythematosus, syphilis, severe illness and erythroderma may also be associated with patchy hair thinning, poor hair quality and bald patches.

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Malnutrition and hair loss:

Nutritional deficiency, especially in conditions of malnourishment leading to protein deficiency disorders like Kwashiorkor and Marasmas, which are characterized by dry and light-coloured hair. Similarly, zinc deficiency causes diffuse hair loss, lighter coloured hair and eczema. Similar changes are seen in cases of fatty acid deficiency.

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Drugs and hormones affecting hair growth:

A great number of substances can affect hair growth. For example, some drugs, such as alkalating agents, are cytotoxic and can make hair fall out (e.g., cancer chemotherapeutic agents). Other agents drive hair into telogen (e.g., heparin, Vitamin A, ß-blockers, L-dopa, lithium, and some of the non-steroidals). Drugs that inhibit hair growth include parathyroid hormone (PTH) and PTH-related proteins. Variable agents also exist, such as Vitamin D. At low concentrations, Vitamin D may simulate hair growth, but at high concentrations hair growth is inhibited.  Substances such as testosterone, danazol, adrenocorticotropin hormone, metyrapone, anabolic steroids, glucocorticoids, retinoids, and insulin can lead to hirsutism (growth of hair where it does not normally occur). Cyclosporin, minoxidil, diazoxide, and chromakalin increase the growth rate and size of hair (hypertrichosis). However, some regional variation may occur. For example, steroids will decrease the rate of growth of eyebrows, lashes, and hair on the extremities, but estrogen and testosterone will generally stimulate the growth of pubic and axillary hair.

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Endocrine disorders and hair loss:

Endocrine disorders can affect the growth of both sexual and nonsexual hair. Hair growth is markedly reduced in individuals with hypopituitarism. Approximately 10–15% of patients with acromegaly also are hirsute. Hypothyroidism sometimes is associated with hair loss on the scalp, the pubis, in the axillae, and, curiously, the lateral third of the eyebrows. Hyperthyroidism generally results in finer hair that is lost easily. Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which stimulates 5α-reductase activity, often is increased in women with chronic anovulation, insulin resistance, and hyperinsulinemia.

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Hair care habits that can cause alopecia

The way that you manage and style your hair can cause alopecia. Hair care habits that contribute to alopecia include:

Brushing, combing, or pulling hair when wet

Chemical treatments, such as relaxers, straighteners, or permanents (perms)

Excessive shampooing, which dries out the scalp and hair follicles

Hair accessories, such as clips, hairpins, and rubber bands

High heat from blow-dryers or heating irons

Peroxide and other hair dyes

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Androgenetic (androgenic) alopecia (AGA):

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AGA is considered to be a heritable, androgen-dependent condition that is characterised by varying degrees of thinning/hair loss primarily at the vertex and the frontal areas (temples) of the scalp. In men with AGA, the thin residual hairs tend to be of various lengths and diameters since each follicle is in a different phase of the hair cycle, so the presence of variations in hair length and texture is a classic feature of this thinning condition.  Androgenetic alopecia is a common form of hair loss in both men and women. In men, this condition is also known as male-pattern baldness (MPB). Male pattern baldness is characterized by hair receding from the lateral sides of the forehead (known as a “receding hairline”) and/or a thinning crown (balding to the area known as the ‘vertex’). Both become more pronounced until they eventually meet, leaving a horseshoe-shaped ring of hair around the back of the head. More than 95% of hair thinning in men is male pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia.  Hair is lost in a well-defined pattern, beginning above both temples. Over time, the hairline recedes to form a characteristic “M” shape. Hair also thins at the crown (near the top of the head), often progressing to partial or complete baldness. The pattern of hair loss in women differs from male-pattern baldness. In women, the hair becomes thinner all over the head, and the hairline does not recede. Androgenetic alopecia in women rarely leads to total baldness. Androgenetic alopecia in men has been associated with several other medical conditions including coronary heart disease and enlargement of the prostate. Additionally, prostate cancer, disorders of insulin resistance (such as diabetes and obesity), and high blood pressure (hypertension) have been related to androgenetic alopecia. In women, androgenetic alopecia is associated with an increased risk of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is characterized by a hormonal imbalance that can lead to irregular menstruation, acne, excess body hair (hirsutism), and weight gain.

How common is androgenetic alopecia?

Androgenetic alopecia affects between 50 and 80% of Caucasian men. A rule of thumb is for men in their thirties, 30% have androgenetic alopecia. For men in their forties, 40% have alopecia and so on until 80% of men are affected when 80 or more years old. Different ethnic backgrounds have different susceptibility levels towards the development of androgenetic alopecia. The Chinese male population has a similar progressive increase in those affected with advance in age but in total baldness is much less common compared to Caucasian males. The numbers of Chinese males affected by androgenetic alopecia is approximately half that of Caucasian males. American Indians and African Americans also have a lower incidence of androgenetic alopecia compared to Caucasians. These frequency differences between races suggest genetic predisposition is important in pattern baldness susceptibility. Hair loss is first observed in women in their late twenties to early forties, somewhat later in age than first onset in men. Unlike men the frequency of women affected does not continue to increase with increasing age. After the fifth decade of life the numbers of women with androgenetic alopecia does not increase. Androgenetic alopecia has been suggested to be present in the general female population at a rate anywhere between 20 to 40%.

What genes are related to androgenetic alopecia?

The AR gene is associated with androgenetic alopecia.

A variety of genetic and environmental factors likely play a role in causing androgenetic alopecia. Although researchers are studying risk factors that may contribute to this condition, most of these factors remain unknown. Researchers have determined that this form of hair loss is related to hormones called androgens, particularly an androgen called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Androgens are important for normal male sexual development before birth and during puberty. Androgens also have other important functions in both males and females, such as regulating hair growth and sex drive. Hair growth begins under the skin in structures called follicles. Each strand of hair normally grows for 2 to 6 years, goes into a resting phase for several months, and then falls out. The cycle starts over when the follicle begins growing a new hair. Increased levels of androgens in hair follicles can lead to a shorter cycle of hair growth and the growth of shorter and thinner strands of hair. Additionally, there is a delay in the growth of new hair to replace strands that are shed. Although researchers suspect that several genes play a role in androgenetic alopecia, variations in only one gene, AR, have been identified in people with this condition. The AR gene provides instructions for making a protein called an androgen receptor. Androgen receptors allow the body to respond appropriately to dihydrotestosterone and other androgens. Studies suggest that variations in the AR gene lead to increased activity of androgen receptors in hair follicles. It remains unclear, however, how these genetic changes increase the risk of patterned hair loss in men and women with androgenetic alopecia. Researchers continue to investigate the connection between androgenetic alopecia and other medical conditions, such as coronary heart disease and prostate cancer in men and polycystic ovary syndrome in women. They believe that some of these disorders may be associated with elevated androgen levels, which may help explain why they tend to occur with androgen-related hair loss. Other hormonal, environmental, and genetic factors that have not been identified also may be involved.

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The problems begin when certain scalp hair follicles start responding to DHT (develop DHT receptors). In this case, DHT shortens their growth phase (anagen) and eventually causes miniaturization (progressive shrinkage) of the hair follicles. As a result, with each hair cycle, the hair grows thinner and thinner until the follicles start producing thin, barely visible vellus hair instead of thick, beautiful terminal hair. Men usually have DHT sensitive hair follicles all grouped together, typically on the forehead and on top of the head. These are the areas where hair loss is often profound and noticeable (“male pattern baldness”). In some cases, every single one of the hair follicles on a man’s head can be DHT sensitive, eventually resulting in complete baldness. Women on the other hand, have diffuse distribution of DHT sensitive follicles. That is why women rarely go completely bald and may just develop thinning hair instead. Since the degree of DHT-dependent hair loss is determined by DHT sensitivity of hair follicles, it is quite possible for a man to have a full head of hair regardless of a high level of DHT. Scientists now believe that it’s not the amount of circulating testosterone that’s the problem but the level of DHT binding to receptors in scalp follicles. An enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT is called 5-alpha-reductase (5AR). Normally skin and hair (as well as the liver) contain 5-alpha-reductase Type I, while the prostate contains 5AR Type 2. However, it was found that hair follicles in a balding scalp often contain both types of 5AR—Type I and II. That explains why male pattern hair loss can somewhat be reduced by a drug finasteride—or selective inhibitor of 5AR Type II. Unfortunately, finasteride has little effect on female hair loss. In susceptible hair follicles, dihydrotestosterone binds to the androgen receptor, and the hormone-receptor complex activates the genes responsible for the gradual transformation of large terminal follicles to miniaturized follicles. Both young women and young men with AGA have higher levels of 5alpha reductase and androgen receptor in frontal hair follicles compared to occipital follicles. At the same time, young women have much higher levels of cytochrome p-450 aromatase in frontal follicles than men who have minimal aromatase, and women have even higher aromatase levels in occipital follicles.  Yet, while the DHT role in hair loss may seem so well established, recent studies have proven that it is not the whole story (Ellis et al 1998). Today other factors such as follicle inflammation, poor circulation and disrupted skin remodeling have started to come forward as true forces behind the age-old hair loss problem. 

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Inheritance of male pattern baldness (MPB):

Considering the high proportion of men affected by MPB, its distribution in the general population, the increased risk of MPB as the number of affected close relatives increases, and the high risk of inheritance from either or both affected parents, one can support a strong argument in favor of a polygenic inheritance.  It seems ironic that with all the knowledge that has been accumulated in regards to MPB in the past several decades, we still do not know the exact genetic inheritance of MPB. What is known is that the genes are autosomal (not on the X or Y chromosomes), dominant (as opposed to recessive), and have variable penetrance (so it may not affect siblings of the same parents to the same degree). A study examining 410 men with premature baldness found evidence of a genetic influence from the father’s side in only 236 cases. Hair loss similarities between father and son have also been observed in another study in regards to the frequency of MPB in brothers of men having prematurely bald fathers (66%) compared with brothers of men with unaffected fathers (46%). The relatively strong association of MPB between fathers and sons in this study was not consistent with a simple Mendelian autosomal or sex-linked dominant inheritance and suggested that several genes (a polygenic etiology) may be responsible for MPB. As further evidence against a single and/or X-linked gene being responsible for MPB is the observation that only 33% of the fathers of 18 women suffering from severe pattern baldness also had MPB. These findings suggest that other autosomal genes play an important role in the expression of MPB.

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Alopecia areata:

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Alopecia areata primarily affects the hair follicle as it enters the anagen phase. Studies indicate that the initial event in the development of alopecia areata is the premature precipitation of anagen follicles into the telogen state or resting state of the hair follicle cycle. Most commonly, hair follicles exit anagen, enter catagen, and then shed the hair fiber upon entering telogen. The follicles may then proceed back into the next anagen growth phase but, as a result of the continued activity of the disease, produce poor aberrant hair fiber. Such follicles are described as being in a dystrophic anagen state. Some researchers believe the hair follicles continue indefinitely to oscillate between several rapid cycles of dystrophic anagen and telogen states. Others believe many of the follicles are eventually arrested in telogen. While Alopecia areata is patchy, nonscarring hair loss; Alopecia totalis is hair loss of the entire scalp and Alopecia universalis is loss of all body hair. The factors that trigger the onset of alopecia areata and the mechanisms of its development are still shrouded in mystery.

•Autoimmunity: Evidence gathered on the basis of several indirect and direct observations suggest that an immune-mediated pathogenesis is involved in the onset of alopecia areata. The immune system, which is designed to protect the body from virus and bacteria, mistakenly attacks the hair follicles, leading to hair loss.

•Genetic predisposition: Studies show that some people are genetically predisposed towards the development of alopecia areata corroborated by the fact that there is a higher frequency of a family history of alopecia areata in people who are affected.

•Environmental triggers: Vaccines, desensitizing injections, exposure to chemicals can precede alopecia areata development. Some dermatologists suggest general viral or bacterial infections may prompt the immune system into an inappropriate response against hair follicles in susceptible people.

•Stress and anxiety: There have been a number of reports on individual cases where clearly defined sudden stressful events have resulted in abnormal hair loss.

•Abnormal keratinocytes have also been suggested as potential targets in the affected hair follicles.

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Telogen efffurvium:

Telogen effluvium is diffuse hair loss that (usually) has temporarily decreased hair density but not complete baldness.

1. Abnormal hair cycling leads to excessive loss of hairs in telogen phase.

2. Usually occurs 3 months after the trigger occurs

The name “telogen effluvium” explains the nature of the hair loss very well. All hair follicles in humans run through cycles of activity when they produce hair fiber and dormancy when no fiber is made. Telogen is the name given to the stage of the cycle when a hair follicle is resting. Effluvium is a Latin word that means “letting loose”. So the term “telogen effluvium” describes hair follicles entering a dormant stage and shedding (letting loose) the hair fiber. In a normal, healthy individual up to 90% of hair follicles are in a growing phase (anagen) and only 10% are in a telogen, resting phase at any one moment in time. If the percentage of hair follicles in the telogen phase increases significantly then there will be an increase in hair shedding and diffuse thinning of scalp and/or body hair will develop. In extremely rare cases telogen effluvium deteriorates to the stage where almost 100% of hair follicles enter a resting state. When this occurs an individual may develop almost complete scalp hair loss. The diagnosis “telogen effluvium” is a general term for a variety of hair loss patterns and different causative factors. Whatever the hair loss looks like or whatever caused it, it can described as a telogen effluvium if a significantly increased percentage of hair follicles are in a resting phase than would normally be expected. The early stages of androgenetic alopecia involve an increase in telogen stage hair follicles so telogen effluvium can also occur in other hair loss diseases. Some trigger factors may promote anagen effluvium and telogen effluvium – even within the same individual. This is a point worth noting when you read through the summary list of trigger factors for telogen effluvium below. When trying to identify a cause of telogen effluvium it must be remembered that the individual may have been first exposed to the trigger factor up to four months before the hair loss was first recognized. It can be very difficult to clearly identify the trigger factor for onset of telogen effluvium. 

There are many potential causes of telogen effluvium. More common causes are listed below:

•Diet deficiencies – Such as lack of vitamins or minerals and particularly iron

•Crash dieting – Starves hair follicles of nutrients they require to grow

•Hormones/Pregnancy/Childbirth – Abnormal hormone levels in women especially during and after pregnancy or a lack of nutrients as the embryo is a drain on supply

•Fever induced alopecia – High body temperatures, in response to infectious chronic disease, stresses dividing cells of the hair follicle and they respond with reduced activity

•Ultra violet (UV) radiation – Low dose UV radiation may destroy some of the sensitive hair follicle cells and slow down growth activity

•Acute blood loss – Blood loss effectively starves the hair follicles of nutrients forcing them into reduced activity

•Drugs – Including coumarin, heparin, propanolol, excessive vitamin A intake and many others

•Hyperthyroidism or Hypothyroidism – Thyroid hormones have a profound effect on hair follicle activity

•Neonatal effluvium – Newborns may have diffuse hair loss in the first few months of life

•Extreme physical stress such as surgery – Surgery places extreme physical and emotional stress on the individual and can lead to telogen effluvium

•Emotional stress – Chronic emotional stress or sudden shock can adversely affects hair follicles although the mechanism by which it works is not known

•Severe illness – Severe acute or chronic illness will alter the normal functioning of the body and this may have an impact on hair follicles

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Why is Hair Loss more common among Men than Women?

Hair loss can be just as common among women as men, but it is not as noticeable, since it happens to men and women in very different ways. Men lose a bigger volume of hair due to androgenic alopecia, or male pattern baldness. Where men have obvious bald spots, women lose hair more subtly and often just have hair that feels and looks a little thinner all over. The female pattern for hair loss is around the top of the entire head, while for men, hair loss occurs in the crown, temple, and “bald spot” areas of the scalp. The different receptor sites of enzymes and hormones account for the pattern differences between men and women. Some women have a genetic predisposition to hair loss as a large amount of testosterone in their systems reacts with hair cell enzymes to produce thinning hair. All humans daily shed and regrow hair. Alopecia, or baldness, results when the normal human pattern of hair growth is out of balance. The normal pattern of hair growth is growing, resting, and shedding and if the hair growth pattern is out of balance, hair does not regrow as fast as it sheds. Whites are more prone to male pattern baldness than the Japanese. Blacks are likely to experience more hair loss than whites. Many women do not realize their hair loss until they feel their thinning hair when putting their hair into a ponytail or braid. The differences in men’s and women’s hairstyles can also make men’s balding more noticeable. Sometimes over-processing hair can cause hair thinning, such as bleaching, coloring, or using strong shampoos. Hormones during aging and menopause may cause a women’s hair to become thinner.

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Why men are balding in their 20s:

A team of foreign experts and an Indian trichologist zero in on four critical reasons why men are balding in their 20s: stress, vices, pollution and poor nutrition. While it’s normal to lose between 50 and 100 strands of hair a day, serious hair loss — medically termed alopecia — is a sign that something is wrong with our body. As a reaction to an incident of extreme mental or physical stress, the body typically sheds hair after a gap of three months. For instance, if you are down with food poisoning, the mal-absorption of nutrients during this period can lead to hair loss in the next few months. So, it’s important to jog your memory to pinpoint the cause. While genetics plays a key role in balding, a stressful lifestyle can play havoc. A hair follicle needs energy to grow. Coenzyme Q10, found in whole grains, fish and meat, boosts the scalp’s ability to produce energy, especially in a cell’s mitochondria or energy factory. Stress causes oxidation, harming Coenzyme Q10 among other anti-oxidants, thereby accelerating hair fall. Simple lifestyle changes such as, getting seven hours of sleep, having a glass of water every hour (strands are made up of minerals, which only water can replenish) and eating protein-rich foods at regular intervals can bring about an 80 per cent change. Nutrition is vital for hair growth. No other part of the human body grows at the rate of half an inch per month, except bone marrow, so you must feed it. The relationship between food and hair is simple. Hair is made up of a protein called keratin. So, it’s essential that you include sufficient protein in your diet. A low-protein diet forces your body to save the available protein for other purposes, like rebuilding cells, thus depriving hair of it. Spinach, almonds, walnuts, paneer, tofu and milk are hair-happy foods. Green tea is effective because it blocks out Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), the hormone that causes hair loss. Men are not alone. Women are also losing more hair than they did in the past, because a stressful lifestyle isn’t the domain of men alone. Stress is driving their bodies to produce more androgens (male hormones), thereby upping the secretion of the hair loss-causing chemical DHT. With women, excessive styling and colouring is also to blame. Heat and chemicals weaken the hair, leading to easy breakage. The indiscriminate use of oral contraceptives that can cause hormonal imbalance in the long run should be checked. Here’s one more reason to quit smoking. The carbon monoxide that you inhale, prevents the blood from transporting oxygen and key nutrients to hair follicles. Nicotine narrows the blood vessels, further stalling fresh hair growth. While moderate drinkers can hold on to their hair, regular guzzlers are at risk. Alcohol is known to suck the body of its iron supply, impeding absorption of zinc. Booze also causes dehydration, stopping the body from absorbing vital nutrients. Since hair is almost one-fourth water, excessive alcohol will invariably leave it brittle.

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Diagnostic Tests for alopecia:

Serum iron

Serum ferritin

Total iron binding capacity (TIBC)

Thyroid hormones (T3, T4, TSH)

VDRL (a screening test for syphilis)

Complete blood count (CBC)

Consider comprehensive metabolic panel (liver and renal disease)

Consider free testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (hyperandrogenism)

Consider serum zinc (deficiency)

Consider prolactin (pituitary hyperplasia)

Consider antinuclear antibody (ANA) (autoimmune disorders)

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Diagnostic Procedures:

Light hair-pull test:

Pull on 25–50 hairs;

 ≥6 hairs dislodged is consistent with shedding (effluvium, alopecia areata).

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Densitometry:
The densitometer is a handheld magnification device which is used check for miniaturization of the hair shaft.

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Tricho-check:

Almost all disorders cause hairfall. Therefore, to find out the state of your hair and your health, it is important to get a tricho-check done. It will analyze the state of your hair shaft, roots and other internal conditions. The hair tissue mineral analysis or the HTMA is a revolutionary technology in the field of trichology. HTMA is a safe and noninvasive trichological test. It measures the levels and comparative ratios of nutrient and toxic minerals found in hair. Your hair reflects the mineral content of the body’s tissues. If a mineral is either deficient or present in excess, it indicates a mineral deficiency or excess within the body.

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Trichoscopy: a new method for diagnosing hair loss:

Videodermoscopy of hair and scalp (trichoscopy) is gaining popularity as a valuable tool in differential diagnosis of hair loss. This method allows viewing of the hair and scalp at X20 to X160 magnifications. Structures which may be visualized by trichoscopy include hair shafts of different types: vellus, terminal, micro-exclamation mark type, monilethrix, Netherton type, and pili annulati hairs. The number of hairs in one pilosebaceous unit may be assessed. It may be distinguished whether hair follicles are normal, empty, fibrotic (“white dots”), filled with hyperkeratotic plugs (“yellow dots”) or containing cadaverized hair (“black dots”). Abnormalities of scalp skin color or structure which may be visualized by trichoscopy include honeycomb-type hyperpigmentation, perifollicular discoloration (hyperpigmentation), and scaling.

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Daily hair counts:

Collect hair in dated envelopes for 2 weeks, in morning:

>100 hairs per day is consistent with effluvium

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Ultraviolet light fluorescence and potassium hydroxide prep (to rule out tinea capitis)

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Pathological Findings:

Scalp biopsy with routine microscopy will aid in the diagnosis if unsure. A small section of scalp usually 4mm in diameter is removed and examined under a microscope to help determine the cause of hair loss.

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Management of hair loss:

Today, if you have hair loss and don’t want to live with the status quo, you probably have three basic options:

  • Sophisticated and virtually undetectable hair replacement systems (formerly known as wigs)
  • Medications and topical ointments that can retard hair loss and sometimes even cause new growth
  • Surgical procedures such as hair transplantation and scalp reduction

Here I will discuss medications that retard hair loss and even cause new growth. Wigs and hair transplant will be discussed later on.

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Medication (Drugs):

Androgenic alopecia:

The best results from treatment happen when you begin treatment as soon as possible after the hair loss begins because prolonged androgenetic alopecia may destroy many of the hair follicles. The use of anti-androgens after prolonged hair loss will at least help prevent further hair loss and encourage some hair regrowth from those follicles that have been dormant but are still viable, stopping treatment will result in the hair loss resuming if the androgens aren’t kept in check in some other way. Maintaining your vitamin and mineral levels helps while you’re on anti-androgen medications. Treatment must be continued indefinitely. Magnitude of effect is variable, and not all benefit:

 1. Minoxidil 2% topical solution (1 mL b.i.d.) for women, 5% topical solution (1 mL b.i.d.) or foam (daily) for men.

Minoxidil was first used in tablet form as a medicine to treat high blood pressure (an antihypertensive). It was noticed that patients being treated with minoxidil experienced excessive hair growth (hypertrichosis) as a side effect. Further research showed that applying a solution of minoxidil directly to the scalp could also stimulate hair growth. The amount of minoxidil absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream is usually too small to cause internal side effects. Minoxidil is a potassium channel opener that causes vasorelaxation and stimulates cutaneous blood flow to the scalp. Minoxidil sulfate, a metabolite of minoxidil, is a potent vasodilator. Uptake and conversion of minoxidil to minoxidil sulfate occurs within the HF, suggesting a direct action on the follicle. The most probable site of action of minoxidil is the DP, and the mechanism of action has been linked to its effects on the Kir6.1/SUR2B potassium channel expressed by the derma papilla.

2. Finasteride 1 mg/day.

Finasteride inhibits 5a-reductase type II and decreases both serum and cutaneous dihydrotestosterone concentrations, thus inhibiting androgen-dependent miniaturization of HF. The DP is probably also the target of finasteride. This drug is not effective in treating androgenetic alopecia in women, but it can be beneficial for women with hirsutism. Finasteride must be nevertheless used very cautiously because of its potential feminizing effects on male fetuses and even in adult male patients where some cases of gynecomastia have been reported. Less than 2 percent of men experience transient sexual side effects including erectile and libido difficulties. In women these side effects do not occur.  

3. Spironolactone (Aldactone) 100–200 mg/d in hyperandrogenic women (off-label):

Spironolactone is a potent antagonist of the androgen receptor as well as an inhibitor of androgen production. Due to the antiandrogenic effects that result from these actions, it is frequently used to treat a variety of cosmetic conditions in which androgen hormones such as testosterone and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) play a role, including hirsutism, androgenic alopecia, acne, and seborrhea in females, and male pattern baldness in either low doses or as a topical formulation in males; higher doses are not recommended for males due to the high risk of feminization and other side effects. In addition, it is also commonly used to treat symptoms of hyperandrogenism in polycystic ovary syndrome.

4. Oral contraception pills with low levels of androgenic affect in women (off-label)

5. Ketoconazole 2% shampoo with minoxidil 2%

6. Cimetidine:

Cimetidine belongs to a class of histamine blockers used mainly to treat gastrointestinal ulcers. The histamine blocking action prevents the stomach from producing excess acid, allowing the body to heal the ulcer. Cimetidine also has a fairly powerful anti-androgenic effect and has shown to block dihydrotestosterone form binding the follicle receptor sites. Cimetidine has been used to treat hirsuitism in women (excess facial hair growth) and has been studied in women with androgenic alopecia showing promising results. Because of the high doses needed to achieve it’s hair raising results, men should not take cimettidine to treat their hair loss due to possible feminizing effects including adverse sexual side effects.

7. Cyproterone Acetate:
Cyproterone Acetate is used to reduce sex drive in men which have excessive sex drive and for the treatment of pronounced sexual aggression. It is also prescribed to treat severe hirsuitism in woman of childbearing age and also androgenetic alopecia in women. Cyproterone acetate exerts its effects by blocking the binding of DHT dihydrotestosterone to its receptors.  Cyproterone acetate is not available in the US and is thought of as one of the last resorts for treating female pattern hair loss because of its possible toxicity and long term side effects.

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Alopecia areata:

1. Intralesional steroids

2. Systemic glucocorticoids: May induce regrowth, but alopecia recurs after cessation of medication and risks may outweigh benefits for long-term use

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Telogen effluvium: Remove offending medication. Process is usually reversible.

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Topical melatonin:

Finally, among other natural substances, topical melatonin seems to be a promising candidate. Melatonin acts as a potent antioxidant, direct radical scavenger, and antiaging factor. In the skin, melatonin is present in a melatoninergic system that is fully expressed in humans. Biological effects of melatonin on cell growth regulation have been shown in human keratinocytes. Furthermore, in healthy human subjects, topically melatonin effectively prevented the development of UV-induced erythema.  Similarly, cell death of UVR irradiated leukocytes was prevented by melatonin through the scavenging of reactive oxygen species. In the latter study, the antioxidative effects of melatonin were superior to those exerted by vitamin C. Thus, the melatoninergic system in the skin may counteract the effects of environmental stressors to preserve the functional integrity and maintain the homeostasis of the skin and hair. In contrast to topical minoxidil and oral finasteride in the management of AGA, topical melatonin would seem to represent the first topical ‘antiaging’ product for treatment of the ageing scalp. Penetration and bioavailability studies (unpublished data) have so far been done in the forefront of a pilot study by Fischer et al. suggesting that topically applied melatonin might influence human hair growth in vivo. 

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Amino acid cysteine and cystine:

 Cysteine is a sulfur-containing amino acid found in foods like poultry, eggs, dairy, red peppers, garlic and onions. It is a component of protein keratin found in hair, skin and nails; and is also used in the body to create glutathione, another important antioxidant.  N-Acetyl-cysteine (NAC) is the most-researched form of cysteine and as a medicine, may be used in the treatment bronchitis, alcohol and acetaminophen poisoning, and for some symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. In supplements, cysteine and acetyl-cysteine have been promoted for hair growth (typically 500 mg), although evidence for this use is not conclusive. Cystine, which is formed from two cysteine molecules joined together, is more stable than cysteine, but may not be absorbed as well. This amino acid is also a component of hair, skin and nails. However, there is no evidence that supplementing with cystine improves hair, skin or nail health, and it is rarely used as a dietary supplement.

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Newer agents:

Latanoprost has also been found to reverse alopecia and induce increased growth of the eyelashes. A beneficial role in reversing androgenetic alopecia has not, however, been found, and detailed studies regarding whether latanoprost or another prostaglandin analog could be clinically used are still lacking. Additional current pharmacological therapies for hair disorders include a range of antiandrogens that block the intracellular androgen receptors. The mechanisms by which all these compounds trigger hair cycle changes are not clear and justify further studies.

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Treatments of Hair Growth Disorders: Room for Improvement:

 In recent years, the molecular characterization and isolation of living bulge stem cells along with the studies that revealed their high proliferative capacity and multipotency opened up new directions for their utilization in cutaneous (hair and skin) regenerative medicine. This new approach suggests the control of hair characteristics from the living interior of the fiber. For this purpose, profound knowledge of genes and signaling pathways involved in hair disorders will permit specific modulation using, for example, RNA interference. miRNAs, which play a critical role in skin morphogenesis, were reported to be involved in the regulation of HFs development and cycling, but neither their expression nor their roles have been characterized yet. This elucidation is crucial to develop new efficient treatments for hair disorders that do not cause hair damage or skin injuries, possibly using RNA interference for highly specific modulation of genes involved in these processes. As proof of principle, we have achieved effective siRNA delivery and efficient modulation of a ubiquitous, highly expressed KRT1 gene in the epidermis of DBA/ 2J mice with a topical treatment (Araujo et al., submitted data). Interestingly, topical application of cationic nanoliposomes loaded with specific siRNA has been tested as an effective approach for control of cutaneous melanomas, and siRNAs conjugated to cationized gelatin showed a positive effect on symptoms of alopecia in C3H/HeJ mice. A promising line of research has been developed by Kerner and colleagues that proposes modulating androgen receptor expression with RNAi for hair and skin therapy. Nevertheless, this is still a very incipient area that promises to bring new and highly targeted strategies for skin and hair diseases. HF as well as sweat glands are ideal targets for drug delivery and may represent an alternative to the intercellular route of skin permeation. HF, in contrast to the stratum corneum, represents an efficient long-term reservoir (up to 10 days) for topically applied substances, as their depletion occurs only through the slow processes of sebum production and hair growth. The molecules that can penetrate HF can also access the tissues surrounding the follicle and reach the blood circulation through the dense network of blood capillaries, thereby avoiding the stratum corneum barrier. For example, it was shown that when caffeine was included in a shampoo formulation, it was detectable in blood just 5 min after application. Therefore, HF may serve not only as a major entry point, but also as a reservoir for dermally applied substances. In addition, HF also contained multiple target structures for innovative therapeutic approaches. These include specific cell populations in and around the HF, such as immune cells, stem cells and melanocytes, sebaceous glands and perifollicular blood vessels. The sebaceous glands represent an important therapeutic site for follicular targeting since they are implicated in the aetiology of acne and androgenetic alopecia, as well as in other sebaceous gland dysfunctions. Hueber et al. suggested that the sebaceous glands specifically promoted the penetration of hydrocortisone and testosterone into the skin. Evidence suggests that topically applied compounds entrapped in liposomes accumulated not only in the HF, but also in the sebaceous glands. While the presence of lipophilic sebum may favor follicular uptake of lipophilic molecules, sebum production may, however, moderate drug transport, especially for hydrophilic drugs, functioning as a physical and a chemical barrier for drug penetration. More efficient drug delivery vehicles are therefore being sought. Among the newly emerging concepts, drug delivery systems based on nano- and microparticles, which efficiently penetrate via the follicular route, are highly promising approaches. Nanospheres of different chemical natures are being tested for their capacity to facilitate the transport of substances to deeper layers of the skin, with obvious potential in topical delivery applications. Another attractive targeting area within the HF is the bulge region. This region, including Matrix cells, controls hair growth and pigmentation and is responsible for follicle reconstitution due to the presence of stem cells with a high proliferative capacity and multipotency. The bulge region, in the ORS, has been described as the reservoir for keratinocyte stem cells in both humans and rodents. These cells are the target for gene delivery to facilitate long-term gene correction of congenital hair disorders or genetic skin disorders. Targeting of HF stem cells offers unique therapeutic options for genetic hair and skin therapy and regenerative medicine.

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Male pattern baldness (androgenic alopecia) and its association with coronary heart disease (CHD): a meta-analysis:

850 possible studies, 3 cohort studies and 3 case–control studies were selected (36 990 participants). A conclusion is that Vertex baldness, but not frontal baldness, is associated with an increased risk of CHD. The association with CHD depends on the severity of vertex baldness and also exists among younger men. Thus, vertex baldness might be more closely related to atherosclerosis than frontal baldness, but the association between male pattern baldness and CHD deserves further investigation.  

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These findings support the hypothesis that vertex baldness is a local manifestation of factors promoting systemic atherosclerosis, such as metabolic syndrome, hypertension and smoking. Minoxidil is one of the most popular drugs for the treatment of male pattern baldness. Minoxidil was originally developed as an antihypertensive agent (vasodilator). It is thought to improve the blood flow and the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the hair follicles by dilating vessels in the scalp and opening potassium channels. This might lead to the shedding of hairs in the telogen phase, which are then replaced by thicker hairs in the anagen phase. Minoxidil is only indicated for vertex baldness and is ineffective for frontal baldness, which supports the finding that vertex baldness is more closely related to atherosclerosis than frontal baldness. It has been suggested that classical coronary risk factors (e.g., age, hypertension, dyslipidaemia and smoking) might influence both conditions, so that baldness is a marker of atherosclerosis. In fact, previous studies have demonstrated a positive association between male pattern baldness and insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and hypertension. It has also been postulated that baldness is linked to CHD by mechanisms such as hyperinsulinaemia, chronic inflammation and increased peripheral sensitivity to androgens.

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Hyperinsulinaemia/insulin resistance is the central factor in metabolic syndrome and it promotes intolerance of carbohydrates and the development of central (abdominal) obesity. Insulin resistance has also been shown to cause vasoconstriction and impair the supply of nutrients to the hair follicles of the scalp, as well as enhancing the influence of dihydro-testosterone (DHT) on follicular miniaturisation. A proinflammatory state could increase the levels of inflammatory cytokines in the arterial walls and hair follicles.  High-sensitivity C reactive protein is a marker of inflammation and also a good predictor of future cardiovascular disease, so chronic inflammation could be related to both CHD and baldness. Male pattern baldness is caused by increased peripheral sensitivity to androgens due to increase of androgen receptors in the scalp.  Free testosterone is converted to DHT by 5a-reductase, leading to miniaturisation of hair follicles. It has been reported that 5a-reductase exists in the blood vessels and the heart, as does the DHT receptor, which is involved in vascular smooth muscle proliferation that represents a fundamental feature of atherosclerosis along with the deposition of lipids.

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Asian men who smoke may have increased risk for hair loss:

Smoking may be associated with age-related hair loss among Asian men, according to a report in the issue of Archives of Dermatology.  Androgenetic alopecia, a hereditary androgen-dependent disorder, is characterized by progressive thinning of the scalp hair defined by various patterns. It is the most common type of hair loss in men. Although risk for the condition is largely genetic, some environmental factors also may play a role. Lin-Hui Su, M.D., M.Sc., of the Far Eastern Memorial Hospital, and Tony Hsiu-Hsi Chen, D.D.S., Ph.D., of National Taiwan University, Taipei, surveyed 740 Taiwanese men age 40 to 91 (average age 65) in 2005. At an in-person interview, the men reported information about smoking, other risk factors for hair loss and if they had alopecia, the age at which they began losing their hair. Clinical classifications were used to assess their degree of hair loss, their height and weight were measured and blood samples were provided for analysis. The men’s risk for hair loss increased with advancing age, but remained lower than the average risk among white men.  After controlling for age and family history, statistically significant positive associations were noted between moderate or severe androgenetic alopecia and smoking status, current cigarette smoking of 20 cigarettes or more per day and smoking intensity. This association could be caused by several mechanisms, they note. Smoking may destroy hair follicles, damage the papilla that circulate blood and hormones to stimulate hair growth or increase production of the hormone estrogen, which may counter the effects of androgen.  Patients with early-onset androgenetic alopecia should receive advice early to prevent more advanced progression.

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According to J. G. Mosley of the Leigh Infirmary in Lancashire, England in an article in Science News (January 11, 1997) smokers are four times more likely to have gray hair than nonsmokers. Even worse, smoking has been conclusively linked to accelerated hair loss. 

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The use of methotrexate alone or in combination with low doses of oral corticosteroids in the treatment of alopecia totalis or universalis:

Treatment of severe alopecia areata (AA) remains difficult. To assess the tolerance and efficacy of methotrexate (MTX) in the treatment of severe long-term AA, authors retrospectively evaluated 22 patients with AA totalis or universalis with a mean duration of 11.0 ± 8.8 years who were treated with MTX either alone (n = 6) or associated with low doses of oral prednisone (n = 16). MTX was given at an initial weekly dosage of 15 mg (n = 3), 20 mg (n = 9), or 25 mg (n = 10). Oral prednisone was given at an initial dosage of 10 mg/d in one patient and 20 mg/d in 15 patients. In all, 14 patients (64%) achieved a total recovery including 3 of 6 patients treated by MTX alone and 11 of 16 who had received the combined treatment. Of the 14 patients who had total hair regrowth, 6 stopped MTX. In all, 3 patients maintained hair regrowth and 3 relapsed. Retreatment of these 3 patients by MTX resulted again in hair regrowth. No severe side effect was observed. Although limited by its uncontrolled character, this study shows that MTX and low doses of oral corticosteroids may be an effective and well-tolerated treatment for severe types of AA. It also proves autoimmune basis of alopecia areata in majority of cases.  

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Vitamin E may reverse male pattern baldness: A Study:

Daily supplements of a patented tocotrienol (vitamin E) complex may increase hair growth in people with male pattern baldness by 42 per cent, suggests a new study from Carotech. The eight-month randomized, placebo-controlled trial involved 28 volunteers with androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness), and was performed at the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Science Malaysia. Hair coverage, measured by counting the number of hairs in a pre-selected 2×2 cm area, was significantly increased by an average of 41.8 per cent in the tocotrienol group, with eight volunteers experiencing greater than 50 per cent hair growth. In the placebo group, however, no statistically significant differences in the number of hairs were detected before or after the study period, and only one volunteer showed more than 20 per cent increase in hair count.  

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Wearing a Hat:

It is often said that wearing a hat increases the wearer’s chances of Male Pattern Baldness. Men lose hair every day, without even noticing. This is due to the natural growth cycle of the hair, and they will ultimately be replaced by new hairs. If a man wears a hat for most of the day, any hair lost will gather in the hat, and this will probably be obvious to the wearer when he removes the hat. So, the man who wears a hat will perhaps notice natural hair loss more than the man who doesn’t wear a hat. There is nothing to suggest that wearing a hat can cause hair loss, but the actual wearing of the hat will make the natural loss of hair more obvious that it otherwise would have been.

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Acne and hair loss:

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Acne:

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Acne is an inflammation of the hair follicle and sebaceous glands. Main types of acne include classic acne (which occurs in teenagers), adult onset acne (mostly above the age of 30) and severe acne with nodules and scarring. Acne occurs most commonly during adolescence, affecting an estimated 80-90% of teenagers in the Western world. Hormonal activity, such as menstrual cycles and puberty, may contribute to the formation of acne. During puberty, an increase in sex hormones called androgens causes the follicular glands to grow larger and make more sebum. Use of anabolic steroids may have a similar effect. Several hormones have been linked to acne: the androgens testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), as well as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-I).  The hair follicles in your skin contain sebaceous glands (also called oil glands). These glands make sebum, which is oil that lubricates your hair and skin. Most of the time, the sebaceous glands make the right amount of sebum. As a teen’s body begins to mature and develop, hormones stimulate the sebaceous glands to make more sebum, and the glands may become overactive. Pores become clogged if there is too much sebum and too many dead skin cells. Bacteria (especially one called Propionibacterium acnes) can then get trapped inside the pores and multiply, causing swelling and redness — the start of acne. If a pore gets clogged up and closes but bulges out from the skin, you’re left with a whitehead. If a pore gets clogged up but stays open, the top surface can darken and you’re left with a blackhead. Sometimes the wall of the pore opens, allowing sebum, bacteria, and dead skin cells to make their way under the skin — and you’re left with a small, red bump called a pimple (sometimes pimples have a pus-filled top from the body’s reaction to the bacterial infection). Clogged pores that open up very deep in the skin can cause nodules, which are infected lumps or cysts that are bigger than pimples and can be painful. Occasionally, large cysts that seem like acne may be boils caused by a staph infection. If you use hair sprays or gels, try to keep them away from your face, as they can also clog pores. If you have long hair that touches your face, be sure to wash it frequently enough to keep oil away. Washing the face frequently does not prevent breakouts. Washing the face with mild oil-free cleanser is recommended along with anti-acne creams, gels and lotions.

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Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5), Coenzyme A (CoA) and acne:

Coenzyme A (CoA) is a coenzyme, notable for its role in the synthesis and oxidation of fatty acids, and the oxidation of pyruvate in the citric acid cycle. All genomes sequenced to date encode enzymes that use coenzyme A as a substrate, and around 4% of cellular enzymes use it (or a thioester, such as acetyl-CoA) as a substrate.  Coenzyme-A is made of ATP (energy), Cysteine, and Pantothenic Acid. Of these 3, Pantothenic Acid is the only one which is a vitamin and must be supplied through the diet. The other two are produced by the body. So if you supplement with Pantothenic Acid you create more Coenzyme-A in your body and your fats get metabolized. Pantothenic acid, also called pantothenate or vitamin B5 (a B vitamin), is a water-soluble vitamin. For many animals, pantothenic acid is an essential nutrient. Animals require pantothenic acid to synthesize coenzyme-A (CoA), as well as to synthesize and metabolize proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.  A lack of Coenzyme-A in the body means that fats don’t get broken down. Instead, they get deposited in your sebaceous (oil) glands and get secreted as sebum (oil). In fact the evidence is so strong, that in a study, simply increasing coenzyme A levels in the body was shown to have a massive positive impact on acne, simply because skin sebum levels were reduced. You get acne because the acne bacterium (Propionibacterium Acne) in your pores feeds on this excess oil. It is well known that the Beta Oxidation of Fatty Acids depends on CoA.  If there is a deficiency of Acetyl CoA in the body, oxidation of fatty acids will slow down, and the skin becomes oily resulting in acne. Increasing the amount of Acetyl CoA available speeds up the metabolism of fatty acids which are then used for energy production. Taking the vitamin B5 pantothenic acid is the easiest way to increase acetyl Co A and increase rate of fatty acid metabolism.  Pantethine is the stable disulfate form of pantetheine, the metabolic substrate which constitutes the active part of Coenzyme-A (CoA) molecules and acyl carrier proteins. Because pantethine is located nearer to Coenzyme-A than is pantothenic acid in the biosynthetic pathway of Coenzyme-A, it has been suggested it will have clinical benefits in conditions where pantothenic acid is not effective, and clinical trials with pantethine appear to prove this argument.

