It is well for every one interested in this subject to know that the root of the human hair, unlike that of a plant or tree, will, even though plucked out completely, reproduce itself. Every hair growing on a human being is really a modification of the cuticle. Each tiny hair consists of a root, which is planted in the skin in an elongative shaft, which projects from the root and the terminal point. There is a little bulbous enlargement at the extreme point of the hair root.
This bulb is found in a little sacklike involution of the cuticle, which is called the follicle. Some hairs are much more deeply implanted than others, and are consequently capable of far greater resistance. Until the follicle itself is destroyed, the hair will reproduce itself. The orifice of the sebaceous glands opens into the follicle, and in these glands nature prepares the oily substance which gives the hair a gloss and smoothness. When the follicle is dead, the place becomes, of course, what we term bald, and the peculiar smooth, shiny look apparent on many a bald head is a sure proof of the death of the hair follicle, but so long as there is life, the fact that the hair is falling out should be by no means disheartening.
The quantity, quality, and texture of the hair are governed by heredity, temperament, and the general health of the patient, and depend much, of course, upon the care received. Nervous people have usually less hair than those of a more phlegmatic temperament. So long as the blood circulates with healthy vigor through the scalp, the hair will be in a greater or less degree luxuriant and strong. There is always something wrong with the circulation in the scalp when the hair begins to fall, and, as we say, to grow thin. Excepting sickness and hereditary or constitutional causes, the chief reason for falling hair, and indeed for almost all hair ailments, is the lack of care from which the hair almost universally suffers.
The essential needs of the hair are scrupulous cleanliness, ventilation and friction. For some inscrutable reason, few people are willing to concede that the scalp requires to be washed often enough to keep it decently clean. I do not hesitate to say that in all ordinary cases the hair should be washed thoroughly at least once a week, and oftener if exposed to much dust or dirt, or if there is an inclination to dandruff.
CAUSES OF UNHEALTHY HAIR
When the hair persistently suffers from loss of vitality, it is usually from one or more of the following causes: uncleanliness, mismanagement, anxiety, disease (particulaly dyspepsia), want of exercise, overwork, mental strain, and the use of harmful so-called restorers and tonics. These same causes frequently produce and increase the gray hairs that appear on a woman’s head, one or two at a time, at about five and thirty, and a little later usually on the heads of the other sex.
For falling of the hair, massage of the scalp is often wonderful in its beneficial results. It will frequently arrest the loss at once, or within twenty-four hours, plainly showing that the circulation was impaired and required stimulating.
The electric brush-by which I mean a brush attached to a battery, as there is no such thing as an electric brush in reality, except one through which a current of electricity is passed-will be ‘of great assistance in stimulating the circulation of the scalp. In addition to this a good tonic should be used locally, but none of these remedies will be more than temporarily effective if the general health is impaired, particularly if there is a derangement of the digestive organs. In such cases, the subject should at once seek a remedy for the producing cause.
The coloring matter of the hair has been scientifically shown to consist of the mineral ingredients in the pigment of the cells. These minerals change with age and health, and vary in individuals. Very blond hair contains a large proportion of magnesia; iron predominates in black hair; chestnut and browns contain a large amount of sulphur. When the iron or sulphur pigment fails, the hair becomes gray, and as iron appears to fail earlier than sulphur, black hair is oftener found turning gray in youth than any other color. Sulphur comes next, and the magnesia resists longer than any of the others, for which reason blond hair often retains its youthful beauty and luster far beyond middle age.
The reason the golden hair of little children darkens as they grow older is because the hair pigment changes, the sulphur or iron increasing and becoming more power ful than the magnesia. Because of the demonstration of these chemicals in the hair pigment, a theory has been expounded and has attracted many otherwise sensible people to the effect that the lacking minerals of the hair pigment can be replaced and the hair thus restored to its natural color by rubbing the scalp with pomatums or lotions highly impregnated with sulphur or iron. I have been told many times in most profound seriousness that the hair bulbs readily absorbed the minerals, with a consequent restoration of the original pigment-but I have never seen the miracle effected.