Hair care is an overall term for parts of hygiene and cosmetology involving the hair on the human head. Hair care will differ according to one's hair type and according to various processes that can be applied to hair. All hair is not the same; indeed, hair is a manifestation of human diversity.
In this article, 'Hair care' is taken to mean care of hair on the human head, but mention should be made of process and services which impact hair on other parts of the body. This includes men‘s and women’s facial, pubic, and other body hair, which may be dyed, trimmed, shaved, plucked, or otherwise removed with treatments such as waxing, sugaring, and threading. These services are offered in salons, barber shops, and day spas, and products are available commercially for home use. Laser hair removal and electrolysis are also available, though these are provided (in the US) by licensed professionals in medical offices or specialty spas.
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. Sebum is also distributed down the hair shaft “mechanically” by brushing and combing. When sebum is present in excess, the roots of the hair can appear oily, greasy, generally darker than normal, and the hair may stick together.
Shampoo is helped by warm temperature water, which helps open the cuticle of the hair and release any oils or other substances beneath. Pure water has a pH of 7, and when shampoo has removed the slightly acidic sebum from the hair, the pH on the surface of the scalp is raised. Freshly shampooed hair can feel tangled or rough, and hair which is left to dry after a shampoo only can be excessively dry and coarse. To smooth the hair, Conditioner is often used. Conditioners may employ ingredients of an acidic nature to balance the hair and scalp pH. Many modern conditioners also contain plant oils or synthetic ingredients such as plastics to coat the hair shaft and smooth it out. Acidic rinses or chemical conditioners can help with hair detangling and manageability, which helps prevent damage.
The sebaceous glands increase or reduce their secretions in order to maintain proper skin protection and pH. When the skin is regularly stripped of its natural sebum, the sebaceous glands respond with an overproduction. People observe that they “must” wash their hair, for example, once every other day, otherwise their hair becomes oily; however, their sebaceous glands have simply adapted to their hygienic cycle. Changes to the hygienic cycle result in changes to sebum secretion.
Modern shampoos and conditioners are not necessary to maintain clean and healthy hair, and indeed, many cultures do not have these products at all. Different methods are available for those people who wish to return to this “natural” hair state, where healthy hair can be maintained with scalp massage, water-only washes, or using cleaning agents very rarely. Natural baseline sebum secretion varies by individual, and returning the scalp to this state takes time. This process may often include using cleaning agents, but is generally geared towards leaving the sebum on the scalp and hair for as long as possible to reacclimatize the scalp to producing less sebum. This process may not be for everyone, as some who try this method never reach a point where they feel their hair can be clean for any extended period of time without washing with conventional shampoo.
Using cold water as a final rinse can help close the scales of the cuticle, and can help constrict the openings of the sebaceous glands to help moderate sebum production.
Conditioner choice is greatly dependent upon hair type and hair status, such as colored, permed, dry, and the like. Commercial conditioners contain a variety of ingredients such as plant oils, pro-vitamins, acidic compounds, plastics, stabilizers, thickeners, emulsifiers, and fragrances.
Conditioners may sometimes add weight to hair, creating an adverse effect in the shampooing/conditioning process. Some conditioners, especially those containing a silicone compound, may coat the hair and lead to build up on the hair, making it dull, and lead to harsher shampoo use; in a sense, an endless cycle of shampooing and conditioning. When used correctly, however, conditioners are helpful in temporarily coating the hair to increase shine and ease tangles.
Buildup is when the hair has a sticky or gummy feel, the conditioner choice seems to work less well, or the hair may be more prone to tangling. Buildup occurs when the minerals from water and/or products are not rinsed away during shampooing. A clarifying shampoo may be required to remove it. Clarifying removes all things on the surface of the hair strands, essentially leaving the hair without moisture. Failure of conditioning as part of a clarifying hair wash process may lead to excessive drying of hair.