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Is there a connection between acne and hair loss?

If you look at the causes of acne, you’ll see that they are very similar to the causes of hair loss:

  • hormonal changes
  • poor diet – too much of the wrong types of fat and sugar
  • stress
  • incorrect skin care
  • inefficient liver

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There is a connection between acne and hair loss. Both are often caused by androgens. In cases where acne is predominantly caused by hormonal changes (the vast majority of cases), it is also likely that future hormonal changes may result in future hair loss. However, acne mainly occurs on face & forehead and mainly involves vellus hair follicles. Androgenic alopecia affects scalp and converts some scalp terminal hair into vellus hair but usually not all scalp hair. So even though androgen may be the cause of acne and hair loss, different types of hair follicles at different body sites are involved. Therefore to conclude that those who have acne will have hair loss in future is overboard. However, spironolactone has anti-androgenic effect and can be useful in androgenic alopecia as well as acne. So therapeutically acne and hair loss are correlated.  

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Acne by itself can not cause hair loss as hair loss is not caused by oil clogging and suffocating the hair follicles because the follicles get all the nutrients and oxygen from the blood.

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Hair care and pantothenic acid:

Mouse models identified skin irritation and loss of hair color as possible results of severe pantothenic acid deficiency. As a result, the cosmetic industry began adding pantothenic acid to various cosmetic products, including shampoo. These products, however, showed no benefits in human trials.  Despite this, many cosmetic products still advertise pantothenic acid additives. So even though pantothenic acid increases CoA and reduces sebum, it has no effect on hair growth or loss. At the most pantothenic acid can be used to reduce acne and reduced oily hair.

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Psychological consequences of hair loss:

In general psychological consequences of hair loss are depending on the coping skills and on the personality traits. The effect of hair loss on the quality of life is similar to that of a severe psoriasis. The most important effect is a loss of self-confidence. This is enhanced by an insecure or ambivalent attachment pattern. The coping skills will therefore be different and less flexible. Two psychiatric syndromes are mentioned: the body dysmorphic syndrome (very slight or imaginary defect in appearance) and trichotillomania. Androgenetic alopecia leads to an important suffering in women mostly. Alopecia induced by cancer chemotherapy has been reported to cause changes in self-concept and body image. This does not return to the previous state after regrowth of hair for a majority of patients. A cosmeto-oncologic care strategy needs to be developed to improve the quality of life of the patients during this difficult coping period. Alopecia areata has an important psychiatric comorbidity: mostly anxiety and depression. Old stressful life events are frequently reported at the onset of the disease revealing a chronic stress. These patients have difficulties to express their feelings (what is called alexithymia). With a systemic vision, this is interpreted as an unconscious task of avoiding family conflicts. These conflicts are raising the anxiety of family splitting coming from early loss or death in the previous generations. A cautious family therapy helps to change these unconscious myths. 

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Hair Diseases:

In previous paragraphs I discussed various systemic diseases that affect hair. Now I will discuss diseases of hair itself. Diseases of the hair, far from being a popular topic of conversation, are somewhat neglected, compared to the excessive amount of research and literature dedicated to many other equally undesirable conditions, leaving sufferers uninformed and bemused about what steps to take to help eradicate the problem. Our hair, like our eyes and our smile, is one of the most first features people notice about each other, which helps us to form those valuable first impressions about other people. Having hair which is full of life, vitality and health is therefore an attribute desired by most, and one which is heavily hampered by hair and scalp diseases which cause hair to become dry, brittle and lusterless. Because of the unhealthiness and subsequent “unattractiveness” hair diseases cause, shorter hairstyles are often more suitable for patients experiencing diseases of the hair. Hair diseases come in many different forms, all of which have different symptoms and varying degrees of severity. Below is an outline of the most common hair diseases and conditions.

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Hair Shaft Abnormalities:
With the elements the weather, lifestyle and pollution have to offer, a certain amount of breakages on our hair is expected and are completely normal. People experiencing excessively unusual amounts of hair breakage may have an abnormality within the hair shafts. Exceptionally fragile hair and changes in density, color and length, is one of the first signs that a hair shaft abnormality may be manifesting, although without a microscopic examination or polar light microscopy of the actual hair shafts, together with a structured history and a physical examination of the patient, a diagnosis is rarely obtainable. 
Trichorrhexis Nodosa:
Trichorrhexis Nodosa is one of the most common of hair diseases as it is one of the most frequent causes of hair shaft abnormalities. Trichorrhexis Nodosa usually occurs after extensive and excessive trauma is placed on the hair, which causes node like swellings to form on the shaft, which causes the hair to break easily. Whilst some experts assert that genetic factors may influence the onset of this hair disease, it is more commonly associated with environmental factors, such as excessive exposure to chemicals and aggressive brushing and blow drying. Less commonly trichorrhexis nodosa can be caused by other underlying conditions such as hypothyroidism, Netherton’s syndrome, and Menkes syndrome. Symptoms include patchy hair, a discoloration at the tip, breakages close to the scalp, and an apparent lack of re-growth. Like with many undesirable hair conditions, prevention is always better than cure and trichorrhexis nodosa can be readily avoided by practicing ‘kinder’ and more gentle routines to the hair. Similarly whilst there is no actual ‘cure’ for this hair disease, avoiding chemicals, harsh shampoos and excessive styling and brushing over a prolonged period of time will improve the severity of the disease and the condition of the hair.

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Loose Anagen Syndrome:
Primarily loose anagen syndrome affects children with fair hair. This hair disease was first described in 1984 and is characterized by anagen hairs of abnormal morphology, which become loose and are easily dislodged from the scalp, causing the hair to become excessively thin and rarely grow beyond the nape of the neck. Loose anagen syndrome typically affects white females who are aged 2 – 5 and have blonde hair, although a small amount of cases have been reported of the disease affecting both boys and adults with darker hair. The condition is usually detected by parents who notice their child’s hair is falling out painlessly, is dry, brittle and unmanageable, and rarely needs cutting. Unlike other hair diseases, with loose anagen syndrome the hair is not fragile or easily breakable, but rather just falls away in large clumps. A physical examination will reveal that there is no scarring or inflammation of the scalp present in patients suffering from loose anagen syndrome. The causes of the disease are believed to be mostly hereditary, although the condition has also been associated with other diseases, including Noonan syndrome, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, woolly hair, and nail-patella syndrome. Treatment of this hair disease usually consists of applying minoxidil lotion to the scalp.

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Trichotillomania:
Trichotillomania, also known as trichotillosis or trich, rather than being an actual disease of the hair, is a mental condition, which adversely affects the hair. Trichotillomania is an impulse control disorder, in which sufferers have repeated and compulsive urges to pull their hair out, with such aggression, that it often results in noticeable bald patches appearing on the head. Because it is a mental disorder, Trichotillomania is difficult to treat and needs to be dealt with extreme caution. Low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder are commonly associated with people suffering from Trichotillomania. Signs that an individual is deliberately pulling their hair out range from the obvious bald patches visible on the head, hair of differing lengths, broken hair and blunt ends, but also some patients may be ashamed of their compulsions and be intent on ‘hiding’ the evidence by wearing wigs and hats. Diagnosis of the disease usually comes through self-admittance, but for those who deny the disorder; tests for other diseases of the hair which result in similar symptoms need to be performed to rule them out. Because Trichotillomania is a mental condition, treatments usually consist of referrals to psychiatrists and psychologists and putting the patient on behavior modification programs rather than pharmacological interventions. Although medications related to depression and anxiety, can also be prescribed, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, hypnotherapy also often has beneficial results in patients suffering from Trichotillomania.

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Folliculitis: 
Folliculitis is a hair disease which causes inflammation of individual hair follicles, which is not restricted to the hair on the scalp but can occur anywhere on the body. When the follicles become swollen, it causes painful red bumps to appear on the skin. Folliculitis is most commonly caused by a bacterial infection, although less frequently it can be caused by non-bacterial factors including friction from tight clothing or shaving. Anybody can be affected by Folliculitis and it does usually clear up quite quickly by using antiseptic creams such as chlorhexidine or triclosan.

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Fungal infections of hair:

Hair infection by fungal agents, also called trichomycoses, is one of the common concerns in human beings. The common agents causing hair infections are dermatophytes, Malassezia species and those causing piedra. The former two can give rise to considerable discomfort and also cause immune-mediated reactions in the form of kerion and dermatophytids. Dermatophytes and Malassezia spp. could be considered as common pathogens causing hair involvement compared to piedra, which is less frequent. With Malassezia, the involvement of the hair is secondary in the most commonly encountered pityriasis capitis simplex. Diagnosis of trichomycoses due to dermatophytes and piedra is simple, through wet mount of the skin scales and hair shaft in KOH. Pityriasis capitis is mostly a clinical diagnosis and Malassezia folliculitis needs histopathological confirmation. Response to therapy is total and complete in dermatophytic trichomycosis. Piedra takes a longer time to resolve while recurrence is most common with pityriasis capitis simplex, where other factors are also operative in addition to Malassezia spp., which colonize slowly following cessation of therapy.

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Tinea Capitis:

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Scalp ring worm:

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Tinea Capitis, or more commonly known as ‘scalp ringworm, is a fungal infection of the scalp. Primarily this hair disease is caused by dermatophytes which invade the hair shaft. Worldwide, the fungus Microsporum audouinii is a very common cause of ringworm, but increasingly Trichophyton tonsurans can also cause tinea capitis, especially in the US and Latin American countries. Other fungi that may cause tinea capitis include Trichophyton schoenleinii and Trichophyton megninii in Southern Europe and Africa, and Trichophyton violaceum in the Middle East. The fungus Microsporum gypseum can also sometimes cause tinea capitis. This fungus is common in soil and may be transferred to humans by contact with infected animals. You can also get ringworm from pets that carry the fungus, and cats in particular are common carriers. Ringworm is contagious. It can be passed from one person to the next by direct skin-to-skin contact. You can also catch ringworm through contact with contaminated items such as combs, unwashed clothing, and shower or pool surfaces. Symptoms are fairly easy to detect and commonly include scaly swellings of the scalp, raised red rings on the scalp, as well as dandruff and itching and bald patches occurring where the fungus ‘eats away’ at the hair. Typically, Tinea Capitis affects pre-pubertal children, the majority of whom are boys. A microscopic examination of the scalp and hair usually confirms Tinea Capitis. Treatments of the disease range from oral medications such as griseofulvin, applying topical creams to the affected area, to sprinkling antifungal granules on a child’s food. Terbinafine is another option which is being increasingly used instead of griseofulvin.  A four-week course is usually needed. It is important to finish the course to clear the fungus completely from the scalp. Other antifungal medicines, such as itraconazole and fluconazole, are sometimes used. Generally the effective therapy rate of Tinea Capitis is quite high.

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Piedra:

Piedra (trichomycosis nodularis) happens when the hair fibers are infected by a fungus. The visible indicator of a piedra infection is development of hard nodules on hair fibers. Indeed, “piedra” is Spanish for stone. The nodules are a concretion of hyphae and fruiting bodies of the fungus, known as an ascostroma, from which the fungal spores are released. There are two basic types of piedra: black piedra and white piedra, referring to the color of the nodules formed on the hair fiber. Black piedra is due to the fungus Piedraia hortae and is mostly found in tropical countries, while white piedra is due to Trichosporon beigelii and is found mostly in Europe and Southern parts of the United States. Piedra infection may affect hairs of the scalp, body, and genital areas. Usually the infection is relatively benign. In parts of Malaysia, the nodules of black piedra are considered attractive and traditionally women encouraged its growth by sleeping with their hair buried in the soil. However, when the infection is severe the fungus weakens the hair fiber, making it easy to break off. This can result in a patchy, diffuse hair loss. Treatment generally involves shaving off affected areas. Anti-fungals such as ketoconazole or terbinafine are also used.

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Demodex folliculorum:

Some people believe Demodex folliculorum contributes to hair loss and that removing it will enable hair regrowth. But the organism does not cause hair loss. Demodex is a little worm-like creature that likes to live on skin and in hair follicles. It feeds on dead skin and oils, so it particularly likes to live in hair follicles where there are lots of both. Humans are born free of Demodex, but during childhood, through contact with others, the skin can become infected with it. For the most part, we never know they are there. They are benign, if repulsive, little creatures. The most common problem with Demodex is that they may cause irritation, particularly in the eyelashes. If you have itchy eyelashes, Demodex may be the problem. However, this is as much as Demodex can do to you. It does not cause hair loss.

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Seborrhoeic Dermatitis:
Seborrhoeic dermatitis is a disorder of the skin which affects the scalp and causes excessive itching and flakiness. Temporary hair loss readily occurs with those suffering from seborrhoeic dermatitis and in some cases can even lead to permanent hair loss if the hair follicles are badly damaged. Environmental, hereditary, hormonal and immune-system factors have all been associated with causing seborrhoeic dermatitis, although the exact cause remains ambiguous. Seborrhoeic dermatitis affects both adults and children, although within children an excessive intake of vitamin A has been linked to causing the disease. Treatments include topical, cleansers and shampoos which contain sulfur, salicylic acid and coal tar.  

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Dandruff:

Dandruff is the shedding of dead skin cells from the scalp. As skin cells die a small amount of flaking is normal; about 487,000 cells/cm2 get released normally after detergent treatment. Some people, however, experience an unusually large amount of flaking either chronically or as a result of certain triggers, up to 800,000 cells/cm2, which can also be accompanied by redness and irritation. Dandruff is a common scalp disorder affecting almost half of the population at the post-pubertal age and of any gender and ethnicity. It often causes itching. It has been well established that keratinocytes play a key role in the expression and generation of immunological reactions during dandruff formation. The severity of dandruff may fluctuate with season as it often worsens in winter. Most cases of dandruff can be easily treated with specialized shampoos. There is, however, no true cure. Those affected by dandruff find that it can cause social or self-esteem problems, indicating treatment for both psychological and physiological reasons.

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It is hypothesized that for people with dandruff, skin cells may mature and be shed in 2–7 days, as opposed to around a month in people without dandruff. The result is that dead skin cells are shed in large, oily clumps, which appear as white or grayish patches on the scalp, skin and clothes.

According to one study, dandruff has been shown to possibly be the result of three factors:

1. Skin oil commonly referred to as sebum or sebaceous secretions

2. The metabolic by-products of skin micro-organisms (most specifically Malassezia yeasts)

3. Individual susceptibility and allergy sensitivity.

Older literature cites the fungus Malassezia furfur (previously known as Pityrosporum ovale) as the cause of dandruff and it  metabolizes triglycerides present in sebum by the expression of lipase, resulting in a lipid byproduct oleic acid (OA). During dandruff, the levels of Malassezia increase by 1.5 to 2 times its normal level. Penetration by OA of the top layer of the epidermis, the stratum corneum, results in an inflammatory response in susceptible persons which disturbs homeostasis and results in erratic cleavage of stratum corneum cells.

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The exact causes of dandruff are a subject of much debate in the medical community.  Previously it was believed to be caused by an overabundance of naturally-occurring yeasts in the scalp, called malesezia. However this species does occur naturally on the skin surface of both healthy people and those with dandruff. Depending on who you listen to, dandruff has a variety of triggers and factors that can increase the severity of the condition. Recently, dandruff was reclassified as a form of seborrheic dermatitis.

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The photos below shows dandruff in hair:

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Identifying Dandruff:

Unlike dry scalp flakes, which are generally small and powdery, dandruff flakes are larger and feel greasy as they are caked with sebum. In addition, dandruff is accompanied by intense itching and redness (inflammation of the scalp). It is important to be aware of this irritation because excessive scratching of the affected areas can lead to injury to the scalp and weeping sores and scabbing as they heal.  Dandruff is often confused with the flaking and itching caused by other skin irritations – such as psoriasis. Yet while these share common symptoms, their causes are very different.

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Treatment for Dandruff

Fortunately, dandruff can be controlled and the symptoms managed so that you can live without excessive trouble from the condition. Here are some simple guidelines:

 1. Use a dandruff control shampoo daily until your symptoms abate and then use it less frequently (according to your need) in order to keep the symptoms under control. Usually, once the symptoms are under control, use of the dandruff shampoo once or twice a week is sufficient. A number of antifungal treatments have been found to be effective including: ketoconazole, zinc pyrithione and selenium sulphide.  Ketoconazole as a shampoo appears to be the most effective. Ketoconazole is a broad spectrum, antimycotic agent that is active against both Candida and M. furfur. Of all the imidazoles, ketoconazole has become the leading contender among treatment options because of its effectiveness in treating seborrheic dermatitis as well. Ciclopirox is widely used as an anti-dandruff agent in most preparations.

 2. Keep the hair and scalp clean, and as dry as possible. Avoid letting perspiration and excess oils remain on the hair and scalp as these can be triggers for irritation. In the summer months, shower after periods of exercise or exertion that causes you to perspire in order to keep the hair and scalp clean.

 3. As difficult as it may be, avoid scratching the affected areas. There are a number of over-the-counter medications to help control skin itching that are effective in helping manage dandruff itch. Just keep in mind that the risk of wounding the scalp and causing infection are sufficient to merit exerting as much self-control as possible.

4. Two additional types of medication that help seborrhea are cortisone creams and antifungal creams. Corticosteroid creams reduce inflammation. You can buy them over the counter in either 0.5% or 1% concentrations. They are safe to use on the face and will often help in just a couple of days when applied twice daily. These products also are available as scalp lotions that are applied once a day, preferably on damp hair after shampooing. You can use scalp corticosteroid creams together with medicated shampoos. Antifungal creams are often effective, apparently because they reduce the number of yeast organisms living on the skin. Over-the-counter creams include 1% clotrimazole cream and miconazole cream 2%. Antifungal creams also are applied once or twice a day. Non-steroid preparations like tacrolimus (Protopic) or pimecrolimus (Elidel) can also help.

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What doesn’t help dandruff?

•Moisturizing: Don’t treat Dandruff with oils. Dandruff is not a type of dry skin at all — despite the white flakes that float down to your shoulders. Moisturizing lotions don’t do much more than smooth out scales and make plaques look redder.

•Switching brands of shampoo: Shampoo doesn’t cause dandruff. However, medicated shampoos can help.

•Changing hair-care routines: There is no “right” shampoo or conditioner. What is more important is the frequency with which these agents are used. As a rule, the more frequently one shampoos, the better the result. Seborrhea and dandruff are not caused by excessive shampooing “drying out the scalp.” Hair dyes and conditioners do not cause or aggravate dandruff.

•Switching antiperspirants: When underarms are red from seborrhea, almost anything will make them redder, including antiperspirants, even though they are only aggravating the seborrhea and not causing it.

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As with all seborrhea (dandruff) treatments, medicated shampoos and cortisone creams calm down your skin or scalp sensitivity, but they can’t stop the seborrhea (dandruff) from coming back. Most people, however, only have to treat their condition from time to time when it becomes itchy or noticeable.

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A word on dandruff of eyelashes:

Dandruff (seborrhea) of the eyelashes can be both annoying and hard to treat. Eye doctors like to recommend scrubbing the lashes with baby shampoo on a cotton swab. Corticosteroid-based lotions should be used close to the eye only under medical supervision since continuous exposure of the eye to these products can lead to serious eye problems.

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Hair transplant:   

In the process of hair transplant hair follicles which are not vulnerable to balding that is mostly found at the sides and back of the head are considered and transplanted into a balding area such as the top of the head or else front hairline. The new hair that has been transplanted will then to grow as natural hair for a lifetime. It gives a person nice bushy bunch of hair. As per ones personal condition such as their budget, how much hair he needs in order to cover the non-balding areas and also the skill of the surgeon performing the transplant determine how successful and long lasting the hair transplant is. Hair follicles form the basis of the two primary methods of hair transplantation in hair restoration, Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) and Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE). In these methods, hair follicles are extracted from the donor area on patient’s scalp, and then surgically implanted in the balding area of the patient’s scalp, known as the recipient area. In FUE harvesting, individual follicular units are extracted directly from the hair restoration patient’s donor area, ideally one at a time. Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT) is a hair restoration technique where a patient’s hair is transplanted in naturally occurring groups of 1 to 4 hairs, called follicular units. Follicular units also contain sebaceous (oil) glands, nerves, a small muscle, and occasional fine vellus hairs. In Follicular Unit Transplantation these small units allow the surgeon to safely transplant thousands of grafts in a single session, which maximizes the cosmetic impact of the procedure. FUT is the most advance single procedure today in hair transplantation and is done by over 95% of leading hair transplant clinics in the USA. In India, the top 5 hair transplant plastic surgeons do the FUT method. These follicles are extracted from donor areas of the scalp, or other parts of the body, which are typically resistant to the miniaturization effects of the hormone DHT. It is this miniaturization of the hair shaft that is the primary predictive indicator of androgenetic alopecia commonly referred to as male pattern baldness or male hair loss. When these DHT-resistant follicles are transplanted to the recipient area, they continue to grow hair in the normal hair cycle, thus providing the hair restoration patient with permanent, naturally-growing hair. While hair transplantation dates back to the 1950s, and plucked human hair follicle cell culture in vitro to the early 1980s, it was not until 1995 when hair transplantation using individual follicular units was introduced into medical literature. Research is under way to multiply hair follicles that are resistant to miniaturization. In hair multiplication, plucked hair or hair fragments, which contain germinative cells, are implanted into the scalp with the hope that they will develop into new hair-producing follicles. In experimental hair cloning, dermal sheath cells could be isolated, multiplied in a Petri dish, and then injected in great numbers to produce hair-producing follicles and, in theory, a full head of hair. Neither method has yet proven to result in a commercially viable hair restoration treatment, but research continues in these areas.  

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Once it’s been extracted, it is transplanted to the balding parts of your scalp, into tiny slits that the doctor has created with his or her surgical tools. The donated hair, hair follicles, surrounding tissue, and skin are called grafts, and each graft contains one or more hair follicles with accompanying hair, tissue, and skin. No two heads are alike, and you will see that the art of hair transplantation is just as important as its science or medical aspects. Men can often have the results they’re looking for in just one or two hair transplant sessions in which thousands of hairs are transplanted in follicular units of one to four hairs each. Women need more sessions to achieve proper density. These sessions can last between five and ten hours each. Future sessions can follow if necessary.

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Who is a candidate for hair replacement?

•Men with male-pattern baldness.

•Some women with thinning hair.

•A person who has lost some but not all hair as a result of burns or other scalp injuries.

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Who is not a candidate for hair replacement?

Hair replacement is not recommended for the following patients:

•Women with a diffuse, or wide-spread, pattern of hair loss

•Those who do not have sufficient “donor” sites (hair-bearing portions of the head from which hair-bearing skin is taken)

•People who form keloid scars or thick fibrous tissue that can result from trauma, burning, or radiation injury

•Those whose hair loss is due to medication.

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The figure below denotes successful hair transplant:

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Benefits:
Following are certain benefits of hair transplant:
– It is a lifetime solution for the problem of Hair Loss
– Hair transplant is no different than real hair
– It is very convenient
Drawbacks:
– Hair transplant is not economical
– Not everybody is a contender
– Hair transplant it ultimately a surgery
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At this point a hair transplant can only be performed by harvesting DHT resistant hair from the back of your own scalp, and then transplanting it into the balding areas, or hair can be transplanted between identical twins with the same genetic makeup. In general, it is believed that hair transplanted from one person to another will be rejected unless anti-rejection medications are taken for life. The risk of taking these medications far outweigh the benefits attained from the transplant, however, scientists are currently researching ways to transplant hairs from one person to another without rejection. The Italian researchers Rosati and Bergamo studied this phenomenon and reported it to the public in their 1999 publication in the journal Dermatologic Surgery. They studied the growth of hairs in a single patient who underwent a bone marrow transplant. The transplanted hairs grew extremely well. Bone marrow transplantation is a very complex procedure and carries several potential risks to the patient so this procedure can only be performed in those who are seriously ill. It cannot be used in healthy individuals. In general, it is not possible to perform a hair transplant using donor hair from another person.  

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Expert warns against hair transplants for men in their 20s:

Young patients (18-25 years) are not good candidates for hair transplant as hair loss began early and will continue to happen in the future, so hair implants can lead to bad hair distribution [you are left with islands of hair surrounded by bald areas] as surgeon does not know the amount of hair that the patient may lose in the following years. Doctors need to stabilize a patient’s hair loss first using medication and once his hair loss is stable and we know the pattern of balding, what we are looking at in the future, then 3 or 4 years later he can look at hair transplantation. That’s why it is recommended to have an age between 28-35 years appears to carry out hair implants.

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Side effects and risks of a Hair Transplant:

Side effects from a hair transplant are usually minor and clear up within a few weeks.

They can include:

•bleeding

•infection

•swelling of the scalp

•bruising around the eyes

•a crust that forms on the areas of the scalp where hair was removed or implanted

•numbness or lack of sensation on the treated areas of the scalp

•itching

•inflammation or infection of the hair follicles (folliculitis)

•sudden loss of the transplanted hair, called shock loss, which is typically temporary

•unnatural-looking tufts of hair

Long-Term Outlook of hair transplant:

Typically, patients who’ve had a hair transplant will continue to grow hair in the transplanted areas of the scalp permanently.

The new hair may appear more or less dense depending on:

-scalp laxity (how loose your scalp skin is)

-density of follicles in the transplanted zone

-hair caliber or quality

-hair curl

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Hair Transplant utilising Beard Hair:

Scalp hair is always the preferred source for donor hair in androgenetic alopecia transplantation. However, if more hair is needed, and there is no more available scalp donor hair, for most such patients, beard hair represents the next best alternative. The only exception may be in the instance of moustache restoration, such as after burns, in which the coarseness of beard hair may be preferable to scalp hair in more exactly duplicating the calibre and texture of moustache hair. The advantages for using beard hair over other alternative sites (chest, axilla, pubic area etc.) are as follows:

a) In many men there is reasonably good density of hair in the beard area under the chin.
b) Beard hair can grow to a length of several centimetres.
c) In most cases if the surgery is performed skilfully, the resultant scar can be hidden fairly well.
d) There are no apocrine glands associated with these hairs, as there may be in the axilla and groin, which could possibly give off undesirable secretions or odour.

The disadvantages for using beard hair in scalp hair restoration are as follows:

a) Beard hair is much coarser than scalp hair and can therefore only be placed within the central regions of the scalp being transplanted.
b) There is a resultant scar under the chin, which can only be completely hidden if the man is committed to wearing a beard for life.
c) Adding beard harvesting to scalp donor harvesting in the same session is time consuming and adds at least 1-2 hours to the session.

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Wigs:

When you suffer from Alopecia, a wig can change your whole look; you can change your identity with your hair and play the part for any occasion. One thing about wigs is that they don’t get greasy like normal hair because all the oils from your scalp are underneath the scalp sheath of a wig. This will mean that while your wig may need the occasional wash every now and then, you won’t need to wash it anywhere near as much as you need to wash normal hair to keep it looking shiny and fresh!  Wigs are a great option for women for a variety of reasons: They can disguise hair loss, let a woman change her look instantly, or simply make everyday life easier by eliminating hair styling time. There is an option available to please everyone in terms of color, length, texture, and style combinations. Colors include white and gray, all tones of blonde to brown, red and auburn, black, and extreme colors, such as purple and pink. Wigs may be curly, wavy, or straight; long, medium-length, or super-short. All of these factors are important when personalizing a wig, but one of the biggest decisions when it comes to selecting a wig is whether to buy synthetic or human hair. Human hair is expensive and requires special care, but it is heat-resistant, can be styled like regular hair, and looks and feels natural. Synthetic hair can look artificial if it is of low quality, but it is easy to care for, permanently set, and ready at a moment’s notice. The color will not fade, and the hair will not frizz. By considering her primary reason for wanting a wig and her concerns with wearing one, a woman can assess her situation and determine which type of wig will best suit her needs.

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Reasons for wearing Wigs:

Reason for Wearing Wig Specific Examples
To conceal a medical or genetic condition associated with hair loss Alopecia areata, alopecia totalis, cancer chemotherapy, female pattern baldness, burns, scalp injury
For convenience and ease Single and/or working mothers, very busy and active women, older or disabled women
To change the look of the hair quickly Trying a new hairstyle before making a commitment to a permanent change, going from short to long instantly, covering a bad haircut
To take on a different persona or disguise one’s identity Actresses, drag queens, party-goers, costume-wearers

 

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Natural hair extensions:

Natural human hair extensions come in weave (weft) and single strands (bulk) for braids.

Most popular hair wefts:

The most popular and commonly available form of hair is known as premium hair. It is sold in the majority of beauty supply stores worldwide. The roots and tips of hairs are interwoven in premium hair which causes tangling. This is due to the opposing cuticle layers catching onto one another. However; as it is the most inexpensive type of hair, it is a best seller. Premium hair comes in two types:

-Regular premium hair: generally the least expensive type of hair. The cuticles are present in different directions and the hair is prone to tangling.

-Tangle-free premium hair: this is obtained by chemically removing the cuticles using an acid bath. This process reduces the friction among hairs, leaving the remains tangle-free hair. In order to give the appearance of natural healthy hair, a laminate is applied to the hair to give it a shiny and silky look.

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Artificial hair:

Artificial hairs are of two types, synthetic hair and organic hair.

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Synthetic hair:

Synthetic hair is material that appears to be human hair but is made from non-human materials like nylon, polyester etc. Synthetic hair, just like human hair, comes in weave (weft) and single strands (bulk) for braids. Synthetic hair does not last as long as human hair because it gets quickly damaged by friction and heat. The quality of hair varies greatly. Depending on quality, it may never look like human hair, as it can be stiff and move differently from human hair. Synthetic hair is much less expensive than human hair. Heating appliances such as curling irons and straightening combs generally should never be used on most types of synthetic hair. These beauty items are often referred to as fake hair, a weave, and extensions. They are generally used by women to make their hair appear longer, thicker, or a different color. There are several ways that this hair can be attached. Generally, synthetic hair is used by women who believe that it enhances their appearance. This may be done by making a woman with short hair appear to have longer hair, or to create buns and other styles that would otherwise be difficult due to insufficient natural hair volume. Fake hair can also be used when a woman wants a color change without dying her natural hair. There are various qualities of synthetic hair, although most are made from some type of plastic. As such, they tend to respond poorly to heat implements. Many, however, are pre-styled, meaning that a person does not have to worry with using styling implements; she can simply buy fake hair that is already curled or waved as she likes it. Artificial hair generally does not respond to the same dyes as human hair, but this does not mean that those who use these beauty products are limited in their color choices. Fake hair comes in a wide range of colors, including multiple tones and highlighted hair pieces. Some people attempt to match the fake hair to their natural hair color, but others choose colors that are completely different. There are several ways to wear synthetic hair. One way is by wearing a wig, and a full wig is like a cap with hair attached. A person’s real hair is tucked in with the wig covering the top, back, and sides of the head. There are also partial wigs that only cover part of the head. When fake hair is referred to as a weave, it is usually glued or sewed into the hair. This often involves hair that is connected to a track, which is cut and can be glued to the scalp with specially designed bonding glues. The tracks can also be sewn into the hair with thread. This usually involves braiding a portion of the hair and weaving the thread through the braids to connect the fake hair. Synthetic hair is also commonly used for braiding. The fake hair that is used for these styles is generally loose. There are various methods of attaching these loose strands to a person’s natural hair to create a braided style.

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Futura: There are some newer versions of synthetic hair that can be heat processed allowing for heat styling. Futura is a type of synthetic fiber that can withstand heat up to 400 degrees F, and can actually outlast human hair. It is very similar to human hair given it is tangle-free and has a natural sheen. It can be straightened or curled, however, it takes longer to set; but futura cannot be colored. It is sometimes sold as a human hair blend.

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Synthetic Hairs and their Role in Hair Restoration:

The use of artificial hair fibers in hair restoration is a controversial one. While the product companies market it as a simple, cosmetically effective remedy, the product has not found wide acceptance by physicians because of its chequered history and lack of proper evidence. The fact that it is a banned item in many countries has further put legal questions on its use. Physicians are asked by prospective patients about its use and therefore awareness about the product is important. The reasons which prompted a ban on synthetic fiber hair restoration included:

  1. recurrent infections
  2. rejection and periodic loss of fibers needing frequent replacement
  3. frequent allergic reactions leading to severe contact dermatitis, irritant effects
  4. fears about possible carcinogenicity
  5. cicatricial alopecia
  6. granulomatous hypersensitivity
  7. cyst formation

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The International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery does not voice an official position with regard to the use of artificial hair fibers and leaves their use up to the regulatory authority within that country. It is the view of the Society that this is a surgical procedure and as such should be confined to active participation of an experienced, licensed medical doctor in a reputable medical clinic or university setting. 

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What is organic hair? 

Organic hair is a new and absolute unique development / invention within and for the hair industry. Organic hair is the first man made human hair, which is not made out of synthetic material but mainly out of natural organic matter (N.O.M.) and therefore should not be confused with synthetic hair, as synthetic hair is always made out of plastic, such as nylon polyester etc.  Organic hair is the closest copy to human hair available at this time. Organic hair is made out organic materials similar to that which is present in human hair such as, cysteine, lipids, organic pigments, keratin, sebum and many more ingredients and other chemicals present in a human hair. But that’s not all. Organic hair is stronger than human hair.  It does not fade, does not tangle and is produced in styles of straight, slightly wavy, strong wave, curl and upon special request a kinky style can be produced. The wave/ curl is permanently integrated within the hair and therefore does not wear out but can be straightened with straightening and/or curling irons.  After organic hair is exposed to warm water the original wave and/or curl automatically reappears back into the hair.

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Organic hair vs. human hair:

The limitations of human hair are : when processed in extensions, wigs etc whereby the finished product is semi-permanently attached to someone’s head/hair are: a short life span due to the amount of stress on the hair caused by combing, brushing, pulling, styling, washing, curling etc, causing the hair to lose its quality, luster and could even break. When hair is re-curled with a chemical perm the hair automatically is harmed whereby also part of the natural fat also disappears. When human hair is ventilated/ knotted in a wig or toupee the cuticles are partly reversed which can lead to tangling. Human hair is substantially weaker than real organic hair and therefore breaks more easily. On the other hand, real organic hair shows a much stronger strength, has a more durable and stronger surface quality, referring to shine, softness, slip, texture and sense and is re-curlable not only with curling irons but simply by just exposing the hair to warm water whereby the original curl and / or wave reappears. When curling real organic hair with curling irons, the curl will not lose itself because of exposure in water which is the case in human hair. Human hair exposed to extreme sunlight quickly loses pigments, whereby the real organic hair is resistant to UV light.  

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Organic hair vs. synthetic hair:

The two major limitations of synthetic hair are that synthetic hair cannot be dyed with cosmetic dyes used in hair salons or by the end user themselves such as peroxide dyes. An additional limitation is the fact that synthetic hair does not react on a chemical perm which is not a real limitation as certain qualities in artificial hair can be curled with hot or warm curling irons. The real organic hair is made conform to the methods and the organic compound described in this invention allows a hair stylist and / or end user to add more pigments to the organic coating layer similar to human hair and therefore could be considered as the first synthetic hair which is possible to bleach/ dye/ color with commonly used colour systems used by hair stylists and end users whereby the natural organic matter play an important role.

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Hair donation:

Hair is a part of everyone’s body that is, in most cases, cut off as often as possible. Hair is the one part of the body that many people spend a lot of money to have cut off and needlessly discarded. People feel a haircut is a means of personal expression as if the useless dead strands are personality extensions. People who are able to grow their hair feel hair styles are a way to be noticed by others. To people who are unable to grow hair, such as chemotherapy patients, the need for a full head of hair to fit into societies standards and remain excepted is of utmost importance. When a child is stricken with a life threatening disease all they want is to look like other kids around them – from the clothes on their back to the hair on their head. The appearance of a child is of supreme importance in their mind.  The average person is unable to stop the natural progression of cancer or the devastating aftermath. However, everyone possesses the ability to help, and that help grows in an abundantly free supply on the top of most everyone’s head. Donating hair that will go towards the creation of a wig and then given to a victim of cancer is a means for every person to share a piece of their heart and soul with a someone who is truly in need of love.

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For all hair donations:

•Hair must be clean, dry and not swept off the floor.

•Hair must be a minimum length, based on the requirements of the hair donation program.

•In most cases, hair should not be chemically treated (bleached, coloured or permed).

•Hair should be bundled in a ponytail at both ends.

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Donate your hair for a cause:

Hair Aid, a Mumbai-based nonprofit organization makes wigs, and carries out hair extensions and replacement, accepts hair donations from across the country. The donated hair is then used to make wigs, free of cost, for cancer patients as well other those undergoing short or long term hair-loss due to various medical conditions.  Not many would like the idea of parting with their hair. The basic aim of Hair Aid is to encourage women to grow healthy hair and donate them to a noble cause.  A large percentage of the patients who get wigs form donated hair made by Hair Aid are cancer patients. However, they provide wigs for patients with medical hair loss due to other illnesses and not just cancer alone. The wigs made with donated hair are given free. The fact is that all human hair is not ideal for making wigs. Hair is extremely delicate, especially fine hair like Caucasian hair, which breaks while knotting to the net base while making the wig / hairpiece. If wigs are from made this hair, the wigs will not last long. This is not ideal for patients who might not have the time or energy to take care of it. So wigs are not made from such thin delicate hair for patients of cancer.

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Hair tonsuring at Tirumala, India:

If wigmakers and e-traders are to be believed, many foreign film stars have begun donning wigs made of hair tonsured at the Balaji temple in Tirumala, some 750km from Hyderabad. Over 15,000 heads, including those of at least 5,000 women, are shaved daily at Tirumala. Many devotees have their head tonsured as “Mokku”, an offering to God. The daily amount of hair collected is over a ton. The hair thus gathered is sold by the temple organisation a few times a year by public auction to international buyers for use as hair extensions, wigs and in cosmetics, bringing over $6 million to the temple’s treasury.

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Human hair industry:

The selling of human hair for weaves, wigs, and other hair styling products is an industry that generates hundreds of millions of dollars annually and is growing as a large export economy in some Asian regions, such as India. Hair industry is worth $50 billion in the U.S. in 2013. African Americans spent $507 billion (out of our total estimated buying power of $836 billion) in 2009 on hair care and personal grooming items, according to an annual report published by Target Market News. A recent survey has revealed that an average British woman spends 27,722 pounds on her hair during her lifetime, the equivalent of putting a child through university. The survey also found that when it comes to time spent preening, women dedicate one hour and 53 minutes a week to washing, blow-drying and styling their hair – a total of just over four days in every year. The survey revealed that each year, the average woman in Britain would splash out 83.88 pounds on shampoos and conditioners; 59.16 pounds on home styling products and 260 pounds on haircuts. For 55 per cent of women, a further 166.50 pounds is devoted to colouring each year. According to the research published recently, the average American woman spends about $195 a year on haircuts and $260 on color. If this average American woman starts paying for cuts (around $39 a pop) and color ($65 a pop) from age 25 to about 80 years of age, that would mean she spends only about $20,000. Factor in $120 for styling products and $160 for shampoos, based on another recent survey from Pantene. That puts them at about $35,000 over their lives on hair care.

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Other uses of hair:

Hair can clean up oil spills:

When the 2007 Cosco Busan oil spill occurred in the San Francisco Bay, a group of eco-friendly volunteers used mats of human hair to clean the beach. Hair absorbs oil from the water, working as a natural sponge. The innovator of this idea, Phil McCrory, said he saw footage of oil-soaked otters after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill and his harebrained plan was hatched. He collected human hair clippings from local salons, stuffed them into a pair of his wife’s pantyhose and voila: oil mop. After the oil is collected, oyster mushrooms are added to the mat. They absorb the oil and convert the environmental threat into nontoxic compost. Environmentalists would like these hair mats carried on oil tankers, so in case of a disaster the mats can be thrown in to start working immediately.

Human hair is used in soy sauce:

Finding hair in your food can ruin a meal. But, what if your food was made of hair — or at least your condiment? The Internet Journal of Toxicology reported that the Chinese company Hongshuai Soy Sauce marketed their product as “using the latest bioengineering technology.” Priced lower than the competitors’ soy sauces, Hongshuai became popular on the shelves of Chinese stores. However, an investigation by journalists found the company didn’t use amino acids derived from soy and wheat, but amino acids derived from human hair swept off of barber shop floors. One person’s recycling is another person’s retching over a toilet.

Human Hair combined with compost is Good Fertilizer for Plants:

The hair that comes from humans and animals is composed of proteins and a significant amount of nitrogen, which plants need to thrive. Some gardeners take the excess hair brushed from a pet or clippings of their own hair and mix it into a compost pile. When the hair eventually breaks down and decomposes, it creates an especially nitrogen-rich fertilizer for the garden. Hair can take a very long time to break down, because of its high protein content, unless the compost pile is kept moist and turned often. Agricultural crop production relies on composted waste materials and byproducts, such as animal manure, municipal solid waste composts, and sewage sludge, as a necessary nutrient source. Studies have shown that human hair, a readily available waste generated from barbershops and hair salons, combined with additional compost, is an additional nutrient source for crops. Once the degradation and mineralization of hair waste starts, it can provide sufficient nutrients to container-grown plants and ensure similar yields to those obtained with the commonly used fertilizers in horticulture. However, it takes time for the hair to start degrading and releasing nutrients.  Because of possible health concerns, further research is necessary to determine whether human hair waste is a viable option as fertilizer for edible crops.

