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What is hair?
C L I C K    H E R E

The tiny tubular sheath beneath the surface of the skin containing the organ which produces hair. Follicles producing hair on the head are often grouped together naturally and emerge from the same pore in the skin, sometimes up to five hairs at a time. All follicles and follicular groups are surrounded by an area of hairless skin.

Claims to have the world record for the longest hair are constantly changing. As interest in record-breaking facts spreads throughout the outer regions of the world, new claimants are brought forward to take the title. In 1994 it was an Indian woman who measured in at 4.17m (13 ft 10.5 in). From India the record moved to a remote village in Northern Thailand where an 85-year-old man was officially measured at 5.24m (17 ft 2 in). In 2004 a 44-year-old lady in Xie Qiuping, China, took the record with a certified length of 5.627m (18 ft 5.54 in)!

Hair transplantation lasts a lifetime. The follicles used for transplantation come from areas which are resistant to the effects of DHT - the cause of hair loss. For this reason, care should be taken with the placing of the implanted hair - it will be with you a long time. Plastic surgeons are able to give advice based on years of experience and are skilled at creating a new hairline which looks natural and attractive.
Hair is amazing stuff. In common with other mammals, human bodies are covered in hair. In fact, our bodies contain about 5 million hairs though most of those hairs are tiny, fine and almost invisible. The hair on our heads is even more amazing though. Few other animals grow hairs which can reach a length of more than 1 metre and none do so around such a vital part of their anatomy - the head.

Little wonder then that hair has taken on such great importance in our culture.

Much can be learned about someone from their hair. The production of hair represents a great investment of energy by our bodies. Hair is a protein (keratin) synthesised by the body and this protein production calls upon precious resources. Although external hair is, in fact, dead tissue, it is constantly coated with oil secreted from our body. When the body is put under stress, is mal-nurished, is fighting disease or recovering from injury, one of the first things it does to conserve energy is to suspend maintenance of extravaganses such as hair. The result is progressive dullness, thinning and eventual hair loss.

A head full with thick, long, shiny hair is therefore a clear statement of vitality.

Beneath the surface of the skin lies the amazing organ which grows, maintains and manipulates a hair. The hair is nurtured by the blood supply and connected to nerve fibres, oil glands and tiny muscles. The hair emerges through a hole in the skin, sometimes sharing its exit point with up to four other hairs, and continues to grow through a cycle which lasts for 2-6 years. Most importantly, it is possible to remove this amazing organ from one part of the body and implant it in a different part of the same body where it will continue to thrive in its new location.
(1) hair shaft (2) oil gland (3) dermal papillae (4) capillary network supplying blood (5) fine nerve fibres
Hair Facts
A head of hair contains between 120-200,000 hairs
Up to 6 hairs can emerge from the same pore in the skin at the same time
Every day we lose 50-100 hairs
Hair grows at a rate of 3mm per week
A single hair continues to grow for between 2-6 years

There are two types of hair, vellus hair (very fine, soft and almost invisible) and terminal hair (thicker and visible). Each strand of terminal hair is made up of three layers. The small inner core is called the medulla. Strong light can reflect from this core and pass through the colour of the surrounding layer, altering its tone. Around this is the larger cortex, the part which gives the hair its strength, colour and style. The cortex contains the melanin which is responsible for hair colour. The cortex also determines the appearance of the hair - a circular-section cortex is responsible for straight hair, an elliptical-section cortex makes the hair curly or wavy. The thin protective outer layer is the called the cuticle.

Hair emerges from the skin through a tube or shaft. At the base of this shaft (3-4mm below the skin surface) is a group of specialised cells called the dermal papillae. The dermal papillae, the shaft, the lubricating sebaceous glands and the surrounding collagen tissue all make up the follicle - the miracle of hair growth. This tiny organ can generate a single thread of protein reaching 1.2 metres and, in rare cases, much much longer!

The growth cycle of hair.
(1) Anagen phase, growth (2) Catagen phase, regression (3) Early Telogen, absense of growth (4) Late Telogen, hair falls out (5) Anagen phase, new cycle of growth
The growth cycle of hair is divided into three phases.

Anagen phase: 2-6 years. This is the growth phase during which the cells of the dermal papillae divide rapidly producing the core of the strand of hair which is then progressively coated with keratin by the shaft as it moves up and emerges from the pore. This process will continue for 2-6 years. More than 85% of the hair on our head is in this phase at any one time.

Catagen phase: 2-4 weeks. The length of our hair is predetermined by our genes. When the hair has reached its full extent the follicle goes into a transitional phase. The hair is still attached but growth ceases and the follicle reduces to about one sixth of its normal size.

Telogen phase: 2-4 months. Up to 15% of the hair on our head is usually in this resting phase. The hair is still attached but does not grow. Beneath the surface, the dermal papillae is preparing to start making a new hair. When the new hair starts pushing through, the old hair falls out and becomes one of the 100 or so we see each day in the comb or wash basin.

This whole complex process can be affected and disrupted by numerous factors or events. The tiny hard-working follicle is vulnerable to the many changes which occur in our lifetime. Additionally, some of us are put at a disadvantage by our genes and, as a result, many of our follicles are more sensitive, more susceptible to hormonal damage. The consequence is usually hair loss either temporarily or, more often, permanently. For more information see Male hair loss or Female hair loss.

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