Viable natural ways to condition the hair include rinses with lemon juice, lime juice, or vinegar. The use of acid rinses may assist those who have itchy scalps, depending on the cause for the itchiness. Hair which is lacking sebum may also be softened using plant oils such as olive oil and coconut oil.
The most common method of hair washing is shampooing followed by conditioning. If one is a daily hair washer, then a repeating of the hair shampoo application may not be necessary. However, if one waits a day or more between hair washings, then the first shampoo may only break up the surface tension of sebum, and a second shampoo application to the scalp hair may be necessary to thoroughly remove the sebum. The second application is not necessary to apply to any hair length.
To help lift any scaly skin, detritis, and sebum, especially for those who suffer from scalp skin ailments, very gently scratching the surface of the skin with a small fine toothed comb may help to loosen and lift grime and dead skin cells before a hair wash, helping to have a cleaner scalp skin after a hair wash.
Microfiber towels that help absorb the water from hair faster than conventional towels are available on the market. These are particularly helpful for those with very thick hair that may otherwise take a while to dry, especially if air drying.
Washing hair with shampoo and conditioner should used moderately. Washing with shampoo and conditioner more than 3 times a week may dry hair, making it "frizzy."
For many, hair care means a visit to a professional stylist. Hair styling is a major world industry, from the salon to products to advertising and even magazines on the subject. Indeed, the topic is displayed and discussed in various online discussion forums. Hair dressing may include cuts, weaves, coloring, extensions, perms, permanent relaxers, curling and any other form of styling or texturing.
Hair shapes and various lengths are often derived from concerns regarding personal expression and aesthetics (examples: dreadlocks, punk hair, the business haircut/style, very long hair), religion (for example, Pentecostal faith among others), social and cultural values. In short, hair is often a physical expression of one's sense of self, of a desire to present oneself to and amongst a community, of social status and roles, and of cultural values. Such expression often involves adding ornaments to the hair, or partial or full hair coverings (such as a Kippa, Hijab, or a Turban).
Although trimming may beautify hair by removing damaged or split ends, cutting does not promote faster growth. Nor does trimming remove all damage throughout the hair. Damage can occur anywhere in any length of hair, depending on overall care it is given and any processes that are applied. Trimming at regular intervals is only necessary for maintaining formed shapes, usually. Hair grows at the same rate regardless, and the rate is largely a matter of heredity and hormones. There exist ways to trim hair oneself as outlined in places on the internet and hair care reading materials.
Wet hair stretches rather significantly in length. Curly hair will unfurl a fair amount when fully wet, and different areas of the hair may have a larger degree of curl or different direction of curl than others. Thus, cutting curly hair while wet may result in uneven lines or unexpected results with regard to actual length. Further, curly hair, in particular, once dry, might appear visually to have an uneven line depending on how the curl coils back up. Lorraine Massey, author of Curly Girl, specializes in the care of curly hair types, and has designed a specific method for trimming curly hair to avoid these problems. The reason stylists like working with wet hair may be related to weight. Wet hair is heavier and may be easier to manage in a cut/style situation since the hair remains in place thus holding a line and making it easier for the stylist to create a form.
If a chemical process is being applied to the hair, it must be wetted.
There are all manner of detangling tools from very fine toothed combs to very wide toothed combs and picks, and 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. Mold seams, splintering wood, and peeling lacquers can all grasp hair and pull, or otherwise stress or cause harm to the outer protective layer of hair, the cuticle. Similarly, brushes also come in all sizes and shapes. There are also a variety of brushes in various paddle shapes. Most benefit from using some form of a wide tooth comb for detangling. Detangling with a wide tooth comb represents the gentlest way to detangle hair. Most physicians advise against sharing hair care instruments like combs and clips, to prevent spreading hair conditions like dandruff and head lice.