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Report on the Safety Assessment of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfates:

Sodium and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate are anionic surfactants used in cosmetics as cleansing agents. In absorption, metabolism, and excretion studies, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate had a degenerative effect on the cell membranes because of its protein denaturing properties. Low levels of skin penetration may occur at high use concentration. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate had an LD50 of 0.8 to 1.10 g/kg in rats. A formulation containing 15% Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate caused depression, labored breathing, diarrhea, and death in four out of 20 animals.  In acute ocular tests, 10% Sodium Lauryl Sulfate caused corneal damage to the rabbits’ eyes if not irrigated, or if irrigation was delayed. A Draize test of a product containing 5.1% Sodium Lauryl Sulfate caused mild irritation, and products containing 21% detergent were severely irritating with no rinse, and mildly irritating when rinsed. Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate solutions containing 1.25%-27.4% detergent showed increasing irritation with increasing concentration; rinsing decreased irritation.  Acute animal skin irritation studies of 0.5%-10% Sodium Lauryl Sulfate caused slight to moderate irritation. Applications of 10%-30% detergent caused skin corrosion and severe irritation. Solutions of 2%, 10%, and 20% Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate were highly irritating and dangerous. One percent and 5% Sodium Lauryl Sulfate produced a significant number of comedones when applied to the pinna of albino rabbits.  A chronic oral feeding study in rats of 0.25%, 0.5%, and 1.0% Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in the diet for two years produced no abnormalities. A 91-day percutaneous toxicity study of a shampoo containing 17.5% Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate had no treatment-related abnormalities except for moderate to severe dermal effects. In mutagenesis studies, rats fed 1.13% and 0.56% Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in the diet for 90 days produced no more chromosomal aberrations or clastogenic effects than did a control diet. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate was tested for human skin irritation in concentrations ranging from 0.1 % to 10%. Open patches were less irritating than closed patches, and irritation increased directly with concentration. Similar results were obtained when formulations containing Sodium and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate were tested. No UV light sensitization occurred from any formulation in this latter study. Both Sodium and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate appear to be safe in formulations designed for discontinuous, brief use followed by thorough rinsing from the surface of the skin. In products intended for prolonged contact with skin, concentrations should not exceed 1%.

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Hair dye and cancer:

Some research has suggested that using hair dye may lead to an increased risk of bladder cancer, while other research has suggested it doesn’t. Some studies have probably been too small to show up any small increase in risk. In the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) May 2005, some research was published that looked into all the studies on hair dyes causing cancer. This found that there is unlikely to be any link between dyeing your hair and bladder cancer. In 2008, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that there is some evidence that hair dyes can increase the risk of bladder cancer for male hairdressers and barbers. This is because they are working with these chemicals all the time. But this risk can be reduced by using non touch hairdressing techniques. The picture is less clear for people who have their hair dyed or dye their own hair. There is no definite evidence of a link between the use of any type of hair dye and non Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), leukaemia or myeloma. Some studies have shown an increased risk of non Hodgkin lymphoma in women who use hair dye but other studies have not shown an increased risk. An analysis of all these studies, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in May 2005, found that there may be a small link between hair dye use and myeloma, lymphoma or some types of lymphoblastic leukaemia. But the results of this paper show that if there is any increase in risk, it must be extremely small. A recent large international study reported in 2008 that women who began using hair dye before 1980 had a slightly increased risk of some types of non Hodgkin lymphoma – follicular lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia or small lymphocytic lymphoma. The increased risk was in women who used dark coloured dyes. A lot of hair dyes made before 1980 contained chemicals that were known to cause cancer in mice. Since 1980, hair dyes have changed dramatically and many no longer contain these cancer causing chemicals (carcinogens). Some smaller recent studies in China and the USA have looked at whether women with certain types of gene changes may be more at risk of developing lymphoma if they use hair dyes. These studies seem to show a slight increase in risk for women with certain gene types but we need more research to be sure.   

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Hair analysis:

The scientific basis of hair analysis:   
The scientific basis of hair analysis is simple: when new hair cells are forming in the hair follicle, they take in traces of substances going through the blood stream of the individual. As hair grows, the new cells push out the older ones, and as cells come out of the bulb, they die and harden – and thus create a long lasting record of whatever was in the blood of the person when they were forming.  Besides the hair stand itself, the sebum that coats the hair (from the sebaceous gland connected to the hair follicle) also contains traces of the drugs and minerals flowing through your body. And if the root or the root sheath is attached to the hair, it also provides a deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) record.  Hair can thus keep a more long-lasting record of what passes through the body of an individual than either blood or urine – the body fluids which are usually used for such tests. Each hair lives about 5-6 years before it falls off the scalp.     

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Hair can be important physical evidence at a crime scene. Hair normally falls from the body over the course of a day. It will stick to a number of materials, especially fabric and clothing. Hair is not easily destroyed, even with exposure to moisture and decomposition of accompanying tissue. In 1982, microscopic hair analysis of strands found on the body of a victim was used and Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson were framed for the murder. Seventeen years later, DNA analysis of the same hair fragments was used to prove that these men were innocent. As this case shows, hair analysis has come a long way the past thirty years. Hair analysis, basically, is the scientific examination of a hair sample. It can be hair from a crime scene examined to find out who committed the act, or it can be hair taken from the back of your head and sent to a laboratory where it is checked for signs of health problems. Hair analysis is still an evolving science, and while it has a lot of potential, we need to be careful about what we expect hair analysis to tell us about the person whose head it used to grow on.  Hair analysis may refer to the chemical analysis of a hair sample, but can also refer to microscopic analysis or comparison. Chemical hair analysis may be considered for retrospective purposes when blood and urine are no longer expected to contain a particular contaminant, typically a year or less. Its most widely accepted use is in the fields of forensic toxicology and, increasingly, environmental toxicology.  Hair samples are useful as a matrix for drug testing because drugs can be detected for longer periods than in blood or urine or other biological samples. The use of hair analysis as an adjunct to traditional samples may help document drug use history and is especially useful in situations when blood and urine specimens have not been collected on time. The use of hair analysis in alternative medicine as a method of investigation to assist alternative diagnosis is controversial and its use in this manner has been opposed repeatedly by the AMA because of its unproven status and its potential for health care fraud. In hair analysis the levels of minerals and metals in the hair sample are analyzed.  Alternative medicine advocates state that this allows them to diagnose mineral deficiencies, heavy metal poisoning, and that patients afflicted by conditions such as autism have anomalous hair test results.

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Hair Evidence:

Hairs, which are composed primarily of the protein keratin, can be defined as slender outgrowths of the skin of mammals. Each species of animal possesses hair with characteristic length, color, shape, root appearance, and internal microscopic features that distinguish one animal from another. Considerable variability also exists in the types of hairs that are found on the body of an animal. In humans, hairs found on the head, pubic region, arms, legs, and other body areas have characteristics that can determine their origin. On animals, hair types include coarse outer hairs or guard hairs, the finer fur hairs, tactile hairs such as whiskers, and other hairs that originate from the tail and mane of an animal. Because hairs can be transferred during physical contact, their presence can associate a suspect to a victim or a suspect/victim to a crime scene. The types of hair recovered and the condition and number of hairs found all impact on their value as evidence in a criminal investigation. Comparison of the microscopic characteristics of questioned hairs to known hair samples helps determine whether a transfer may have occurred.

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Hair Microscopy:

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The examination of human hairs in the forensic laboratory is typically conducted through the use of light microscopy. This examination routinely involves a two-step process—the identification of questioned hairs and the comparison of questioned and known hairs. The purpose for conducting this examination is to ascertain whether two or more individuals could have come into contact or whether one or more individuals could have come into contact with an object. This associative evidence is particularly useful in crimes of violence, such as homicide, sexual assault, and aggravated assault, where physical contact may have occurred. Crimes such as burglary and armed robbery typically involve the recovery of debris and articles of clothing which may contain hairs useful for the identification of suspects.

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The figure below shows how naturally shed hair looks and how forcibly removed hair looks under microscope:

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Racial Determination:

A human hair can be associated with a particular racial group based on established models for each group. Forensic examiners differentiate between hairs of Caucasoid (European ancestry), Mongoloid (Asian ancestry), and Negroid (African ancestry) origin, all of which exhibit microscopic characteristics that distinguish one racial group from another. Head hairs are generally considered best for determining race, although hairs from other body areas can be useful. Racial determination from the microscopic examination of head hairs from infants, however, can be difficult, and hairs from individuals of mixed racial ancestry may possess microscopic characteristics attributed to more than one racial group.

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Age and Sex:

The age of an individual cannot be determined definitively by a microscopic examination; however, the microscopic appearance of certain human hairs, such as those of infants and elderly individuals, may provide a general indication of age. The hairs of infants, for example, are generally finer and less distinctive in microscopic appearance. As individuals age, hair can undergo pigment loss and changes in the configuration of the hair shaft to become much finer and more variable in diameter.  Although the sex of an individual is difficult to determine from microscopic examination, longer, treated hairs are more frequently encountered in female individuals. Sex can be determined from a forcibly removed hair (with tissue), but this is not routinely done. Definitive determination of sex can be accomplished through the staining of sex chromatin in the cells found in the follicular tissue, but nuclear DNA and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) tests will provide more specific information regarding the possible origin of the hair.

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DNA Analysis of Hairs:

The tools of molecular biology have enabled forensic scientists to characterize biological evidence at the DNA level, both nuclear and mtDNA. Any material, including hair that contains nucleated cells can potentially be exploited using nuclear DNA typing. Typically, these hairs must contain sheath material for nuclear DNA typing to be successful. When this material is found, nuclear DNA testing is the best, most discriminating technique available for the comparison of a questioned hair with a known sample. No other technique in the field of hair comparison can result in the potential individualization of the questioned hair to a known source. When a questioned hair can be microscopically associated with a known sample and sufficient root material is present, this hair should be subjected to nuclear DNA analysis. Unlike nuclear DNA, mtDNA is maternally inherited and is not unique to an individual. Therefore, mtDNA, much like the microscopic analysis of hair, cannot be used to positively identify an individual, but it can be used to exclude a potentially large portion of the population as a possible donor of the hair. In summary, a combination of microscopic examination of hairs followed by DNA examination (either nuclear or mtDNA) will yield the best possible information on the evidentiary questioned hairs. Because of the destructive nature of both DNA techniques, the microscopic analysis must be conducted first, followed by the DNA examination, because that portion of the hair used in the DNA analysis will be destroyed, making it unavailable for the microscopic examination.

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Why the use of DNA fingerprinting is considered more accurate than reliance on hair analysis:

DNA fingerprinting, or sequencing, is considered more reliable than analysis of hair samples for the simple reason that it constitutes a more holistic approach to evidence analysis and, in fact, analysis of hair samples is but one component of fingerprinting. Hair samples can provide important physical evidence of an individual’s connection to a crime.  However, as the recent revelation that the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s process for analyzing hair samples may have been seriously flawed – with the resulting status of thousands of criminal convictions suddenly cast into doubt — the danger of overreliance on hair in the conduct of criminal investigations and prosecutions can be damaging to the nation’s criminal justice system. Strands of hair are not necessarily reliable sources of DNA. Whether the hair samples include pristine traces of the protein keratin, for example, this is present at the scalp but not further along the length of a strand, can determine whether the samples in question provide clues to the identity of a suspect. DNA sequencing, on the other hand, involves a more detailed and protracted process of testing and analyzing physical evidence, whether from hair, blood, semen, saliva, or skin. DNA sequencing requires viable cells in order to be conducted, and hair samples may not prove sufficiently reliable.  Sequencing, or fingerprinting, that involves properly collected and preserved DNA from bodily fluids is considered much more reliable than DNA evidence attained from strands of hair.

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Hair analysis for substance abuse:

The Society of Forensic Toxicologists, The National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the National Institute of Justice held a conference in 1989 called the Conference on Hair Analysis for Drugs of Abuse. They agreed that: (1) the use of hair testing for employment purposes is premature, and (2) hair testing must be accompanied by blood or urine testing in courts to be admissible. The second clause was later changed (1989) to allow hair testing results in the presence of “competent evidence.” There are several unanswered questions regarding hair testing including: (1) What is the best way to prepare hair for testing? (2) To what extent is external contamination a problem and how can it be eliminated? and (3) What constitutes a positive or negative result? Therefore, while much can be achieved via testing of hair samples for cocaine use, additional research is needed to make the technique practical. However, hair testing has been recognized and regulated by the Society of Forensic Toxicologists and accepted by courts of law in some types of cases. It is also important to determine whether the positive result stems from the person taking the drug or whether an innocent person was exposed to the smoke of the drug which yielded a positive result through external entry. Although it is not routinely accepted in a court of law, hair analysis for drugs of abuse may soon be permitted in court regularly since techniques are becoming universal and standards for preparation and detection for the drugs of abuse are being developed.  

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Commercial Hair Analysis: A cardinal sign of Quackery:

Hair analysis is a test in which a sample of a person’s hair—typically from the back of the neck—is sent to a laboratory for measurement of its mineral content. This discussion concerns multi-elemental hair analysis in which a single test is used to determine values for many minerals simultaneously. This type of analysis used by chiropractors, “nutrition consultants,” physicians who do chelation therapy, and other misguided practitioners who claim that hair analyses can help them diagnose a wide variety of health problems and can be used as the basis for prescribing supplements. Proponents claim that hair analysis is useful for evaluating a person’s general state of nutrition and health and is valuable in detecting predisposition to disease. They also claim that hair analysis enables a doctor to determine if mineral deficiency, mineral imbalance, or heavy metal pollutants in the body may be the cause of a patient’s symptoms. These claims are false.

•Hair analysis is not reliable for evaluating the nutritional status of individuals. In 1974, the AMA Committee on Cutaneous Health and Cosmetics noted: “The state of health of the body may be entirely unrelated to the physical and chemical condition of the hair . . . Although severe deficiency states of an essential element are often associated with low concentrations of the element in hair, there are no data that indicate that low concentrations of an element signify low tissue levels nor that high concentrations reflect high tissue stores. Therefore . . . hair metal levels would rarely help a physician select effective treatment.”

•Most commercial hair analysis laboratories have not validated their analytical techniques by checking them against standard reference materials. The techniques typically used to prepare samples for analysis can introduce errors for many of the elements being determined.

•Hair mineral content can be affected by exposure to various substances such as shampoos, bleaches and hair dyes. No analytic technique enables reliable determination of the source of specific levels of elements in hair as bodily or environmental.

•The level of certain minerals can be affected by the color, diameter and rate of growth of an individual’s hair, the season of the year, the geographic location, and the age and gender of the individual.

•Normal ranges of hair minerals have not been defined.

•For most elements, no correlation has been established between hair level and other known indicators of nutrition status. It is possible for hair concentration of an element (zinc, for example) to be high even though deficiency exists in the body.

•Hair grows slowly (1 cm/month), so even hair closest to the scalp is several weeks old and thus may not reflect current body conditions for purposes of health diagnosis.

•The use of a single multielemental hair analysis test as the sole means of diagnosis violates basic tenets of medical practice that laboratory findings should be considered together with the patient’s history and physical examination, and that the practitioner should keep in mind that laboratory errors occur.

For these reasons, multi-elemental analysis of human hair is not a valid technique for identifying an individual’s current bodily excesses or deficiencies of essential or nonessential elements. Nor does it provide a valid basis for recommending vitamins, minerals, or other dietary supplements. Hair analysis is worthless for assessing the body’s nutritional status or serving as a basis for dietary or supplement recommendations. Nor should it be routinely used to screen people for heavy metal toxicity.

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Dr. Lawrence Wilson, MD has used hair tissue mineral analysis for more than 30 years and reviewed over 50,000 of these tests. He is somewhat familiar with all the major commercial testing laboratories in America, and a number of labs in other nations. He has also written a textbook and many articles about its use. According to him, commercial hair analysis is not used often because of ignorance of the importance of trace mineral nutrition, toxicology and the critical importance of toxic metal poisoning in the causation of all the major killer diseases. Also, opposition from allopathic medical boards and mainstream journals such as JAMA that have published studies discrediting hair testing. The hair mineral analysis failed because of misuse of the test just to measure toxic metals and misuse of the test to do replacement therapy.    

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Hair research:

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Re-pigmenting gray hair:

Science is also searching for a better solution to gray hair. Cancer researchers learned that liposomes, substances that deliver a drug into the body, can be used to deposit melanin, the pigment that gives hair its color, inside follicles and color hair from the roots up. If further research proves successful, products could be available in the next 10 years, they predict. On another front, after 30 years of research, L’oreal laboratories have developed a precursor molecule for melanin, dihydroxyl-5.6-indole, which enables the natural process of hair pigmentation to take place biologically through a slow oxydization process. With the right proportions, everyone could get back their own natural hair color! Researchers are using this new chemical to come up with a new way to enhance hair color or cover gray.  

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Imatinib Mesylate and Gray Hair:

The impressive effects of the tyrosine kinase inhibitor STI571 (imatinib mesylate) in chronic myeloid leukemia were confirmed in the large trial by Kantarjian et al. Between December 1999 and June 2001, authors treated 133 patients with chronic myeloid leukemia with imatinib mesylate according to Novartis Pharma protocols. Among these 133 patients, 5 men and 4 women (median age, 63.4 years; range, 53 to 75) with gray hair before treatment had progressive repigmentation of the hair (on the head in 8 patients and on the body and head in 1) during treatment. The median time between the end of interferon alfa therapy and the start of treatment with imatinib mesylate was 5.7 months (range, 0.5 to 42). Hair repigmentation occurred after a median of 5 months (range, 2 to 14) of treatment with imatinib mesylate. So the anti-cancer drug imatinib has shown to reverse the graying process. However, it is much too expensive with potentially severe and deadly side effects to be used to alter a person’s hair color. Nevertheless, if the mechanism of action of imatinib on melanocyte stem cells can be discovered, it is possible that a safer and less expensive substitute drug might someday be developed.

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Lhx2 gene for hair growth:

In a study Leif Carlsson’s research team identifies the transcription factor Lhx2 as an important regulator of hair formation. The Lhx2 gene is active during the hair follicle’s growth phase and is turned off during the resting period. The scientists have been able to show that Lhx2 is functionally involved in the formation of hair, as hair follicles in which Lhx2 has been inactivated cannot produce hair. Moreover, the activation of the Lhx2 gene in hair follicles has been shown to activate the growth phase and hence the formation of hair. Thus, Lhx2 is a gene that is important for the regulation of hair growth. In stark contrast to previously published research findings from other teams of scientists, Leif Carlsson and his colleagues found that Lhx2 is primarily expressed outside the so-called bulge region of the hair follicle, where the follicle’s stem cells are found. Lhx2 is expressed periodically, primarily in precursor cells that are distinct from the cells in the bulging region of the follicles. It is a factor that is necessary for hair to be formed and to grow. 

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Scientists identify gene that may explain hair loss:

Researchers in Japan have identified a gene that appears to determine cyclical hair loss in mice and believe it may also be responsible for hair loss, or alopecia, in people. In a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists described how they generated a line of mice that were lacking in the Sox21 gene. “The mice started to lose their fur from postnatal day 11, beginning at the head and progressing toward the tail region of the back,” they wrote. “Between day 20 and day 25, these mice eventually lost all of their body hair, including the whiskers. Intriguingly, new hair regrowth was initiated a few days later but was followed by renewed hair loss.” The cyclical alopecia continued for more than two years and the researchers observed that the mutant mice had enlarged oil-secreting sebaceous glands around the hair follicle and a thickened layer of skin cells during periods of hair loss. “The gene is likely involved with the differentiation of stem cells that form the outer layer of the hair shaft,” wrote the researchers, led by Yumiko Saga of the Division of Mammalian Development at the National Institute of Genetics in Mishima. The scientists went on to examine human skin samples, where they found evidence of this same gene. “We confirmed that Sox21 is also expressed in the hair shaft cuticle in humans … These results indicate that the Sox21 gene could be responsible for some hair loss conditions in humans,” the authors concluded.

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Onion juice:

Onions are more than just a healthy vegetable. They have been shown to help increase hair growth and reverse grey hair when applied to the scalp. Onion juice has been used for hundreds of years to treat thin and graying hair. Onion juice helps by providing nourishment and circulation to the hair follicles.  It also kills germs, parasites, and is helpful in treating some fungi infections, all of which can aid in prevention of hair loss. Onions are also high in sulfur, which helps in regenerating the hair follicles, and they are beneficial in decreasing inflammation. A few weeks ago, a breakthrough cure for thin and grey hair was published and showed great results for the effectiveness of a topical compound called pseudocatalase. The reason this topical cream was found effective was that it targeted the cause of gray and thinning hair. Research from Bradford University in the UK and several other universities have shown that gray and thinning hair is caused by a buildup of hydrogen peroxide and a decrease in the natural antioxidant, catalase. When a buildup of hydrogen peroxide occurs at the hair follicles, it causes oxidative stress resulting in graying and thinning hair. Catalase can not only be found in the topical cream, but it can also be produced from the application of onion juice! Onion juice reacts similarly, as when it is applied, it increases the level of catalase on the skin surface, reducing the buildup of hydrogen peroxide. The results from the topical application of onion juice can be observed within just a few weeks. One study from the Journal of Dermatology found that just after four weeks of using onion juice, 74% of individuals with alopecia areata experienced significant hair regrowth. Within six weeks of using onion juice, 84% of the individuals were reported to have hair regrowth.

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Prostaglandins:

There may also be a link between elevated levels of prostaglandin D2 (PGD2) and male pattern hairloss. Abnormally high levels of PGD2 (a nearly three-fold increase) were discovered in tissue samples of balding areas compared to haired areas of the scalp. A PGD2-binding receptor, GPR44, has also been discovered. Compounds aimed at targeting the GPR44 receptor are currently being studied.

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Wnt study:

Scientists have long believed that hair follicles develop in the womb, and that no new follicles appear after birth. A person’s head has 100,000 hair follicles, and when any of them shut down or gets severely damaged, that’s it. No new follicles are going to appear, and follicles are limited in their ability to regenerate. However, re­searchers at the University of Pennsylvania, led by Dr. George Cotsarelis, have regenerated follicles in mice by manipulating a gene called Wnt. The study potentially has broad applications, both for devising new methods to regrow hair and treating a variety of skin conditions and wounds. Wnt is involved in the healing of wounds and can be used to produce new hair follicles. The experiment showed that follicles can develop when a wound heals, and that the process can be manipulated to greatly increase the number of follicles. In the study, scientists removed small sections of skin from mice. This spurred stem cell activity in places where the skin was removed. However, when the scientists blocked the Wnt gene, follicles didn’t grow. When Wnt was stimulated, the skin healed without scarring and eventually had all the same characteristics — hair follicles, glands, appearance — of normal skin. These new follicles also behaved normally, producing hair in the same way as other follicles. The Penn team’s study, the results of which were published in the journal “Nature,” may unlock new possibilities in wound treatment and force scientists to reconsider the skin’s regenerative power. Unlike some animals that can regrow their tails or limbs (a severed sea star limb, for example, can even grow into an entirely new sea star), the regenerative abilities of mammals was thought to be rather limited. But in this case, follicles and the area around them showed a tremendous ability to regenerate with ­no apparent aftereffects. The Wnt study may lead to new and effective baldness treatments, but it’s important to temper any enthusiasm. There’s a still a significant gap to bridge between regenerating follicles in mice and wiping out male pattern baldness in humans, and gene therapies have generated excitement before. In January 1998, scientists at Columbia University announced they had made the first discovery of a gene partially responsible for baldness. They called the gene “hairless” because it was associated with a specific form of severe inherited baldness. The leader of the research group said at the time that their discovery may lead to new therapies for hair loss and baldness within five years. While those therapies haven’t materialized, the study marked an important shift from looking at hormones to examining genes as the primary factor in hair loss.

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Fibroblast growth factor 9 (Fgf9):

Research showed that new hair follicles would form at the center of some skin wounds. The general concept is that when the top layers of the skin are removed, the skin cells underneath are essentially in a primitive, embryonic state at which they can form new skin, new hair follicles, and ultimately new hair. Now researchers appear to have found the catalyst that could potentially turn that idea into a treatment. Cotsarelis and his team have homed in on a protein known as fibroblast growth factor 9, or Fgf9, that they believe to be implicated in the growth of hair follicles. Fgf9—which is found in short supply in humans—is part of a family of proteins formed by cells in the skin that perform a variety of biological functions such as wound healing. The researchers found in the study that cells produce a lot of Fgf9 right before a new hair follicle forms on a layer of skin. So by increasing Fgf9 while the skin is regenerating, researchers could potentially direct the skin to form new hair follicles. It draws a very clear link between tissue regeneration and the skin immune system. It opens the way to therapeutically intervene in humans with the approach. 

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Human dermal papilla cells used to create new hair follicles: Hair cloning:

Hair cloning is a promising treatment for androgenetic alopecia, or common genetic hair loss that is being actively researched. In hair cloning, a sample of a person’s germinative hair follicle cells are multiplied outside the body (in vitro), and then they are re-implanted into the scalp with the hope that they will grow new hair follicles and, thus, new permanent hair. 

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Hair cloning:

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A new hair restoration method that can generate human hair growth has been developed by an international team of scientists, thanks to initial research funded by BBSRC. Researchers at Durham University, UK, and Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), USA, have devised the method which is the first to use cloned human cells to induce hair growth, rather than redistributing hair from one part of the scalp to another. The researchers said their findings could significantly expand the use of hair transplantation to women with hair loss, who tend to have insufficient donor hair, as well as to men in early stages of baldness. The research could also be “an important step” in creating replacement skin with hair follicles to aid the recovery of burn patients, the scientists said. The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). For the first time, researchers have been able to take human dermal papilla cells (those inside the base of human hair follicles) and use them to create new hairs. Researchers at CUMC harvested dermal papillae from seven human donors and cloned the cells in tissue culture. No additional growth factors were added to the cultures. After a few days, the cultured papillae were transplanted between the dermis and epidermis layers of human skin that had been grafted onto the backs of mice. In five of the seven tests, the transplants resulted in new hair growth that lasted at least six weeks. DNA analysis confirmed that the new hair follicles were human and genetically matched the donors. More work needs to be done before the method can be tested in humans, according to the researchers, but the team is optimistic that clinical trials could begin in the near future. 

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Hair multiplication:

In contrast to hair cloning, where germinative cells are multiplied outside the body in essentially unlimited amounts, in hair multiplication, donor hair follicles are removed from the scalp and then manipulated in a way that the total amount of hair is increased. This can involve using transected, or cut, hair follicles and implanting them directly into the scalp with the hope that the follicles will regenerate and grow a complete hair. Another technique uses plucked hair fragments rather than whole or transected follicles. The concept behind hair multiplication using plucked hair is that it is an easy, non-invasive method of obtaining germinative cells. Also, the hair shaft of the plucked hair acts as a ready-made scaffold to introduce and align the germinative cells at the new site. The hope is that removing a small proportion of the germinative cells, through plucking, may provide enough tissue for the formation of a new follicle while not diminishing the original one. The problem with this method has been that plucking generally yields a hair with insufficient cells to induce a new follicle to form.

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Laser comb:

The FDA has approved a laser comb that has been shown in a clinical trial to stimulate hair growth in men. The comb may actually work better in women with no known side effects. The handheld comb uses phototherapy, or infrared light, to stimulate hair growth in men with alopecia or baldness. Since the laser comb is a medical device, it has not had the same kind of rigorous testing that drugs get. Experts point out that it’s unclear how the comb actually works. This has led to skepticism about its effectiveness. Dermatologists, though, say the laser comb may be a viable alternative for people who can’t use the prescription medications. 

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Hair care innovations and research:

Hair’s chemical and biological properties make it an ideal material for undergoing an infinite number of changes and treatments, from cosmetic to clinical applications. Healthy and beautiful hair is desired, and the need for products that improve the look and feel of the hair surface has created a huge industry for hair care. Products such as shampoos and conditioners, along with damaging processes such as chemical dyeing and permanent wave or relaxing treatments, alter many hair properties, which results in damage to the hair fiber. In recent years, many innovations have taken place, and new approaches for hair treatments have been reported in the literature to overcome this problem. Unaltered human hair (virgin hair) has an isoelectric point near 3.67. The isoelectric point is the pH at which a particular molecule or surface carries no net electrical charge. Hence, during a normal hair washing procedure performed at neutral pH, the surface of hair acquires negative charges. For this reason, most conditioning shampoos possess cationic polymers in order to counteract these negative charges, thereby improving hair texture and feel. Electrostatic interactions are believed to play a crucial role in the adsorption mechanism of such compounds. However, these products are a small part of the polymer-based cosmetic products. Polymer-containing compositions represent the second-most common ingredient in cosmetic and personal care products. A diverse range of polymers is applied in this segment as film formers, fixatives, rheology modifiers, associative thickeners, emulsifiers, stimuli-responsive agents, foam stabilizers and destabilizers, beneficial skin feel agents and antimicrobials. Studies on protein-based formulations to treat hair fibers have also been widely explored. Several patents disclose compositions capable of restoring hair health by providing excellent finishing effects. Applications of proteins such as a water soluble compound derived from a vegetable protein derivate, non-naturally occurring keratin proteins, a mixture of a hydrolyzed protein and an amino acid with an aliphatic side chain, and other hydrolyzed proteins are also examples within this category. Several studies have been published regarding how to improve the structure of the keratin hair shaft mainly for cosmetic purposes. These studies take into account the keratinous structure of hair fibers and explore the potential benefit effects of amino acids and peptides in hair care applications. Silva et al. described the importance of peptide structure in hair penetration using conventional fluorescent microscopy. Researchers have been investigating the protein disulfide isomerase (PDI) for the functionalization of keratinaceous surfaces with cysteine containing compounds (CCC). PDI is a multifunctional enzyme that catalyses formation and isomerization of disulfide bonds (disulfide shuffling) in a wide range of substrates. In vivo, PDI promotes the correct formation of disulfide bonds in proteins (oxidative folding), leading them to the native state. The CCCs were shown to penetrate inside the hair shaft and attach to the cortex without damaging hair. This approach can represent a promising strategy for the development of new hair care formulations with the ability to dye and restore the integrity of damaged hair. PDI has also been used for treatment of wool and hair fibers. King and Brockway showed that PDI was able to restore part of the original properties on aged or harshly treated wool. The same enzyme was used by Brockway to perform a curling, waving or straightening treatment safely under mild condition. A method to gently and permanently relax or straighten hair was also attained by Presti using a protease, kerA. This enzyme was found to cleave peptide bonds, allowing the hair fiber to be relaxed or straightened with less damage to the fiber than would have occurred using traditional or existing straightening methods. Humidity is an important factor when considering hair beauty and styling. Air humidity affects hair form and structure at the level of hydrogen bonds. A humidity increase of 30–70% will augment by twofold the water content of hair, thereby increasing its volume by more than 20%. This influx of water eventually causes the hair fibers to swell, which results in friction between fibers and an additional increase in volume and frizz, changing hair appearance. To overcome this issue, scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) developed a technology that reduces hair frizz using a polyfluoroester, a molecule smaller than the traditional ones used for frizz control. Because of its chemical nature, the formulation adheres tightly to the hair, promoting long-lasting resistance to moisture. Because of its low surface energy, this technology repels most other materials like water and oils. As an additional benefit, the low refractive index of the coating produces a unique, long-lasting shine and pop in the colour of the hair. Today, people in ever-greater numbers alter their hair colour and appearance. However, the aggressiveness of the available techniques poses a big drawback to hair colouring. Commonly used hair dyeing compositions are driven by a mechanism of diffusion of small molecules into the hair fiber. These dyes provide the best colouring results, but cause significant hair damage. The semi-permanent and temporary dyes are molecules too large to diffuse into the hair, therefore acting on the exterior of the fiber at the cuticle. This process does not harm the fiber because of the absence of alkaline oxidative conditions, but fails in terms of colour durability. For this reason, the development of a colouring agent that provides the durability of the permanent hair dyes without the use of oxidizing agents that damage hair is highly desirable. It is generally accepted that penetration of chemicals into hair occurs through intercellular diffusion, i.e., by adsorption onto the keratin substrate. Faucher and Goddard have shown that the amount of polymer adsorbed on the hair surface increased with decreasing molecular weight. Similarly, low molecular weight compounds might also penetrate the hair shaft, at the cortex level, since the diffusion process is greatly facilitated when hair is exposed to water. Low molecular weight compounds are, however, only retained while the hair is dry because further contact with water opens the cuticle scales, facilitating their escaping. Recent solutions to this problem rely on the use of hair-binding peptides coupled to dyes or pigments that are able to penetrate into the hair shaft, although they lack the required durability for long lasting colour effects. Huang et al. have tested a hair-binding peptide coupled to carbon black and the use of chemically functionalized carbon nanotubes that provided an enhanced interaction with the hair, resulting in a more durable hair colouring effect. Nevertheless, more durable hair colourants are still needed. For this reason, there have been attempts to enhance the binding of the cosmetic agent to hair. Richardson et al. describe the covalent attachment of cosmetic agents to hair using transglutaminases. These enzymes promote the crosslinking of the cosmetic agent’s amine to the glutamine residues in hair. Similarly, Green et al. describe the use of the enzyme lysine oxidase to covalently attach cosmetic agents to hair. Despite all the research for cosmetic applications, conventional products are still being used, with small improvements. Formulation requirements imply very strict criteria for dye/product selection. The remaining problem is achieving perfect compatibility in all respects between the dyes/products and the various other constituents of the products.  

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Is this good research or imitation science?

Breakthrough hair loss product works on stem cells:

Scientists at cosmetic company L’Oreal claim to have invented the first product which can actually “reawaken” dormant hair cells and allow them to grow back. Scientists, based in laboratories of L’Oréall in Paris, developed a molecule using a formula called Stemoxydine, which after testing was found to have increased hair density by up to four per cent. Researchers claim that the liquid “Kérastase Densifique”, when applied to the roots, can promote the growth of more than 1500 new hairs. The average human has on average between 100,000 and 150,000 individual hairs and the manufactures claim the new product “assists” natural growth rather than “disrupt” it. Have they done double-blind study? Is it not possible to have 4 % increase in hair density just by chance or by remission of disease? Many hair follicles that have shut down hair production do re-grow hair later on as underlying cause resolves.  

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Frequently asked questions (FAQ) about hair:

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Question:  I have to color my gray hair every 2 weeks. Is there something I can do to make my color last longer?

Answer:  Yes. You can use sulfate-free shampoos. They are designed to preserve your color.

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Question:  Is it possible to permanently turn my naturally wavy hair into straight hair?

Answer:  No. You can have it straightened with relaxers. But your hair will grow in with its natural texture.

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Question:  I saw an ad for a “5-in-1 cleansing conditioner” that’s supposed to take the place of shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioner, detangler, and leave-in conditioner, all in one bottle. Can this kind of product really work for my hair?

Answer: Yes. But how effective they are depends on your hair type. These kinds of products can be heavy on the hair. Most people complain about the oily look and feel they experience after using them. You try one and see if you like it.

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Question:  I have straight, fine, salt-and-pepper hair. What kind of detangler will work for my hair type?

Answer: For your hair, it would be best to use a detangler that is liquid instead of creamy. That way, your fine hair will not be weighed-down with product.

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Question:  Does body hair grow at the same rate as the hair on your head?

Answer:  Yes, except eye lashes, all body hair including scalp hair grow at almost the same rate. The difference is that it does not grow for as long — only for a few months — as the hair on your head, which grows for a few years. That is why body hair reaches a certain, usually shorter length, then falls out.

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Question:  Is it necessary to wash my hair every day? I was told every few days is better so I don’t dry out my hair.

Answer:  No. You do not need to wash every day unless you have a very oily scalp or you are exposed to lot of dust and dirt daily. However, washing your hair less frequently will not prevent you from losing your hair or having thinning hair. Remember; genes, hormones and nutrition are far more important for hair than mere washing daily or not.

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Question: Can split ends really be mended or repaired, like some hair products claim they can do?

Answer:  Yes. They can be coated with certain silicone containing products to bind together the split ends. When the hair is washed the product will not stay in and they will go back to appearing dry and split. The only real “cure” for split ends is to cut the hair above split ends. Trimming of hair is the best treatment of split ends.

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Question:  Can continually coloring my hair damage my hair after years of repetition?

Answer:  Yes, all chemical and heat processing of hair damage hair; some more, some less. However, if the coloring is done in combination with the application of high heat or relaxers, damage is significant. Color alone does not cause nearly as much damage to the hair by itself, especially when the processes of coloring and relaxing, or coloring and adding heat are spaced conservatively apart.

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Question:  Is there a difference between how fast a man’s hair grows as opposed to a woman’s?

Answer:  There is no significant gender difference for rate of growth of hair. However, the anagen phase of man’s scalp hair is shorter than woman, and therefore average woman grows longer scalp hair than average man even though the rate of growth is same. 

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Question:  Can taking coconut oil soft gels really help improve the quality of my hair? Are there any other vitamins that I can take that would actually help my hair grow faster and stronger?

Answer:  There are no supplements that have been well-proven to thicken the hair.  Coconut oil does have value when it is applied over hair before hair washing. Balanced diet containing proteins and vitamins is helpful for growth of hair. Taking multivitamin would help if your diet is deficient. Certain medications can be used off-label in women — such as spironolactone and finasteride — and these may be added at the discretion of your doctor.

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Question:  What should I do to my hair to help it grow longer & faster? I’ve been trying to grow it out and its taken years just to reach shoulder-length.

Answer:  The anagen phase of your scalp hair is short genetically. Topical minoxidil is what you need to be applying to your scalp to help achieve thicker hair and to keep it in the actively growing anagen phase for a longer period of time. You must use if for 6-12 months every day and twice daily in order to see optimal results. There is no guarantee that it will work. 

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Question: Are sulfate-free shampoos really better?

Answer: Sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate are two of the most common shampoo ingredients. These chemicals are what make shampoos turn into a thick lather in the shower, which removes dirt and debris from hair. Recently, sulfates have come under attack for being harsh on the hair by removing natural oils, causing frizziness and damage to dyed hair. Now, many products bear a “sulfate-free” label, and these are often more expensive than their counterparts. However, there is no scientific evidence exist to show that sulfate-free shampoos are gentler on the hair than shampoos that contain sulfate. Similarly, no scientific data supports marketing claims that some sulfate-free shampoos extend the life of hair color or keratin treatments. It is possible that some people, particularly those with the skin condition eczema, are sensitive to sulfates. There have been a few reports linking sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauryl sulfate to contact dermatitis in some people. For these people, sulfate-free shampoos can be beneficial. 

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Hair myths:

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Myth: Washing hair frequently is bad for hair.

Fact:  How frequently you wash hair depends on your hair type, your exposure to dirt & dust, your sweating pattern, weather, pollution, lifestyle etc. There is in fact no correct schedule for when to wash your hair.  Keeping your hair clean and protected from damage is important, so using the proper shampoo and conditioner for your hair is key to making sure it receives the hair care it needs, regardless of how frequently you wash your hair. If you have color-treated hair, for example, it is important to use a mild shampoo, followed by conditioner, which provides crucial protection for fragile, color-treated hair. Today’s shampoos and conditioners are formulated to actually improve the condition of hair, even with daily use, so if you wash your hair frequently, it’s not bad for your hair. The right shampoo for your hair type and texture will actually add moisture, body and beauty to your hair. The key is to finding the correct shampoo designed for your hair.  Also, it’s possible to cleanse hair with water only (WO), diluted shampoo (DS) or conditioner only (CO). Washing hair every day won’t dry it out. Every individual must balance between under-washing and over-washing as both are harmful. Over-washing leads to wash-wear. Wash-wear leads to breakage and spilt ends.

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Myth: It makes no difference whether you comb/brush hair when wet or dry.

Fact: Wet hair is highly vulnerable to damage. Wet hair swells, and in this state it is very fragile and therefore it’s easier for hair breakage to occur. Bristled brushes by their very nature pull the hair in hundreds of slightly different angles as the brush passes through the hair and since wet hair is fragile, brushing with bristled brushes can stretch and damage the hair. The best way to detangle hair after you shampoo and condition it, is by using a wide-toothed comb or using your fingers. Try to avoid using a hair brush until your hair is almost dry. If you have very curly hair, hydrogen bonds are broken when hair are wet and therefore combing with wide-toothed comb is recommended when hair are wet as dry hair would become tangled. If you have no tangles in hair, then combing wet hair gently with wide-toothed comb is not harmful to hair. There is no hard and fast rule that wet hair must never be combed. Applying hair serum on wet hair will make combing simpler causing less breakage & split ends.   

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Myth: You should brush your hair 100 strokes every day.

Fact: There are benefits to brushing the hair that are proven, specifically when using a natural-bristle brush. Brushing helps to remove dirt, and product build-up in the hair and from the scalp. It helps to distribute the natural oils produced by sebaceous glands of the scalp. It helps to stimulate the scalp to promote blood-flow and regulate the oil production. But there has never been any studies done that indicate daily brushing has any effect on the growth rate of the hair. Over-brushing the hair can lead to hair damage, such as split ends. Brush it only to style it, because brushing pulls hairs out of their follicles and possibly weakens individual strands.

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Myth: Brushing the hair is better for it than combing.

Fact: Your hair actually responds better to combing because it creates less stress on the hair and the stress it does generate is more uniform in nature. Brushing the hair became popular because brushes tend to work faster at removing tangles and smoothing the hair, but where a comb has a single row of tines that separate the hair into small clusters of strands, a brush has several hundred bristles that separate the hair into several hundred strands. The brush therefore creates more stress on the hair itself.

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Myth: If you pluck out one gray hair, two or three will sprout in its place.

Fact: Plucking out gray hair simply does not create more gray hair but plucking hair creates scalp irritation which can be harmful to the hair follicle. While this isn’t true, plucking out those gray strands is a bad habit. You can damage the roots, causing infection or leaving a scar. If you start to see gray’s try a gray corrector which uses a small amount of dye to cover grays.

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Myth: Ponytail and braids are good for health of hair.

Fact: Do not continuously wear braids, cornrows, ponytails, and hair extensions. These styles pull on the hair and can cause tension that leads to breakage. If the tension continues, permanent hair loss can develop. Traction alopecia is a very real hair loss condition that may result from wearing tight ponytails, cornrows or buns over an extended period of time. Avoid this potential problem by opting for looser styles that minimize scalp tension.  

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 Myth: Frequent trims make hair grow faster.

