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October - November 2005


Hair Care: Structure of Hair

by Shashi Gossain B.Sc (Hons), MRPS, Member

Each hair grows from a separate hair follicle, situated in the dermis. It begins its life in the root, or papilla, at the base of the follicle. The outer layer of the hair (cuticle) consists of overlapping cells which protects the inner layers. The soft, inner cells are called the cortex, which determines the strength, elasticity and thickness of the hair according to the depth and quality of the cortex.

Melanin pigments, which gives hair its colour, is in the cortex. The central core of the hair is called the medulla. Every follicle has a sebaceous gland, which produces sebum, a waxy lubricant which protects the hair and scalp.

Types of Hair:

Dry Hair:- This can be a natural condition or it can be induced in otherwise normal hair by heating, styling products, colouring, perming and using the wrong shampoo. Use dehydrating ingredients to replace moisture loss. Panthenol, Pro-vitamin B5 and Glycerine are the best ingredients for re-moisturising the hair.

Greasy Hair:- This is due to the over production of sebum by the sebaceous glands in the scalp. To control the condition, choose a mild shampoo and avoid using conditioners on the roots of the hair, only on the ends, if necessary.

Combination hair:- This is when hair is greasy at the roots and dry at the ends of the hair. It is mainly due to the result of hair mismanagement. To correct the problem, cut the hair above the level where the hair is split ends start and trim hair every six weeks. Use a deep conditioner on the ends of the hair twice a week and only a mild shampoo when washing.

Grey Hair
Nobody actually has grey hair, it is simply that as we age, individual hairs lose their colour and become white, which is thought to be genetically pre-determined. Grey hair not only lacks melanin, its cuticle cells can also be coarser and more tightly packed than ordinary hair, therefore when colouring the hair, stronger formulas are recommended in order to achieve a permanent shade.

Dandruff is a mild fungal condition affecting the scalp, and most of us will experience it at some time in our lives. A microscopic yeast, called pityrosporum ovale is naturally present on everyone’s’ scalp, but if conditions are right, the yeast will multiply rapidly, causing the skin in this area to shed large numbers of dead epidermal cells.

The presence of dandruff on the scalp is immediately apparent in the form of numerous dry, white flakes in the hair and on dark clothing. Contrary to myth and legend, dandruff is not caused by dirt, inadequate hair rinsing, or head lice!

Coal tar is the traditional anti-dandruff ingredient and some other popular examples are Ketoconazole (which is the most recent and widely used), Climbazole, Selenium Sulphide and Zinc Pyrithione, which attack the yeast and either kill it or stop it reproducing.
Anti-dandruff shampoos have to be used regularly over several weeks before the dandruff disappears.

Hair Dryers
Use a dryer with varying heat/speed settings with a minimum of 1800 Watts power. The dryer should be comfortable to hold while drying the hair, making sure that the switches are easily accessible during use.

Most modern models now have a ‘cool air’ button to set the style after drying; and a nozzle, which diffuses the flow of air that lifts the hair, without damaging the hair root and shaft.
Before drying: Coat your hair with a Protective Styling Spray, which not only make your hair easy to style, but also holds ‘moisture in,’ which is vital for colour treated, dry or brittle hair.
Let your hair dry naturally for as long as possible and then ‘roughly dry’ with a medium setting followed by short bursts on a higher setting until almost dry.

Curling Tongs
This is a round metal plate which is heated, around which, the hair is wound to create ringlets, curls, waves or add a soft bounce.

Always use a protective styling spray before use to reduce damage as the hair is in direct contact with metal at a very high temperature.

Air Styler
This is round, barrel- shaped appliance with vents for warm air and so it is gentler than the curling tongs; but enough to create soft curls and waves.

Heated Rollers
These are foam based, which bend into shape, enabling tighter curls to be produced.
These are best used on ‘nearly dry hair’ to minimise damage and maximise the time required to get the right style. Using heated rollers on wet/damp hair would need longer styling times, leading to excessive damage.

Hair Straighteners
Curls are created naturally in the papilla, which varies according to ethnicity and genetics.
By straightening hair, more light is reflected, giving the hair a shinier and healthier appearance. The most modern method of straightening hair is by the use of hair straighteners.

