What is hair?...

Hair is composed of cells fused into fibres that are chemically linked. It grows from a bud or papilla and projects through the skin in the follicle (a tube-like structure leading to the skin surface). Adjacent to the follicle is the sebaceous gland, which produces the only substance - sebum - that lubricates skin and hair. Nutrition reaches the papilla via the blood, enabling the hair formation to occur. However, once the hair emerges from the follicle, its structure is stable and it no longer possesses the characteristics of living tissue, although physical and chemical processes can affect it.

Hair grows in a phased cycle, each lasting three or more years. The hair then detaches itself from the papilla, remaining in the follicle until the next hair commences growth and replaces it. The normal growth rate is 1 to 1.5cm monthly, and is slightly faster in women than in men. There are, on average, 120,000 hair-producing scalp follicles, while no new follicles appear after birth, some of those present are lost with age. Hair is continually shed at an average rate of 20 to 80 hairs each day. The growth and functions of the hair are genetically acquired and hormone controlled.

Hair has elastic properties, which are utilised in hairdressing techniques (permanently curling, tinting, bleaching and toning). A substance called 'melanin', introduced onto the cortex cells at an early growth stage naturally produces hair colour. It is essential to remember that a change in the hair structure will make the hair more vulnerable to the daily wear and tear of styling. More than usual care will be needed when shampoing and drying hair that has been subject to the processes mentioned. As a general rule, do not demand the impossible from your hair; let your hairdresser take into account the general condition, type and texture before styling.

Hair in poor condition requires specialist treatment. This is necessary in cases of dandruff (pityriasis) and scalp problems, which persist after using medicated shampoos. There are many general health disorders (for example, anaemia and endocrine imbalance and changes in metabolism such as those occurring during and after pregnancy) which may result in hair loss. Sudden shock, or great stress over a prolonged period, can lead to different forms of hair loss. Should any abnormal scalp or hair condition arise which causes concern, Trichological or medical advice should be sought.  The following pictures are typical examples of increased fragility of the hair shaft with decreased resistance to normal wear and tear due to illness.

The hair structure is weaker at this time and with continued hair processing, such as; colouring, permanent waving, blow drying/use of tongs and irons, setting and dressing, the hair has not had a chance to recover. Hair must be treated very gently following illness. A trichologist can help by proving the most suitable applications and give advice regarding hair colour and/or permanently curling/straightening, after illness, to prevent structural damage.

Damaged hair due to wear and tear or illnessDamaged hair due to wear and tear or illnessDamaged hair due to wear and tear or illness

Hydration (water content) is the key to skin and hair condition. Climate can have a marked effect on the drying of the skin and hair, as can an inner city environment with its associated pollutants. The hair should be washed as often as necessary. It is a fallacy that frequent washing affects sebaceous secretion: oily hair will not become oilier, nor dry hair drier. Two applications of shampoo are usually required at each wash unless the hair is washed daily or several times a week, in which case one lather is adequate. Always rinse the hair thoroughly after shampooing.

Hair Shaft Defects

Trichorrhexis Nodosa

Features

A thickening of the hair shaft due to the fraying of the cortex. The hair has usually been damaged by either physical or chemical means. Rarely, the same characteristic nodes can be seen on very fragile hair, a hereditary defect.

Causes

Chemicals which are highly alkaline, especially, permanent waving lotions, hair bleaching products, hair straightening products and those with ammonia can cause the hair to fracture and break, in the most severe cases. Careful application and processing with the above products is essential, it is always necessary to follow the manufacturers instructions and carry out the recommended tests prior to and during all hairdressing procedures.

Other reasons can be attributed to the use of harsh brushes, backcombing the hair, and prolonged use of hot brushes or combs.

Treatment

Once damaged, the hair must be treated very gently. Avoid the use of harsh chemicals. It is a fallacy that a 'light' or 'soft' permanent wave is kinder to the condition of the hair. Do not be misled, it is not, it has the same effects.

Following a trauma to the hair it will be wise to avoid the causative agent. The use of an acid balanced shampoo for cleansing the scalp, when needed, is advisable. Also, avoid the use of anything sticky (lacquer, gel, mousse).^Top^


Trichorrhexis invaginata (bamboo hair)

Features

Nodules on the hair shaft in which a ball-and-socket joint or bamboo shaped node is formed. It may or may not be present with the scaly skin condition, in Netherton's syndrome showing sparse fragile hair.

Torsion nodeNethertons Syndrome
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Fragilitas Crinium (Trichoptilosis)

Features

A splitting of the hair shaft, usually at the distal end. Probably the most common of hair shaft disorders often referred to as 'split ends'. Very often the result of continued brushing, combing, especially with attachments which may well pull and tangle the hair while using heat to dry or style the hair. Fragilitas Crinium can be the result of prolonged exposure to sunlight, chemical and physical processes, and the continued use of incorrect products and treatment, such as pulling and braiding. Fragile hair can be experienced after illness, accidents and operations, or it can be one of the after effects of a crash diet.