Fact: Hair grows a half-inch per month, whether you cut it or not. One thing a trim will do is to eliminate split ends, making hair look better. This hair growth myth may have something to do with the fact that hair, when it is cut and has a good shape, tends to look healthier than hair that has no shape and/or a lot of split ends. Cutting hair will not make it grow faster or thicker, as hair has a biologically determined growth rate and overall texture.

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Myth: Stress can make your bald.

Fact: Daily stresses of life have no effect on hair growth or loss. Although your hair is falling out all the time, to the tune of 50 to 120 strands per day, it’s possible that you may lose a few more strands when you’re “catastrophically” stressed, meaning you have had a major life change such as a divorce, lost job, or surgery. Other culprits are pregnancy or antibiotics. After a few weeks, it will almost certainly grow back.

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Myth: Switching shampoos can make hair look healthier.

Fact: It may seem so, but experts scoff. Hair can’t tell the difference between brands or build up tolerance to any product. Your favorite shampoo will work the same every time you lather up, week after week, month after month.

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Myth: Hair care products cause hair loss and thinning.

Fact: The causes of hair thinning and hair loss are related to family background and age, and occur deep down in the scalp—well away from any influencing factors on the surface, such as hair care products. Using the wrong shampoo and conditioner for your hair structure can cause hair to look limp or be weighed down, giving the appearance of hair loss or hair thinning, but no hair care product can cause hair loss or hair thinning. The hair follicles are embedded in the dermis beyond the reach of shampoos. In fact, regular shampooing may even help androgenetic alopecia by removing the androgens present in sebum (skin oil) before they can re-enter the scalp. 

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Myth: If you shampoo less often, your scalp will gradually produce less oil.
Fact: No matter how frequently you shampoo, your scalp produces the same amount of oil. Cutting back on shampooing will have no effect on your sebaceous glands; genetics and hormones determine the amount of oil they produce. But it will cause dirt and oil to accumulate on your scalp and hair follicles, and could cause inflammation and irritation that might stunt hair growth. 

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Myth: It is not important to use conditioner whenever you use shampoo.

Fact: Using a conditioner provides a variety of benefits, such as preventing hair breakage and tangling as well as helping create soft hair and smooth hair. Each time you condition your hair, conditioning agents smooth the cuticle, providing soft hair that looks healthy. To reap the benefits, use the conditioner that’s right for your unique hair and avoid brushing your hair when wet.

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Myth: Coloring your hair causes major damage.

Fact: Products today are gentle enough not to weaken hair. In fact, some contain extra conditioners that may leave hair more manageable than before. Although color-treating hair is rarely linked to hair fall from the scalp, the process does indeed damage hair. The chemicals in hair color can strip the cuticle of the F-layer (hair’s naturally-protective lipid layer that gives hair its natural sheen and damage protection), so color-treated hair can be more prone to hair breakage. Using hair products, which are formulated for color-treated hair, will help a great deal in restoring hair’s strength against damage as well as its luminosity and manageability.

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Myth: You can mend split ends with the right products.

Fact: Once they’re split, that’s it. Uncut split ends can travel up the hair shaft towards the roots. The only thing you can do then is cut them off. You can make split ends less noticeable by applying a product containing silicone or beeswax. It will temporarily seal ends together, making hair softer and more manageable. 

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Myth: Sun causes no harm to hair.

Fact: Anyone who has ever spent time at the beach for a number of days can attest to the fact that hair, especially lighter hair colors, tends to get lighter and develop a “sunlit” look. This is because UV light has been shown to degrade hair pigment by bleaching, which leads to lighter hair. Also, UV rays can cause hair to lose protein, which is a form of damage.

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Myth: A cold rinse adds shine.

Fact: This myth has some truth to it. Like the pores on your face, cleansing with warm water opens up the hair follicles, allowing your scalp to release oil and toxins. The reverse is true for a cool rinse of water, it helps seal the follicles, flatten the cuticles down onto the hair shaft and add shine. As a result, the smoothed cuticles reflect more light, making hair appear shinier and healthier (hot water leaves it rough and lackluster). The effect is temporary however unless you dry and style your hair properly. To get your locks to cooperate, seal damp hair with a silicone-based serum, then blow-dry with a nozzle attachment, keeping the airflow angled down the shafts to smooth the cuticles.

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Myth: Hair will always retain same texture all time.

Fact: Although you may be born with straight, curly or wavy locks, there are many circumstances under which your hair’s ultimate texture can be permanently altered.  Pregnancy, medication, chemotherapy, age and other variables can cause your texture to be temporarily or permanently altered. 

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Myth: You can’t dye your hair when you’re pregnant:

Fact: It’s safe to dye your hair during pregnancy. There are some caveats. Older dyes were formaldehyde-based. While it is difficult to find these, they should be avoided. The period of organogenesis (the initial formation of all the baby’s organs) is generally completed by about 10 weeks gestation, that is why some people suggest waiting until outside of the first trimester if you want to use dyes. There is very little that gets absorbed into the maternal blood stream anyway.

 

Myth: Hair loss comes from the mother’s side.

Fact: Many types baldness are hereditary, but it’s not limited to the maternal side of the family. The inheritance of baldness is polygenic and autosomal rather than sex-linked. It can come from either parent’s or grandparent’s side. It may skip a generation and reappear.    

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Myth: Losing hair every day means you’re balding.

Fact: If you’ve got male-pattern baldness then, yes, you’ll lose hair every day. That said, it’s normal to lose as many as 100 hairs a day. These will usually grow back.

 

Myth: Wigs and toupees can make hair loss worse.

Fact: Hair doesn’t need to breathe. Only the roots are alive, and they get their oxygen from the blood in the scalp. Wigs and hairpieces only damage hair if they are too tight.

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Myth: You can train your hair to follow a style by combing it in that style daily.

Fact: As nice as this would be if it were true, it isn’t. This myth is generally spread by those who wear short hair styles (usually men). What generally happens is that it’s the wearer of the style who becomes “trained” and finds it easier to create the desired look with his or her hair.

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Myth: Washed hair is better for styling.

Fact: Often, freshly shampooed hair doesn’t hold curls as easily and can make the style fall flat – so it’s best to shampoo the day before. If you’re going for curls, try and have one-day-old hair as it can hold curls better, but if your hair is greasy, wash it – grease is heavy and will make the curls drop. If you’re going to wear your hair up, one day old hair is better as you can always add product for hold once it’s up.

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Myth: If you have an oily scalp, skip using conditioner.

Fact: Conditioner will not add to your oily problem. Greasy hair is actually caused by an over production of the scalps natural sebum. Using a moisturizing product or a heavy conditioner will not add to the greasy look. Conditioner is used in the hair to help close the hair cuticle and keep it healthy and strong through the day. So try using conditioner from the middle of the hair growth to the tips if you really feel like you have to avoid the scalp!   

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Myth: Oil your hair regularly for a healthy hair.
Fact: Nothing lathered externally can nourish hair, or make it grow longer than it can. The oil coats each shaft of hair, but it’s only the oil that is shining and not your hair. So it doesn’t mean that your hair is any healthier. In fact, oil tends to attract dust and dirt and becomes a breeding ground for infections. A shampoo and conditioner are better options. Only coconut oil penetrates into hair and prevents protein loss. Coconut oil also reduces wash-wear when applied before hair wash. Oiling your hair for about 30 to 45 minutes once a week along with a hot towel routine allows the essential ingredients of the oil to soak into the scalp. This not only relaxes you but may work to give you smoother, more manageable hair. Routine oiling of hair is not required as enough natural oils are produced by our sebaceous glands. But the polluted environment and increased application of colour play havoc on your tresses. Weekly oil massage helps increase circulation of blood causing the sebaceous glands to function better and making your hair fit as a fiddle! All other claims belong to the trash.
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Myth: Steroids have no side effects on hair

Fact:  Anabolic steroids are very potent chemicals that have some treacherous side effects including acceleration of hair loss. The problem is that these side effects are usually delayed by several years.

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Myth: Standing on your head cures hair loss.

Fact: Hair follicles need more than blood flow to grow hair; and more than normal blood flow does not stimulate hair growth. Standing on your head does increase blood flow to your scalp, but will have no effect on your hair.  

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The moral of the story:

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1. Looks do matter and hair matters most in framing the face; and our attractiveness influence our personal, social and professional lives as it is linked to confidence and self-esteem.  

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2.  Hair is a barometer of your overall health and frequently hair problems are first signs of something wrong with your body internally.  

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3. Human hair are skin appendages made up of flexible tubes of dead fully keratinized epithelial cells; distributed in a very precise and pre-defined design; and having varying color, texture, length, diameter, and density. Hair growth begins inside hair follicle of skin and hair that is visible to naked eye is hair shaft. 

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4. In the hair follicle, around dermal papilla, there are collections of epidermal matrix cells (keratinocytes) that produce hair by continuously layering cells in a cylindrical fashion pushing older cell out. As these older cells move up through the hair root, they mature through a process called keratinization, fill with protein keratin and lose their nucleus. When the cell loses its nucleus it is no longer alive. By the time the hair emerges from the skin it is merely fiber made of keratinized proteins. The keratinocytes are interspersed with melanocytes and keratinocytes engulf melanin to give hair color. Keratinocytes are generated from matrix stem cells and melanocytes are generated from melanocyte stem cells. Keratinocytes are one of the fastest dividing cell populations in humans. Some chemotherapy for cancer kills these rapidly dividing keratinocytes resulting in hair loss. However matrix stem cells are unaffected as they divide slowly. When chemotherapy is stopped, new keratinocyes are generated from matrix stem cells resulting in re-growth of hair.

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5. Depending on its moisture content (up to 32 % by weight), human hair consists of approximately 65–95% keratin proteins, and the remaining constituents are water, lipids, pigment, and trace elements. Hair fiber is as strong as copper wire of the same diameter.  

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6. Gene for keratin protein of hair in humans was identical with apes 240,000 years ago.

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7. Hair is one of the defining characteristics of mammals. Biological functions of hair in humans are thermoregulation, protection, non-verbal communication, contact sensors and sexual attractiveness. However, people with total absence/loss of all body & scalp hair are generally healthy otherwise and do not have reduced life expectancy. In other words, hair is non-essential construction for humans. However, in my view, if all men and women are born without any hair, they would live comfortably but sexual attraction between men and women would be greatly reduced resulting in possibility of human species getting extinct. Therefore, evolutionary biologically, the only reason for hair in humans is sexual dimorphism; men look different than women because of difference of hair between men and women in location, distribution, thickness, length and texture; resulting in sexual attraction for propagation of species. Evolution preferred selecting trait that helped survival and rejected traits unhelpful for survival. Hair is important in non-human animals to conserve heat in cold weather and hair color prevents their predation. However, since our brain is far better developed than animals, we can conserve heat in cold weather and drive out predators by much better means rather than mere hair. Therefore as far as human hair is concerned, the only reason evolution preserved this trait in human species is hair as a signifier for sexual selection (i.e. hair can be viewed as physically attractive) resulting in sexual attraction to propagate species and prevent extinction.  Biologically, long lustrous hair denotes good health & reproductive potential (fertility) in women as women with poor health will not be able to maintain long lustrous hair. Therefore evolutionary biologically, men are subconsciously hardwired to perceive women with long lustrous hair as a good candidate for passing on genes and sexual attraction towards women with long lustrous hair is a consequence of it as mating with women having long lustrous hair (good health & reproductive potential) would ensure offspring and thereby propagate species. (Due apologies to women with short hair) 

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8. Intelligence and health are correlated worldwide as intelligent people know how to maintain good health. Intelligence enhances individuals’ care of their own health because it represents learning, reasoning, and problem-solving skills useful in preventing chronic disease and accidental injury and in adhering to complex treatment regimens. Therefore, in my view, women who can maintain long lustrous hair are not only healthy but also intelligent. (Due apologies to women with short hair)    

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9. Hair grows everywhere on the human body except the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, eyelids, and lips. Each human has about 5 million hair follicles of which 90,000 to 140,000 are scalp hair follicles, and usually one hair follicle on scalp generate one scalp hair, and there are about 250 hair fibers per square centimeter of scalp. Each scalp hair follicle can grow about 20 individual hairs in a human’s lifetime. Human hair grows autonomously, that is each hair follicle has its own individual growth cycle independent of other hair follicles. Normal people may lose up to 100 scalp hairs a day as a result of normal hair cycling. Practically, all body hair including scalp hair (except eye lashes) grow at same rate barring minor variation equally in men and women i.e. 0.35 to 0.40mm/day. In other words, the rate or speed of hair growth is about 1.25 centimeters or 0.5 inches per month. The diameter of human hair varies from 17 to 180 micrometers.  

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10. It is the shape of the hair follicle that determines whether hair is straight (circular follicle) or wavy (oval follicle) or curly (flat follicle). It is the size of hair follicle that determines whether hair is fine (thin) or coarse (thick).  Larger the hair follicle size, more number of keratinocytes are multiplying to produce hair and therefore the hair will not only be thicker but also longer. It is the number of hair follicles that determine density of hair. The shape, size and number of hair follicles are genetically determined and cannot be changed. Hair color is due to presence of hair pigments eumelanin and pheomelanin in varying degree in the cortex of hair as hair cuticle is transparent. Hair color is genetically determined. Different races, different humans of the same race, and different sites on the same human have; different shape, different size, different pigment combination and different number of hair follicles; resulting in different hair texture, different hair length, different hair density and different hair color.   

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11. The maximum length of your hair is fixed and is determined by the speed at which your hair grows and the duration of the growth cycle (anagen phase). Since all body hair  including scalp hair (except eye lashes) grow at almost same speed in both sexes, the maximum length of any hair is determined solely by duration of growth cycle of hair follicle. Women’s growth cycle for scalp hair is about four to seven years, whereas men’s growth cycle is shorter, varying from two to four years. Therefore, on average, maximum length of scalp hair in women is longer than men. Every human body hair including scalp hair has a fixed maximum length set by genes. Even though larger size of hair follicle produces thicker and longer hair, for the same size of hair follicle at different body site and in different individuals, genes determine maximum length of hair. Nobody can increase maximum hair length under any circumstances. Yes, hormonal imbalance, malnutrition, severe stress, medical illnesses, pollution, weather, aging and poor hair care can reduce length and growth speed of hair; and these can be corrected by appropriate interventions. Maximum hair length is different at different body sites in the same individual. For example, scalp hair is much longer than arm hair because even though speed of hair growth is same, the anagen phase of scalp hair is few years while anagen phase of arm hair is 30 to 45 days. 

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12. It is the curliness that leads to uneven distribution of oil (sebum) resulting in dry hair prone to breakage. It is the curliness that leads to stretching of dead keratinized cells on outer curve and shrinking of dead keratinized cells on inner curve, resulting in non-sealing of cuticle cells, resulting in increased porosity of hair. Therefore curly hair appear to be more fluffy or frizzy with little or no shine, tend to get tangled a lot but accepts chemical treatments much better and tends to hold styles very well and for a long time. Conversely, straightness of hair causes even distribution of oil which protects hair giving it strength. Straightness also causes tight sealing of cuticle cells resulting in non-porosity of hair. Straight hair appear shinier, more difficult to curl and style, tend not to get tangled, and more resistant to chemical treatments such as color or perms. In my view, natural straight hair is better than natural curly hair as it is shiny, tidy and strong. 

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13. Evolutionary biologically, straight hair evolved from curly hair as humans migrated out of Africa 65,000 years ago. African hair is curly, dry, fragile and porous; Asian hair is straighter, oily, strong and non-porous; and Caucasian hair is somewhere in between with around 45% having straight hair, 40% having wavy hair, and 15% having curly hair.

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14. Even though texture of hair is genetically determined, it can be temporarily or permanently altered by aging, pregnancy, hormones, medications, chemotherapy, nutrition and vices like alcoholism & smoking.

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15. There are three types of side bonds of hair cortex: salt bonds, hydrogen bonds, and disulfide bonds. Each type of side bond accounts for about one-third of the hair’s strength. The salt and hydrogen bonds are most prevalent, but are weaker and are broken by heat and moisture. It is the breakdown of these hydrogen & salt bonds by wet roller and hair iron that change the straightness or curliness of hair temporarily. Disulfide bonds are fewer, but are much stronger and it is the breakdown of disulfide bond by perm/ rebonding that changes the curliness or straightness of hair permanently. Of course, new hair growth shall have original natural curliness or straightness. 

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16. The sebaceous glands secrete sebum, an oily substance that maintains moisture content of hair & shines hair as it travels naturally down the hair shaft, and serves as a protective substance preventing the hair from drying out and cracking. Sebum also maintains moisture content of skin and inhibits growth of microorganisms.

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17. Excessive sebum (oil) produced by sebaceous glands of hair follicles may lead to oily hair, acne and dandruff. Oily hair & oily scalp surface also trap dirt, pollutants and microbes; and may cause hair to clump together. Dry hair means hair without moisture (water). Dry hair would happen if sebum (oil) is less as oil coating prevents escape of moisture to air. Dry hair would also happen if oil is optimum but hair is curly resulting in uneven coating of hair by oil. Other causes of dry hair are exposure to heat, wind, chemicals, hard water and malnutrition. Drying of hair will lead to lusterless brittle hair, split ends, breakage and hair loss. Therefore both dry & oily hair needs hair care.  

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18. Water and hair have love-hate relationship. We need some water in hair for good health of hair. Too much water or too little water can damage hair, and the more damaged your hair is, the more damaging water is to it.

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19. Thinness/thickness of hair has two meaning. First, individual hair strand is thin/thick, known as fine/coarse hair. Second, density of hair is less/more due to reduced/normal number of hair, for example, if you take one inch of a person’s head, hold the hair and see a lot of bare scalp, that person has very thin hair meaning fewer hairs and not fine hair. It’s important to note that someone can have very thick hair in density, but fine strands in texture. All these can be very confusing to hairdressers and clients alike. We need better terminology to avoid confusion. 

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20. Use wooden/metal wide-toothed comb to manage, style and untangle scalp hair. Use separate comb for each individual and keep comb clean by washing regularly. Combing also distributes sebum (oil) mechanically down the hair shaft to prevent hair damage.

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21. I recommend combing hair over brushing hair because brushing generate more & uneven stress on hair while combing generate less & uniform stress on hair; brushing to untangle tangled hair leads to hair being ripped out; and over-brushing leads to breakage, spilt ends and hair loss.

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22. Best way to comb hair is to, first detangle hair by fingers, and then run wide-toothed comb from root to tip starting one inch away from root. In this way cuticle as well as hair root is protected. My recommendation is contrary to recommendation by hair care experts who insist combing hair from tip to root.

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23. Scalp massage help regulate oil production in the hair follicles, help to unclog the hair follicle from dead skin cells and increase blood flow to the hair follicle encouraging healthy hair growth. Scalp massage is only beneficial in promoting hair growth in certain cases of temporary hair thinning & hair loss. Rubbing your scalp may also help release tension.    

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24. There is no hard and fast rule how often you wash your hair, and whether you use shampoo and/or conditioner and/or any natural product, or simply wash hair with plain lukewarm water. Everything depends on your hair type, your exposure to dirt & dust, your sweating pattern, weather, pollution, your personal hygiene values, your socio-economic status and how conscious are you of your hair appearance.

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25. Hair surface is negatively charged as hair surface has higher pH 5 than isoelectric point (pH 3.67). Minerals, dust, smoke, pollen and pollutants carrying positive charge get bound to hair as hair are normally negatively charged. This needs to be removed by using anionic surfactants in shampoo as negatively charge of surfactant would bind positively charged minerals/dust/pollutants. During a normal hair washing procedure performed at neutral pH 7, the surface of hair acquires further negative charges. For this reason, most conditioners and gels possess cationic polymers in order to counteract these negative charges,  reduce combing and electrostatic forces, and increase lubricity of our hair, leaving it easier to comb, less likely to tangle, less likely to break, and improve hair texture & feel.

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26. Conventional hair care suggests that shampoo your scalp and condition your hair. I disagree. Shampoo your scalp and hair because scalp sebum traps dead skin cells, dirt, soil particles, dust, pollutants and microbes; and negatively charged hair bind any positively charged minerals, dust, smoke and pollen. Accumulation of dirt, pollutants and oil on scalp can cause inflammation and irritation that might stunt hair growth. Regular shampooing with shampoo suitable to your hair type may in fact prevent this inflammation and promote healthy hair growth. Also, regular shampooing may even help androgenic alopecia by removing the androgens present in sebum (skin oil) before they can re-enter the scalp. Conditioners are used after shampooing to smooth down the cuticle layer of the hair, which can become roughened during the physical process of shampooing. Conditioners maintain moisture content, detangle, smoothen, shine and protect hair from breakage. Remember, shampoo is for cleaning scalp & hair while conditioner is for protecting hair.   

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27. Static (static electricity) on hair is positive charge on hair due to removal of electrons by combing dry hair with rubber/plastic comb, resulting in frizzing hair as positively charged hair strands would repel each other. Dry and damaged hair is more susceptible to static. Leave –in-conditioners and hairspray can prevent static. Wooden and metal combs prevent static.   

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28. Choosing and applying properly, most hair care and hair styling products will not damage hair.     

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29. Hair wash using only water was a good idea thousand years ago as there was no pollution. Hair wash using only water is unsanitary in modern world. When you use only water to wash hair, unlike sweat, which is water soluble and can be removed from your hair just by washing in water alone, the oils won’t wash away with plain water. So all the dirt, dust, toxins and pollutants trapped in oil will remain in scalp despite hair wash. Therefore hair wash with only water may be done when water is soft and it is supplemented by once a week/fortnight shampoo to cleanse scalp depending on hair type and exposure to dirt, dust and pollutants.   

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30. During washing process, hair absorbs up to 30% or more of its weight in water and swells. This causes each strand to swell considerably causing the outer covering of cuticle scales to lift and separate, which increases tangling and breakage. Subsequently hair drying via natural or thermal means, it undergoes what is known as differential drying and differential deformation (because each separate type of molecule within the overall structure dries and deforms at differing rates). This leads to moisture-induced stress on the hair, which can lead to delamination (cuticle layer stripping off), breakage, fiber fatigue, and rupture (split ends). And more damage is done over time from many cycles of expansion and contraction. This is wash-wear. On the other hand, never washing your hair is unsanitary: natural oils, hair products, dirt & dust, microbes, pollutants, dead skin cells; all build up on your scalp & hair. Therefore every individual must balance between under-washing and over-washing of hair as both are harmful.    

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31. Air drying of wet hair by sitting under fan spreading your long hair loose to increase surface area is better than blow drying hair using heat as heat can damage hair cuticle by trapping water inside hair cortex and actually causing water to boil.

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32. All chemical & heat processing (heat iron, color, highlight, perm or rebonding) of hair can cause subtle or overt hair damage and may lead to split ends, dry lusterless hair, hair breakage and hair loss.  

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33. Cutting or shaving hair neither stimulates hair growth nor makes hair thicker (coarser) or darker. Trimming split ends (above the level of split) of your hair regularly ensures that hair continues to grow well and stays healthy. Remember, uncut split ends can travel up the hair shaft towards the roots.  

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34. Tight ponytail or braiding can break off hair and damage hair roots. Avoid this potential problem by opting for looser styles that minimize scalp tension. If you have damaged hair, take a break from styling. As the damaged hair grows out, the new growth will be healthy.

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35.  Your hairs do not become healthy by regular application of hair-oil. Hair-oil does not add shine and luster to hair. The fact is only the oil on your hair shines and not you hair! Hair follicles get nutrition from blood and no hair-oil can nourish them. In fact, oils tend to attract dust & dirt and become a breeding ground for infections. Yes, if you have dry damaged hair, oil will work as sealant and retain moisture. But the same function can be obtained by a conditioner.  Coconut oil is better than all other natural oils and mineral oils. Coconut oil‘s ability to prevent protein loss from hair shaft makes it a valuable oil for those who chemically relax, regularly heat straighten, or permanently color their hair. On the other hand, amino acid and peptide containing shampoo/conditioner may also make hair shaft stronger.  Coconut oil reduces wash-wear when applied before hair wash.  

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36. Studies show that onion juice when applied to scalp increases hair growth and re-colors gray hair by increasing catalase in hair follicles which reduces oxidative stress and reduces hydrogen peroxide in hair follicles.     

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37. There is evidence to show that male pattern baldness (vertex baldness) is a risk factor for coronary heart disease.

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38. There is correlation between acne and androgenic alopecia as androgen sensitivity cause them and treatment with anti-androgenic spironolactone does reduce acne and androgenic alopecia. However to say that those who have acne would develop androgenic alopecia is overboard. We need a research study to know whether those who had/hadn’t acne as teenager developed androgenic alopecia later or not.   

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39. UV rays of sun damage the cuticle of the hair resulting in dryness, brittleness and damaged hair. Natural dark hair are less affected by the harmful UV rays but prolonged exposure can lead to lightening natural color. If you have colored hair, it will fade out faster due to prolonged exposure to sun.

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40. Smoking does cause hair loss and graying of hair.  

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41. Hair is an important physical evidence at a crime scene. However, strands of hair are not necessarily reliable sources of DNA and therefore DNA evidence attained from strands of hair is less reliable than DNA evidence attained from blood, semen, saliva, or skin.

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42. Commercial hair analysis is worthless for assessing body’s nutritional status or serving as a basis for dietary or supplement recommendations. On the other hand, clinical finding of dry, brittle, light colored hair could be sign of malnutrition.

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43.  Treatment of permanent hair loss (baldness) includes medications, wigs, hair transplant, hair cloning and genetic engineering.   

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Dr. Rajiv Desai. MD.

April 9, 2014 

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Postscript:

Till I started doing research to write article on ‘Hair’, I was ‘hair illiterate’. For decades I only shampooed hair daily without conditioner, used hot water to cleanse hair, always combed wet hair; all potentially harmful hair care practices due to lack of knowledge. Surprisingly, it did not harm my hair as hair care science suggest. So in my view, there is lot of hype & gray areas in hair care science. We need better research in hair care not driven by hair care industry but by independent researchers.     

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Footnote:

One has to differentiate nourishment from local stimulation vis-à-vis hair & hair follicle. Hair shaft as seen above skin surface is dead. Dead does not take nourishment. Hair shaft can get damaged by local chemical/heat action. Hair protein may take up few missing amino acid from hair care product. Hair care product can prevent loss of protein or make protein shaft stronger by coating over it. However you can never nourish hair shaft or kill hair shaft as it is already dead when it came out of skin. Hair follicle is alive but deep in dermis. It is difficult for any hair care product to reach hair follicles by application over scalp. Some chemicals or drugs can reach hair follicles which may stimulate hair growth or retard hair growth or may have other actions. However, no chemical or drug or hair care product can nourish hair follicle. Hair follicle gets its nutrition from blood and not from any local agents. Scalp massage does increase blood flow to scalp and thereby increase blood flow to hair follicles.   

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DRINKING WATER

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Drinking Water:  

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For last 8 years, I lived in a small town Daman and drank purified bottled water because water supplied by local municipality is suspected of unhygienic quality and water from private bore-well may well be contaminated as many areas of town have poor sewer drainage resulting in seepage of sewage in the soil itself and sewage tanks are in the vicinity of bore-wells. Assuming you’re in reasonable shape and in ideal conditions — that is, not in the heat or cold and not exerting, a human can probably live for about 3 to 5 days without drinking water. Healthier humans can live another day or so longer. Water is believed to be elixir of life. Humanity highly depends on water and its proper utilization and management. Although, water has various uses, perhaps its use as thirst quenching fluid is the most significant one. The life-supporting role of water plays a vital role in assigning water as a material of great importance in ancient and modern texts. Water has crucially shaped the rise and fall of many civilizations in the history of human beings. Many ancient civilizations flourished around river valley signifying the importance of water for human existence. At the same time, humanity has also faced the wrath of water. On several occasions, such events had changed the whole course of human history. Consequently, water has taken prominent status in different civilizations time after time. In my article on ‘Water’ published few years ago in this website, I had discussed broadly about water on earth without discussing specifically about drinking water. Most of the time, sanitation sits in the shadow of her more glamorous sister, water. The governments, the media and the populations are obsessed with provision of drinking water neglecting sanitation which is far more important that mere provision of potable water to masses. However, since I have already written article on ‘Sanitation’ earlier, it is apt to discuss the more glamorous sister of sanitation, drinking water.    

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Note:

Whenever the word water is used in this article without context, it means drinking water.

Discussion in this article centers on drinking water in healthy humans and not diseased humans. For example, drinking water vis-à-vis diabetes insipidus, loose motion, fever etc are not discussed. 

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The importance of drinking water varies from good science to bad science.

Let me begin with good science.

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Improvements in water supply and sanitation tend to lead to improvements in people’s health and the quality of their lives. Figure above shows the results of improvements in water and sanitation service upon the life expectancy of people in three French cities during the 19th century.

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Prior to 1908, no U.S. municipal water systems chemically disinfected water. Consequently, waterborne diseases exacted a heavy toll in illness and death. Without chlorination or other disinfection processes, consumers are at great risk of contracting waterborne diseases. Figure below shows the decline in the death rate due to typhoid fever following the introduction of chlorine to U.S. municipal drinking water systems in 1908.

 As more cities adopted water chlorination, U.S. death rates due to cholera and hepatitis A also declined dramatically. Worldwide, significant strides in public health and the quality of life are directly linked to the adoption of drinking water chlorination. Recognizing this success, Life magazine (1997) declared, “The filtration of drinking water plus the use of chlorine is probably the most significant public health advancement of the millennium.”

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On the other hand, due to importance of water in human life, lot of bad science about water is propagated by media, internet, nutritionists and quacks. I narrate few examples:  

1)75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated.
2) In 37% of Americans, the thirst mechanism is so weak that it is often mistaken for hunger.
3) Even mild dehydration will slow down one’s metabolism to as much as 30%.
4) One glass of water shut down midnight hunger pangs for almost 100% of the dieters in a study.
5) Lack of water is the number one trigger of daytime fatigue.
6) Preliminary research indicates that 8-10 glasses of water a day could significantly ease back and joint pain for up to 80% of sufferers.
7) A mere 2% drop in body water can trigger fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic math, and difficulty focusing on the computer screen or on a printed page.
8) Drinking 5 glasses of water daily decreases the risk of colon cancer by 45%, plus it can slash the risk of breast cancer by 79%, and one is 50% less likely to develop bladder cancer.

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Doctors from a wide range of specialities agree: 

By all evidence, majority of people are well-hydrated. Furthermore, they say, the current infatuation with water as an all-purpose health potion — tonic for the skin, key to weight loss — is a blend of fashion and fiction and very little science.

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Different people from different countries measure drinking water volume in different ways as seen in the table below:

One glass of water = 8 ounces = 240 ml of water

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Drinking water minerals, disinfectants and chemical contaminants are measured according to the table below:

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Some terminologies used commonly in drinking water contamination and treatment:

•Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) – The highest level of a contaminant that is allowed in drinking water. MCLs are set as close to MCLGs as feasible using the best available treatment technology and taking cost into consideration. MCLs are enforceable standards.

•Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) – The level of a contaminant in drinking water below which there is no known or expected risk to health. MCLGs allow for a margin of safety and are non-enforceable public health goals.

•Maximum Residual Disinfectant Level (MRDL) – The highest level of a disinfectant allowed in drinking water.

•Maximum Residual Disinfectant Level Goal (MRDLG) – The level of a drinking water disinfectant below which there is no known or expected risk to health. MRDLGs do not reflect the benefits of the use of disinfectants to control microbial contaminants.

•Treatment Technique (TT) – A required process intended to reduce the level of a contaminant in drinking water.   

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Water that is safe to drink is called potable water, or drinking water, in contrast to safe water, which can be used for bathing or cleaning. Sources of water are classified as either treated or untreated. Untreated water includes rain water, river water, underground water from bores or aquifers and brackish or sea water. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that drinking water must be bacteriologically and chemically safe to drink. In order to achieve this, raw water is treated by the local water management authorities with various chemicals, usually chlorine and/or chloramines which destroy bacteria. Other processes and chemicals are also used to achieve the standard of cleanliness required for drinking water.

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Drinking Water Quality is the issue:

● Point-of- use drinking water treatment through chlorine and safe storage of water could result in 122.2 million avoided DALYs (Disability Adjusted Life Years, a measure of morbidity), at a total cost of US$ 11.4 billion. (UN WWAP 2003)

● Nearly 70 million people living in Bangladesh are exposed to groundwater contaminated with arsenic beyond WHO recommended limits of 10 ug/L. (UN WWAP 2009) The naturally occurring arsenic pollution in groundwater now affects nearly 140 million people in 70 countries on all continents. (UN WWAP 2009)

● Even drinking water quality in developed countries is not assured. In France, drinking water testing uncovered that 3 million people were drinking water whose quality did not meet WHO standards, and 97% of groundwater samples did not meet standards for nitrate in the same study. (UN WWAP 2009)

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What makes clean water so important?

1. Unsafe water is the leading cause of sickness and death:

a) 3.41 million people die from water, sanitation and hygiene-related causes each year.

b) Half of the world’s hospital beds are filled with people suffering from water related illnesses.

c) It is estimated that nearly 10% of the global disease burden could be reduced through improved water supply, sanitation, hygiene, and water resource management.

2. Water impacts everything:

a) Safe drinking water sends children (especially girls) back to school, empowers women, improves community health and fosters economic development.

b) In just one day, 200 million work hours are consumed by women collecting water for their families.

c) Without clean water and sanitation, it is impossible to address poverty, hunger or AIDS.  

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Why is it especially important for children to consume clean purified water?

1. A child’s immune system and detoxification system are still developing throughout early childhood and teen years. Exposure to even very low levels of toxic chemicals or lead in drinking water at a young age can lead to increased risks of degenerative diseases and learning disorders in later years. Since many of the crucial defense systems that help protect adults from disease and environmental pollutants are not fully developed in children, they are much more sensitive to contaminants. A child consumes 3 times as much water per pound of body weight than an adult does, so they get a much bigger dose of the contaminants in our water. Their developing bodies are simply much more sensitive.

2. Currently, the health standards that determine how much and what levels of contaminants we are permitted to consume in our drinking water are all based on the potential effects on adults.

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The impact of clean water technologies on public health in the U.S is estimated to have had a rate of return of 23 to 1 for investments in water filtration and chlorination during the first half of the 20th century.  Journal Nature framed the issues by stating, “More than one billion people in the world lack access to clean water, and things are getting worse. Over the next two decades, the average supply of water per person will drop by a third, possibly condemning millions of people to an avoidable premature death”.  Clean, pure water is a cornerstone of good health. Your body is mostly water, so the ongoing intake of water is essential to your every function.  It’s common knowledge that most water sources are now polluted, but there is tremendous confusion about what kind of drinking water is the most health promoting, and what kind of home water treatment produces the best drinking water. Most public water supplies are loaded with hazardous contaminants, such as disinfection byproducts (DBPs), fluoride, and pharmaceutical drugs, to name just a few.

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Some people may be more vulnerable than others to potential harm caused by water contaminants, including:

•People undergoing chemotherapy

•People with HIV/AIDS

•Transplant patients

•Children and infants

•Pregnant women and their fetuses

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Boil-water advisory:

A boil-water advisory or boil-water order is a public health advisory or directive given by government or health authorities to consumers when a community’s drinking water is, or could be, contaminated by pathogens. A boil-water advisory (BWA) recommends that water be brought to a rolling boil for one minute before it is consumed in order to kill protozoa, bacteria and viruses. At altitudes above 2,000 meters, boiling should be extended to 3 minutes, as the lower temperature of the boiling point at high altitudes requires more time to kill such organisms. BWAs are typically issued when monitoring of water being served to consumers detects E. coli or other microbiological indicators of sewage contamination. Another reason for a BWA is a failure of distribution system integrity evidenced by a loss of system pressure. While loss of pressure does not necessarily mean the water has been contaminated, it does mean that pathogens may be able to enter the piped-water system and thus be carried to consumers.

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Note:

Due to poor quality of drinking water supplied by governments and municipalities in the developing nations like India and Bangladesh, there is a need for everlasting boil-water advisory to people in these regions.

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Dissolved oxygen (DO) in water:

The dissolved oxygen (DO) is oxygen that is dissolved in water. The oxygen dissolves by diffusion from the surrounding air; aeration of water that has tumbled over falls and rapids; and as a waste product of photosynthesis. Fish and aquatic animals cannot split oxygen from water (H2O) or other oxygen-containing compound. Only green plants and some bacteria can do that through photosynthesis and similar processes. Fish and other aquatic animals use dissolved oxygen in water for survival. Numerous scientific studies suggest that 4-5 parts per million (ppm) of DO is the minimum amount that will support a large, diverse fish population. The DO level in good fishing waters generally averages about 9.0 parts per million (ppm). The DO content of drinking water should be about 5 to 7 ppm (parts per million). A high DO level in a community water supply is good because it makes drinking water taste better. However, high DO levels speed up corrosion in water pipes. For this reason, industries use water with the least possible amount of dissolved oxygen. Water used in very low pressure boilers have no more than 2.0 ppm of DO, but most boiler plant operators try to keep oxygen levels to 0.007 ppm or less.

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Do you know?

•The average distance that women in Africa and Asia walk to collect drinking water is 6 kilometers.

•The basic requirement of water for a lactating women engaged in even moderate physical activity is 7.5 liters a day.

•At any one time, close to half of all people in developing countries are suffering from health problems caused by poor water and sanitation.

•A survey of 5,000 schools in Senegal showed that over half had no water supply.

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Key water facts:

884 million people lack access to safe water supplies — approximately one in eight people
6 kilometers is the average distance African and Asian women walk to fetch water
3.6 million people die each year from water-related diseases
98 per cent of water-related deaths occur in the developing world
84 per cent of water-related deaths are in children ages 0–14
43 per cent of water-related deaths are due to diarrhea
65 million People are at risk of arsenic poisoning in the Bangladesh, India and Nepal area

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Food and water are two basic human needs. However, global coverage figures from 2002 indicate that, of every 10 people:

a) roughly five have a connection to a piped water supply at home (in their dwelling, plot or yard);

b) three make use of some other sort of improved water supply, such as a protected well or public standpipe;

c) two are unserved;

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How long can a person survive Without Water?

It is widely known that humans cannot survive for more than a few days without ingesting water in excess of solutes. The dangers of severe hypertonicity and volume depletion are not up for debate. Assuming you’re in reasonable shape and in ideal conditions — that is, not in the heat or cold and not exerting, a human can probably live for about 3 to 5 days without any water. Healthier humans can live another day or so longer. In an amazing show of endurance, a Japanese hiker survived for 24 days in cold weather without food and water in October 2006. He thinks he may have tripped and lost consciousness after leaving his fellow hikers. All he remembers lying in a field and falling asleep, then awaking to rescue more than three weeks later. His body temperature when he was found was an astounding 71 degrees Fahrenheit — more than 27 degrees below normal. He had virtually no pulse and his organs had shut down. Doctors believe he may have fallen into a hibernation-like state very early in his ordeal, preserving his brain function and allowing him to survive without any food or water.

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Water and life:

What makes scientists think that water is better at sustaining life than every other substance?

Part of the reason is that we’ve never discovered an organism that’s proven otherwise. While some organisms need less than others — the cyanobacteria Chroococcidiopsis, for instance, needs so little water that biologists think it may be able to survive on the arid surface of Mars — every organism we know of needs water to survive. In fact, without water, life on Earth would have never begun. Acting as a medium in which organic compounds could mix with one another, water facilitated the formation of the planet’s first life forms, possibly even protecting them from the sun’s radiation. From those simple starter organisms to the most complex plants and animals, water has played a critical role in survival ever since. In humans, it acts as both a solvent and a delivery mechanism, dissolving essential vitamins and nutrients from food and delivering them to cells. Our bodies also use water to flush out toxins, regulate body temperature and aid our metabolism. No wonder, then, that water makes up nearly 60 percent of our bodies or that we can’t go for more than a few days without it. If life forms that don’t require water do exist, they’d be very different than the life found on Earth. For instance, rather than being carbon-based, such life may arise from silicone compounds. A recent study even suggests that an alternative life form might be lurking in our solar system. Researchers studying Titan, a moon orbiting Saturn, noticed that hydrogen in the moon’s atmosphere wasn’t found on the surface. One explanation for the missing hydrogen is that life forms are consuming it, just as we consume oxygen. So far, however, we simply don’t have enough information to say whether or not life could exist without water. We know with certainty, however, that life on Earth definitely couldn’t. Water and life are closely linked. This has been recognized throughout history by civilizations and religions and is still the case with scientists today. Liquid water is required for life to start and for life to continue. No enzymes work in the absence of water molecules. No other liquid can replace water. It is interesting to know that water generated from metabolism of nutrients provides a significant proportion of the daily water requirements for some arthropods and desert animals, but provides only a small fraction of a human’s necessary intake. 

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The figure below depicts availability of clean drinking water in the world:

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Water as human right:

On 28 July 2010, through Resolution 64/292, the United Nations General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water & sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights. The Resolution calls upon States and international organisations to provide financial resources, help capacity-building and technology transfer to help countries, in particular developing countries, to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all. The United Nations considers universal access to clean water a basic human right, and an essential step towards improving living standards worldwide. Water-poor communities are typically economically poor as well, their residents trapped in an ongoing cycle of poverty.  Education suffers when sick children miss school. Economic opportunities are routinely lost to the impacts of rampant illness and the time-consuming processes of acquiring water where it is not readily available. Children and women bear the brunt of these burdens. The World Health Organization (WHO) and various national agencies have drinking water quality standards that specify the acceptable microbial, chemical, and radiological characteristics of safe drinking water.  

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World water day:

The UN General Assembly designated March 22 as “World Water Day” back in 1992. It is a time set aside to draw attention to the largest public health issue of our time—the global scarcity of clean water. There are a variety of activities being planned around this event.  Every year on that date, people worldwide participate in events and programs to raise public awareness about what many believe to be the world’s most serious health issue—unsafe and inadequate water supplies—and to promote the conservation and development of global water resources.

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History of drinking water:

Drinking water is most obviously a physical resource, one of the few truly essential requirements for life. Regardless of the god you worship or the color of your skin, if you go without water for three days in an arid environment your life is in danger. And water’s physical characteristics confound easy management. Water is heavy – it is difficult to move uphill. Water is unwieldy – it cannot be packed or contained easily. And drinking water is fragile – it easily becomes contaminated and unfit for consumption. Drinking water is also a cultural resource, of religious significance in many societies. As social resource, access to water reveals much about membership in society. As political resource, the provision of water to citizens can serve important communication purposes. And finally, when scarce, water can become an economic resource.  