The old notion that 100 brush strokes a day produces beautiful hair is somewhat false. Too much brushing may injure the hair, especially with brushes that pull the hair or scratch the scalp. It remains a possibility that the dictum of 100 strokes a day derives from the era when Boar Bristle Brushes were more commonly used, well before the invention of plastics and a time when more organic materials were used to create hair care tools. Usually in conjunction with the idea of 100 strokes a day was the suggestion that hair will 'shine' and be 'soft' to the touch. That said, a person skilled at brushing without hurting the folicules can brush down the natural oils to the ends of the hair fibers, thus entending the natural protection of skin oil. Notice that if the skin has been depleted of oils by shampooing, this won't work.
Stages of Hair Growth:
There are three phases to the cycle of hair growth: growth, loss/shed, rest, regrowth. It is natural to observe a significant amount of hair shedding during detangling or washing, but any changes or drastic increase in the rate of shedding may signal a health or nutritional problem.
Excess heat may overly dry the hair, increasing the incidence of splitting or other damage. Sparing use of hair dryers or use at lower temperatures may reduce this risk. Hair dryer diffusers can be used to diffuse the stream of air flow so it is weaker but covers a larger area of the hair.
Hair dressing might also include the use of product to add texture, shine, curl, volume or hold to a particular style.
Headaches can occur when there is stress on the hair follicle. For example, hair drawn in a direction other than its natural growth pattern (hair types come out of the hair follicle in particular patterns for curly, body, straight; and also, hair grows in a pattern about the head so that it hangs or forms the way it does for humans). If hair, like braiding, 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. This is because there is a system of capillaries and even veins that feed into the hair follicle, which is what nourishes the follicle to grow hair. If the hair follicle is aggravated, the capillaries are in turn aggravated and in this way a headache can arise.
Temporary hair tints simply coat the shaft with pigments which later wash off.
Most permanent color changes require that the cuticle of the hair be opened so the color change can take place within the cuticle. This process, which uses chemicals to alter the structure of the hair, can damage the cuticle or internal structure of the hair, leaving it dry, weak, or prone to breakage. After the hair processing, the cuticle may not fully close, which results in coarse hair or an accelerated loss of pigment. Generally, the lighter the chosen colour from one's initial hair color, the more damaged it may be. Other options for applying color to hair besides chemical dyes include the use of such herbs as henna and indigo, or choosing ammonia-free solutions.
Calcium causes hair to feel dry and lack shine and volume. It can prevent the proper processing of color, highlights, perms or relaxer/straighteners and can cause a perm to appear relaxed. Calcium builds up on the scalp causing flaking of the scalp, giving the appearance of dandruff. Calcium can choke the hair at the mouth of the follicle causing the hair to break off, then coating the scalp, blocking further new hair growth.
Iron can cause water to have a red or rusty hue. Iron leaves hair feeling dry, brittle and weighted down. It causes lack of shine and can cause dark hair to tint darker and blonde hair to turn orange. Iron can inhibit the proper processing of perms, color, highlights, and relaxers/straighteners
Copper discolors hair causing blonde hair to turn green and dark hair to tint darker. Copper can weigh hair down and cause dryness, and can inhibit the proper processing of perms, color, highlights, and relaxers/straighteners.
Magnesium causes hair to lack shine, feel dry, appear weighted down therefore lacking volume, and can inhibit the proper processing of perms, color, highlights, and relaxers/straighteners.
Silica causes many of the same effects on the hair as calcium. It causes hair to feel dry, lack volume, and can cause dandruff-like symptoms of flaking. Build-up of silica can choke the hair follicle causing hair to fall out.
Lead can cause the hair to feel dry. Lead can prevent the proper processing of perms, color, highlights, and relaxers/straighteners.
These minerals can be found in well water. Domestic well water is ground water. The source of ground water is rain passing through aquifers, which are layers of minerals. The acidity (pH below 7) of the rain increases the volume of minerals dissolved as the water passes through. The majority of ground (well) water is hard. The level of calcium that is found naturally from the ground determines the hardness of water. While calcium is the element that determines hardness of water, there are many other elements in well water that affect hair, scalp and skin. To improve the hair health and further prevent issues with dryness and buildup, people can use a shower head filter that will remove the minerals found in most city waters. However, hard water minerals and the sanitizing agents like Chlorine and Chloramine can also deposit in or on the hair, building up over time. The chemical and mineral content of water varies by geography. Filtering water through very fine mesh cloth may help to remove larger deposits in the water. Many enjoy collecting rain water, although acid rain is an increasing issue in many parts of the world.
