The question…is hair dead or alive? Which begs another question, does it matter? In a simple answer, yes. When we understand how our hair is we then make better choices for how our hair will be. Many people treat hair with hot tools, products, combs, brushes, masque treatments, all in search of good hair. There are many things we can do to change hair physically (temporary) and chemically (permanent), but hair does have its limits. Being that it is a dead fiber, there is only so much we can do before it falls out, splits, frizzes, or even dissolves (what we in the salon call, “cotton candy” hair). Hopefully the following will shed some light on the life and death of hair.
Hair begins its life in the hair follicle and, yes, it is alive while in this “womb” of its beginnings. As it grows out of the scalp, this is the point at which it is considered dead. It is no longer influenced by the inner workings of the body but by the outer workings of the environment. Even though it is a dead strand of protein, it still has some considerable characteristics. According to Philip Kingsley in The Hair Bible, “A healthy hair will stretch up to 30 percent of its length, can absorb its weight in water and can swell up to 20 percent of its diameter. Its strength is greater than that of copper wire of the same diameter. An average head of hair can support 23 tons of weight.” So, hair does more than just sit on our heads and look pretty…on a good hair day.
Understanding how our hair is can help us make better choices for how we treat it. One idea to think about is to get a trim at least once or twice a year. Hair is weathered by the elements and split ends will keep splitting unless they are cut off. Another idea is to wear protective styles. These can be anything from braids, buns or twists to hair accessories such as bandanas, turbans, hats or scarves. A protective style is anything that keeps hair from blowing in the wind and keeps it from tangling. A last idea is to drink lots of water and eat healthy. Hair is what you eat, so good nutrition means good hair. In the end, dead hair does not have to be “lifeless” hair.
Originally published February 16, 2016