Ancient and Indigenous Societies:

Given the critical importance of drinking water to survival, it should come as no surprise that, throughout history, human society and economies have been predicated on ready access to sources of drinking water. Archaeological excavations find early human settlements located at sites with reliable sources of drinking water nearby. The availability of water for drinking from springs, streams or lakes often meant that plants, animals and other critical goods would have been nearby, as well. Excavations from the Neolithic time have also found a striking correspondence between settlements and wells.  As societies developed from hunter/gatherer economies to more advanced grazing, the need for secure, abundant supplies of water became even more important. Management of drinking water was central to urban planning in early settlements, as well. Thus one can find examples of sophisticated water management in virtually every archaeological excavation of ancient civilizations. Water storage basins with minimum storage capacities of 10,000-25,000 gallons of water have been excavated in the Mesa Verde region of the American Southwest.  Large collection and storage structures have been uncovered throughout the Maya Lowlands. Though half a world away, cisterns and wells carved from the rock have been found in excavations at Ebla, in Syria, dating from 2350 B.C. Even earlier water storage sites have been found at Jawa, in north-eastern Jordan, dating from the fourth millennium B.C.  Archaeologists suspect that such reservoirs were important features of town defenses, providing a secure supply of water in case of siege. The massive cisterns at Masada, high above the arid Dead Sea, proved critical to the multi-year resistance against the Romans.

Traditional Jewish Water Law:

The Old Testament is filled with references to springs and wells, their importance clearly evident from the fact that each was given a special name.  Jewish law regarding drinking water has been traced as far back as 3,000 B.C. The basic rule was one of common property. As reflected in the later writings of the Talmud, “Rivers and Streams forming springs, these belong to every man.”  Because water from natural sources such as springs and streams was “provided by God,” commodification of these waters would be tantamount to desecration – selling divine gifts.

Traditional Islamic Water Law:

Islamic water law is quite similar to Jewish water law in both substance and significance. Indeed, the Arabic word for Islamic law, “Sharia,” literally means the “way to water.”  As the Holy Quran relates, Anyone who gives water to a living creature will be rewarded…To the man who refuses his surplus water, Allah will say: ‘Today I refuse thee my favor, just as thou refused the surplus of something that thou hadst not made thyself.’ The Right of Thirst reinforced this message. Since water is a gift from God to all people, sharing water is a holy duty.

Bihar Indian Water Law: Casteism and drinking water:

Studies of the Bihar in the northeast region of India reveal some fascinating differences in drinking water management. Because of the complex social hierarchy, priority of access and management is much more carefully proscribed than in other cultures along social caste lines. As a researcher has written, water is believed to be a medium that transmits pollution when in contact with a person who himself is in a ‘state of pollution.’ Hence, the upper and lower castes are expected to maintain distinctness of water sources as the lower castes, especially the “harijans,” are believed to have the potential of transmitting pollution by sharing sources… The group of community members who actually have ownership and/or access to a public source depends primarily upon caste and differs in accordance with their social affiliations.

Rome is the first great city defined by its management of drinking water:

Irrigation reached new heights in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and while the cisterns and storage basins of Mesapotamian cultures were impressive feats of engineering, they cannot compare with the graceful aqueducts that carried clean water to the great Roman cities. Aqueducts were among the most magnificent structures of the ancient world and some proudly survive today. The water fountains that continue to define the splendor of Rome were important parts of the city’s drinking water provision over 2,000 years ago. Rome is also the first major city we know of that managed drinking water as a priced resource.

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Are we borrowing water from the next generation?

World water use has tripled over the last half-century. Seventy percent of all the water that is withdrawn from rivers or from underground sources is used for irrigation. Twenty percent is used by industry, ten percent for residential purposes. Forty percent of our food supply now comes from irrigated land, which now plays a disproportionately large role in the world food economy. The demand for water has tripled since 1950 and is continuing to rise as we add 80 million more people each year. While the demand continues to rise, the basic amount of fresh water supply provided by the hydrological cycle does not. There are two principal signs of stress as the demand for water outruns the supply. One is rivers running dry; the other is falling water tables. With populations growing fast in water-short regions of the world, scores of countries are facing acute hydrological shortage — simply not enough water to satisfy basic human needs. Sandra Postel has attempted to calculate the size of the world water deficit — the amount of overpumping in the world. She has concluded, using data for India, China, the Middle East, North Africa, and the United States, that worldwide we are now each year overpumping by 160 billion tons of water, which equals 160 billion cubic meters. Since it takes a thousand tons of water to produce one ton of grain, a 160 billion-ton water deficit is equal to a 160-million-ton grain deficit. Stated otherwise, roughly 160 million tons of the world’s grain supply is now being produced by overpumping. Assuming a person consumes one third of a ton of grain each year, the current global average, 160 million tons of grain will feed 480 million people. This means that of the world’s current population of seven billion, we are feeding 480 million with grain produced with the unsustainable use of water. Stated otherwise, we are now beginning to feed ourselves with water that belongs to our children. We are borrowing water from the next generation.  

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Microscope, water filtering and cholera:

The microscope has an interesting place in water filter history.  Anton van Leeuwenhoek used his discovery of the microscope to see and describe the teeming life in a single drop of water. Robert Hooke, considered the English father of microscopy, confirmed Leeuwenhoek’s descriptions of tiny, living organisms in a drop of water and further refined the microscope. Soon scientists were examining tiny particles of life they had never before seen nor known existed prior to the invention of the microscope.  John Snow, a British scientist, was able to link several cholera deaths to water from the Broad Street Pump, a nearby water pump that had become contaminated by a leaking sewer. Using a microscope, he was able to confirm the presence of tiny cholera bacteria in the water. As British government officials noted the effect of water quality on cholera outbreaks, both through Snow’s discovery and through the evidence of decreasing cases of cholera where sand water filters had been installed, they mandated the installation of sand water filters throughout the city. This mandate was one of the first instances of government regulation of public water and would set a precedent for municipal water systems.

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Water and culture:

Water is probably the only natural resource to touch all aspects of human civilization – from agricultural and industrial development to the cultural and religious values embedded in society. The need and demand for water have been a driving force for health, for society, for economic prosperity, for cultural significance, and development throughout human history. Due to its fundamental role in society’s life, water has a strong cultural dimension. Without understanding and considering the cultural aspects of our water problems, no sustainable solution can be found. Cultural differences play a key role in the way water is perceived, valued and managed in different societies. World health and poverty eradication have cultural connotations; culture has positive and negative health impacts on individual well-being – in particular women’s health. Water management practices should be adapted to specific cultures as they constitute distinct systems.

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Water and economy:

There is a nearly one-to-one correlation throughout the world between national economic output and per capita water use. The United States has the highest Gross National Product (GNP) and the highest fresh water usage in the world at approximately 2,000 cubic-m per person per year, whereas sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest GNP and water usage (approximately 100 cubic-m per person per year). The two notable exceptions to this correlation-Singapore and Israel-are important lessons for developed and developing nations alike. Both have significant freshwater resource issues and both spend a much larger percentage of their GNP for water production and water research than the United States and other developed nations.

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Water and politics:

Water politics, sometimes called hydropolitics, is politics affected by the availability of water and water resources, a necessity for all life forms and human development. The availability of drinking water per capita is inadequate and shrinking worldwide. The causes, related to both quantity and quality, are many and varied; they include local scarcity, limited availability and population pressures, but also human activities of mass consumption, misuse, environmental degradation and water pollution, as well as climate change. Water’s essential nature makes it a strategic natural resource globally, and in its absence, an important element of political conflicts in many areas, historically. With decreasing availability and increasing demand for water, some have predicted that clean water will become the “next oil”; making countries like Canada, Chile, Norway, Colombia and Peru, with this resource in abundance, the water-rich countries in the world. World Bank Vice President Ismail Serageldin predicted, “Many of the wars of the 20th century were about oil, but wars of the 21st century will be over water unless we change the way we manage water.”  This is debated by some, however, who argue that disputes over water usually are resolved by diplomacy and do not turn into wars. Another new school of thought argues that “perceived fears of losing control over shared water might contribute towards a constant preparedness to go to war among riparian nations, just in case there is one.”

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Water conflicts:          

The importance of water to life means that providing for water needs and demands will never be free of politics. Water conflict is a term describing a conflict between countries, states, or groups over an access to water resources. The United Nations recognizes that water disputes result from opposing interests of water users, public or private. A wide range of water conflicts appear throughout history, though rarely are traditional wars waged over water alone. Instead, water has historically been a source of tension and a factor in conflicts that start for other reasons. However, water conflicts arise for several reasons, including territorial disputes, a fight for resources, and strategic advantage.

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The current categories, or types of water conflict, now include:

•Control of Water Resources (state and non-state actors): where water supplies or access to water is at the root of tensions.

•Military Tool (state actors): where water resources, or water systems themselves, are used by a nation or state as a weapon during a military action.

•Political Tool (state and non-state actors): where water resources, or water systems themselves, are used by a nation, state, or non-state actor for a political goal.

•Terrorism (non-state actors): where water resources, or water systems, are either targets or tools of violence or coercion by non-state actors.

•Military Target (state actors): where water resource systems are targets of military actions by nations or states.

•Development Disputes (state and non-state actors): where water resources or water systems are a major source of contention and dispute in the context of economic and social development.

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Water basics:

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Dihydrogen monoxide, more commonly known as water, is all around us. Water is the chemical substance with chemical formula H2O: one molecule of water has two hydrogen atoms covalently bonded to a single oxygen atom. At its most basic, water is a molecule with one oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms, bonded together by shared electrons. It is a V-shaped polar molecule, which means that it’s charged positively near the hydrogen atoms and negatively near the oxygen atom. Water molecules are naturally attracted and stick to each other because of this polarity, forming a hydrogen bond. This hydrogen bond is the reason behind many of water’s special properties, such as the fact that it’s denser in its liquid state than in its solid state (ice floats on water). Water is the only substance that occurs naturally as a solid (ice), a liquid and a gas (water vapor). Water appears in nature in all three common states of matter (solid, liquid, and gas) and may take many different forms on Earth: water vapor and clouds in the sky, seawater in the oceans, icebergs in the polar oceans, glaciers in the mountains, fresh and salt water lakes, rivers, and aquifers in the ground. In its purest form, it’s odorless, nearly colorless and tasteless. Without it, life would be impossible. It’s in your body, the food you eat and the beverages you drink.

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The structure of water molecules includes “polar covalent bonds” which means that electrons (hence electric charge) are unevenly distributed around the molecule; hence some parts of the molecule are relatively more “positive” and others relatively more “negative” – compared with each other. This results in some water having some useful properties:

•Cohesion – means that water molecules are attracted to other water molecules (e.g. forming droplets)

•Adhesion – means that water molecules are often attracted to other materials (though not all other materials)

•Surface Tension – means that water molecules pull towards each other at interfaces with other matter e.g. air. The result is the smallest possible surface area of water.

•Capillary Action is the ability of a liquid to flow in narrow spaces without the assistance of, and in opposition to external forces like gravity. Water is capable of capillary action due to its properties of adhesion (i.e. some water molecules are attracted to molecules of another adjacent material) and cohesion (i.e. other water molecules stay attached to and so “follow” neighbouring water molecules moving along a channel or surface due to attractions to successive non-water molecules).  An example of capillary action in human biology is the drainage of constantly produced tear fluid from the eye.

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Water is used in photosynthesis, so it is responsible for the production of glucose. This in turn is used in the synthesis of many chemicals. Water helps in the temperature regulation of many organisms. It enables the cooling down of some organisms. Owing to a high latent heat of vaporization, large amounts of body heat are needed to evaporate a small quantity of water. Organisms like humans cool down effectively but lose only a small amount of water in doing so. A relatively high level of heat is needed to raise the temperature of water by a small amount due to its high specific heat capacity. This enables organisms to control their body temperature more effectively. Water is often known as the universal solvent, which means that many substances dissolve in it. Substances that dissolve in water are hydrophilic. This means that they are as strong or stronger than water’s cohesive forces. Salt and sugar are both polar, like water, so they dissolve very well in it. Substances that do not dissolve in water are hydrophobic. This is the source of the saying “oil and water don’t mix.” Water’s solvency is why the water that we use is rarely pure; it usually has several minerals dissolved in it. The presence of these minerals is the difference between hard water and soft water. Water is a solvent for ionic compounds. A number of the essential elements required by organisms are obtained in ionic form, e.g.:

(a) plants absorb nitrate ions (NO3–) and phosphate ions (PO4–) in solution

(b) animals intake sodium ions (Na+) and chloride ions (Cl –).

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Water is considered as nutrient just like carbohydrate, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Nutritional value of tap water:

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Water balance in human body:

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The figure below shows overview of water balance in human body (approximate):

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Humans need water to live, plain and simple. We lose water through sweat, urine, feces and even breathing. This water needs to be replaced in order for our organs to continue to work properly. In severe heat, an adult can lose as much as 1.5 liters of water through sweat alone. The main risk without water in high heat is that your body temperature will continue to rise and you’ll suffer from heat stroke. Drinking water will cool you down and lower your core temperature.

Input and output of water:

Fluid can enter the body as preformed water, ingested food and drink and to a lesser extent as metabolic water which is produced as a by-product of aerobic respiration (cellular respiration) and dehydration synthesis.

Input:

A constant supply is needed to replenish the fluids lost through normal physiological activities, such as respiration, sweating and urination. Water generated from the biochemical metabolism of nutrients provides a significant proportion of the daily water requirements for some arthropods and desert animals, but provides only a small fraction of a human’s necessary intake. In the normal resting state, input of water through ingested fluids is approximately 1200 ml/day, from ingested foods 1000 ml/day and from aerobic respiration 300 ml/day, totaling 2500 ml/day.

Regulation of input:

Input of water is regulated mainly through ingested fluids, which, in turn, depends on thirst. An insufficiency of water results in an increased osmolarity in the extracellular fluid. This is sensed by osmoreceptors in the organum vasculosum of the lamina terminalis, which trigger thirst. Thirst can to some degree be voluntarily resisted, as during fluid restriction.

Output:

Fluid can leave the body in many ways.

1. The majority of fluid output occurs via the urine, approximately 1500 ml/day in the normal adult resting state.

2. Some fluid is lost through perspiration (part of the body’s temperature control mechanism) and as water vapor in expired air. These are termed “insensible fluid losses” as they cannot be easily measured. Some sources say insensible losses account for 500 to 650 ml/day of water in adults, while other sources put the minimum value at 800 ml. In children, one calculation used for insensible fluid loss is 400ml/m2 body surface area.

3. In addition, an adult loses approximately 100ml/day of fluid through feces.

4. For females, an additional 50 ml/day is lost through vaginal secretions.

These outputs are in balance with the input of ~2500 ml/day.

Regulation of output:

The body’s homeostatic control mechanisms, which maintain a constant internal environment, ensure that a balance between fluid gain and fluid loss is maintained. The hormones ADH (Anti-diuretic Hormone, also known as vasopressin) and Aldosterone play a major role in this. If the body is becoming fluid-deficient, there will be an increase in the secretion of these hormones, causing fluid to be retained by the kidneys and urine output to be reduced. Conversely, if fluid levels are excessive, secretion of these hormones is suppressed, resulting in less retention of fluid by the kidneys and a subsequent increase in the volume of urine produced. 

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Think of water as a nutrient your body needs that is present in liquids, plain water, and foods. All of these are essential daily to replace the large amounts of water lost each day. Fluid losses occur continuously, from skin evaporation, breathing, urine, and stool, and these losses must be replaced daily for good health. When your water intake does not equal your output, you can become dehydrated. Fluid losses are accentuated in warmer climates, during strenuous exercise, in high altitudes, and in older adults, whose sense of thirst may not be as sharp.    

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Daily obligatory water loss:

In the paragraph above, I discussed approximate daily input and output of water. Obligatory water loss means minimum water loss required to sustain life irrespective of environment and activity. As a corollary, the bare minimum you need to drink water daily is to compensate for obligatory water loss to maintain water balance and prevent dehydration.  Water is required to replace losses which normally consist of insensible losses (from the skin and respiratory tract), urine, sweating and faecal loss. An obligatory urine loss occurs because of the need to remove various solutes from the body. Other losses (e.g. sweating and faecal losses) are quite small under normal conditions. The minimum water required for urine is dependent on the daily solute excretory load and the maximum urinary concentration achievable. For example, a typical daily solute load of 600 mOsms in a patient with a maximum urinary concentrating ability of 1200 mOsm/kg will require a minimum urine volume of 500mls/day to excrete it. If urine volume was less than this amount, solutes would accumulate and renal failure would be present. Ill or elderly patients are typically not able to achieve urine osmolality of 1200 mOsm/kg so the obligatory minimum urine volume required for solute excretion can be much higher than 500 ml.

Components of Daily Obligatory Water Loss:

•Insensible loss: 800 ml

•Minimal sweat loss: 100 ml

•Faecal loss: 100 ml

•Minimal urine volume to excrete solute load: 500 ml

•Total: 1,500 ml of obligatory water loss daily.

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Now let us calculate how much water is generated in human body out of metabolism.

Metabolic water generation in human body:

Let me give example of conversion of Fat to Water:

Fat molecules consist primarily of long carbon chains containing hydrogen and carbon atoms in the ratio 2:1, respectively. When fat is burned in the body, its hydrogen and carbon atoms combine with oxygen to form H2O (water) and CO2 (carbon dioxide). These chemical formulas mean that two atoms of hydrogen (H2) combine with one atom of oxygen (O) to form one molecule of water (H2O) and that one atom of carbon (C) combines with two atoms of oxygen (O2) to form one molecule of carbon dioxide (CO2). Hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen atoms have relative masses of 1, 12, and 16, respectively. It follows from these facts that every pound of fat contains approximately 1/7 lb of hydrogen and 6/7 lb of carbon, and, when burned, every pound of fat combines with about 3.4 lb of oxygen to produce about 1.3 lb of water and 3.1 lb of carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is quickly expelled by the body through respiration but water remains. 

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Water from oxidation of calorific substrates:  

Substrate oxidation Amount Water produced
Lipids 100 g 107 ml
Carbohydrates 100 g 55 ml
Proteins 100 g 41 ml

Approximately 300 ml of water is generated in human body due to metabolism of fat, protein and carbohydrates.

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Obligatory water loss = 1500 ml

Obligatory water gain = 300 ml metabolic water generated in human body.

Net obligatory water requirement is 1500 – 300 = 1200ml.

Every adult human must drink at least 1200 ml of water.

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Since obligatory water loss occurs from insensible water loss (respiratory tract plus skin), sweat, urine and stool; any increase in water loss from these mechanisms would increase water needs; e.g. increased sweating in hot weather or exercise.  

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Water distribution, homeostasis and absorption in human body:

Water is the most abundant constituent in the human body, accounting for 50% of body weight in women and 60% in men. At birth, the human body may be comprised of up to 75 percent water, but this percentage decreases as we age and with obesity, which can decrease the percentage of the body water to as low as 45 percent. Needless to say, water and staying hydrated is essential to the human body. Total body water is distributed in two major compartments: 55–75% is intracellular [intracellular fluid (ICF)], and 25–45% is extracellular [extracellular fluid (ECF)]. ECF is subdivided into intravascular (plasma water) and extravascular (interstitial) spaces in a ratio of 1:3. The cell membrane separates ICF from ECF. The cell membrane is highly permeable to water but impermeable to most solutes and proteins. The endothelial cells of capillary separates intravascular compartment from interstitial compartment. The pores between endothelial cells in capillary allow free movement of water and solutes but do not allow proteins to pass through.  So water can travel in all 3 fluid compartments freely depending on osmolarity of the fluids. Solutes can travel only between intravascular compartment and interstitial compartment and not to ICF barring few exceptions. Vasopressin (also known as anti-diuretic hormone ADH) secretion, water ingestion, and renal water transport collaborate to maintain human body fluid osmolarity between 280 and 295 mosmol/lit. Vasopressin (AVP) is synthesized in magnocellular neurons within the hypothalamus; the distal axons of those neurons project to the posterior pituitary or neurohypophysis, from which AVP is released into the circulation. A network of central osmoreceptor neurons that includes the AVP-expressing magnocellular neurons themselves sense circulating osmolarity via nonselective, stretch-activated cation channels. These osmoreceptor neurons are activated or inhibited by modest increases and decreases in circulating osmolarity, respectively; activation leads to AVP release and thirst. AVP secretion is stimulated as systemic osmolarity increases above a threshold level of 285 mosmol/lit, above which there is a linear relationship between osmolarity and circulating AVP. Thirst and thus water ingestion also are activated at 285 mosmol/lit, beyond which there is an equivalent linear increase in the perceived intensity of thirst as a function of circulating osmolarity. Changes in blood volume and blood pressure are also direct stimuli for AVP release and thirst, albeit with a less sensitive response profile. Of perhaps greater clinical relevance to the pathophysiology of water homeostasis, ECF volume strongly modulates the relationship between circulating osmolarity and AVP release so that hypovolemia reduces the osmotic threshold and increases the slope of the response curve to osmolarity; hypervolemia has the opposite effect, increasing the osmotic threshold and reducing the slope of the response curve. The excretion or retention of electrolyte-free water by the kidney is modulated by circulating AVP. Under anti-diuretic conditions, with increased circulating AVP, the kidney reabsorbs water filtered by the glomerulus to excrete a hypertonic, concentrated urine (osmolarity of up to 1200 mosmol/lit). In the absence of circulating AVP, kidneys secrete hypotonic, dilute urine (osmolarity as low as 30–50 mosmol/lit). In a nutshell, when body has free water deficit (dehydration), plasma osmolarity rises, AVP is secreted to reduce free water clearance from kidney and thirst is stimulated to coerce human to drink water. When body has free water excess, plasma osmolarity falls, AVP disappears from plasma and kidneys excrete excess free water from body through dilute urine.

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The ability of animals and humans to “meter” fluid intake is important because it prevents overhydration. After a person drinks water, 30 to 60 minutes may be required for the water to be reabsorbed and distributed throughout the body. If the thirst sensation were not temporarily relieved after drinking water, the person would continue to drink more and more, eventually leading to overhydration and excess dilution of the body fluids. Alterations in the plasma osmolality are sensed by the osmoreceptors in the hypothalamus that regulate both antidiuretic hormone (ADH) release and thirst. In addition to central osmoreceptors, peripheral osmoreceptor neurons that innervate hepatic blood vessels detect osmotic shifts in portal blood and modulate ADH release. I hypothesize that these peripheral osmoreceptors also modulate thirst so that humans do not over-drink water.  Experimental studies have repeatedly shown that animals drink almost exactly the amount necessary to return plasma osmolarity and volume to normal.

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Moles and Osmoles:

The concentration of a solute in a solution is expressed as its “Molarity”. It tells you how much of a solute is present. The units of molarity are “moles” (mols).

1 mole of anything contains 6.02 x 1023  particles of that solute. (Avogadro’s Law)

1 Gm.-Mol. Wt. = 1 mole.

1 mole of glucose  = 180 grams of glucose because molecular weight of glucose is 180

1 mole of solute per liter of solution  =  a 1 molar solution  =  1M.

To calculate the molarity of a solution, use the following equation:

 

                                         Amount of solute (in grams) per liter

                          M  =  —————————————————–

                                                       Mol. Wt. of solute

So 180 grams of glucose in 1 liter of water is 1M glucose solution.

Osmolarity is a term used to describe the concentration of particles dissolved in a solution. It is a measure of density and is expressed in units of measurement known as osmoles or milliosmoles (one thousandth of an osmole), per 1000ml of solvent, or mosm/L. The more particles a beverage contains (such as carbohydrate, electrolytes, amino acids, anti-oxidants, protein or flavoring), the higher its osmolarity. Osmolarity is a concept that allows you to determine if water will move from one side of a membrane to the other side. That is: will “Osmosis” occur?  Water will always move across a membrane into the solution with the higher osmolarity.  An osmole is a unit of measurement that describes the number of moles of a compound that contribute to the osmotic pressure of a chemical solution. The osmole is related to osmosis and is used in reference to solution where osmotic pressure is important, such as blood and urine. The molarity of our body fluids is about 0.15 M and the osmolarity is about 0.3 Osm or 300 mOsm.

To calculate the osmolarity of a solution use the following equation:

 OSM  =  M  x  the number of particles of dissociation.

For example: NaCl in water dissociates into two particles (Na+ and Cl-); and MgCl2  in water dissociates into 3 particles (Mg++ and 2 Cl-). Note that many molecules don’t give you this sort of headache, since they don’t dissociate. 1 mol of, say, lactose still only gives 1 mol of osmotically-acting particles.

A 1 mol/L NaCl solution has an osmolarity of 2 osmol/L. A mole of NaCl dissociates fully in water to yield two moles of particles: Na+ ions and Cl- ions. Each mole of NaCl becomes two osmoles in solution.  

Both osmolarity and osmolality are defined in terms of osmoles.

Osmolarity:

Osmolarity is defined as the number of osmoles of solute per liter (L) of solution. It is expressed in terms of osmol/L or Osm/L.

Osmolality:

Osmolality is defined as the number of osmoles of solute per kilogram of solvent. It is expressed in terms of osmol/kg or Osm/kg.

Since 1kg of water is 1 liter of water, osmolarity is osmolality when the solvent is water. However, since human plasma specific gravity is 1.0205, osmolarity is slightly different from osmolality of plasma. 

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Note:

I have used both terms osmolarity and osmolality in this article.

The range of osmolarity of drinking water varies from 3 to 30 mosm/L with hard water having highest osmolarity and distilled water having zero osmolarity.

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When you drink a large glass of water, the water gets absorbed into the blood and the following happens:

•The absorbed water increases the amount of water filtered in the glomerulus.

•The absorbed water in the blood reduces the Na concentration a little.

•The reduced Na concentration lowers the amount of Na filtered in the glomerulus.

•The nephron reabsorbs all of the reduced Na load and some of the accompanying water, leaving excess water in the filtrate.

•The reduced Na concentration is sensed by the osmoreceptors.

•The osmoreceptors do not secrete as much ADH (AVP).

•Because the collecting ducts don’t see as much ADH, they don’t allow much water to be reabsorbed in response to the Na concentration gradient set up by the loop of Henle.

•The excess water gets excreted in the urine.

•When the excess water is excreted, the Na concentration of the blood returns to normal.

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How quickly is water absorbed after you drink it?

A new study by researchers at the University of Montreal, published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, takes a very detailed look at the kinetics of water absorption and offers some answers. The study gave 36 volunteers 300 ml of ordinary bottled water, “labeled” with deuterium (an isotope of hydrogen than contains a proton and a neutron instead of just a proton) to allow the researchers to track how much of that specific gulp of water was found at different places in the body. They found that the water started showing up in the bloodstream within five minutes; half of the water was absorbed in 11-13 minutes; and it was completely absorbed in 75-120 minutes.  

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Daily water intake:

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The amount of water varies with the individual, as it depends on the condition of the subject, the amount of physical exercise, and on the environmental temperature and humidity.  In the US, the reference daily intake (RDI) for water is 3.7 liters per day (l/day) for human males older than 18, and 2.7 l/day for human females older than 18 including water contained in food, beverages, and drinking water. The common misconception that everyone should drink two liters of water per day is not supported by scientific research. Various reviews of all the scientific literature on the topic performed in 2002 and 2008 could not find any solid scientific evidence that recommended drinking eight glasses of water per day. It is also obvious that individuals in hot, dry climates have increased need for water, as do people who engage in strenuous physical exertion. For example, people in hotter climates will require greater water intake than those in cooler climates. An individual’s thirst provides a better guide for how much water they require rather than a specific, fixed number. A more flexible guideline is that a normal person should urinate 4 times per day, and the urine should be a light yellow color.   

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Anisha Patel, an assistant professor in the Division of General Pediatrics at UC San Francisco, says starting early, as a youngster, is a good way to make the water habit stick. The water requirements for adolescents are less than they are for adults, but not by much: For boys ages 4-18, the Institute of Medicine suggests 1.3 to 3.3 liters; for girls in the same age group, 1.3 to 2.3 liters. But, according to a 2011 study using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, among adolescents, plain water accounted for only 33 percent of total fluid intake, with the remainder coming from sugary beverages, such as soda and energy drinks. That’s cause for concern, Patel says. “Even mild dehydration can cause reduced cognition and physical performance in children,” says Patel, whose research on water accessibility has helped get cleaner, fresh drinking water onto school campuses.

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8 x 8 means what?

One glass of water = 8 ounces of water

8 glass of water = 8 x 8 ounces of water

The following quote may reflect what most authors who write on the subject have in mind: “According to most authorities, a sedentary person should drink at least eight glasses of water (∼8 oz each) per day. That totals a whopping one-half gallon of water for the average couch potato”. The second sentence makes clear that by “sedentary” the writer is thinking of persons who are physically inactive and almost certainly overweight. His use of the word “water,” plus the fact that elsewhere in the article he specifically excludes caffeinated drinks from the daily allotment [a common misperception], leaves little doubt that he means water per se. This, then, is the very minimum that 8 × 8 means to convey. The popular perception among lay people as well as doctors is that one must drink at least 8 glasses of water (8 x 8 oz) per day to stay healthy.

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As Drs. Aaron E. Carroll and Rachel C. Vreeman reported in an article on this topic:  “There’s nothing wrong with liking water, but there is no scientific proof stating that you need to drink anywhere near eight glasses a day. One doctor who has made this his research focus, Dr. Heinz Valtin, searched through many electronic databases and also consulted with nutritionists and colleagues who specialize in water balance in the body. In all of his research, and in all of the research we conducted to double-check his work, no scientific evidence could be found to suggest that you need to drink eight glasses of water a day. In fact, scientific studies suggest that you already get enough liquid from what you’re drinking and eating on a daily basis. We are not all walking around in a state of dehydration. In fact, drinking this much or more could be harmful, both in precipitating potentially dangerous hyponatremia and exposure to pollutants, and also in making many people feel guilty for not drinking enough. Other medical experts have also disdained the notion that one need drink at least eight glasses of water per day to remain adequately hydrated”.  Kidney specialists also agree that the 8-by-8 rule is a gross overestimate of any required minimum. To replace daily losses of water, an average-sized adult with healthy kidneys sitting in a temperate climate needs no more than one liter of fluid, according to Jurgen Schnermann, a kidney physiologist at the National Institutes of Health.  One liter is the equivalent of about four 8-ounce glasses. According to most estimates, that’s roughly the amount of water most Americans get in solid food. In short, though doctors don’t recommend it, many of us could cover our bare-minimum daily water needs without drinking anything during the day. Saying that you should drink more water than your body asks for is like saying that you should consciously breathe more often than you feel like because if a little oxygen is good for you then more must be better.   
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In a 2000 survey conducted for Rockefeller University and the International Bottled Water Association, 2,818 adults in 14 cities reported drinking about 6 cups of water a day—a result that was presented as alarming evidence that Americans are becoming dehydrated. But if you include the sodas, coffee, tea, milk, juice, sports drinks, and alcoholic beverages these respondents drank, their average fluid consumption was 17.6 cups a day—enough to have you urinating every waking hour, even if you don’t have any problem with bladder capacity.

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Average daily balance for water in an adult human in a temperate climate, using the urinary output of medical and graduate students as determined in a teaching laboratory exercise:

Substance Input Output
Dietary Metabolic Urinary Fecal Insensible
Water
 as fluid 1,220 300 1,520 100 900
 in food 1,000
Total 2,520 2,520

Values are in ml/day.

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Almost everything you eat and drink has Water:

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The figure below shows amount of fluids ingested by Americans including plain water and other beverages:

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 One of the biggest, most misleading beliefs is that coffee, tea, wine, milk, soda, etc. don’t play into your daily water consumption. But they do. Fluids and drinks like: sodas, coffee, tea, fruit juice, wine are made up of 85-99.9% water. Did you know that water is the largest single component of most food too? It ranges from 50-70% in meats and 75-96% in fruits and veggies. Schmidt’s Human Physiology talks about how this water content is actually broken down throughout the day:  “A person weighing 70 kg [155 lbs] requires at least 1,750 ml [59 oz] water per day. Of this amount 650 ml is obtained by drinking, 750 ml is the water contained in solid food, and 350 ml is oxidation water. If more than this amount is consumed by a healthy person it is excreted by the kidneys, but in people with heart and kidney disease it may be retained…” Only 650 ml is obtained by drinking. That’s about 2.5 glasses of water.

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Examples of the water content of some foods according to the British Nutrition Foundation:

Food Content
Apples (100g) 84.5g
Grapes (100g) 81.8g
Milk (1 pint) 531.8g
Broccoli (85g) 77.43g
Sweet corn (85g) 59.42g
Tomato soup (220g) 185.24g

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Coffee and beer were thought to be less hydrating than water but new research has dispelled the myth:

Contrary to the belief that caffeinated coffee is dehydrating, experts now claim that drinking it in moderate amounts is virtually as good as drinking water by itself. Dr Sophie Killer, a nutritionist at Birmingham University, said: “It is a common belief that coffee consumption can lead to dehydration and should be avoided, or reduced, in order to maintain a healthy fluid balance. We found a moderate intake of coffee, four cups per day, in regular coffee-drinking males, caused no significant difference compared to the consumption of equal amounts of water”. Dr Killer said health advice on coffee and dehydration should be updated. The study, involving an all-male group, is published in the journal PLOS ONE. Through careful experiments that passed peer review, Grandjean and colleagues have shown that caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea, and soft drinks) should indeed count toward the daily fluid intake in the vast majority of persons. Yes, beer and coffee do not dehydrate you to any noticeable extent. There’s a nice paper where some medical students got to drink quite a lot of beer and had their urine studied – British Medical Journal (Clin Res Ed), December 1982, Acute biochemical responses to moderate beer drinking, Gill GV.   

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Factors that influence water needs:

You may need to modify your total fluid intake depending on how active you are, the climate you live in, your health status, and if you’re pregnant or breast-feeding.

•Exercise:

If you exercise or engage in any activity that makes you sweat, you need to drink extra water to compensate for the fluid loss. An extra 400 to 600 ml (about 1.5 to 2.5 cups) of water should suffice for short bouts of exercise, but intense exercise lasting more than an hour (for example, running a marathon) requires more fluid intake. How much additional fluid you need depends on how much you sweat during exercise, and the duration and type of exercise. During long bouts of intense exercise, it’s best to use a sports drink that contains sodium, as this will help replace sodium lost in sweat and reduce the chances of developing hyponatremia, which can be life-threatening. Also, continue to replace fluids after you’re finished exercising.

•Environment:

 Hot or humid weather can make you sweat and requires additional intake of fluid. Heated indoor air also can cause your skin to lose moisture during wintertime. Further, altitudes greater than 8,200 feet (2,500 meters) may trigger increased urination and more rapid breathing, which use up more of your fluid reserves.

•Illnesses or health conditions:

When you have fever, vomiting or diarrhea, your body loses additional fluids. In these cases, you should drink more water. In some cases, your doctor may recommend oral rehydration solutions. Also, you may need increased fluid intake if you develop certain conditions, including bladder infections or urinary tract stones. On the other hand, some conditions such as heart failure and some types of kidney, liver and adrenal diseases may impair excretion of water and even require that you limit your fluid intake.

•Pregnancy or breast-feeding:

 Women who are expecting or breast-feeding need additional fluids to stay hydrated. Large amounts of fluid are used especially when nursing. The Institute of Medicine recommends that pregnant women drink 2.3 liters (about 10 cups) of fluids daily and women who breast-feed consume 3.1 liters (about 13 cups) of fluids a day.

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Is thirst too late?

It is often stated in the lay press and even an in professional journal that by the time a person is thirsty that person is already dehydrated. In a number of scientific treatises on thirst, one finds no such assertion. On the contrary, a rise in plasma osmolality of less than 2% can elicit thirst, whereas most experts would define dehydration as beginning when a person has lost 3% or more of body weight, which translates into a rise in plasma osmolality of at least 5%. Another way of stating the same fact is that whereas the osmotic threshold for thirst is ∼294 mosmol/kg for one individual as seen in the figure below, dehydration begins when the plasma osmolality has risen to ∼302 mosmol/kg. Or, yet a third way of stating it: thirst sets in at a plasma osmolality that is still within the accepted normal range for this variable, namely, 280–296 mosmol/kg.

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The figure above shows influence of plasma osmolality on the plasma vasopressin concentration (o) and on thirst (x) in a single healthy human subject. Calculated thresholds for this person are plasma osmolality of 284.7 mosmol/kg leading to a plasma vasopressin concentration of 1.48 pg/ml; and plasma osmolality of 293.5 mosmol/kg eliciting minimally detectable thirst. Figure also makes another point: inasmuch as the threshold for release of vasopressin (284.7 mosmol/kg) is lower than that for thirst (293.5 mosmol/kg), moment-to-moment needs for water balance are met by changes in plasma vasopressin concentration and consequent changes in urine flow, whereas thirst and resultant intake of water are invoked at a later point. Osmotic regulation of vasopressin secretion and thirst is so sensitive, quick, and accurate that it is hard to imagine that evolutionary development left us with a chronic water deficit that has to be compensated by forcing fluid intake.

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Healthy people can let thirst be their guide to their fluid requirements. However, certain medications – such as those for the heart disease, stomach ulcers or depression – can alter your thirst mechanism. So can certain diseases, like diabetes insipidus. The elderly can also sometimes have a poorly-regulated thirst mechanism. Another group of individuals that may require more fluids are people who have problems with kidney stones or chronic urinary tract infections. They may to need to over-hydrate from time to time and may benefit from excess water to flush out their kidney stones or bacteria from their bladder. Meanwhile, patients on dialysis for kidney disease may have to restrict their fluid intake. Athletes, military recruits, or anyone forced to work outside during the hottest part of a summer day may require more fluids than generally recommended. And if you’re already in the throes of heat illness or heat stroke, you may have an inadequate or malfunctioning thirst mechanism.

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Does Dark Urine mean Dehydration?

Whether or not this statement is correct will depend on how dark the urine is, because the depth of color in urine will vary inversely with the urinary volume. Although the volume varies greatly among individuals, in one study on students, the mean value was 1,520 ml/24 h, with a mean urine osmolality of 590 mosmol/kg. Both values are those generally cited as being “normal,” namely, 1,500 ml/24 h and 600 mosmol/kg, respectively. At a urine osmolality ∼600 mosmol/kg, the concentration of solutes in the urine is such that the urine has a moderately yellow color, which might be interpreted as “dark,” especially when contrasted against “pale yellow” or “clear,” which is specified in most of the lay literature. Yet, at the above-cited normal urinary volume and osmolality, the plasma osmolality will be well within the normal range and nowhere near the values of 300 mosmol/kg and higher, which are seen in meaningful dehydration. Therefore, the warning that dark urine reflects dehydration is alarmist and false in most instances.  

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The Pressor Response to Water Drinking in Humans: A Sympathetic Reflex?

Study-1:

Water ingestion increases blood pressure in several animal species. In humans, however, research on short-term cardiovascular effects of water drinking has been neglected, and the issue is not addressed in major physiology texts. Researchers studied the effect of drinking tap water on seated blood pressure in 47 patients with severe autonomic failure (28 multiple system atrophy [MSA], 19 pure autonomic failure patients [PAF]). Eleven older controls and 8 young controls served as control group. They also studied the mechanisms that could increase blood pressure with water drinking. Systolic blood pressure increased profoundly with water drinking, reaching a maximum of 33 mm Hg in MSA and 37 in PAF mm Hg after 30 to 35 minutes. The pressor response was greater in patients with more retained sympathetic function and was almost completely abolished by trimethaphan infusion. Systolic blood pressure increased by 11 mm Hg in elderly but not in young controls. Plasma norepinephrine increased in both groups. Plasma renin activity, vasopressin, and blood volume did not change in any group. Water drinking significantly and rapidly raises sympathetic activity. Indeed, it raises plasma norepinephrine as much as such classic sympathetic stimuli as caffeine and nicotine. This effect profoundly increases blood pressure in autonomic failure patients, and this effect can be exploited to improve symptoms due to orthostatic hypotension. Water drinking also acutely raises blood pressure in older normal subjects. The pressor effect of oral water is an important yet unrecognized confounding factor in clinical studies of pressor agents and antihypertensive medications. Drinking water can provide a rapid relief of symptoms resulting from orthostatic hypotension in autonomic failure patients. This intervention is particularly useful in the morning (when orthostatic hypotension tends to be more severe) and can bridge the time required for oral medications to start working. In some patients, water drinking increases systolic blood pressure by >100 mm Hg, which can result in dangerously high blood pressure in the supine position. In these patients, water drinking should probably be avoided for ≈1.5 hours before retiring. Another important implication of this study is that oral water intake needs to be controlled in short-term pharmacological studies of pressor agents or antihypertensive medications.

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Study-2:

Plain water has surprising impact on blood pressure:

Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have shown that ordinary water — without any additives — do more than just quench thirst. It has some other unexpected, physiological effects. It increases the activity of the sympathetic — fight or flight — nervous system, which raises alertness, blood pressure and energy expenditure. These findings prompted the American Red Cross to conduct a study of water drinking as a method for reducing fainting responses. The study found that drinking 16 ounces of water before blood donation reduced the fainting response by 20 percent. This response to water may turn out to be very important for retaining blood donors. If you pass out after giving blood, you pretty much never give blood again. If we can reduce fainting by 20 percent, we can reduce the unpleasantness of passing out and really bolster the number of people who can continue to be blood donors. Because it raises sympathetic nervous system activity — and consequently energy expenditure — it does promote weight loss. Researcher calculated it might be as much as five pounds a year if you drank three 16 ounce glasses of water a day and nothing else changed. This is not going to be the answer to the weight problem, but it’s interesting that activation of the sympathetic system is enough to do that. Moreover, another study found that metabolic rate increases almost 30% in healthy, normal-weight subjects after drinking 500 ml of water. The response is attenuated with adrenoreceptor blockade. Only one third of the increase in metabolic rate was explained by the energy demand to warm the water from 22 deg C to body temperature.

