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Exciting Facts About Hair

Nov 24, 2007
Throughout the ages, brightly colored hair has inspired the passionate lovers and great poets: Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, and Milton.

Artists of such monumental stature as Botticelli, Titian, and da Vinci could have made fortunes as hairdressers. In fact, some of their most breathtakingly beautiful creations are still being copied today.

More practically, hair protected Cro-Magnon man from the elements - and still serves to maintain the normal temperature of the brain.

The early Greeks and Romans even found religious significance in hair. They believed life did not finally depart the body until Iris had descended from Olympus to cut a lock from the victim's tresses.

Today, businesses like Toni, Breck and Helene Curtis, salon chains like Maison Antoine and Coiffures Americana, and countless hairdressers earn billions of dollars, collectively, on the human head.

Baldness, it is believed, is inherited; at least, the tendency to baldness. A man has only to study his family album to get some idea of what he'll look like pate-wise, ten, fifteen, twenty years from now. Some forty-three per cent of men and more than eight per cent of women are currently affected by baldness.

Scientists tell us hair is as strong as aluminum, can hold one third its weight in absorbed moisture and can be stretched to one and a half times its length, when wet.

If all the hair on your head were woven into a rope it would support a suspended weight of 2,000 pounds.

The anthropologist uses hair much as a detective would. To him, one strand of hair is the "safest" guide he knows to its owner's racial origin. While it is possible to curl or wave hair and even straighten hair, it is impossible to change its shape as it emerges from the follicle.

Wavy and curly or smooth and silky, oval in cross-section, and fair, black, brown, red or tawny hair - these are all characteristic of the European. Darker hair is found in the South; lighter hair in all shades is more typical of the North.

Straight, lank, long and coarse, round in cross-section, with a definite medulla or pith, and black in color - these are characteristic of the Chinese, Mongolian, and American Indian.

Short, crisp and woolly, elliptical or kidney-shaped in cross-section, with no distinct medulla, and jet black, is hair characteristic of the dark-skinned races, except for the Australian and Indian aborigines.

Straight hair, then, is round in cross-section; wavy, is oval; and kinky, flat or elliptical. There are no red-haired races. Redheads, by the way, have a longer bleeding time than brunettes or blondes, which is why doctors make special preparations for carrot tops in childbirth.

Wavy hair is the shortest, and varies most in color. Straight hair is the longest. Anthropologically, wavy hair is generally considered the bridge between the lank and woolly types.

The hair on your head, as opposed to the half million hairs scattered all over your body, grows three-eighths to three-fourths of an inch a month. It grows faster in summer than winter, and faster by day than by night.

There is also a relationship between the color of your hair and the number of hair shafts on your head. Redheads, with the coarsest hair, usually have 80,000, brunettes 100,000 to 120,000, and blondes, with the finest hair, 140,000. Doctors will tell you that your hair, like your skin, reflects your physical condition. It is therefore a good barometer of your general health.

Embryologists point out that hair evolves from the same type of tissue as nerves. Actually hair functions as part of the nervous system by helping to transmit tactile sensations from the outer world. Hair then is an important sentry of the skin.

When you are cold or frightened, the nerves at the roots of each hair follicle send messages to the tiny muscles attached to these follicles, and they contract. The result is a mild prickly sensation. Hence the expression, "His hair stood on end."

There is more to be learned about hair, but these facts are a good start.
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