These are basically two hot, flat metal plates between which the hair is pressed and the kinks are literally ‘ironed out.’ The hair remains straight unless you are in a damp environment, in which the cuticle cells will absorbs the water and return to its natural state.

A pre-straightening styling spray should be used before styling to protect the hair. It should not be used on a daily basis because the hair shaft would become brittle, resulting in split ends and weak ,broken hair.

Hair Styling Products
There are an array of products on the market for the most intricate hair styling.

Styling Mousse
A light liquid, cream product which gets “frothed” due to the injection of air bubbles, is dispensed from a metal canister. This medium is quite easy to spread along the length of the hair and should be applied to washed hair just before it dries completely. Mousses give body to fine, straight hair and also reduces frizz in naturally curly hair.

Styling Wax
This is more popular with men than women and holds the hair in place much more efficiently than other products. The wax is in a solid state in a tub and has to be scooped out with fingers and then rubbed onto the hands before smoothing through the hair. It is excellent for the modern ‘spiky’ look or reducing frizz in permed hair.

Styling Gel
Modern formulas are blends of gums, resins and conditioning agents that style the hair without damage. Gels can be used on wet or dry hair and are great for holding hair flat or for the more dramatic styles.

Hair Spray
These are made up of resins that not only hold the hair, but also keep the flexibility of the style. It is used to ‘finish off’ the hair style and to keep the hair fixed in a particular shape.
Beware of the build up of residue from all hairstyling products which can lead to dryness, irritation and itching. Ideally, they should be washed off at night with a mild shampoo. Deep conditioning treatments should be carried out at least once a week.

Before you apply hair colour for the first time, you should carry out a skin and strand test about 24 hours prior to doing a full head. The instructions are always included in the home colourant boxes. This will determine whether you are allergic to the chemicals and bleaches that are often an integral part of the colourant.

Grey Hair
As we age, individual hairs lose their colour pigment and become pure white. The age at which this process starts can vary and is predominantly due to genetics.

Home hair colourants are ideal for this since the process is fast, inexpensive and quite effective.
Vegetable Based Hair Colourants

This is a natural plant based alternative and is ideal for people sensitive to the harsh chemicals found in regular hair dyes:

Henna has been used in Asia and North Africa to add shine, volume and subtle red shades to otherwise dark hair. Henna dye stains the outside of the hair cuticle which often results in uneven colouring as damaged sections of hair cuticle expose the inner cortex.

These formulas are “washed in and out”, leaving a subtle effect. They last between 1- 3 shampoos and are not particularly good for covering grey hair.

Semi- Permanent
These can change the tone of your hair and increase the depth of colour, but won’t lighten it. They contain small colour molecules which penetrate into the inner layer of hair cuticles so they will not be washed out as quickly as the temporary molecules. This colour ant lasts between 6- 8 shampoos.

Long Lasting Semi Permanent
This formulation lasts up to 24 washes because they contain low levels of hydrogen peroxide. This removes a small amount of natural pigment from the cortex and replaces it with new colour molecules. This will add depth and shine and colour hues to dull and lifeless hair.

Soft Permanent
This will change the base hair colour by one or two shades, lightening and brightening your hair. It contains a much lower level of ammonia than permanent colours and so it will not remove the existing pigment from the hair shaft. This is ideal for those who want a natural looking permanent change but it’s not particularly good for colouring grey.

Permanent Colour
This type is excellent for lightening, darkening, changing the tone and covering the grey. The colour is deposited on the hair until it grows out so you have to be very confident of the hair colour change before undertaking this procedure!

Permanent Hair Colours contain hydrogen peroxide and ammonia which strip the outer cuticle cells of the hair and allow new colour molecules to penetrate to the inside of the hair shaft. Roots will have to be touched up every 4- 5 weeks as these look more prominent due to the depth of the colour of the treated hair.

Once you’ve coloured you hair you should use specific shampoos and conditioners for colour treated hair. You should rinse out chlorinated water immediately after swimming, as this reacts with the chemicals, making the hair coarse and brittle.

More Health

More articles by Shashi Gossain B.Sc (Hons), MRPS, Member

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