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Study-3:

Julia McHugh tackled the questions of where water is acting, and how, in a series of studies in mice. McHugh and colleagues found that water introduced directly into the stomach or duodenum (the first part of the small intestine) raised blood pressure, which ruled out an oral or esophageal mechanism for the response. They also tested a similar volume of saline (salt-containing solution). This did not raise blood pressure, which suggested that stretch of the tissues was not part of the mechanism and that perhaps water’s lack of salt might be important. The investigators ultimately determined that water dilutes the plasma in the blood vessels leading away from the duodenum and that this short-lived reduction in salt concentration (hypo-osmolality) is responsible for water’s blood pressure-raising (pressor) effect. They implicated a protein called Trpv4 in the mechanism: mice lacking the Trpv4 gene did not have a pressor response to water. While it is clear that water evokes a pressor response, the normal role for this physiological system is not certain. McHugh said she found it fascinating that mice and humans share “such a primitive system, and yet we don’t know why it’s there or what beneficial effects it might have.” The newly discovered system and its molecular mediators — such as Trpv4 — may be targets for blood pressure regulation, particularly in situations of low blood pressure and fainting, the investigators said. The findings also suggest that investigators who use water as a control substance (a “non-drug”) in studies may need to take water’s pressor effects into account.

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Does drinking ice water burn calories?

Let’s figure out exactly what you’re burning when you drink one glass (8 0z) of ice water:

•The temperature of ice water can be estimated at zero degrees Celsius.

•Body temperature can be estimated at 37 degrees Celsius.

•It takes 1 calorie to raise 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius.

•There are approximately 240 grams in one glass of water.

So in the case of one glass of ice water, your body must raise the temperature of 240 grams of water from zero to 37 degrees C. In doing so, your body burns 240 x 37 = 8880 calories. Now one Food Calorie = 1000 calories. So your body only burns 8.8 Food Calories, and in the grand scheme of a 2,000-Calorie diet, that 8.8 is not significant.

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Why is water important for life?

1. Water is an excellent solvent:

Water is an excellent solvent. That means that many different types of materials can dissolve in water – forming solutions. Water is the solvent that transports many essential molecules and other particles around the body. These include nutrients and waste products from the body’s metabolic processes.

2. Ease of movement of water molecules through biological membranes:

Particles such as some ions and molecules need to be able to move around biological organisms. One way in which this happens is in solutions (mentioned above) e.g. transport of oxygen in blood around the vascular system. Movement of solutions within defined channels such as blood vessels and lymphatic vessels is easily explained by comparison with e.g. the movement of the fluids along pipes.  Some ions and molecules in biological organisms also need to be able to move through tissues and membranes e.g. cell membranes. They move by the processes of diffusion, osmosis and active transport – of which osmosis is the diffusion of water, an important process in living organisms.

3. Water takes part in many chemical reactions:

Chemical reactions only happen when the reactants make contact with each other (sometimes via intermediary steps e.g. involving catalysts). Solutions are often good “mediums” for chemical reactions because the solvent, e.g. water, encloses solutes – which could potentially be “reactants” if there is a possibility of them reacting with each other if and when they collide – in a common volume of space, be that a test tube in a laboratory or an organ or tissue in the body. When two or more potential reactants are in the same solution they may collide and react with each other. The probability of this happening depends on several factors including the concentration of the solutes, the temperature of the solution and, in some cases, the presence (or not) of an appropriate catalyst for the reaction. Water molecules participate in decomposition reactions whereby certain macromolecules are broken-down into smaller parts. Examples include the breakdown of carbohydrates and proteins during the digestive process. Water is also produced by chemical reactions occurring within the body in which relatively small organic compounds (called “monomers”) join together in “synthesis reactions” to form larger and more complex molecules called “macromolecules” required by the body for specific functions e.g. nucleic acids and hormones.

4. Water can act as a lubricant, i.e. to reduce friction between moving surfaces:

Water (incl. solutions of which water is the solvent) serves an important lubrication function. This is essential in many parts of the body, especially:

•in the thoracic and abdominal cavities where internal organs (e.g. the heart and lungs, and the organs of the digestive system) are located next to each other and slide over one another as the body moves around).

•at joints e.g. synovial joints where structures such as bones, ligaments and tendons need to move smoothly relative to each other without being impeded by friction between the different structures/surfaces.

5. The thermal properties of water are well-suited to support life:

Water has a high specific heat. The specific heat of a substance is the quantity of heat per unit mass needed to increase the temperature of the substance by one degree Celsius. More energy is needed to increase the temperature of water compared with that of other solvents because hydrogen bonds hold the water molecules together. The specific heat of water is 4.18 J/g° C.  This is much higher than for many other substances e.g. NaCl 0.864 J/g°C, Fe 0.450 J/g°C and Cu 0.385 J/g°C.

The thermal properties of water that affect human and animal biology include:

•Compared with other materials water can absorb or release a relatively large amount of heat energy while only adjusting its own temperature by a relatively small amount. Therefore the fact that water accounts for a significant proportion of body mass helps the body to cope with environmental temperature variations and maintain the body’s temperature within a safe and comfortable range.

•Similarly, compared with other materials water also needs a relatively large amount of heat energy in order to evaporate (i.e. change state from liquid to gas). This is called the “latent heat of evaporation” and the value for water is approx. 2270 kJ/kg at 1 atm pressure.

Therefore the evaporation of sweat from the surface of the skin is very efficient in helping to cool the body because it removes relatively large amounts of heat from the body as the sweat evaporates.

6. Other biologically useful properties of water include its cohesion, adhesion and surface tension.  

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Functions of Water in the Body:

Did you know that your tissues and organs are mainly made up of water?

•Muscle consists of 75% water

•Brain consists of 90% of water

•Bone consists of 22% of water

•Blood consists of 83% water

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The functions of water in human body are vital. Water flows through the blood, carrying oxygen and nutrients to cells and flushing wastes out of our bodies. It cushions our joints and soft tissues. Without water as a routine part of our intake, we cannot digest or absorb food.

The water:

•Transports nutrients and oxygen into cells

•Moisturizes the air in lungs

•Helps with metabolism

•Protects our vital organ

•Helps our organs to absorb nutrients better

•Regulates body temperature

•Detoxifies

•Protects and moisturizes our joints

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Benefits of water:

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Dehydration:

The loss of the body water component of body fluid is specifically termed dehydration.

Signs and Symptoms of dehydration:

Tiredness & fatigue

Constipation

Muscle cramps

Thirst

Dry mouth

Dark urine

Dry skin

Sunken eye balls

Rapid heat beat

Low blood pressure

Kidney problems

20% dehydrated – Risk of death

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Indicators of dehydration as per loss of body weight:

•Normal: no loss of body weight.

•Mild dehydration: 5-6% loss of body weight.

•Moderate: 7-10% loss of body weight.

•Severe: over 10% loss of body weight.

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Hydration is a crucial part of life itself, and water losses of a more than two percent of your body weight can impair function both mentally and physically. Losses of seven percent or more may bring you down for the count, disrupting your delicate balance and resulting in total body collapse. Dehydrate a muscle by just 3% and you will cause a loss of about 10% loss of contractile strength, and an 8% loss in speed.

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At what dehydration level will the sweat process for the human body stop during hot climate? 

The human body will keep sweating no matter how dehydrated it is as long as the hypothalamus sends nerve impulses to the sweat glands. However, for most people the sweating process begins to slow down after the body loses from 3 to 5 percent of total weight in sweat, and core body temperature approaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit. If our core temperature goes above 104 degrees, the body begins to overheat to the point to where its proteins denature and membranes lose their integrity. We usually lose consciousness and go into a coma just before this point and stop perspiring and will soon go into shock and die if our core temperature is not reduced (heat stroke).  

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Does Ramadan fasting without drinking water cause dehydration and its consequences? 

During the 9th month (Ramadan) of the Islamic calendar (Hijra) many millions of adult Muslims all over the world fast during the daylight hours. Since Hijra is a lunar calendar, Ramadan occurs at different times in the seasonal year over a 33-year cycle. Fasting during Ramadan is partial because the abstention from food, fluid, tobacco and caffeine is from sunrise to sunset.

Intermittent dehydration:

During the daylight hours of Ramadan fasting, practicing Muslims are undoubtedly dehydrating at a rate that is determined by the loss of body water minus the amount of metabolic water that is produced over this period. Some studies find that incidences of dehydration increase during the month of Ramadan: Evidence of hemoconcentration and dehydration has been found during Ramadan (El-Hazmi, Al-Faleh, & Al-Mofleh, 1987; Kayikcioglu et al., 1999; Ramadan et al., 1999; Schmahl & Metzler, 1991; Sweileh et al., 1992). Restricted fluid intake, leading to disturbance in the fluid balance, is likely to cause these conditions. In the initial stages of dehydration, the clinical signs are tachycardia, tiredness and malaise, headaches and nausea. Middle-aged or more elderly persons are usually more prone to the effects of dehydration (Schmahl & Metzler). Other studies found that during Ramadan, the osmolality of the urine samples collected in the afternoon were very high (means: 849–937 mosm/kg), indicating effective water conservation (Shirreffs, 2003) both by maximum urinary concentration and a decreased obligatory urine output. Such high urine osmolality may increase kidney stone formation. Urine volume plays a pivotal role in the process of stone formation. In particular, low volume, highly concentrated urine contributes to the supersaturation of elements normally found in the urine, such as calcium oxalate. Several alternatives have been used to give estimates of hydration status of individuals (Shirreffs, 2003). In 12 Muslims fasting for 12–14 h, there was a significant increase in haematocrit (+11%), serum albumin (+4%) and serum creatinine (+12%), indicating dehydration due to water deprivation (Born et al, 1979). Similar findings were observed in 15 fasting Tunisian Muslims, who also showed an average increase in serum urea of 23% (Zebidi et al, 1990), and in a group of fasting British Muslims who also demonstrated increases in serum sodium and chloride (Sweileh et al, 1992). So in a nutshell; Ramadan fasting does lead to dehydration and its consequences. However, since it is intermittent dehydration, the adverse effects are limited.    

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Does excess water intake help remove toxins via kidneys:

The notion is that increased water intake improves kidney function and clearance of toxins. The kidney manifests several mechanisms to rid the body of toxins, including glomerular filtration, tubular secretion, and various degradative metabolic pathways. If excess water intake were to have an impact on toxin removal, then it would be through one of these mechanisms. Water ingestion can acutely affect GFR, although not necessarily in the direction one might expect. Using 12 young, healthy individuals as their own controls, Anastasio et al. found increased water intake actually decreases GFR. It might therefore seem that any “toxin” removed purely by glomerular filtration is cleared less efficiently in the setting of increased water intake; however, it is not certain such changes in GFR persist over time. Indeed, GFR was unchanged during a 6-month randomized trial of increased water intake in older men who had benign prostatic hypertrophy.  Of course, the populations in the two studies are different, and the main goal of the randomized trial was to evaluate bladder function rather than kidney function; as an aside, the study did show some improvement in bladder function, although the clinical significance of the findings is unclear.

Does High Fluid intake maintains Glomerular Filtration Rate?

This statement, when given in the context of 8 × 8, implies that fluid intakes lower than 8 × 8 diminish the glomerular filtration rate (GFR). The opposite effects of the state of hydration on GFR were demonstrated recently in carefully controlled experiments on healthy young human subjects. Furthermore, years ago McCance and coworkers showed that the GFR (as measured by the clearance of inulin) declines only during significant dehydration, for example, when body weight declines by 5% or more. Certainly, the acute water diuresis that follows the ingestion of 1 liter of water can be accounted for by an inhibition of vasopressin secretion and decreased tubular reabsorption of water, without a measurable change in GFR, or possibly even with a decrease in GFR.

So high water intake does not increase GFR.

Of course, most endogenous substances are not cleared purely by glomerular filtration alone. Anastasio et al. found the total clearance of osmoles increased as water intake increased, probably as a result of reduced reabsorption. If there are “dangerous” substances among these osmoles, then increased water intake might indeed help in their clearance. Interestingly, one of the osmoles whose clearance was increased was sodium. Given the suspected role of long-term sodium retention in the development of hypertension, one could speculate that increased clearance of sodium is beneficial. However, as discussed earlier, excess water intake stimulates sympathetic nervous system that promotes sodium retention via aldosterone stimulation. Urea clearance also increases with high water intake, but urea is not a toxin. It is unclear whether any of these changes persist in the long term. In short, increased water intake does have some impact on renal clearance of various substances, but current data are insufficient to assess the clinical significance of these observations. In fact, given how little is known about the identity of toxic substances cleared by the kidney, it is unlikely this type of data can conclusively demonstrate a benefit from excess water drinking.

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Does Water relieve headache:

Headache is frequently attributed by the lay public to water deprivation, but there is little study of this phenomenon. To my knowledge, only one trial has examined headache prevention by increasing water intake. Fifteen patients with migraine headaches were randomly assigned to increased water intake or placebo for 12 wk. The number of hours of headache was quantified over 14-d intervals at the beginning and at the end of the trial. Although the treatment group had 21 fewer hours of headache compared with the control group, this difference did not reach statistical significance (the number of patients was obviously quite small). Given the economic impact of migraine on time lost from work, this area would seem to be ripe for further study.

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Does Water benefit skin:

A frequently cited cosmetic benefit of water drinking is improved skin tone. Although frank dehydration can obviously decrease skin turgor, it is not clear what benefit drinking extra water has for skin. One study suggested ingestion of 500 ml of water increases indices of capillary blood flow in the skin. It is unclear whether these changes are clinically significant or how to interpret them in light of water’s potential impact on sympathetic tone. I am unable to find any other data regarding the impact of water intake on skin in otherwise healthy people. As far as hydrating your skin is concerned, you’d probably be better off applying moisturizer to your skin while you’re still damp from the shower. This helps lock in the moisture your skin soaked up while you were bathing.

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Rationale for high water intake:

The arguments for a high water intake in the lay press go something like this: our bodies consist mostly of water (50–70% of body weight; ∼42 liters) and our blood, muscles, brain, and bone are made up mainly of water (∼83%, 75%, 90%, and 22%, respectively). Therefore, 1) we need water to function and survive and 2) we need at least eight glasses of water each day. The second conclusion, in addition to being unproven, is a nonsequitur; it is akin to arguing that our homes run on electricity and therefore, every house needs at least 1000-ampere service.

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Drink three liters of water a day or risk kidney stones warns experts as hospital admissions for renal conditions rise:

Thousands of new cases of kidney stones every year are caused by ignorance or denial of the need to drink three liters of water a day, according to a leading doctor. Doctors say that a lack of awareness about the dangers of dehydration was responsible for an annual increase in renal stone admissions, including among young people in their twenties. The number of people admitted to hospital suffering severe pain and discomfort due to kidney stones is increasing by between 5 per cent and 10 per cent every year. The British population’s ignorance of the need to drink three liters of water a day is leading to more cases of kidney stones, says another leading doctor. Over the past decade, the number of hospital admissions for renal stones in the UK rose by 63 per cent to more than 80,000 and there is no sign of these numbers letting up. Kidney stones develop when crystals of salt gather into lumps and are not flushed out of the body due to a lack of adequate hydration, often lodging in the urinary system’s tubes. They can cause severe abdominal and groin pain which, in many cases, can only be corrected through surgery or laser lithotripsy. I disagree with leading urologists. Yes, chronic dehydration would cause kidney stones in susceptible individuals and patients suffering from kidney stones must increase water intake; and one must be hydrated, but to say that normal people must drink 3 liters of water to prevent kidney stone means we all need 3 liters of water for adequate hydration. Except for hot climate or strenuous physical activities, nobody needs 3 liters of drinking water daily to stay hydrated. It is over-hydration.

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Factors that promote calcium oxalate supersaturation (and calcium oxalate deposition) are dehydration, hypercalciuria, hyperoxaluria, hypernatrituria, and hyperuricosuria. Urinary citrate is an important inhibitor of calcium oxalate formation so hypocitraturia is a risk factor for stone formation.  If these factors are demonstrated in normal person without kidney stone, then prophylactic high water intake to produce 2 liters of urine is warranted to prevent future kidney stones. Hypercalciuria, or excessive urinary calcium excretion, occurs in about 5-10% of the population and only that segment of population would benefit from high water intake. The rest must be well hydrated.

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Prevention of Cancer, Heart Disease, and Other Conditions:

In a 10-year study involving nearly 48,000 men, Michaud and coworkers found that the incidence of cancer of the urinary bladder was reduced significantly by a high fluid intake. The top 20% of subjects who participated in the study drank 2,531 ml per day or more, while the bottom 20% drank 1,290 ml or less; the authors calculated that within this range, the risk of bladder cancer decreased by 7% for every 240 ml (∼1 cup or one 8-oz glass;) of fluid added. There was a significant decrease in risk even in men who drank only 1,440 ml (∼6 glasses), i.e., well below the 8 × 8 recommendation. Not everyone, however, agrees with this benefit of a high fluid intake, especially in women. A similar correlation has been reported for colorectal cancer and premalignant adenomatous polyps. Taking account of the many known risk factors for these tumors, these multivariate studies found significant, inverse correlations between the total intake of fluids, or specifically of water, and the risk of colorectal cancer as reflected in the incidence of adenomatous polyps. In some instances, the beneficial effects were apparent with as little as five glasses of water a day. As with cancers of the urinary bladder, there may be gender-related differences.

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Chan and associates carefully analyzed the possible association between water intake and fatal coronary heart disease in 12,017 women and 8,280 men who participated in the prospective Adventist Health Study. They found, at a 6-year follow-up point, that women who drank five or more glasses of water per day (1,185 ml or more) reduced their risk of fatal coronary heart disease by ∼41% compared with women who drank two glasses or less (474 ml or less). The comparable figure in men was 54% less risk. The effect was limited to water; in fact, the drinking of “fluids other than water” (coffee, tea, juices, soft drinks) appeared to increase the risk of fatal coronary heart disease. In their very cautious analysis of these findings, the authors point out that the correlations are not necessarily causal (although they may involve the effect of hydration on hemorheological variables such as blood viscosity).

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Look ten years Younger by Drinking Water – One Woman’s Story with Before & After:

Skin is an organ; in fact, it is our largest organ and is made up of many cells. And skin cells, like any other cell in the body, are made up of water. Without water, the organs will certainly not function properly or at their best. If your skin is not getting the sufficient amount of water, the lack of hydration will present itself by turning your skin dry, tight and flaky. Dry skin has less resilience and is more prone to wrinkling. The proof is in the pudding, or whatever that saying means. Maybe we can start to believe those actresses who say they just drink water to look beautiful. Sarah Smith, who wrote about her results over the course of a month for the Daily Mail, decided to up her water intake to see if it would help her migraines, and started to discover a happy side effect of all the water drinking. She wrote that her “skin completely changed and she looks 10 years younger,” since she increased her water intake from three glasses per day to 3 liters. After 4 weeks, her wrinkles, redness, dark circles and her tired looking face completely disappeared. She started to see glowing, even, non-puffy skin that made her look 10-years-younger. What’s even better, Smith reports that her digestion, energy levels, and cognition improved, and that she even lost weight in the process.

Note: This is an anecdotal report and anecdotal report is not science.

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Does drinking water clear Acne?

The short answer is no.

It is easy to rationalize that drinking water will reduce or clear acne breakouts but for all the scientific studies done to find such link, it has not been found. Therefore, the common advice to drink eight glasses of water daily in order to keep your face clear of acne is only backed by wishful thinking. The reasoning behind the popular belief that drinking water helps clear acne is due to the role of water as a detoxifier and the fact that the causes of acne are skin-deep. The two assumptions are right to an extent but do not add up neatly. Water is definitely needed for healthy skin and it cannot be replaced by beverages, sodas and other high caloric, high glycemic drinks. These drinks only increase the level of toxins present in the body, and some of them may even contribute to acne breakouts by indirectly triggering acne-causing hormones such as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). In contrast, besides all the benefits that drinking water provides, it will not stimulate the production of any acne-causing hormone or increase the toxin load of them body. Water may only help clear acne because it becomes the fluid replacement for these drinks. On its own, it does not affect acne one way or the other. Some people also believe that increased water intake helps prevent the dehydration of the skin. This is only partly true. For those concerned by dry skin, oil-free moisturizers provide a better hydration of the skin than water.

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Drinking water boosts your brain’s reaction time:

We all know that drinking water regularly is good for the body. But new research has revealed that drinking water when we feel thirsty boosts our brain’s performance in mental tests.  Researchers from the University of East London and the University of Westminster in the UK analyzed the potential effects of water on cognitive performance and mood among 34 participants with an average age of 29 years. The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, involved participants taking part in a “water” and a “no water” experiment one week apart. The “water” experiment required the people to complete a number of mental tests after eating a cereal bar and drinking some water. The “no water” test meant the participants consumed just the cereal bar alone. The amount of water drunk by the participants in the “water” test depended on their level of thirst. Lead study author, Dr. Caroline Edmonds of the University of East London School of Psychology says, “Our study found that reaction times were faster after people drank water, particularly if they were thirsty before drinking.”  Well, in my view, thirst is a biological survival desire just like hunger and sex; when your biological survival desire is satisfied, your stress is reduced, you feel relaxed and as a consequence your mental performance increases. It has nothing to do with water drinking. Dehydration of more than 2 % body weight would certainly impair mental ability as brain itself is 90 % water and dehydration would reduce brain water volume, and reduce blood flow to brain due to reduce circulatory blood volume and reduced blood pressure.

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Other Claimed Benefits:

Losing weight:

There is some evidence, in both women and men, that water drunk along with a meal or water incorporated into food does promote satiety. By and large, it is not yet clear to what extent this effect reduces food intake, how long the effect lasts, and how much fluid might be needed to influence satiety. In one study, Rolls and her colleagues reported the intriguing finding that water incorporated into food, as in chicken soup, appears to be more effective as a “preload” in curtailing appetite during a subsequent meal than if the same amount of water was drunk during the preload alongside the same food, in this case chicken casserole. The intake of food ingredients and of water was identical in the experimental periods, only the mode of ingesting the water was different. An analysis by Stookey supports this concept.

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Drink two glasses before every meal to reduce weight:

Dieters who down two glasses of water before each meal shed more pounds than those who only count calories, a study shows.  While prescription-only weight-loss drugs cut the body’s ability to absorb fat or tinker with the brain’s chemistry, water simply fills up the stomach.  If that is not enough, water is also, of course, calorie-free and readily available.  The American researchers compared weight loss among dieters who drank just under a pint of water before each meal with those who simply watched what they ate. Over three months, the water drinkers each lost an average of 15.5lb, 5lb more than the non-water drinkers. Researcher Dr Brenda Davy, of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, said: ‘People should drink more water and less sugary, high-calories drinks. It’s a simple way to facilitate weight management. We’re not saying, “Drink more water and the body fat will melt away”. But for people who are trying to lose weight and trying to follow a low-cal diet, it’s something they can do as part of that.’ In a previous study, she found that water drinkers ate 75 to 90 fewer calories per meal.  Over the course of a day, this could amount to almost 300 calories – the equivalent of a Danish pastry or a pint and a half of beer. Water’s secret is perfectly simple, added Dr Davy.  If the stomach is full with water, people feel fuller and so eat less. But the British Nutrition Foundation says that soups, stews, pasta and other water-rich foods are better for the waistline than water alone.  Mike Lean, an obesity expert, said: ‘I routinely advise patients to have a glass of water before each meal if they are planning to cut down with the aim of losing weight. It doesn’t have huge effect, but costs nothing.’  Fruit, vegetables and porridge also help fill the tummy with fewer calories, said the Glasgow University professor.

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Impact of water intake on energy intake and weight status: a systematic review:

The effects of consuming water with meals rather than drinking no beverage or various other beverages remain under-studied. A systematic review of studies reported in the English-language literature was performed to compare the effects of drinking water and various beverage alternatives on energy intake and/or weight status. Relevant clinical trials, epidemiologic studies, and intervention studies were identified and findings across the literature were summarized. From the clinical trials, average differences were calculated in total energy intake at test meals (ΔTEI) for each of several beverage categories in comparison with water. The available literature for these comparisons is sparse and somewhat inconclusive. However, one of the most consistent sets of findings was related to adults drinking sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) versus water before a single meal. In these comparisons, total energy intakes were 7.8% higher (ΔTEI range, −7.5 to 18.9) when SSBs were consumed. Studies comparing non-nutritive sweeteners with water were also relatively consistent and found no impact on energy intake among adults (ΔTEI, −1.3; range, −9 to 13.8). Much less conclusive evidence was found in studies replacing water with milk and juice, with estimated increases in TEI of 14.9% (range, 10.9 to 23.9%). These findings from clinical trials, along with those from epidemiologic and intervention studies, suggest water has a potentially important role to play in reducing energy intake, and consequently in obesity prevention. A need for randomized-controlled trials to confirm this role exists.

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The apparent weight loss effects of water are still a subject for further research, but there is some evidence that suggests that drinking water can be associated with appetite reduction (for middle-aged and older people), consuming fewer calories, burning slightly more calories, and eating more fruits and vegetables. Increased water consumption, or replacement of energy-containing beverages with energy-free beverages, or consumption of water-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables with a lower energy density, may help in weight management.  In the case of appetite reduction, the apparent effect has been reproduced in a published study in adults aged 55–75, half of whom were instructed to drink 500ml of water before every meal, while following a low-calorie diet. This behaviour led to the water-drinking cohort losing weight faster over a 12 week period. On average, the water-drinking cohort also continued to lose weight – although at a slower rate – over the following 12 month period, even though they had ceased their low-calorie diets. The study authors attribute this to the fact that those participants continued to drink water before meals.

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Constipation:

The notion that a high fluid intake will facilitate bowel movements was tested by Chung et al. They found, in 15 healthy adults of both genders, that although an extra intake of 1 or 2 liters of either Gatorade or plain water significantly increased urine flow, there was no discernible effect on the output of stool. The authors warn that their results were obtained in healthy adults who did not complain of constipation, and that, therefore, the possibility remains that a high fluid intake might help relieve constipation in those who have it. However, inasmuch as the intestines have a large capacity for absorbing extra ingested water, the efficacy of a high fluid intake in relieving constipation needs to be proven by well-controlled scientific experiments.

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In Fiber Menace, Konstantin talks about three false beliefs in regard to water, fiber, and constipation:

1. Because fiber absorbs water (true), it will increase stool moisture. Wrong! Dietary fiber in stools doesn’t retain water any better than other cellular components, except psyllium seeds in laxatives(a mere 5% more).

2. Because fiber is so highly water-absorbent (true), it requires additional water. Wrong for two reasons! First, up to 75% of fiber, including insoluble fiber, gets fermented by intestinal bacteria and doesn’t require any water. Second, the remaining fiber gets all the water it needs from up to seven liters of digestive juices, which are secreted daily inside the alimentary canal.

3. Water is needed to prevent intestinal obstructions from dietary fiber: Wrong! Water, actually, expands the fiber four to five times its original volume and weight, and if anything makes obstruction even more likely. He also goes on to state that “Dried out, hard stool, which is one of the symptoms of disbacteriosis, doesn’t point to dehydration (a mistaken view), but to the lack of synergistic bacteria needed to retain water.”

So what does control and fix constipation?

 Meal composition (not volume and not fiber) influences motility more than any other factor. Motility is influenced by the energy content and composition of the meal, but not by its volume or pH. Energy-rich meals with a high fat content increase motility; carbohydrates and proteins have no effect. If you’re constipated, rather than drinking more water, you’re better off stimulating a strong urge but creating a daily habit of going to the bathroom by eating a fat-rich meal, or drinking a warm beverage at the same time every day and just relaxing.

So water’s role in constipation?  Hyped up. 

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Speculative Advantages of high water intake:

Bankir and her group performed careful experiments, both in animals and humans and assembled supporting evidence from the literature that suggests that chronically high plasma vasopressin concentrations may have deleterious effects (the extrapolation being that a high fluid intake and consequent low vasopressin will prevent those effects). The primary findings are that 1) sustained high concentrations of vasopressin increase glomerular filtration rate (GFR), probably through tubuloglomerular feedback (TGF) and 2) low urinary flow rates reduce sodium excretion, possibly through vasopressin-mediated upregulation of sodium channels (ENaC) and Na-K-ATPase. The possible deleterious effects from these changes are 1) hyperfiltration causing acceleration of chronic renal failure and 2) increased sodium retention hastening the development of salt-sensitive hypertension, consequences that might be prevented by a high fluid intake. Of course here I am examining possible advantages of a high fluid intake in healthy individuals, not in persons with chronic renal failure or hypertension. Insofar, however, as a high fluid intake might influence the decrease in GFR that accompanies normal aging or prevent the development of hypertension, it seems fair to mention these two consequences at least as speculations. Not to mention that high water intake stimulates sympathetic nervous system resulting in increased peripheral resistance and tendency to raise blood pressure rather than lower it. 

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The list of advantages of a high fluid intake goes on. Benefits are claimed for fatigue, arthritis, lack of mental alertness, angina, migraine, hypertension, asthma, dry cough, dry skin, acne, nosebleed, depression. One amusing website where many of these claims are refuted is Snopes.com, although the authors rely mostly on quotes from scientists (albeit, very reputable ones) and newspapers rather than on scientific articles.

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Possible hazards of high water intake: 

Thus far the evidence for forcing a high fluid intake on healthy adults in a temperate climate seems weak, at best. We may need further data, including genomic evidence for susceptibility, before recommending 8 × 8 universally even for the prevention of diseases, such as certain types of cancer or renal stones. But despite the dearth of compelling evidence for 8 × 8, many persons are likely to retort, “But what harm would it do?” The fact is that, potentially, there is harm even in water.

Water Intoxication:

On January 12, 2007, a 28-year old Californian wife and mother of three children died from drinking too much water. Her body was found in her home shortly after she took part in a water-drinking contest that was sponsored by a local radio show. Entitled “Hold Your Wee For A Wii,” the contest promoters promised a free Wii video game machine to the contestant who drank the most water without urinating.  It is estimated that the woman who died drank approximately 2 gallons of water during the contest. When she and other contestants complained of discomfort and showed visible signs of distress, they were laughed at by the promoters and even heckled.  This tragic news story highlights the importance of understanding why drinking too much water can be dangerous to your health.

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Water intoxication (WI), caused by over-consumption of water, can be lethal. This condition is usually seen in patients with psychiatric disorders, victims of child abuse or torture, drug abusers or it can be iatrogenically induced (result from a physician’s words or actions). Water intoxication, also known as water poisoning or dilutional hyponatremia, is a potentially fatal disturbance in brain functions that results when the normal balance of electrolytes in the body is pushed outside safe limits by over-hydration.  Even modest increases in fluid intake can result in severe water intoxication if the renal excretion of water is limited by a sustained influence of the antidiuretic hormone (ADH), either endogenous or exogenous, on the kidney. This serious eventuality occurred recently in a young woman with neurogenic (central or pituitary) diabetes insipidus. For many years she had been treated satisfactorily with DDAVP, a synthetic analog of the natural ADH arginine vasopressin. During this long period of treatment, she did not have any known episodes of hyponatremia or water intoxication because her water intake was regulated appropriately by the thirst mechanism. However, when she developed a minor upper respiratory infection and was advised to drink lots of fluids, her kidneys could not excrete sufficient quantities of urine because they were under the sustained antidiuretic influence of the DDAVP. Tragically, she rapidly developed severe water intoxication from which she died. Here, then, is a most unfortunate example of how a simple folk remedy that is usually innocuous, namely, to “force fluids” in treating flulike symptoms, could not be tolerated under special circumstances.

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When a person dies from hyponatremia as a result of water intoxication, the initiating factor is a severe sodium imbalance that causes massive cell damage. Sodium is a positively charged ion, and its role in the body is to circulate the fluids outside of cells. As a result, sodium helps regulate blood pressure and maintain the signals that let muscles operate properly, among other things. Cells actively maintain a precise sodium concentration in the body. Inside the cell, there are more electrolytes; outside the cell, there is more water. Cells keep sodium levels healthy by moving water and electrolytes into and out of the cell to either dilute or increase sodium levels in body fluids. But when someone drinks a tremendous amount of water in a short period of time, and the water does not contain any added electrolytes, the cellular maintenance system can’t handle the level of sodium dilution that occurs. The result is that cells desperately try to increase the sodium concentration in body fluids by taking in tremendous amounts of water. Some cells can swell a great deal; others cannot. Brain cells are constrained by the skull and can end up bursting with the pressure of the water they are taking in. The exact amount of water intake that can lead to water intoxication is unknown and varies with each individual. Symptoms of water intoxication actually look a lot like the symptoms of alcohol intoxication, including nausea, altered mental state, and vomiting. Other symptoms include headaches, muscle weakness and convulsions. In severe cases of water intoxication, coma and death come fairly quickly as a result of brain swelling. The condition is quite rare in the general population, but in distance athletics, it’s a known risk and is often avoided by drinking sports drinks instead of water during training and events.

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Watered-down body fluid can also manifest in minor, more subtle and undetectable ways. You should suspect that you may be taking in far too much water – from all fluids, not just water, including even the fluids found in water-rich fruits, vegetables, and the like, if you frequently experience…

• Cold hands and feet

• Low body temperature

• Frequent urination, clear urination, or urination at night

• Headaches or migraines

• Anxiety or panic attacks

• Dry skin

• Blurred vision, mood changes, and other symptoms that many falsely believe to be “hypoglycemia”

• Heart palpitations or otherwise abnormal heart rhythms

• Strong cravings for salty foods

• Low blood pressure, dizzy spells, or episodes of blurred vision

While water is by all standards pure and natural, and certainly a better beverage choice than soft drinks and other sources of empty calories, you can definitely overdo it. Be very cautious about making the two most common mistakes – drinking when you are not thirsty as many “experts” advocate, and drinking for motivations other than thirst, as in drinking a warm drink to get warm or alcohol recreationally. Think before you drink.

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Treatment of water intoxication:

Mild intoxication may remain asymptomatic and require only fluid restriction. In more severe cases, treatment consists of:

1. Diuretics to increase urination, which are most effective for excess blood volume.

2. Vasopressin receptor antagonists

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Water Intoxication in Infants:

For healthy adults, nothing seems to quench a thirst better than plain, pure water. We’re encouraged to drink several glasses a day to keep our systems in balance. But for children under 1 year old – and especially during the first nine months of life – drinking too much water can be dangerous. In fact, according to pediatricians like James P. Keating, MD, retired medical director of the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Diagnostic Center, too much water dilutes a baby’s normal sodium levels and can lead to seizures, coma, brain damage and death. Breast milk or formula provides all the fluid healthy babies need. If a mother feels her baby needs to take additional water, it should be limited to two to three ounces at a time and should be offered only after the baby has satisfied his hunger with breast feeding or formula. Dr. Keating also recommends that parents avoid participating in infant swimming lessons. “Repeated dunking of infants can cause them to gulp water and has caused seizures in the infants at the poolside,” he says. Since the brain is the organ most susceptible to water intoxication, a change of behavior is usually the first symptom in older children. They may become confused, drowsy or inattentive. They also may suffer from blurred vision, muscle cramps and twitching, poor coordination, nausea and vomiting, irregular breathing and weakness. If you notice any of these symptoms, call your pediatrician.

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Ecstasy and water intoxication:

A fairly new recreational drug, especially among teenagers, is called Ecstasy. It is used extensively at dances, called “raves,” but is now being taken in other settings as well. One striking side effect of Ecstasy is intense thirst, and there is a report of death of a 16-year-old girl who drank herself into fatal hyponatremia (water intoxication) after her first ingestion of Ecstasy. The many euphoric effects of Ecstasy may have caused secretion of endogenous vasopressin, which prevented this girl from excreting the copious amounts of water she drank, for it is difficult or impossible for individuals to drink themselves into severe hyponatremia without a simultaneous, sustained antidiuretic influence on their kidneys. Be that as it may, Ecstasy is a dangerous drug, although most teenagers do not seem to know or accept that fact. Furthermore, the use of Ecstasy is increasing, as are the resulting visits to hospital emergency rooms, and the drug caused at least 15 deaths during the year 2000.

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Whenever you disregard your sense of thirst and strive to ingest several glasses of water a day just because you have been told that doing so is good for your health, you actually put unnecessary strain on your body in two major ways:

1. Ingesting more water than you need can increase your total blood volume. And since your blood volume exists within a closed system (your circulatory system), needlessly increasing your blood volume on a regular basis puts unnecessary burden on your heart and blood vessels.

2. Your kidneys must work overtime to filter excess water out of your circulatory system. Your kidneys are not the equivalent of a pair of plumbing pipes whereby the more water you flush through your kidneys, the cleaner they become; rather, the filtration system that exists in your kidneys is composed in part by a series of specialized capillary beds called glomeruli. Your glomeruli can get damaged by unnecessary wear and tear over time, and drowning your system with large amounts of water is one of many potential causes of said damage.

Putting unnecessary burden on your cardiovascular system and your kidneys by ingesting unnecessary water is a subtle process. For the average person, it is virtually impossible to know that this burden exists, as there are usually no obvious symptoms on a moment-to-moment basis. But make no mistake about it: this burden is real and can hurt your health over the long term.

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Research debunks health value of guzzling water:

The notion that guzzling glasses of water to flood yourself with good health is all wet, researchers said.  Dr. Stanley Goldfarb and Dr. Dan Negoianu of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia reviewed the scientific literature on the health effects of drinking lots of water. People in hot, dry climates and athletes have an increased need for water, and people with certain diseases do better with increased fluid intake, they found. But for average healthy people, more water does not seem to mean better health, they said. Their scientific review, published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, is the latest to undercut the recommendations advanced by some experts to drink eight glasses of water a day. Goldfarb and Negoianu examined what Goldfarb called “four major myths” regarding claims of a benefit for extra water drinking: that it leads to more toxin excretion, improves skin tone, makes one less hungry and reduces headache frequency. “Our bottom line was that there was no real good science — or much science at all — behind these claims, that they represent probably folklore,” Goldfarb said. As far as facilitating toxin excretion, Goldfarb said that was not verified by any sort of scientific study. “The kidneys clear toxins. This is what the kidneys do. They do it very effectively. And they do it independently of how much water you take in. When you take in a lot of water, all you do is put out more urine but not more toxins in the urine,” Goldfarb said. No studies showed any benefit to skin tone as a result of increased water intake, they found. They also found evidence lacking that drinking water wards off headaches. As far as lots of water serving to limit appetite, he said there was no consistent evidence, adding it was “a little unclear exactly whether that was true.” “What no one looked at is whether anyone really loses weight over the long haul if they go under this regimen of drinking lots of water,” Goldfarb said. “We just expressed uncertainty in that area.” While it may not help a person to drink lots of water, it may not harm them much either, Goldfarb said. “If someone enjoys it, I say that’s wonderful, keep doing it. They’re not doing anything that’s going to hurt them.” “A little mild dehydration for the most part is OK, and a little mild water excess for the most part is OK. It’s the extremes that one needs to avoid,” he said.

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Other disadvantages of high water intake:

Whether it is the tap water that is not pure or the bottled water, there can be no doubt that a high fluid intake will increase one’s exposure to pollutants, especially if the high intake is sustained over years. It is inconvenient and expensive. In healthy individuals, the imbibing of large volumes of water (or of fluid, as in soft drinks) invariably leads to increased production of urine and more frequent urination. Although some dismiss this consequence as minor, for others it is a major inconvenience that sometimes causes embarrassment. And for those who satisfy the requirements of 8 × 8 with bottled water, the practice incurs a fairly large expenditure, costing far more than were the needs to be met with tap water.

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Timing of drinking water:

People drink in water while eating in many ways:

First type: Some people take a glass or two of water and then begin their meal assuming that it reduces their hunger and consequently reduces their body weight.

Second type: Some people take water frequently to facilitate easy gulping down of food and to stop hiccups.

Third type: Some consume one or two glasses of water after eating food believing that ¾ of food and ¼ of water helps digestion better.

Fourth type: Some drink water ½ an hour after their meals as they find it inconvenient to drink water while and immediately after meals.

Fifth Type: Many people drink water while eating because they feel thirsty and their throat dries out.

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Should we drink water before meal, during meal or after meal:

The Relationship of Water and Digestion in the Mouth:

The first phase of digestion process starts in the mouth. The food we eat should get ready for digestion up to 20%-25% in the mouth itself and then enter the stomach. The teeth accomplish this task. But how many of us have the practice and time to chew our food properly? Right from a boy to an aged person, everyone is in a hurry. None of us have time to eat our meal peacefully. Everyone is in a rush and wants to end up his meal in a minute or ten and rushes out. Had anyone thought what will be the consequences of such an eating? Here are a few consequences of eating food in a hurry without proper chewing.

(a)It becomes real hard to gulp the food into the stomach without chewing it properly. To overcome this we reach a glass of water. When we eat food or pickles they sometimes get obstructed in the esophagus and induce hiccups. To avoid hiccups we again reach out for water. Some people have the habit of eating food while watching television, reading news papers, talking to fellow mates or straying in thoughts. Since the concentration is not on the food, it leads to over eating and subsequently eruption of gases in the stomach and causes belching. To stop it we drink water. These are the common mistakes we comment and don’t end up here; we pass them to our children too.

(b)When we chew food thoroughly, the required saliva is produced and it moves into the stomach easily without any obstruction. The saliva substitutes the function of water as the saliva contains 98% of water and 2% of digestive enzymes. Saliva helps in proper digestion of food. Saliva also kills or injures certain kinds of bacteria found in the food we eat. When we drink water while eating food, less amount of saliva is produced. Due to reduced saliva and increased water intake the digestive process is hampered. If we chew food properly, the saliva mixes well with the food which in turn enables the food to move freely into the stomach. Saliva not only makes the digestion process easy but also complete.

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Drinking water during meals hampers digestion:

Whether you are thirsty or not, downing glasses of water along with your meals may not be the best time to quench your thirst. Researchers warn, drinking water during meals severely hampers your stomach’s digestive powers and causes insulin levels to fluctuate significantly. They have a good explanation for why you should not drink water during your meal. Most people have water along with their meals. The usual theory is washing down the food while eating. People have no idea how wrong this practice is and how difficult this can be for their digestion. Our stomachs have a knack of knowing when you will eat and starts releasing digestive juices immediately. If you start drinking water at the same time, actually you are diluting the digestive juices being released to digest your food, thereby hindering them from breaking down food. Research shows that sipping a little water during meals isn’t a cause for concern but drinking a glass or two may interfere with digestion. It is best to drink fluids before and two hours after meals as this helps in absorption of nutrients. Drinking water with meals can also lead to acid reflux and heart burn.