Treatment

There is little that can be done. Cutting the ends of the hair is not going to stop the splitting of the hair shaft; the cause needs to be known to illuminate further damage. It is advisable not to have chemical treatments on the hair, such as permanent curling/waving, straightening or relaxing, and, oxidation dyes (permanent colour).

Cleansing

Ensure prior to the application of a shampoo that the scalp has been well pre-damped with warm water. Apply the shampoo to every area of the scalp taking care that the hair itself is not over saturated because this will not serve any purpose but to waste the product. One application will be adequate, followed by thorough rinsing with a shower spray.

Conditioning

A conditioning agent will be necessary. If the hair is thick in diameter, it is advisable to apply a conditioner in the form of a cream to the mid-lengths and ends, leave for one to five minutes, depending on how your hair reacts to cream conditioner, and rinse well. For fine/limp hair, a restructurant will be a helpful product to use, apply to towel dried hair and do not rinse.^Top^


Trichoptilosis

Features


A longitudinal tapered fracture of the hair shaft.


Longitudinal splitting of the distal end of the hair.


A typical example of Trichoptilosis (split ends).

Trichoptilosis is a longitudinal splitting of the distal end of the hair. Following cuticular loss from weathering, the cortical fibres separate like the frayed end of a rope, giving rise to “split ends”. It can occur in normal hair from weathering or more commonly from the excessive damage caused by pruritic dermatoses, or excessive hairstyling. Gentle care is needed to when controlling the hair, especially when it is wet, where the use of a wide toothed comb, made of vulcanite, is advisable.

Treatment

As with many of the hair shaft defects, trichoptilosis needs to be treated with the benefits of a mild shampoo, formulated for frequent use. To be followed by a conditioner containing a complex polymeric structure which cross links on drying, to form a protective network, providing protection from damage caused by blow drying, combing and styling. If the hair is very fine in diameter, a restructurant could be used as a styling aid, which will add body to the hair without the use of Poly Vinyl setting agents. The restructurant would be applied to towel dried hair following the sparing use of cream conditioner, which in this case, would be used on the very ends of the hair, thoroughly rinsed and blotted gently. To rub the hair, vigorously, with a towel will cause more damage to the already fragile hair.

Cleansing

Ensure prior to the application of a shampoo that the scalp has been well pre-damped with warm water. Apply the shampoo to every area of the scalp taking care that the hair itself is not over saturated because this will not serve any purpose but to waste the product. One application will be adequate, followed by thorough rinsing with a shower spray.

Conditioning

A conditioning agent will be necessary. If the hair is thick in diameter, it is advisable to apply a conditioner in the form of a cream to the mid-lengths and ends, leave for one to five minutes, depending on how your hair reacts to cream conditioner, and rinse well. For fine/limp hair, a restructurant will be a helpful product to use, apply to towel dried hair and do not rinse.^Top^


Trichoclasis

Features

This is a transverse fracture of the hair shaft.


The figure shows a common 'greenstick' fracture which, in this case, is partially splinted with an intact cuticle on one side of the hair shaft.

Causes

Physical and chemical hair treatment can cause and/or prolong this particular damage to the hair shaft. Heat on the hair, be it the sun or the continued use of electrical combs, irons and brushes which may get caught in the hair are a threat to smooth, intact, cuticles and shining hair. Chemicals in products such as permanent curling solutions, bleaching and colouring powders/creams, and most importantly straightening and/or relaxing agents should be avoided or used with extreme caution.

Treatment

The use of shampoo made from a natural protein that is very mild, ideal for frequent washing, and most importantly, does not irritate. The use of conditioner which will reduce further damage by preventing tangling or matting with moisture protecting ingredients designed to re-hydrate hair, promote easy combing and elasticity, and protect and repair cracking and splitting. For hair that responds to the above cream conditioner in a manner that leaves the hair limp or so soft, ' I can't do a thing with it' syndrome, then I suggest using cream conditioner only on the ends of the hair, sparingly. Following the thorough rinsing of conditioning cream from the ends of the hair, the application of a liquid restructurant, sprayed to the hair and not rinsed, is advised. A restructurant can also be used as a styling aid for those with fine and/or brittle hair.^Top^


Trichonodosis

Features


A single knot in the hair shaft

Causes

Knotting, such as this, may occur in short curly hair or sometimes as a result of scratching or it can be due to the hair tangling especially in the occipital area of the scalp (due to the friction of a pillow) following illness.

Treatment

Care must be taken when brushing or combing as the hair may break at the point of the knot. The use of a wide toothed comb is essential, especially when the hair is wet. It is also wise to blot the hair dry rather than rubbing with harsh movements particularly with children or the elderly. The use of fine quality shampoo, conditioner and restructurant used on a daily basis will aid care of the hair and scalp, and help towards prevention of knotting in the hair shaft.^Top^

 

 

 

 

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Useful Links

Alopecia Awareness

The Society of Cosmetic Scientists