Treatment for well water and hard water conditions are available in a variety of products, such as demineralizing shampoos and conditioners.
Those who swim in chlorinated or salt sea water may benefit from first wetting the hair entirely and then applying conditioner to completely swell the entire hair shaft. Swimmers may also benefit from products on the market that remove chlorine after swimming in pool water.
Children’s hair is different from adult hair in texture, density, and likely also color, body and so on. Hair's traits change over time as humans physically develop, and even age. Like the rest of the human body, (example, teeth), hair has different stages of development spanning the full lifetime from birth to death.
Hair that is very curly often does not require detangling. But sometimes curly hair does tangle and the person that has the curly hair has to get the tangles out very painfully.
There are a number of disorders that are particular to the scalp. Symptoms may include:
Any of these symptoms may indicate a need for professional assistance from a dermatologist or trichologist for diagnosis.
Scalp skin can suffer from infestations of mites, lice, infections of the follicles or fungus. There could be allergic reactions to ingredients in chemical preparations applied to the hair, even ingredients from shampoo or conditioners. Common concerns surrounding dandruff (often associated with excessive sebum); psoriasis, eczema, or seborrheic dermatitus.
An odor that persists for a few weeks despite regular hair washing may be an indication of a health problem on the scalp skin.
Not all flakes are dandruff. For example, some can merely be product buildup on the scalp skin. This could result from the common practice of applying conditioner to scalp skin without washing. This would dry upon the scalp skin and flake off, appearing like dandruff and even causing itchiness, but have no health effects whatsoever.
Particularly among women, thyroid disease is one of the more under-diagnosed health concerns. Hair falling out in clumps is one symptom of a set of symptoms that may indicate a thyroid concern. In many gynecological exams a blood screen for thyroid is now a common protocol. Thyroid often shows up first in the behavior of the hair.
During pregnancy and breast feeding, the normal and natural shedding process is typically suspended (starting around month three because it takes a while for the body to recognize and reset for the hormonal shifts the body goes through) for the period of gestation and extended longer if one breast feeds (this includes pumping for breast milk). Upon cessation of either of these, it typically takes around two months for the hormones to shift again to the normal hormonal settings, and hair shedding can increase exponentially, for approximately 3-6 months until hair returns to its normal volume. It is commonly noticed that hair seems thicker and shinier, even, during pregnancy and breast feeding in response to the influx of shifting hormones. It is not unusual also for hair color to change, or hair structure to change (e.g., straighter hair, curlier hair). These changes can occur more often than people may realize yet isn't often reported.
Generally, eating a full diet that contains protein, fruits, vegetables, grains, and even an appropriate amount of fat is important (several vitamins and minerals require fat in order to be delivered or absorbed by the body). Any deficiency will typically show first in the hair, perhaps even before it is diagnosed. For example, even a mild case of anemia can cause shedding and hair loss. Vitamins that are good for hair include the B complex, especially biotin.
When the body is under strain, it reprioritizes its processes. For example, the vital organs will be attended to first, meaning that healthy, oxygenated blood may not feed into the hair follicle, resulting in less healthy hair or a decline in growth rate. While not all hair growth issues stem from malnutrition, it is a valuable symptom in diagnosis.
Scalp hair grows, on average, at a rate of about half an inch per month, and shampoos or vitamins have not been shown to noticeably change this rate. Hair growth rate also depends upon what phase in the cycle of hair growth one is actually in; there are three phases. The speed of hair growth varies based upon genetics, gender, age, hormones, and may be reduced by nutrient deficiency (i.e., anorexia, anemia, zinc deficiency) and hormonal fluctuations (i.e., menopause, polycystic ovaries, thyroid disease).