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The Other Side of the Coin:

It’s also important to mention that according to Michael F Picco, M.D. and the MayoClinic: “There’s no concern that water will dilute the digestive juices or interfere with digestion. In fact, drinking water during or after a meal actually aids digestion. Water and other liquids help break down food so that your body can absorb the nutrients. Water also softens stools, which helps prevent constipation.” While they do not make any mention of temperature or amount of water, and don’t reference their statement, it is clear they feel drinking while eating is generally OK.

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Will drinking water while eating dilutes stomach acid?

The common belief that many people have is that water will reduce the acidity of your stomach acid, which for all intents and purposes is not true. You cannot dilute your stomach acid in any physiologically meaningful way by drinking water during a meal. The pH of stomach acid is 1 to 2. That means your stomach acid is 100,000 times more acidic than water (pH of ~7). You would have to be drinking liters of water to dilute your stomach acid in any meaningful way.  There is a reasonable amount of scientific research in this area, most coming from hospital settings where researchers measured stomach acid levels in patients who either fasted and were given drinking water, or given drinking water along with a meal either before or after a surgery. While it’s not normal to be staying in a hospital or to be dealing with a health problem like a surgery, it’s still helpful to have high-quality studies that measure stomach acid changes in a carefully controlled way. The evidence from all of these studies suggests that stomach pH is not significantly altered by water drinking, even when a person consumes the water following an overnight fast. The amount of water consumed by patients in these studies varied, but typically fell into the 5-10 ounce range.

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Even though natural stomach acid levels were not upset by drinking water in these studies, some individuals may definitely prefer to minimize or eliminate drinking water during meals, and may experience better digestion by doing so. Remember that digestion is a complicated process that depends on many factors for a healthy and comfortable outcome. These factors include: not overeating, not eating too much fat at one meal, eating in a relaxing atmosphere, and truly appreciating your food. If drinking water with meals takes away from your enjoyment of the meal, or leaves you feeling too full too quickly, it makes sense to treat your water intake as a between-meal activity. However, if you enjoy water with your meals, there is research to support you in this practice.

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Gastric emptying study:

The amount of fluid in the stomach is positively correlated with the rate of gastric emptying.

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The figure below shows gastric emptying rate of solid and fluid meals:

Drinking water will render the net contents of the stomach more fluid, moving the gastric emptying rate from the blue curve towards the red curve. This seems to confirm the conclusion that avoiding liquid during the meal will help stave off the next bout of hunger because a more solid meal will take longer to empty. The 15 minutes before also seems to fit, as roughly half of liquid consumed 15 minutes beforehand will have been emptied before the meal starts. If one further considers the dynamics, drinking water immediately before a meal will help fill up the stomach and reduce immediate hunger but will cause that meal to be digested faster.

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Does glass of water 30 minutes before a meal – helps digestion:

 Drinking a glass of water 30 minutes before a meal is unlikely to have much effect at all on digestion. Water passes through your system quite quickly, so it is doubtful that one glass of water 30 minutes before eating would still be around in enough quantities and at the required point in the food digestion process to be of any significant help. In fact, even when water is taken with the meal itself, its impact on digestion is not likely to be very significant. Moreover, unless you have specific health problems or have a very poor diet, your body is likely to do a terrific job of digesting your food without any water at all. Dr. Braden Kuo, director of the GI Motility Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital, says that drinking water is not necessary for digesting food, because the body is very efficient at secreting and reabsorbing its own fluids. At the first stage of digestion, drinking water can simply make it easier to swallow food, since most of us have difficulty swallowing when our food is not sufficiently moistened with saliva. When the food reaches the stomach, water “may help to some degree, but its impact is moderate to minimal,’’ he says. He adds that having some extra fluid in the mix may help smooth the digestive process for those with constipation.

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Does glass of water before going to bed – avoids stroke or heart attack:

 If preventing strokes and heart attacks were as simple as drinking water before bed, those duel killers would be pretty much a thing of the past. The supposed remedy is not listed on any credible heart or stroke prevention journal. The claim is inaccurate and misleading. Drinking a glass of water before going to bed certainly will not prevent a heart attack or stroke. But, again, drinking water and staying well hydrated throughout the day can help keep you healthier and perhaps therefore make it a little less likely that you will have a heart attack or stroke. The American Heart Association notes:  Keeping the body hydrated helps the heart more easily pump blood through the blood vessels to the muscles. And, it helps the muscles remove waste so that they can work efficiently. If you’re well hydrated, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard.

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Conclusion regarding drinking water timing:

If we wish to stay healthy, it is important that we stay adequately hydrated and drinking plain old water is one of the best ways to achieve this. But, keeping hydrated is an ongoing task that is dependent on various factors such as the current temperature, what exercise we are doing and our overall health. Drinking water at certain times of the day will not provide the specific health benefits. There is no credible evidence to suggest that drinking water at certain times of the day will provide the particular health benefits. Staying well hydrated can help maintain overall health and may thereby help avoid serious health outcomes such as heart attacks and stroke. But, this is true at any time of the day. Drinking water is not necessary for digesting food. Moderate water intake during meal will not dilute stomach acid and will neither help nor harm digestion of food. However instead of using saliva to chew food in mouth, when you gulp it down with water, food digestion is affected as salivary digestive enzymes are bypassed. 

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Can drinking a lot of water bloat your Stomach?

Water Consumption and Bloating

Several factors influence whether drinking water leads to temporary stomach bloating, including the volume of water you consume and how quickly; what else is in your stomach; and whether your intestines are also full. On an empty stomach, one or two 8-ounce glasses of water are unlikely to cause noticeable bloating. In contrast, a quart or more of water consumed quickly with other food or liquid already in your stomach may lead to some distension of your abdomen. Similarly, if your intestines are full due to a recent meal, constipation or both, quickly consuming a quart or more of water may cause temporary stomach bloating and discomfort. The larger the volume of water and other foods or liquids in your stomach, the more likely you will experience temporary bloating.  

Contributing Factors:

Medical conditions and other factors that slow stomach emptying may increase the likelihood of experiencing temporary bloating when you drink a lot of water. Narcotic pain killers, acid reflux disease, the stomach flu, bulimia, anorexia nervosa, an underactive thyroid gland, Parkinson’s disease and nerve damage associated with diabetes, each commonly delay stomach emptying. Drinking water slowly helps prevent stomach bloating if you have one or more of these conditions.

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Water and exercise:

Should you drink cold or lukewarm water while exercising?

Cold water might keep your core body temperature lower and allow you to exercise longer.  A review of several studies revealed that people drink about 50 percent more cold or cool water compared to warm water when they exercise — and as a result are less dehydrated. Other studies show that people who exercise in heat and humidity have a slower and lower rise in core body temperature when they drink cold rather than lukewarm water. Whether running, cycling or lifting weights, it appears cold-water drinkers are able to exercise longer without feeling exhausted. “Sometimes when you feel really hot, you’ll feel more fatigue setting in,” says Brooke Schantz, RD, a specialist in sports nutrition. “Cold water can help prevent your core body temperature from rising significantly.” Sports nutritionist Nancy Clark, RD, author of “Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook” says:  “Cold water is more refreshing, and it cools you off a bit better.” But it’s important to remember that cold water is a luxury. It’s a necessity to drink water while working out — regardless what temp it is. “Staying hydrated means you’ll have a lower heart rate and a lower body temperature. You won’t feel as tired and you’ll have better performance,” says Schantz. To make sure you drink enough water, she suggests drinking a large glass (16 ounces) a couple of hours before you exercise, then a cup (8 ounces) about 10 or 20 minutes beforehand. While exercising, especially in the heat, stop for a sip at least every 15 or 20 minutes.  Of course, how much water you’ll need to drink depends on how much you sweat. “For every pound you lose in sweat, you need to drink 16 to 24 ounces,” she says. Since everyone is different, she often recommends that her student athletes weigh themselves after getting out of the shower — and then after practice. Do that a few times and you’ll get a sense of how much you sweat, and thus, how much water you need to glug.

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A good rule of thumb is that you lose around half a liter for each hour that you exercise – and it can be substantially more than this if it is a hot day. Some evidence shows that modest levels of dehydration lead to significant falls in athletic performance. Your blood is about 82% water.  As you sweat more, your volume of blood is reduced, and your cardiovascular system works less efficiently at getting oxygen to your muscles.  A loss of water equal to 2% of your body weight (a liter and a half for a 75kg person) could reduce your aerobic capacity by up to 20%. Bigger sweat losses than this can lead to dangerous dehydration.

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In a comprehensive discussion of this issue Tim Noakes concludes that distance runners should drink as they feel (and not force themselves to drink more), which generally means about 500ml an hour.  However, other medical advice still recommends drinking rather more than this.  For example, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends 600ml to 1,200ml of sports drink an hour. There is a significant danger that this may be too much for non-elite athletes who are running a marathon which takes them more than four or five hours.  You will have to judge for yourself what works best for you, recognizing that there are dangers from over-hydration which are at least as great as the dangers of dehydration. For running events of up to 10km, it is unlikely that you will need to drink during the run unless the weather is exceptionally hot.  For longer events, including the marathon, your performance may suffer as a result of dehydration if you don’t replace the water you are losing during the race.  But people running for more than four hours should also be careful not to drink too much.

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Water intoxication and hyponatremia due to over-hydration while exercising:

Most cases of water poisoning do not result from simply drinking too much water. It is usually a combination of excessive fluid intake and increased secretion of vasopression (also called antidiuretic hormone). Produced by the hypothalamus and secreted into the bloodstream by the posterior pituitary gland, vasopressin instructs the kidneys to conserve water. Its secretion increases in periods of physical stress—during a marathon, for example—and may cause the body to conserve water even if a person is drinking excessive quantities. Every hour, a healthy kidney at rest can excrete 600 to 800 milliliters of water and therefore a person can drink water at a rate of 600 to 800 milliliters per hour without experiencing a net gain in water. If that same person is running a marathon, however, the stress of the situation will increase vasopressin levels, reducing the kidney’s excretion capacity to as low as 100 milliliters per hour. Drinking 600 to 800 milliliters of water per hour under these conditions can potentially lead a net gain in water, even with considerable sweating. While exercising you should balance what you’re drinking with what you’re sweating. If you’re sweating 500 milliliters per hour, that is what you should be drinking. But measuring sweat output is not easy. How can a marathon runner, or any person, determine how much water to consume? As long as you are healthy and equipped with a thirst barometer unimpaired by old age or mind-altering drugs, drink to your thirst. It’s the best indicator.

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It is less well known that it is quite common, and quite dangerous, to drink too much water, especially during endurance events. In one study of 17 runners who were hospitalized during the Comrades Marathon (an 89km ultra-marathon in South Africa), 9 had hyponatraemia (this is low blood sodium, associated with over-hydration). At least two marathon runners in the USA have died of hyponatraemia.  The risks of drinking too much water are at least as significant as the risks of drinking too little.

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Hyponatremia among Runners in the Boston Marathon:

Participants in the 2002 Boston Marathon were recruited one or two days before the race. Subjects completed a survey describing demographic information and training history. After the race, runners provided a blood sample and completed a questionnaire detailing their fluid consumption and urine output during the race. Prerace and postrace weights were recorded. Multivariate regression analyses were performed to identify risk factors associated with hyponatremia. Hyponatremia occurs in a substantial fraction of nonelite marathon runners and can be severe. Considerable weight gain while running, a long racing time, and body-mass-index extremes were associated with hyponatremia, whereas female sex, composition of fluids ingested (plain water, rather than sports drinks that contain electrolytes), and use of nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs were not. Substantial weight gain appeared to be the most important predictor of hyponatremia and correlated with increased fluid intake. 

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Sports scientists in Australia did an extraordinary experiment that had never been done before (British Journal of Sports Medicine, September 2013, Current hydration guidelines are erroneous: dehydration does not impair exercise performance in the heat, Wall BA).  This group wanted to find out what happened to performance after dehydration. So they took a group of cyclists and exercised them until they lost 3% of their total body weight in sweat. Then their performance was assessed after rehydration with either 1) nothing, 2) enough water to bring them back to 2% dehydration or 3) after full rehydration.  So far nothing unusual, but the difference between this and almost every other study that’s ever been done on hydration was that the cyclists were blind to how much water they got. The fluid was given intravenously without them knowing the volume. This is vital because we all, and especially athletes, have such an intimate psychological relationship with water consumption.  Remarkably, there was no performance difference between those that were fully rehydrated and those that got nothing. This study was part of a growing movement to “drink to thirst” which hopes to persuade athletes not to over hydrate with the potentially fatal consequence of diluting your sodium level, causing hyponatraemia. Perhaps the result shouldn’t be so surprising. Humans evolved doing intense exercise in extreme heat and dryness. We are able to tolerate losses in water relatively well whereas even slight over hydration can be far more dangerous. In simple terms, being too watery is as bad for you as being too concentrated.

Note: This study was done on athletes and therefore its results must not be extrapolated for non-athletic population. Athletes can tolerate water loss better than sedentary person.

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What should athletes drink? Water or sports drink?

Research shows that fluid intake is enhanced when beverages are cool (~15 °C), flavoured and contain sodium (salt).  This makes sports drinks an ideal choice during exercise. Sports drinks are not gimmicks. They are legitimate products that are well researched and proven to improve fluid intake and performance.  A great deal of science has gone into developing the flavour profile of sports drinks so that they encourage fluid intake during exercise.  In addition, sports drinks contain carbohydrate at a concentration (4-8%) that allows refueling to take place during exercise. Several studies demonstrate that use of sports drinks will improve fluid intake.  A study conducted with AIS netball and basketball players in 1999 demonstrated better fluid balance with a sports drink compared to water.  This is consistently observed across sporting programs.  Even athletes, who prefer to drink water during exercise, demonstrate better fluid intake when forced to drink sports drink. In the past, it was believed that sports drinks only benefited the performance of exercise greater than 90 minutes.  However, in recent years, the intake of carbohydrate and fluid has been shown to be beneficial for high intensity exercise of approximately 60 minutes.  This makes sports drinks a good option for many types of sporting activity. Water is still a suitable option during exercise.  However, water drinkers need to be aware that water does not stimulate fluid intake to the same extent as sports drinks. 

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The pH of nearly all analyzed sports drinks was in the range of about 3 to 4, which is of some concern because of the potential of low pH solutions to erode teeth. The osmolality of many commercial sports drinks, which are designed to be consumed during exercise, tended to be in the hypertonic range, although such drinks should rather be slightly hypotonic. Indeed, it is suggested that intestinal water absorption rates are higher with hypotonic solutions compared with isotonic solutions. The optimal osmolality for a sports drink has, therefore, been defined to be in the slightly hypotonic range between 200 and 250 mosmol/L. Since pH of drinking water is between 6 to 8 and osmolarity between 3 to 30 mosm/L, water scores over sports drink in some aspects. Since osmolarity of water is much lower than sports drink, plain water is absorbed faster than sports drink during exercise.  As osmolality of some sports drink increases above 300 mosmol/kg, efficient uptake from the GI tract is decreased. In fact, solutions with high osmolalities (hypertonic) can actually draw fluid out of the body.

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The ratio of sweat to plasma osmolarity is always less than 1; in acclimatized adult it is 0.1 and in non-acclimatized adult it is between 0.1 to 0.5  On average, sweat osmolarity is about 50 to 140 mosmol/L in adults at rest and osmolarity decreases with increasing sweat rate and increased acclimatization as in athletes. Research has shown that depending on the temperature, humidity and overall conditioning, athletes engaged in vigorous exercise can lose 1500-3500 ml of sweat per hour. This sweat has very low osmolarity with very low sodium. So it is mainly water loss. When sweat causes dehydration, the plasma osmolarity increases, causing the antidiuretic hormone vasopressin to be released, resulting in the kidneys retaining water. Also thirst is stimulated to drink water. This process continues until the high osmolarity is reduced to normal by drinking water. Drinking only sports drink during exercise or marathon would replenish water but plasma osmolarity would not fall due to high osmolarity of sports drinks resulting in persistent thirst and higher vasopressin level. Stress due to marathon may also release vasopressin. Persistent thirst will lead to overdrinking fluid and higher vasopressin leads to reduced renal excretion of water; both together may lead to water intoxication. Osmolarity of soft drinks like pepsi and coke range from 650 to 700 mosmol/L; commercial fruit juices from 257 to 1152 mosmol/L and fresh fruit juice about 274.  Osmolarity of club soda (carbonated water) is 13 to 44 close to drinking water.  One must always quench thirst with plain water rather than sports drinks, soft drinks or fruit juices as all of them are having high osmolarity and drinking highly osmolar fluid will not reduce plasma osmolarity resulting in insatiable thirst, higher vasopressin level and possibility of over-hydration.

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High salt intake and drinking water:

Osmoregulation during high salt intake: relative importance of drinking and vasopressin secretion: A study:

Studies determined the relative contribution of drinking vs. vasopressin secretion in the regulation of extracellular osmolality in response to changes of Na intake. Daily Na intake was increased from 30 to 200 meq in dogs maintained under three conditions: normal dogs with ad libitum drinking, normal dogs with “fixed drinking,” and neurohypophysectomized dogs with “fixed drinking” and vasopressin replaced by continuous infusion. (Drinking was fixed to that amount consumed during the normal Na control period.) The mechanisms of osmoregulation were highly nonlinear. As daily Na intake increased from 30 to 100 meq, renal natriuretic mechanisms predominated with only small contributions from either the thirst or vasopressin systems. At high levels of Na intake (200 meq/day), both drinking and vasopressin release contributed significantly to osmoregulation. The studies also determined that, in the absence of excess vasopressin secretion and increased drinking, plasma osmolality rose to nearly twice the levels as those observed in normal dogs that increased vasopressin secretion. Authors conclude that vasopressin-related renal conservation of water contributes to buffering the rise of osmolality when Na intake is increased without increased drinking. The studies also confirm that with available water to drink, the thirst mechanism together with renal Na excretory mechanisms are the predominant controllers of osmolality in situations of high sodium intake.

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Drink extra water when you have high salt meal:

Recommended daily salt (NaCl) intake for adult human is 5 gms/day. High-salt meal drives your body to compensate. Kidneys try to remove excess salt by producing more urine. High salt raises plasma osmolarity and thereby stimulates vasopressin that reduces free water loss from kidneys to maintain osmolarity resulting in expansion of extra cellular fluid volume. This can be offset by drinking liberal water as per thirst stimulated by higher osmolarity and thereby keeping vasopressin level in check to increase urine formation which will remove excess salt. Remember maximum renal concentration capacity is 1200 mosmol/L and when there is excess solute load as in high salt diet, urine output must increase to facilitate solute excretion.

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Benefits of using Copper Vessels for drinking water:

History of using copper:

  • Use of copper in history is found to be about 10,000 years ago. In 3000 B.C., coppers ores were found in the island of Cyprus. Romans named the metal as cyprium which was later known as cuprum and then copper in English
  • In India copper was used to sterilize drinking water 2600 and 2200 B.C. It is still used in many households for storing water
  • In Egypt copper compounds were recommended for headaches, burns, wounds, and boils (1500 BC)
  • Greeks used it for treatment of ulcers and healing wounds
  • In the 20th century, a German physician observed copper mine workers to be free from Arthritis
  • Earlier water supply used to be through copper pipes and taps and its anti-microbial properties were observed.

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Copper is one of the essential metallic elements required for proper metabolic functioning of the body. However, the amount required is very less i.e. 1.2mg/day (trace amount) but our body does not synthesize copper so it needs to be supplied from dietary source. Various food items that has copper content are honey, beans , whole wheat, green leafy vegetables etc. it is perceived that the best method of fulfilling the body’s need of copper is by having water stored overnight in a copper vessel. However, trace elements in inorganic form are not assimilated in body as opposed to organic forms from food. So inorganic copper ion in water would not be of much use.  

Copper’s Antimicrobial Power:

According to a 2012 study published in Journal of Health, Population, and Nutrition, storing bacterially contaminated water in copper for up to 16 hours at room temperature considerably reduces the presence of the harmful microbes, so much that the researchers inferred that “copper holds promise as a point-of-use solution for microbial purification of drinking-water, especially in developing countries.” An additional study from University of South Carolina researchers explored the purifying power of copper, finding that “Antimicrobial copper surfaces in intensive care units (ICU) kill 97 percent of bacteria that can cause hospital-acquired infections,” resulting in “a 40 percent reduction in the risk of acquiring an infection.”

Copper Promotes Health:

Only about 25% of the US population is getting adequate copper each day in the diet. Copper is a powerful anti-oxidant, and is also required for proper absorption of iron. With continued mineral depletion and soil erosion, it is becoming more necessary to consider ways to adequately supplement our diets with this vital mineral.

Deficiency of copper:

Deficiency of copper can cause anemia, osteoporosis, low WBCs, elevated cholesterol, low skin pigmentation, thyroid problems, nervous system disorders etc.

In a copper jug, copper intake is only in trace amounts that can’t be toxic.

Toxicity due to over dosage:

Excessive intake can be harmful also leading to high blood pressure, psychiatric disorders etc. A person should stop taking copper supplements and seek medical help immediately if having symptoms of anemia, nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain. Pregnant women or people already on some kind of copper supplementation should consult their physicians before trying the product. Excessive copper intake may cause Zinc deficiency 

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Drinking Water Apps for Your Phone:

In your busy life, you barely have time to check your email, so how can you possibly have time to keep track of exactly how much water you’ve had to drink? Your Smart Phone already manages most of your life, so why not let it handle your drinking water needs as well? Here are some great apps to get you started!

1. WaterLogged:

The WaterLogged app keeps track of how much water you’ve had to drink and applies it to your daily goal. The default setting is to drink 64 oz of water, but you can easily change the goal to match how much water you want to drink every day. Anytime you drink water, you can quickly apply the amount of water you drank towards your daily total. The app includes two default serving sizes for a 16.9 oz water bottle and a regular 8 oz glass. Another nifty detail of this app is that you can add your own water bottle as a serving size. The app also lets you include partial servings, so if you only drank a portion, the app will do the math for you.

2. TapIt Water:

TapIt Water is more than just an app; it’s a network of places where you can refill your water bottle free of charge. The app uses a GPS locator to find participating locations nearby where you can fill up. You can check the TapIt Water website for a list of cities and states where the network has a strong presence.

3.OasisPlaces:

OasisPlaces allows users of the app to find and share the locations of free drinking water fountains. Users can upload a picture of the water fountain and offer a review of the quality of the water from that fountain using a 5 star rating system. Don’t have any OasisPlaces near you? Take pictures of the fountains and add them to the database. The more people using the app, the more effective it will be. Why pay for a bottle of water if there’s a perfectly good water fountain nearby?

4. WeTap:

The WeTap app is very similar to OasisPlaces, only it works for the Android OS.  WeTap was designed by the Pacific Institute to help bring back free drinking water via public water fountains. The app allows you to find and add water fountains for other users, but it also has a feature to report broken fountains so they can be fixed. This feature makes a lot of sense because now you can report a broken public fountain and help get it fixed! How often do you have a chance to help dozens of other people quench their thirst using just your smart phone?

5. Carbodroid:

Carbodroid is a fun app for the Android OS that keeps track of your drinking water intake to help you reach your daily goal. The fun part of this app features an animated droid who helps keep you motivated to drink more water and celebrates your success with you. You can easily enter how much water you’ve had to drink and set an alarm to help you remember to drink more water during the day.

Hopefully these water apps for your phone will make it easier for you to find free sources of drinking water and meet your daily goals. Since these are all free apps, go ahead and try them.  What do you have to lose?

Well, there is nothing to lose but I suggest you drink to your thirst rather than to your cell phone reminder. Do not use technology to override biology.

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Minerals in Water:

As discussed earlier, water is classified as nutrient and in the figure of nutritional facts of tap water; it is shown to contain sodium, calcium and magnesium. In terms of mineral nutrients intake, it is unclear what the drinking water contribution is. Inorganic minerals generally enter surface water and ground water via storm water runoff or through the Earth’s crust. Treatment processes also lead to the presence of some minerals. Examples include calcium, zinc, manganese, phosphate, fluoride and sodium compounds.  Minerals are essential for the basic functions of the human body to take place. They help to control bone growth, regulate fluids, normalize nerve and muscle functions, keep up metabolism, grow connective tissues, and so much more. However, a big misconception is that that we obtain enough minerals from our drinking water. This is actually not true because in reality, the main source of minerals is always from our food and diet, not from our drinking water. Our bodies have a hard time processing inorganic minerals and what we cannot absorb may be stored in our tissues and organs and eventually become toxic to the body. The primary culprits are calcium salts and over time they can cause gallstones, kidney stones, bone & joint calcification, arthritis, and hardening and blocking our arteries. Organ failure and cancer could also occur from long term exposure to certain types of toxic or radioactive minerals found in tap and natural spring water. Organic minerals which are abundant in food are much easier to absorb and preferred by our bodies because they do not contain toxic minerals.    

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It’s much better to obtain minerals from our food instead of from our water. But that doesn’t mean that getting minerals from water won’t be absorbed by the body. It just won’t be very effective and most will be lost. That’s why so many supplements are a waste of time. Most minerals are best absorbed when attached to some sort of protein molecule. In your body, iron is surrounded by the heme molecule. Many of the trace minerals in your body have some sort of protein molecule attached to it. This prevents the mineral ion from reacting with the alkaline chemicals your body produces. In many cases these protein molecules effectively surrounds these metal ions. It helps with better absorption because some of these molecules can easily attach itself to the intestine. This doesn’t mean that inorganic mineral is useless. It just means that once ingested, it has to “compete” with the chemicals that the body produces for proper absorption, with other mineral ions, and bind with protein molecules to attach to the intestine to be absorbed. Calcium in water is a salt, which means that it has a positive ion and a negative ion. You can absorb it to a degree but when we are talking about efficiency, it’s better when it’s attached to other molecules. So overall, you can absorb only a tiny amount of the minerals in the water you drink, so it’s better to plan getting them from food instead! 

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Don’t you need minerals in your drinking water?

•It is believed that mineral waters help furnish elements for body metabolism. However, there is scientific proof to suggest that most of these minerals are in an inorganic (dead) form. While they may enter the circulation, they cannot be used in the physiological process of building the human cell.

•With this in mind, we can see that mineral water may give “dead” or “inorganic” minerals to the body which cannot be properly assimilated.

•These inorganic minerals only interfere with the delicate and complex biology of the body.

•The body’s need for minerals is largely met through foods, not drinking water.

•The organic minerals in tap water represent only 1% of the total mineral content of the water.

•One glass of orange juice contains more beneficial minerals than thirty gallons of untreated tap water.

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What are TDS?

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TDS stands for total dissolved solids, and represents the total concentration of dissolved substances in water. TDS is a measure of the combined content of all inorganic and organic substances contained in a liquid in molecular, ionized or micro-granular (colloidal sol) suspended form. Generally the operational definition is that the solids must be small enough to survive filtration through a filter with two-micrometer pores. Total dissolved solids are normally discussed only for freshwater systems, as salinity comprises some of the ions constituting the definition of TDS. The principal application of TDS is in the study of water quality for streams, rivers and lakes, although TDS is not generally considered a primary pollutant (e.g. it is not deemed to be associated with health effects) it is used as an indication of aesthetic characteristics of drinking water and as an aggregate indicator of the presence of a broad array of chemical contaminants. Total dissolved solids are differentiated from total suspended solids (TSS), in that the latter cannot pass through a sieve of two micrometers and yet are indefinitely suspended in solution. The term “settleable solids” refers to material of any size that will not remain suspended or dissolved in a holding tank not subject to motion, and excludes both TDS and TSS. Settleable solids may include larger particulate matter or insoluble molecules. TDS is made up of inorganic salts, as well as a small amount of organic matter. Common inorganic salts that can be found in water include calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium, which are all cations, and carbonates, nitrates, bicarbonates, chlorides and sulfates, which are all anions. Cations are positively charged ions and anions are negatively charged ions.

How do these solids end up dissolved in water?

These minerals can originate from a number of sources, both natural and as a result of human activities. Mineral springs contain water with high levels of dissolved solids, because the water has flowed through a region where the rocks have a high salt content. The water in the Prairie Provinces tends to have high levels of dissolved solids, because of high amounts of calcium and magnesium in the ground. These minerals can also come from human activities. Agricultural and urban runoff can carry excess minerals into water sources, as can wastewater discharges, industrial wastewater and salt that is used to de-ice roads.

What happens to the water when the TDS level is high?

Alone, a high concentration of dissolved solids is usually not a health hazard. In fact, many people buy mineral water, which has naturally elevated levels of dissolved solids. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is responsible for drinking water regulations in the United States, includes TDS as a secondary standard, meaning that it is a voluntary guideline in the United States. While the United States set legal standards for many harmful substances, TDS, along with other contaminants that cause aesthetic, cosmetic and technical effects, has only a guideline. However, increased concentrations of dissolved solids can also have technical effects. Dissolved solids can produce hard water, which leaves deposits and films on fixtures, and on the insides of hot water pipes and boilers. Soaps and detergents do not produce as much lather with hard water as with soft water. As well, high amounts of dissolved solids can stain household fixtures, corrode pipes, and have a metallic taste. Hard water causes water filters to wear out sooner, because of the amount of minerals in the water. 

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Water can be classified by the amount of TDS per liter:

Fresh water < 1,000 mg/L TDS

Brackish water 1000 to 10,000 mg/L TDS

Saline water 10,000 to 30,000 mg/L TDS

Brine > 30,000 mg/L TDS

While a TDS of 5,000 mg/L is the minimum threshold for a water to be considered brine, the typical range is 30,000 to 100,000 mg/L.

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Most people think of TDS as being an aesthetic factor. In a study by the World Health Organization, a panel of tasters came to the following conclusions about the preferable level of TDS in water:

Level of TDS (milligrams per liter) Rating
Less than 300 Excellent
300 – 600 Good
600 – 900 Fair
900 – 1,200 Poor
Above 1,200 Unacceptable

WHO report recommended that the minimum TDS in drinking water should be 100 mg/L. Because the threshold of acceptable aesthetic criteria for human drinking water is 500 mg/l, there is no general concern for odor, taste, and color at a level much lower than is required for harm. A number of studies have been conducted and indicate various species’ reactions range from intolerance to outright toxicity due to elevated TDS. The numerical results must be interpreted cautiously, as true toxicity outcomes will relate to specific chemical constituents. Nevertheless, some numerical information is a useful guide to the nature of risks in exposing aquatic organisms or terrestrial animals to high TDS levels. Most aquatic ecosystems involving mixed fish fauna can tolerate TDS levels of 1000 mg/l. 

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How can water with high TDS be undesirable or harmful?

•It may taste bitter, salty, or metallic and may have unpleasant odors

•High TDS water is less thirst quenching.

•High TDS interferes with the taste of foods and beverages, and makes them less desirable to consume.

•Some of the individual mineral salts that make up TDS pose a variety of health hazards. The most problematic are Nitrates, Sodium, Sulfates, Barium, Cadmium, Copper, and Fluoride.

•If a person drinks 2 pints of water a day, this will total 4500 gallons of water passing through his body over a 70 year span. If the water is not totally pure, then this 4500 gallons will include 200-300 pounds of rock that the body cannot utilize. Most will be eliminated through excretory channels. But some of this will stay in the body, causing stiffness in the joints, hardening of the arteries, kidney stones, gall stones and blockages of arteries, microscopic capillaries and other passages in which liquids flow through our entire body.

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The following are reasons why it is helpful to constantly test for TDS:

Taste/Health:

High TDS results in undesirable taste which could be salty, bitter, or metallic. It could also indicate the presence of toxic minerals. The EPA’s recommended maximum level of TDS in water is 500mg/L (500ppm).

Filter performance:

Test your water to make sure the reverse osmosis or other type of water filter or water purification system has a high rejection rate and knows when to change your filter (or membrane) cartridges.

Hardness (and Water Softeners):

High TDS indicates Hard water, which causes scale buildup in pipes and valves, inhibiting performance.

Aquariums/Aquaculture:

A constant level of minerals is necessary for aquatic life. The water in an aquarium or tank should have the same levels of TDS and pH as the fish and reef’s original habitat. 

Pools and spas:

TDS levels must be monitored to prevent maintenance problems.

Commercial/Industrial:

High TDS levels could impede the functions of certain applications, such as boilers and cooling towers, food and water production and more.

Coffee and Food Service:

For a truly great cup of coffee, proper TDS levels must be maintained.

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How do you Reduce or Remove the TDS in your Water?

Carbon filtration:

Charcoal, a form of carbon with a high surface area, adsorbs (or sticks to) many compounds, including some toxic compounds. Water is passed through activated charcoal to remove such contaminants.

Reverse osmosis (R.O.):

Reverse osmosis works by forcing water under great pressure against a semi-permeable membrane that allows water molecules to pass through while excluding most contaminants. RO is the most thorough method of large-scale water purification available.

Distillation:

Distillation involves boiling the water to produce water vapor. The water vapor then rises to a cooled surface where it can condense back into a liquid and be collected. Because the dissolved solids are not normally vaporized, they remain in the boiling solution.

Deionization (DI):

Water is passed between a positive electrode and a negative electrode. Ion selective membranes allow the positive ions to separate from the water toward the negative electrode and the negative ions toward the positive electrode. High purity de-ionized water results. The water is usually passed through a reverse osmosis unit first to remove nonionic organic contaminants.

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Water’s electrical conductivity (EC) & TDS: 

Pure water is not a good conductor of electricity. Ordinary distilled water in equilibrium with carbon dioxide of the air has a conductivity of about 10 x 10-6 W-1m-1 (20 dS/m). Because the electrical current is transported by the ions in solution, the conductivity increases as the concentration of ions increases. Thus conductivity increases as water’s dissolved ionic species increase. TDS is a measure of the total ions in solution. EC is actually a measure of the ionic activity of a solution in term of its capacity to transmit current. In dilute solution, TDS and EC are reasonably comparable.

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Hard water:

Hardness in drinking water is defined as presence of those minerals that dissolve in water having a positive electrical charge. The primary components of hardness are calcium (Ca++) and magnesium (Mg++) ions. Dissolved iron (Fe++) and manganese (Mn++) also satisfy the definition of hardness, but typically make up only a very small fraction of total hardness. Minerals are composed of either atoms or molecules. An atom or molecule that has dissolved in water is called an “ion.” Positively charged ions are called cations and are noted as (+). A double sign would indicate a plus two electrical charge. Contaminants having a similar positive charge would be removed by a matching type of ion exchange resin, i.e. water softening.

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As rainwater falls, it is naturally soft. However, as water makes its way through the ground and into our waterways, it picks up minerals like chalk, lime and mostly calcium and magnesium. Since hard water contains essential minerals, it is sometimes the preferred drinking water. Not only because of the health benefits, but also the flavor. On the other hand, soft water tastes salty and is sometimes not suitable for drinking. The hardness of water is referred to by three types of measurements: grains per gallon, milligrams per liter (mg/L), or parts per million (ppm). What type is your water? The Water Quality Association of the United States defines hard water as having dissolved mineral hardness of 1 GPG (grain per gallon) or more.

 

Water Hardness Scale
Grains Per Gallon Milligrams Per Liter (mg/L)or Parts Per Million (ppm) Classification
less than 1.0 less than 17.1 Soft
1.0 – 3.5 17.1 – 60 Slightly Hard
3.5 – 7.0 60 – 120 Moderately Hard
7.0 – 10.5 120 – 180 Hard
over 10.5 over 180 Very Hard

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Temporary hardness:

Temporary hardness is a type of water hardness caused by the presence of dissolved bicarbonate minerals (calcium bicarbonate and magnesium bicarbonate). When dissolved these minerals yield calcium and magnesium cations (Ca2+, Mg2+) and carbonate and bicarbonate anions (CO3–, HCO3-). The presence of the metal cations makes the water hard. However, unlike the permanent hardness caused by sulfate and chloride compounds, this “temporary” hardness can be reduced either by boiling the water, or by the addition of lime (calcium hydroxide) through the softening process of lime softening.  Boiling promotes the formation of carbonate from the bicarbonate and precipitates calcium carbonate out of solution, leaving water that is softer upon cooling.

Permanent hardness:

Permanent hardness is hardness (mineral content) that cannot be removed by boiling. When this is the case, it is usually caused by the presence of calcium sulfate and/or magnesium sulfates in the water, which do not precipitate out as the temperature increases. Ions causing permanent hardness of water can be removed using a water softener, or ion exchange column.

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Hard water is a very common problem, affecting water in more than 85% of the country. It is a result of the dissolved minerals calcium, magnesium and manganese. With an increase in these minerals, the following are seen:

•Soap scum in sinks and bathtubs

•Bathtub rings

•Spots on dishes or shower doors

•Reduced foaming and cleaning abilities of soaps and detergents

•Dingy and yellowed clothes with soapy residues that require extra rinsing to remove

•Clogged pipes from buildup of minerals

•Increased water heating costs from buildup of minerals, reducing efficiency of water heaters

•Possible skin infections from bacteria trapped in pores underneath soap scum

•Accumulation of whitish-gray scale in tea kettles and other containers used to boil water

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The figure below shows how hard water leads to lime-scale deposits in PVC pipes:

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Hard water health benefits:

Sufficient evidence is now available to confirm the health consequences from drinking water deficient in calcium or magnesium. Many studies show that higher water magnesium is related to decreased risks for CVD and especially for sudden death from CVD. This relationship has been independently described in epidemiological studies with different study designs, performed in different areas, different populations, and at different times. The consistent epidemiological observations are supported by the data from autopsy, clinical, and animal studies. Biological plausibility for a protective effect of magnesium is substantial, but the specificity is less evident due to the multi-factorial etiology of CVD. In addition to an increased risk of sudden death, it has been suggested that intake of water low in magnesium may be associated with a higher risk of motor neuronal disease, pregnancy disorders (so-called preeclampsia), sudden death in infants, and some types of cancer. Recent studies suggest that the intake of soft water, i.e. water low in calcium, is associated with a higher risk of fracture in children, certain neurodegenerative diseases, pre-term birth and low weight at birth and some types of cancer. Furthermore, the possible role of water calcium in the development of CVD cannot be excluded.

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The findings of a six-year study of more than 20,000 healthy men and women aged 38-100 in the May 1, 2002 American Journal of Epidemiology found that women who drank more than five glasses of water a day were 41% less likely to die from a heart attack during the study period than those who drank less than two glasses. The protective effect of water was even greater in men. There is an increasing body of evidence that drinking water hardness and elevated concentrations of certain minerals in hard water may reduce the risk of cardiac death and, in particular, the risk of sudden cardiac death. Recent interest has focused on deficits in dietary magnesium. In developed countries, these deficits are potentially compounded by use of medications, such as diuretics, that further reduce body stores of magnesium.

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Several studies showed an inverse correlation between water hardness and mortality from cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Among the best known studies were those by H.A.Schroeder who demonstrated, among others, correlation between mortality from CVD in males aged 45-64 years and water hardness in 163 largest cities of the USA (Schroeder, 1960) and summarized his results using the following compelling dictum: ‘soft water, hard arteries’. Other studies were published by Morris in Wales (Morris et al, 1961) and Canadian, Finnish, Italian, Swedish and other authors. A review of most relevant papers of the 1960’s is given e.g. in a WHO Bulletin (Masironi et al, 1972) or by Sharrett and Feinleib (Sharrett et al, 1975). An interesting British study (Crawford et al, 1971) focused on variation in mortality from CVD depending on water hardness in 11 British cities between 1950 and 1960. Water hardness increased in five cities and decreased in six cities. Within the given period mortality from CVD in the UK increased by 10% on average compared to 20% in the cities supplied with softer water than before and compared to 8.5% only in the cities supplied with harder water than before. In all districts where the drinking water magnesium level was higher than 8 mg/l (but not higher than 15 mg/l); the CVD mortality rates were lower. Another Swedish case-control study focused on the effect of the drinking water Mg and Ca levels on mortality from acute myocardial infarction (AMI) in females showed a statistically significantly lower mortality rate (by 34%) in the areas supplied with water containing more calcium (> 70 mg/l) as compared to those where the drinking water calcium level was < 31 mg/l; a similar finding was presented independently for magnesium: the mortality rate was by 30% lower in the areas where the water Mg content was > 9.9 mg/l compared to those where the water Mg content was < 3.4 mg/l (Rubenowitz et al, 1999). Another Swedish case-control study showed a significant correlation between male mortality from AMI the Mg content of water. Cases were 854 men from 17 municipalities in the southern part of Sweden who had died of AMI between ages 50 and 69 years during the period 1982-1989. The controls were 989 men of the same age in the same area who died from cancer during the same period. Only men who consumed water supplied from municipal waterworks were included in the study. The group with hard water (> 9.8 mg Mg/l) had a mortality rate from AMI by 35% lower as compared with the consumers of soft water (< 3.5 mg Mg/l). Any correlation with the water Ca content was not reported (Rubenowitz et al, 1996). Another study of the same type and by the same authors focused on correlation between the drinking water Mg and Ca levels and morbidity and mortality from AMI in 823 males and females aged 50-74 years in 18 Swedish districts, who had developed AMI between October 1, 1994 and June 30, 1996 (Rubenowitz et al, 2000). The study took into account both individual exposure to Ca and Mg from water and food and other known risk factors for AMI likely to bias the correlation, if any. Although for calcium the correlation with AMI was not confirmed, magnesium proved to reduce the risk level by 7.6 % in the group of the quartile with the highest water Mg level ( 8.3 mg/l) compared to groups exposed to water containing lower levels of magnesium. Although the total AMI rates were similar in all four groups, the persons enrolled in the group with the highest water Mg level had a risk level of death from AMI by a third lower (odds ratio 0.64) as compared to the groups consuming water containing less Mg than 8.3 mg/l. Multivariate analyses showed that the correlation found is not caused by other known risk factors. This finding supports the hypothesis that magnesium prevents primarily sudden death from AMI, rather than all ischemic heart disease deaths or the risk of suffering an AMI.

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Magnesium may protect against hip fractures:

Drinking water with a relatively high concentration of magnesium protects against hip fractures, according to results of a study from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. There are considerable variations in the quality of drinking water in Norway. The researchers studied variations in magnesium and calcium levels in drinking water between different areas, as these are assumed to have a role in the development of bone strength. They wanted to examine whether there was a correlation between magnesium and calcium concentrations in drinking water and the incidence of hip fracture. The study results show that magnesium protects against hip fracture for both men and women. The researchers found no independent protective effect of calcium.

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Water hardness and kidney stones:

We boil the water before drinking and find that the container is thickly coated with salt due to the regular boiling of water. Will consuming this salted water lead to kidney stones?  The hardness of water is due to the presence of carbonate & sulphate salts of calcium and magnesium. These minerals in hard water cause spots to form on dishes/cutlery and scale to form on plumbing and electric equipment like kettles and geysers. More than 3/4th of kidney stones are generally composed of calcium salt and usually occur as calcium oxalate and less commonly as calcium phosphate. The remaining 20% of stones are composed of uric acid, struvite and cystine stone. Stones form in urine that is supersaturated and this saturation is dependent on chemical free ion activity. Increased urinary ion excretion and decreased urine volume will both increase free ion activity and favour stone formation and growth. Formation of kidney stones (nephrolithiasis) is based on genetic, metabolic, nutritional and environmental factors. Metabolic factors involved in stone formation include hypercalciuria (found in 50% of patients and its most common cause is increased intestinal calcium absorption), hypocitraturia (due to renal disease), hyperuricosuria, hyperoxalaturia, cystinuria and infections. Environmental / nutritional factors include dehydration (e.g., exercise in hot climates), high salt intake, a diet rich in animal proteins and calcium rich diet when oxalate intake is restricted. The impact of water hardness on urinary stone formation remains unclear, despite a weak correlation between water hardness and urinary calcium, magnesium, and citrate excretion. Several studies have shown no association between water hardness and the incidence of urinary stone formation. A correlation between water hardness and urinary calcium, citrate and magnesium levels has been observed although the significance of this is not known. Some studies suggest that in the preventive approach to calcium nephrolithiasis, intake of soft water is preferable to hard water, since it is associated with a lower risk for recurrence of calcium stones. There is, however, no study as yet, which has shown a higher incidence of kidney stones in a population consuming hard water.

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Effects of water hardness on urinary risk factors for kidney stones in patients with idiopathic nephrolithiasis:

Both amount and timing of dietary calcium intake influence the recurrence of renal calcium stones. Authors have evaluated whether the hardness of extra meal drinking water modifies the risk for calcium stones. The urinary levels of calcium, oxalate and citrate, i.e., the main urinary risk factors for calcium stones, were measured in 18 patients with idiopathic nephrolithiasis, maintained at fixed dietary intake of calcium (800 mg/day), after drinking for 1 week 2 liters per day, between meals, of tap water and at the end of 1 week of the same amount of bottled hard (Ca2+ 255 mg/l) or soft (Ca2+ 22 mg/l, Fiuggi water) water, in a double-blind randomized, crossover fashion. As compared with both tap and soft water, hard water was associated with a significant 50% increase of the urinary calcium concentration in the absence of changes of oxalate excretion; the calcium-citrate index revealed a significant threefold increase during ingestion of hard water as compared with respect to soft water (Fiuggi water), making the latter preferable even when compared with tap water. This study suggests that, in the preventive approach to calcium nephrolithiasis, the extra meal intake of soft water is preferable to hard water, since it is associated with a lower risk for recurrence of calcium stones.

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Does drinking Hard Water cause more Kidney Stones?

A group of Wake Forest Urologists pondered this question in a study that compared the urine chemistry of patients who drank various kinds of water. They had 15 men who typically form stones and 14 who did not form stones; drank three kinds of water for two days each. The three types of water were “water of minimal hardness” (WMH), “tap water” (TW) and “mineral water” (MW). All of the men drank more water than normal it seems during the study, so overall urine output went up. The urine was less concentrated in the WMH and TH groups, and more concentrated in the MW group. The stone-former group had a rise in the urine calcium concentration, and the non-former group had no such rise. The result it seems is that hard water causes more kidney stones only if you have a tendency to stones in the first place. On the other hand, soft water didn’t prevent stones for anybody. So what to do? If you have had kidney stones perhaps you should avoid mineral water and stick to water of minimal hardness, like what you would get from a filtered water source.

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Hard water leading to hair fall and skin problems:

Dermatologist Dr Kabir Sardana said the hardness of city water is making the skin of its inhabitants dry, which further leads to the problems of dry hair and hairfall. “Before treating patients, we generally ask their address as water quality plays a vital role in diagnosing a disease. Water in different sectors has become a standard to establish a disease easily,” he said, adding that measures like using glycerine-based soaps may reduce the skin problem to an extent.

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Here are the effects that Hard Water has on your hair and scalp:
• Dryness of hair
• Tangling
• Eczema of the scalp
• Dandruff
• Lack of volume and shine
• Fading of color from dyed hair
• Permed hair losing curl

Softened water leaves a film on your skin because something has been added to your water. It’s true that your skin will feel softer and less dry after a shower in softened water because your natural body-moisturizing oils are better able to reach your skin’s surface. In addition, those soaps, shampoos and shower gels will suds up faster. After your shower in soft water, you are actually much cleaner than when you shower in hard water.

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Treatment of hard water:

If you have a hard water problem, your solution could be through a water filtration system such as Reverse Osmosis (RO) (which will remove most minerals), Distillation (which will remove all minerals) or a Water Softener.  For a whole house, reverse osmosis or other types of filtration are typically more costly options than a water softener. 

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The most common method of removing hardness from drinking water is the installation of a water softener. A water softener replaces the calcium and magnesium molecules with sodium molecules. For every milligram of hardness that is removed, 0.46 milligrams of sodium will be added to the water. Studies have shown that elevated levels of sodium in drinking water may have an adverse affect on health. Persons who suffer from high blood pressure or are on a sodium restricted diet should not drink water containing greater than 20 mg/l of sodium without first checking with a physician. A simple solution to the problem of consuming softened water is to have the kitchen cold water faucet bypass the water softener. By comparison, an 8-ounce glass of Coca-Cola has 30 milligrams of sodium while an 8-ounce glass of softened water has less than 12.5 milligrams. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a typical 1-ounce slice of bread has between 80 and 230 milligrams of salt, depending on the brand. So even though water softener adds sodium, it is comparatively less than sodium content of soft drink or bread.

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 Water softener:

1. Powdered or liquid chemicals:

Powdered or liquid water softeners are chemicals that can be added to a batch of water to help control water hardness. Products may form an insoluble precipitate with calcium and magnesium ions that make water cloudy and can build up on surfaces.

2. Ion exchange water softening units:

Ion exchange water softening units can be permanently installed into the plumbing system to continuously remove calcium and magnesium. The ion exchange process involves water passing through a media bed, usually sulfonated polystyrene beads, which are supersaturated with sodium. The ion exchange process takes place as hard water passes through the softening material. The hardness minerals attach themselves to the resin beads while sodium on the resin beads is released simultaneously into the water. When the resin becomes saturated with calcium and magnesium, it must be recharged. The recharging is done by passing a salt (brine) solution through the resin. The sodium replaces the calcium and magnesium which are discharged in the waste water.

3. Although not commonly used, potassium chloride can be used to create the salt brine. In that case potassium rather than sodium is exchanged with calcium and magnesium.

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Pros and cons of water softening:

By removing dissolved minerals from water you will deprive your body of healthy nutrients like calcium and magnesium prevalent in hard water. The problem with that argument is that the calcium and magnesium in your water are in an inorganic form that your body cannot digest in the way that it can the minerals in your food or dietary supplements.

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Ideal health-friendly hard water:

Based on the currently available data, various researchers have recommended that the following levels of calcium, magnesium, and water hardness should be in drinking water:

For magnesium, a minimum of 10 mg/L and an optimum of about 20-30 mg/L, For calcium, a minimum of 20 mg/L and an optimum of about 50 (40-80) mg/L. For total water hardness, the sum of calcium and magnesium should be 2 to 4 mmol/L. At these concentrations, minimum or no adverse health effects were observed. The maximum protective or beneficial health effects of drinking water appeared to occur at the estimated desirable or optimum concentrations. The recommended magnesium levels were based on cardiovascular system effects, while changes in calcium metabolism and ossification were used as a basis for the recommended calcium levels. The upper limit of the hardness optimal range was derived from data that showed a higher risk of gall stones, kidney stones, urinary stones, arthrosis and arthropathies in populations supplied with water of hardness higher than 5 mmol/L.

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Correlation between TDS and hardness;

High TDS may indicate hard water, which causes scale buildup in pipes and valves, inhibiting performance. Since TDS is related to water hardness, using a TDS meter can be your first step in determining the degree of hardness of the water. Generally speaking, the higher the level of TDS (ppm), the higher the degree of hardness. However, TDS includes hard solids & soft solids, and organic & inorganic substances while hardness means inorganic calcium & magnesium salts. Water softeners do not remove TDS but exchange calcium and magnesium ions with sodium ions (salt). Therefore, the TDS level will remain virtually constant (there may be minor differences). Since a water softener does not lower the TDS level of your water, an additional filter may be necessary for your drinking water. In other words, a soft water can have high TDS. So TDS is not synonymous with hardness of water.  

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Understanding PH of water:

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PH is simply a measure of the concentration of hydrogen ions. In fact, the acronym “pH” is short for “potential of hydrogen.” The higher a liquid’s pH, the fewer free hydrogen ions it has; the lower its pH, the more free hydrogen ions it has. One pH unit reflects a tenfold change in ion concentration – for example, there are ten times as many hydrogen ions available at a pH of 7 than at a pH of 8. The pH scale goes from 0 to 14, and a pH of 7 is neutral. Anything with a pH below 7 is considered acidic, with battery acid being the most extreme example, around 1. Anything with a pH above 7 is alkaline (or basic), with lye at the top of the scale, around 13. Natural water on our planet ranges in pH from 6.5 to 9.0, depending on surrounding soil and vegetation, seasonal variations and weather, and even time of day responses to sunlight. Human activities further influence the pH of our water, from the barrage of toxic industrial pollutants. Most aquatic animals and plants have adapted to life in water with a very specific pH, and will die from even slight changes. A pH below 4 or above 10 will kill most fish, and very few animals can tolerate waters with a pH below 3 or above 11.

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 Guidelines for the PH of Drinking Water for humans:

WHO state that pH usually has “no direct impact on consumers,” yet they also write pH is one of the “most important operational water quality parameters.”  They do recommend your water pH be in the range of 6.5 to 8.0 so as not to corrode your pipes – and they’re not talking about your body’s plumbing:  Alkalinity and calcium management also contribute to the stability of water and control its aggressiveness to pipe and appliance. Failure to minimize corrosion can result in the contamination of drinking water and in adverse effects on its taste and appearance. It appears that the WHO is more concerned about the pipes in your house than the pipes in your body. Most likely the optimal pH of the water you were designed to drink is somewhere between 6.5 and 8. Water that is too acidic or too alkaline can be detrimental to human health and lead to nutritional disequilibrium. This was demonstrated in a Swedish well water study, which found both pH extremes to be problematic. What you want is pure water – water that is clean, balanced, and healthful, neither too alkaline nor too acidic. Ideally, the pH of your water should be somewhere between 6 and 8. 

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It is important to know that our body naturally regulates our pH levels to find balance and equilibrium. Thus, under normal conditions it will always maintain a neutral 7.4 pH. Water pH will automatically change when it is ingested and comes in contact with food in your stomach.

Some examples of water pH and beverage pH levels:

Water & Beverage pH Levels

Sea Water = 8.6 pH

Soda = 2.5 pH

Mineral Water = 7.4 pH

Sports Drink = 2.9 pH

Tap Water = 6 to 8 pH

Coffee = 4 pH

Orange juice = 3 pH

RO Water = 5 to7 pH

Beer = 4.5 pH

The truth is, people drink acidic beverages all the time, they are just not aware of it. Since almost all fruit juices have lower pH, it is safe to say that it is not only safe to drink some acidic beverages but it is also beneficial. However acidic drinks such as soda should be kept to a minimal due to their high sugar content. Drinking slightly acidic water is also equally safe as long as the water is clean and contaminant free.

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Basically, the pH value is a good indicator of whether water is hard or soft. The pH of pure water is 7. In general, water with a pH lower than 7 is considered acidic, and with a pH greater than 7 is considered basic. The normal range for pH in surface water systems is 6.5 to 8.5, and the pH range for groundwater systems is between 6 to 8.5. Alkalinity is a measure of the capacity of the water to resist a change in pH that would tend to make the water more acidic. The measurement of alkalinity and pH is needed to determine the corrosiveness of the water. In general, water with a pH < 6.5 could be acidic, soft, and corrosive. Acidic water could contain metal ions such as iron, manganese, copper, lead, and zinc. In other words, acidic water contains elevated levels of toxic metals. Acidic water can cause premature damage to metal piping, and have associated aesthetic problems such as a metallic or sour taste. It can also stain laundry and cause “blue-green” color staining on sinks and drains. More importantly, there are health risks associated with these toxins. The primary way to treat the problem of low pH water is with the use of a neutralizer. The neutralizer feeds a solution into the water to prevent the water from reacting with the household plumbing or from contributing to electrolytic corrosion. A typical neutralizing chemical is soda ash. Also known as sodium carbonate, soda ash works to increase the sodium content which increases pH. Water with a pH > 8.5 could indicate that the water is hard. Hard water does not pose a health risk, but can also cause aesthetic problems. These problems include an alkali taste to the water (making that morning coffee taste bitter!), formation of scale deposits on dishes, utensils, and laundry basins, difficulty in getting soaps and detergents to lather, and the formation of insoluble precipitates on clothing. According to a Wilkes University study, the association of pH with atmospheric gases and temperature is the primary reason why water samples should be tested on a regular basis. The study says that the pH value of the water is not a measure of the strength of the acidic or basic solution, and alone cannot provide a full picture of the characteristics or limitations with the water supply.

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Is RO water harmful as it has lower pH?

Water from a reverse osmosis system or a distiller will be acidic. RO/distilled water does have a lower pH level. That’s because these systems remove dissolved bicarbonate solids but not acid-producing carbon dioxide. Without the bicarbonates to neutralize it, there is carbonic acid in the RO water. But it is not a health concern, nor will it endanger your water pipes. Although the pH level of untreated tap water will be about 7; the level of RO water is about 6. Soft drinks and sports drinks typically have a pH of 2.5; orange juice is at 3 pH; and coffee is at 4 pH. We drink all these beverages all the time without major problems.

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Note:

The pH of any drink in the range of about 3 to 4 is of some concern because of the potential of low pH solutions to erode teeth.

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Is alkaline water beneficial to humans?

The theory behind alkaline water is, in a nutshell, that alkaline (ionized) water is a powerful antioxidant with surplus electrons that can “mop up” the dangerous free radicals you have coursing through your veins. Marketers claim alkaline water can correct excess acidity in your tissues, which can then prevent or reverse cancer, arthritis, and other degenerative diseases.  However, a study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry found that alkalosis (rising cellular pH) causes alkaline-induced cell death as a result of altering mitochondrial function.  And if you drink alkaline water all the time, you’re going to raise the alkalinity of your stomach, which will buffer your stomach’s acidity and impair your ability to digest food and open the door for parasites in your small intestine.      

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Water sources:

The world’s water exists naturally in different forms and locations: in the air, on the surface, below the ground, and in the oceans. Although covering some 70% of the Earth’s surface, most water is saline. Of all water on earth, 97 per cent is salt water, and of the remaining 3 per cent fresh water, some 70 per cent is frozen in the polar icecaps. The other 30 per cent is mostly present as groundwater, with only a small fraction present above ground or in the air.  Less than 1 per cent of the world’s fresh water is readily accessible for direct human uses. Over the past 40 years the world’s population has doubled. Our use of water has quadrupled. Yet the amount of water on Earth has stayed the same. Looking at how water moves through the Earth’s water cycle helps us understand how it interacts with the environment and how much is available for human use as seen in the figure below:

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Can you take sea water and drink it?

On average, seawater in the world’s oceans has a salinity of about 3.5%. This means that every kilogram, or every liter, of seawater has approximately 35 grams of dissolved salts. Accidentally consuming small quantities of clean seawater is not harmful, especially if the seawater is consumed along with a larger quantity of fresh water. However, drinking seawater to maintain hydration is counterproductive; more water must be excreted to eliminate the salt (via urine) than the amount of water that is gained from drinking the seawater itself. The effect of seawater intake has also been studied in laboratory settings in rats. This study confirmed the negative effects of drinking seawater when dehydrated.  

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Seawater is only good to drink for humans who live near the sea and can afford the cash and the energy to take out the salt. For most of the population this is not an option. Desalinated water costs maybe 15 times more than regular water. It burns polluting fossil fuel energy, as solar-powered desalination is in its infancy. The quantity of freshwater that is available to a given country without exceeding the rate at which it is renewed, can be estimated taking into account the amount of precipitation, water flows entering and leaving the country, and water shared with other countries. The average amount available per person varies from less than 50 m3 per year in parts of the Middle East to over 100 000 m3 per year in humid and sparsely populated areas.

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The source of virtually all freshwater is precipitation from the atmosphere, in the form of mist, rain and snow, as part of the water cycle over eons, millennia and in the present day. Surface water is stored in wetlands or lakes or flows in a stream or river, and is the most commonly utilized resource for water. In places, surface water can be stored in a reservoir behind a dam, and then used for municipal and industrial water supply, for irrigation and to generate power in the form of hydroelectricity. Sub-surface water, or groundwater, is fresh water located in the pore space of soil and rocks. It is also water that is flowing within aquifers below the water table. Groundwater can exist both as a renewable water system closely associated with surface water and as a separate, deep sub-surface water system in an aquifer. This latter case is sometimes called “fossil water”, and is realistically non-renewable. Normally, groundwater is utilized where surface sources are unavailable or when surface supply distribution is limited. Generally of high quality, groundwater is being withdrawn mostly to supply drinking water and support farming in dry climates. Ninety-six percent of liquid fresh water can be found underground. Groundwater feeds springs and streams, supports wetlands, helps keep land surfaces stable, and is a critical water resource. About 60% of the water that is taken from the ground is used for farming in arid and semi-arid climates, and between 25% and 40% of the world’s drinking water comes from underground. Hundreds of cities around the world, including half of the very largest, make significant use of groundwater. This water can be especially useful during shortages of surface water. The resource is considered renewable as long as groundwater is not withdrawn faster than nature can replenish it, but in many dry regions the groundwater does not renew itself or only very slowly. Few countries measure the quality of groundwater or the rate at which it is being exploited. This makes it difficult to manage.   

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Where does drinking water come from?

Drinking water can come from different resources. For one, it can be pumped from the ground through wells. This groundwater is than purified, so that it will contain no more contaminants and is suited to drink. Drinking water can also be prepared directly from surface water resources, such as rivers, lakes and streams. Usually surface water has to undergo many more purification steps than groundwater to become suited to drink. Preparing drinking water out of surface water is much more expensive due to this. Still 66% of all people are served by a water system that uses surface water.  Part of our drinking water is pumped from the ground, usually under sand dunes. In sand dunes water can also be infiltrated. As it sinks into the ground through the dunes it is naturally purified. This costs much less money than the purification of surface water. Part of our drinking water originates from dune water.  

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Sources from where drinking water may be obtained include:

1. ground sources such as groundwater, hyporheic zones and aquifers.

2. precipitation which includes rain, hail, snow, fog, etc.

3. surface water such as rivers, streams, glaciers

4. biological sources such as plants.

5. the sea through desalination

6. water supply network

7. Spring water is groundwater that rises to the ground surface

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How can the growing demand for drinking water be met?

1.Intercepting, diverting, storing and transferring water

2.Water re-use

3.Desalination

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Intercepting, diverting, storing and transferring water:

 1. People have been collecting rainwater for thousands of years – for example in Palestine, Greece, Rome, and South Asia. In India, rainwater has recently been used to replenish underground water. This technique is inexpensive and can be implemented locally. Larger projects have also been carried out to increase infiltration into the ground in areas where deforestation has reduced the availability of water.

 2. Diverting surface water into basins and pits to increase infiltration into the ground can reduce evaporation, help replenish groundwater aquifers, and improve the quality of water. This practice is used in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Runoff is collected and diverted in a variety of ways. Some methods reduce the need to treat the water.  

3. Dams and reservoirs provide hydropower, supply water during shortages, enable fishing and the irrigation of farmland, and protect people from both floods and droughts.

4. The long-standing practice of interbasin transfer of water from one aquifer or river basin to another can help alleviate water shortages caused by agriculture and other human activities.

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Water re-use:

The re-use of wastewater, made possible by technological advances in the last century, is now widespread. Once it has been extensively treated to remove biodegradable material, nutrients, and pathogens, it could be drunk, or used in a number of other ways. Reclaimed water or recycled water, is former wastewater (sewage) that is treated to remove solids and certain impurities, and used in sustainable landscaping irrigation or to recharge groundwater aquifers. Non-potable quality water can be used directly for irrigation, as a coolant in industry and to maintain river flows. Cities around the world where freshwater supplies are limited, such as San Diego in the United States, are developing programs to re-use water and to replenish aquifers with treated wastewater. Use of these techniques is expected to increase. The most viable programs use reclaimed waste water instead of drinking water for agricultural, industrial, and other uses. Countries in both water-short and more temperate but high-population regions are expected to increase their use of reclaimed water in the coming years. Reclaimed water is expected to account for 25% of Israel’s water supply in the next few years. Jordan will have to increase its use of reclaimed water fourfold to meet demand; Egypt, tenfold. Most Middle Eastern countries are expected to re-use more than half their wastewater.  Australia, Belgium, China, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom are also expected to increase their use of reclaimed water, as this practice becomes an integral part of the management of water resources.

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Potable use of reclaimed water:

In most locations, reclaimed water is not directly mixed with potable (drinking) water for several reasons:

1. Utilities providing reclaimed water for nonpotable uses do not treat the water to drinking water standards.

2. Varying amounts of pathogens, pharmaceutical chemicals (e.g., hormones from female hormonal contraception) and other trace chemicals are able to pass through the treatment and filtering process, potentially causing danger to humans. Modern technologies such as reverse osmosis may help to somewhat overcome this problem. An experiment by the University of New South Wales reportedly showed a reverse osmosis system removed ethinylestradiol and paracetamol from the wastewater, even at 1000 times the expected concentration.

3. Drinking water standards were developed for natural ground water, and are not appropriate for identifying contaminants in reclaimed water. In addition to pathogens, and organic and endocrine disrupting chemicals, a large number of compounds may be present in reclaimed water. They cannot all be tested for, and there is a paucity of toxicity information on many of the compounds.  Because of this, state regulatory agencies do not allow reclaimed water to be used for drinking, bathing, or filling swimming pools. They also warn those who use reclaimed water for irrigation to place a sign on their property warning people not to drink from the irrigation system, and to not use it directly on fruits or vegetables.

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Aboard the International Space Station, astronauts have been able to drink recycled urine due to the introduction of the ECLSS system. The system cost $250 million and has been working since May 2009. The system recycles wastewater and urine back into potable water used for drinking, food preparation, and oxygen generation. This cuts back on the need for resupplying the space station so often. Recent Advances in Reverse Osmosis have consistently produced very high quality water all the same. In Singapore, reclaimed water, also known as NEWater has become cleaner than the government tap water.  Also, according to Bartels, the Bedok Demonstration Plant, which uses RO membranes, has successfully run for the past 3 years, producing high quality wastewater all the while.

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Direct potable reuse (DPR):

Supplying highly treated reclaimed water directly to a drinking water distribution system is known internationally as direct potable reuse (DPR). This differs from more established approaches to potable water recycling by the absence of a so-called ‘environmental buffer’, a practice referred to as indirect potable reuse (IPR). IPR involves the storage of treated reclaimed water in environmental buffers – such as a river, lake, reservoir or aquifer – prior to it being recovered through drinking water treatment plants and distributed to consumers. Any DPR scheme includes a number of general characteristics. A source of municipal wastewater is required, such as effluent from wastewater treatment plants, which is purified using advanced water treatment processes to effectively and reliably remove hazardous substances including pathogens and toxic chemicals. It would not be possible to meet all demand for drinking water through recycling, so the use of additional water sources remains essential. Finally, most DPR projects require a means of blending the recycled water with conventionally sourced water prior to delivery to consumers. Conceptually, DPR can be developed in a number of alternative configurations which differ by their arrangement of the water sources, treatment processes and blending locations. The major difference between DPR and IPR, i.e. the use of environmental buffers, has been attributed a number of important functions. These include: additional treatment of pathogens and chemical contaminants; the provision of ‘time to respond’ to potential water treatment incidents; and improvement of public perceptions of potable water reuse. In order to maintain appropriate levels of safety, reliability, and public acceptance, such functions would need to be performed in any DPR system by engineered or other processes. This requires sophisticated approaches to water quality monitoring techniques, process reliability assessment, personnel training, engineered water storage design, and community engagement in particular. It is instructive to observe that there are a number of successfully operating DPR schemes internationally. The most established of these has been operating in Namibia since 1968 without observed negative impacts to public health. More recently, DPR projects have been developed in the US and South Africa, with both countries now actively considering additional developments within the next few years. Recent Guidelines for Water Reuse developed by the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) state that “While DPR is still an emerging practice, it should be evaluated in water management planning, particularly for alternative solutions to meet urban water supply requirements that are energy intensive and ecologically unfavourable”. The State of California, in particular, is currently investigating the feasibility of developing uniform criteria for DPR. Potential benefits of DPR, relative to IPR, are likely to be highly case-specific. However, potential benefits include significantly lower energy requirements, construction costs, and operational costs. DPR can also provide an opportunity to allow potable reuse in situations where a suitable environmental buffer is not available for IPR.  Increasing energy costs may have a significant impact on future decisions to choose between DPR, IPR, surface water dams, or seawater desalination. A cost benefit analysis may identify that an appropriately designed DPR scheme is less expensive to construct and operate than other methods of water supply while still meeting all regulatory requirements. Public acceptance remains an important and sometimes difficult issue for all planned potable water projects. However, there is evidence to suggest that acceptance is increasing generally and can be fostered by effective engagement and communication programs. The science, technology and engineering associated with DPR have been rapidly advancing in recent decades. DPR is growing internationally and will be an expanding part of global drinking water supply in the decades ahead. DPR is technically feasible and can safely supply potable water directly into the water distribution system, but advanced water treatment plants are complex and need to be designed correctly and operated effectively with appropriate oversight.

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Machine squeezes Drinking Water from Your Sweaty T-Shirt:

One company has designed a system, called Sweat Machine, to wring sweat out of clothes and turn it into potable water. The Sweat Machine heats and spins clothes to extract the liquid from them, then filters the extract with a membrane developed with the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. The filter is the most sophisticated part of the machine.  Water vapor passes through the material easily, but it traps bacteria, salts and fibers from the clothes. Fans watching the Gothia Cup, an international youth soccer tournament held in Sweden, will get to see the Sweat Machine at work during the game. Players have promised to drink a glass of water extracted from their own sweat, according to UNICEF. Anybody else interested in getting a taste can try, too.

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Desalination:

Desalination involves reducing its mineral content by taking salt out of seawater and brackish water and producing water of freshwater quality. Salt water is desalinated to produce fresh water suitable for human consumption or irrigation. It is used mainly by cities and industry, primarily in the Middle East (50%), but also in North America (16%), Europe (13%), and Asia (11%). The high costs of desalination, principally arising from the energy used, have dropped significantly in recent years due to technological advances. That energy is produced primarily with fossil fuels, which pollute the air, and each method of disposing of the by-products of desalination—for example in the ocean or in deep wells—has an impact on the environment. It has been suggested that the various means of disposal be assessed according to a single set of criteria, so that the impact of each desalination plant can be consistently evaluated.  Desalination is used on many seagoing ships and submarines.

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Huge reserves of freshwater lie beneath the ocean floor:

Scientists have found huge freshwater reserves under the world’s oceans.  Scientists in Australia have reported the discovery of huge freshwater reserves preserved in aquifers under the world’s oceans. The water has remained shielded from seawater thanks to the accumulation of a protective layer of sediment and clay. And it’s not a local phenomenon. Such reserves are to be found under continental shelves off Australia, China, North America and South Africa. The discovery was made by researchers at the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT) and the School of the Environment at Flinders University. The scientists estimate there is around half a million cubic kilometers of what they describe as “low salinity” water, which means it could be processed into fresh, potable water economically. The reserves formed when ocean levels were lower and rainwater made its way into the ground in land areas that were not covered until the ice caps melted 20,000 years ago, causing sea levels to rise. The volume of this water resource is a hundred times greater than the amount we’ve extracted from the Earth’s sub-surface in the past century since 1900.  To access these non-renewable water reserves, it would be necessary to drill into the seabed from man-made, offshore platforms or from the mainland or nearby islands. Despite the high costs involved, the water would require less energy to desalinate than it does to desalinate sea water, although a careful assessment of the economics, sustainability and environmental impact of the exploration of such water reserves would be necessary.

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Water supply, transport and store:

Water supply is the provision of water by public utilities, commercial organisations, community endeavors or by individuals, usually via a system of pumps and pipes. The most efficient way to transport and deliver potable water is through pipes. Plumbing can require significant capital investment. Some systems suffer high operating costs. The cost to replace the deteriorating water and sanitation infrastructure of industrialized countries may be as high as $200 billion a year. Leakage of untreated and treated water from pipes reduces access to water. Leakage rates of 50% are not uncommon in urban systems. Because of the high initial investments, many less wealthy nations cannot afford to develop or sustain appropriate infrastructure, and as a consequence people in these areas may spend a correspondingly higher fraction of their income on water.  2003 statistics from El Salvador, for example, indicate that the poorest 20% of households spend more than 10% of their total income on water. In the United Kingdom authorities define spending of more than 3% of one’s income on water as a hardship.

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Plumbing:

The plumbing industry is a basic and substantial part of every developed economy due to the need for clean water, and sanitary collection and transport of wastes. Plumbing is the system of pipes, drains fittings, valves, valve assemblies, and devices installed in a building for the distribution of water for drinking, heating and washing, and the removal of waterborne wastes.  Plumbing originated during ancient civilizations such as the Greek, Roman, Persian, Indian, and Chinese cities as they developed public baths and needed to provide potable water and drainage of wastes, for larger numbers of people.  Standardized earthen plumbing pipes with broad flanges making use of asphalt for preventing leakages appeared in the urban settlements of the Indus Valley Civilization by 2700 B.C. The Romans used lead pipe inscriptions to prevent water theft. The use of lead for potable water declined sharply after World War II because of increased awareness of the dangers of lead poisoning. At this time, copper piping was introduced as a better and safer alternative to lead pipes. Present-day water-supply systems use a network of high-pressure pumps, and pipes in buildings are now made of copper, brass, plastic (particularly cross-linked polyethylene called PEX, which is estimated to be used in 60% of single-family homes), or other nontoxic material. Due to its toxicity, lead has not been used in modern water-supply piping since the 1930s in the United States, although lead was used in plumbing solder for drinking water until it was banned in 1986.

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Leaking drinking water from water supply piping:

Fixing a leaking tap could help save tens of thousands of liters of clean water in a year. Ten percent of homes have leaks that waste 90 gallons or more per day. A faucet that drips one drop per second would waste 27,000 gallons of water annually. Worldwide, up to 60 percent of water is lost due to leaky pipes. Furthermore, water usage has been increasing at twice the rate of population growth in the last century. The simple solution would be to fix the broken pipes, but in the U.S. alone the estimated cost to fix its current water system would be $335 billion over 20 years.

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Dual piping:

Dual piping is a system of plumbing installations used to supply both potable and reclaimed water to a home or business. Under this system, two completely separate water piping systems are used to deliver water to the user. This system prevents mixing of the two water supplies, which is undesirable, since reclaimed water is usually not intended for human consumption. In the United States, reclaimed water is distributed in lavender (light purple) pipes, to alert users that the pipes contain non-potable water. Hong Kong has used a dual piping system for toilet flushing with sea water since the 1950s.  

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Does dual water system work? Netherland experience:

Dual water supply systems were installed in several newly built housing estates in the Netherlands in the late1990s. These residential homes were provided with both drinking water and separately with so-called household water for toilet flushing, laundry and the garden tap. Household water was produced by limited treatment from a variety of sources and had a lower quality than drinking water. No legislation for (the quality of) this type of water was present at the time and the Dutch government appointed six of these estates as pilot projects. Four pilot projects were intensively monitored for toxicological and microbiological safety as well as microbiological stability during a period of almost 16 months. Specific incidents such as cross connections between drinking water and household water, and observations of viruses and pathogenic protozoa in treated water demonstrated that some of these systems were microbiologically unsafe. Furthermore certain household waters had a relatively high biofilm formation potential leading to growth of Legionella sp. and Aeromonas and complaints from customers about the smell and colour of the household water. In nearly all cases concentrations of heavy metals and organic pollutants were below drinking water standards, hence the toxicological risk caused by chemical substances was not significant. Based on the results of this study the Dutch government decided to discourage the production and distribution of household water on a large scale. At present all projects owned by water companies in the Netherlands have been terminated by replacing household water with drinking water.

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Spragg bag:

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Terry Spragg of Manhattan Beach, California, builds flexible fabric barges for the transportation of bulk fresh water and is the reason why his product is referred to as the “Spragg Bag.”  In the 1970s Spragg was a promoter of icebergs as a large source of fresh water, but soon realized this was impractical. He then put his skills into developing the waterbag technology starting in the 1980s. Spragg has worked on and perfected this over the last twenty years with his associates. The first field test of his waterbag was in December 1990. The waterbag was 75 meters long (245 feet) and it contained approximately 3,000 cubic meters (790,000 US gal) of fresh water. The 1995 associated Spragg patents indicate that the inventions relate to a flexible fabric barge technology or combination of several barges made of a rubber polyurethane material. The main body portion of a flexible fabric barge is cylindrical in shape. The barge can be used by itself or as several connected flexible fabric barges that can be towed through the open ocean under extreme conditions. The patents further explain that the goal of Spragg’s inventions are a practical water delivery system of fresh drinkable water that could be delivered to dry regions worldwide that have a shortage of potable water. One of the flexible fabric barge concepts aims at an economical delivery system for fresh water that would be considerably cheaper than desalination plants, rigid ships, tanker trucks, conventional barges, aqueducts or pipeline transport. Spragg bags are more economical and better for the environment than desalination of the seas and oceans.   One application seen is in the Middle East where large quantities of fresh water that are available in the Turkey region could be delivered to other places around the Mediterranean Sea that have an extreme shortage of drinkable fresh water, like Israel and Gaza.  Spragg believes that delivering fresh drinking water to water-poor nations can promote world peace.

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Spragg bag and disaster:

Disasters happen. Earthquakes, cyclones, hurricanes, tsunamis, and more. And as we see at each disaster, the first and most urgent need after rescue operations are finished is usually clean, adequate water. What do we do? We load heavy pallets of plastic bottles filled with water onto cargo planes and fly them over to disaster areas. While the generosity of the bottled water companies, who typically donate their product, is indisputable, there must be a better way to get more water on site, cheaper and faster. That is spragg bag. The large bags — and they can probably be made any size we want — can be pre-positioned throughout the world, folded and stored. In a disaster, they can be immediately filled with freshwater from any safe source: surviving municipal systems, rivers, small-scale purification plants, or desalination units and towed through the oceans to places of need. Or they can be driven or flown, empty, to the site of a disaster and filled locally. Two Military Sealift Command ships brought portable desalination systems to the Maldives during relief operations in February 2005 that could be used to fill such temporary storage bags. During the recent disaster in American Samoa, a U.S. Navy guided missile frigate, the USS Ingraham, was on scene very quickly, offering aid. Many Navy ships are capable of desalinating seawater and could fill such bags for distribution in emergencies, if the bags were either prepositioned or quickly flown in. One of Spragg’s innovations was to design the bags so multiple bags could be connected in a “train” with massive zipper systems. In this way, many bags could be towed through the oceans at a time. Spragg is still around, but his idea has never been pursued commercially because the economics of such a system for regular water supply are marginal. But disaster relief is another story.  

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Water Storage:

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Containers:

Use only food-grade containers. Smaller containers made of PETE plastic or heavier plastic buckets or drums work well. Clean, sanitize, and thoroughly rinse all containers prior to use. A sanitizing solution can be prepared by adding 5 ml (1 teaspoon) of liquid household chlorine bleach (5 to 6% sodium hypochlorite) to 1 liter (one quart) of water. Only household bleach without thickeners, scents, or additives should be used. Do not use plastic milk jugs, because they do not seal well and tend to become brittle over time. Do not use containers previously used to store non-food products.

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Solar Cookers International (SCI) has incorporated the Safe Household Water Storage container in their water pasteurization programs in Kenya. They are part of a safe water package that consists of a CooKit solar cooker, a black pot, a Water Pasteurization Indicator (WAPI), and a Safe Household Water Storage container. The containers are handmade out of clay by local artisans. Their design incorporates a small opening at the top to help prevent children from dipping cups and possibly dirty hands into the drinking water. There is a spigot at the bottom. The unglazed clay container helps to keep the water naturally somewhat cool in dry climates because a very small amount of the water is absorbed by the container and then evaporates.

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Reliability of water sources:

Water sources may be variable and unreliable. Water reliability may vary by season, by year, and by location. In some areas, the rains fall mainly during the monsoon seasons, leaving dry conditions at other times of the year. Large scale climate variability such as the influence of El Niño and La Niña may mean that one year is wet while the next is dry. The quantity of water in rivers and lakes can also be unreliable. Some rivers only flow during part of the year, leaving a dry riverbed and no local source of water. Rivers and lakes can also dry up from overuse.  At the household level, the reliability of the distribution system that provides water to the people is critical to maintaining quantity. If pipes are broken or only intermittent service is available, the quantity of drinking water suffers.  Often the unreliability of surface water can be offset by the use of groundwater. However, if ground water sources are depleted too rapidly, or are not being successfully recharged by either natural or man-made processes, the quantity of drinking water suffers.

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Water scarcity:

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Water scarcity is set to be one of the biggest environmental challenges of the 21st century, with global warming, deforestation, overpopulation, industrial demand, irrigation and several other factors taking a huge toll on the planet’s water reserves. Clean, safe drinking water is scarce. Today, nearly 1 billion people in the developing world don’t have access to it. Yet, we take it for granted, we waste it, and we even pay too much to drink it from little plastic bottles. Water is the foundation of life. And still today, all around the world, far too many people spend their entire day searching for it. In places like sub-Saharan Africa, time lost gathering water and suffering from water-borne diseases is limiting people’s true potential. Education is lost to sickness. Economic development is lost while people merely try to survive. But it doesn’t have to be like this. Its needless suffering. 

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Simply put, water scarcity is either the lack of enough water (quantity) or lack of access to safe water (quality). Water scarcity can take two forms: physical water scarcity, or low quantity of water, and economic water scarcity, or low quality of water. Economic water scarcity applies to areas or cultures that lack the fiscal resources and/or human capacity to invest in water sources and meet the local demand. Water is often only available to those who can pay for it or those in political power; leaving millions of the world’s poorest without access. Regions most affected by this type of scarcity are portions of Central and South America, Central Africa, India, and South East Asia. It is important to highlight the distinction between these two forms of scarcity: water can be physically available, but the resources are not available to improve it and distribute it to those who need it.

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What are Improved Technologies for Drinking Water?

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The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program 2008 for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP) considers bottled water a source of improved drinking water only when another improved source is also used for cooking and personal hygiene.

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The largest democracy India and water:

India’s growing population is putting a strain on the country’s water resources. The country is classified as “water stressed” and a water availability of 1,000-1,700 m3/person/year.  According to UNICEF, in 2008, 88% of the population had access and was using improved drinking water sources. “Improved drinking water source” is an ambiguous term, ranging in meaning from fully treated and 24 hour availability to merely being piped through a city a sporadically available. This is in part due to large inefficiencies in the water infrastructure in which up to 40% of water leaks out. In the same 2008 UNICEF report, only 31% of the population had access and used improved sanitation facilities. Open sewers are common place in urban areas. A little more than half of the 16 million residents of New Delhi, the capital city, have access to this service. Every day, 950 million gallons of sewage flows from New Delhi into the Yamuna River with any significant forms of treatment. This river bubbles with methane and was found to have a fecal coliform count 100,000 time the safe limit for bathing.  Due to surface water contamination due to lack of sewage treatment and industrial discharge, groundwater is becoming increasingly dependent on and exploited in many regions of India. This process is being expedited by heavily subsidized energy costs for agriculture practices; which make up roughly 80% of India’s water resource demand.

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In India 80 per cent of rural households depend on untreated water sources, over 40 per cent of which are contaminated. Ground water in around 200,000 rural habitations has been found to be chemically contaminated, which means it has excess fluoride, chloride, iron, nitrates and even traces of arsenic. Due to lack of awareness and absence of alternatives, villagers continue to consume water from contaminated sources.  Contaminants such as fluoride and arsenic have a severe impact on health resulting in skeletal fluorosis, dental fluorosis and arsenic poisoning. WHO estimates around 87 million Indians (75 per cent of which are children) are affected by water-borne diseases annually. The health burden of poor water quality is enormous. 1.5 million children are estimated to die of diarrhea alone and 73 million working days are lost due to waterborne disease each year. The resulting economic burden is estimated at $600 million a year.

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The World Health Organization/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation is the official United Nations mechanism tasked with monitoring progress towards the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) relating to drinking-water and sanitation (MDG 7, Target 7c), which is to: “Halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking-water and basic sanitation”. The JMP is required to use the following MDG indicator for monitoring the water component of this: Proportion of population using an improved drinking-water source. According to the latest estimates of the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP), released in early 2013 (collected in 2011), 36 per cent of the world’s population – 2.5 billion people – lack improved sanitation facilities, and 768 million people still use unsafe drinking water sources. Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services, coupled with poor hygiene practices, kills and sickens thousands of children every day, and leads to impoverishment and diminished opportunities for thousands more. The health burden of poor water quality is enormous. The Millennium Development Goal for water calls for halving the population without access to safe drinking water by 2015. There are two key water quality issues that undermine the safety of drinking water and affect the lives of hundreds of millions of children around the world:

•Faecal contamination of drinking water, which is a leading cause of the 4,000 daily deaths from diarrhoea amongst children under the age of five. 

•Contamination of drinking water with naturally-occurring arsenic or fluoride, threatening the health of tens of millions of people.

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In 2010, about 85% of the global population (6.74 billion people) had access to piped water supply through house connections or to an improved w