Caring for you!

Hair Facts

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Hair Facts

We have about 100,000 hairs on our heads. Each hair shaft has three layers, with the cuticle, or outside layer, protecting the two inner layers.

Shiny hair is a sign of health because the layers of the cuticle lie flat and reflect light. When the scales of the cuticle lie flat they overlap tightly, so the inner layers are well protected from heat, sun, chlorine, and all the other hazards that can come from living in our environment.

When hair is damaged, though, the scales may separate and hair can become dry. Because the scales on dry hair don’t protect the inner two layers as well, hair can break and look dull.

The type of hair a person has — whether it’s straight or curly — can also affect how shiny it is. Sebum, which is the natural oil on the hair, covers straight hair better than curly hair, which is why straight hair can appear shinier.

Depending how long a person’s hair is or how fast it grows, the end of each hair shaft can be a couple of years old. So the hair at the end of the shaft could have survived a few summers of scorching sun and saltwater and winters of cold, dry air. How well you care for your hair from the time it emerges from the root plays a role in how healthy it looks.

Hair Problems

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Hair Problems

Here are some common hair problems — and tips on how to deal with them.

Dandruff

Dandruff — or flakes of dead skin — can be noticeable in a person’s hair and on clothing. No one really knows what causes dandruff, although recent studies seem to show that it may be caused by a type of fungus or an inflammation.

Dandruff isn’t contagious or dangerous. Over-the-counter shampoos containing salicylic acid, zinc, tars, or selenium sulfide can reduce dandruff flakes. When shampooing, massage your scalp (but don’t scratch) for at least 5 minutes, loosening the flakes with your fingers. Rinse your hair well after washing. If your dandruff doesn’t improve, see your doctor. He or she may prescribe a prescription shampoo and possibly a lotion or liquid to rub into your scalp.

Hair Breakage

Hair can break when points in the hair thicken or weaken. Sometimes this happens near the scalp so a person’s hair never grows very long. When hairs break at the ends, they’re called “split ends,” and the splits can travel up the hair shaft. A major cause of hair breakage is improper use of chemical hair treatments, like the treatments described above. But brushing or combing hair too frequently or in the wrong way (such as using a fine-toothed comb on very thick, curly hair or teasing hair) can lead to breakage. Hair extensions and braids can also cause breakage. Leaving them in too long or pulling them out without professional help can cause hair and scalp damage or even hair loss. Sometimes hair breakage and dry, brittle hair are signs of a medical problem, such ashypothyroidismor an eating disorder. If your hair is breaking even though you don’t treat it with chemicals or other styling products, see a doctor.

Hair Loss (Alopecia)

It’s normal for everyone to lose some hair. In fact, we lose about 100 hairs each day as old hairs fall out and are replaced with new ones. With hair loss, though, hair thins at a rate that can’t be replaced. When hair falls out and isn’t replaced by new hair, a person can become bald or have bald patches. Hair loss can be temporary or permanent, depending on the cause. If changing your hairstyle or other treatment doesn’t help, see a doctor. He or she may prescribe a drug to slow or stop hair loss and to help hair grow. As with the rest of our bodies, hair is healthiest when we eat right, exercise, and protect it from too much sun

Caring for Hair

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Caring for Hair

How you take care of your hair depends on the type of hair you have, your lifestyle, and how you style your hair. Your hair type. People with dry, curly hair have different hair care needs than people with straight, fine hair. But all hair needs to be treated gently, especially when it’s wet. Wet hair can stretch, making it more vulnerable to breakage or cuticle damage. That’s why using a hot blow-dryer (or other heat styling products) on very wet hair can damage it. Long, high heat causes bubbles to form in the hair shaft, which causes them to break easily.

Some people find that their hair gets oily in their teen years. That’s because the hair follicles contain sebaceous glands that make sebum, which moisturizes the hair and skin. During adolescence, the sebaceous glands may become overactive due to hormone changes during puberty, producing more oil than needed. As with acne, oily hair is usually a temporary part of puberty.

Many teens care for oily hair by washing it once a day — or more if they’re active. As long as you treat your hair gently when it’s wet, frequent washing shouldn’t harm it. If you have acne, it’s a good idea to keep the hair around your face clean so hair oils don’t clog your pores.If you’re washing your hair every day or more, it may be better to choose a mild shampoo instead of a shampoo designed for oily hair. For some people — especially people with fine, fragile, or combination hair (hair that’s oily at the crown but dry on the ends) — shampoos for oily hair can be too harsh. If you have oily hair and want to use a conditioner, choose one that’s made for oily hair.

If your hair is dry, it’s a good idea to wash it less frequently. Some people only need to wash their hair once a week — and that’s fine. Many people who have curly hair also have dry hair. Curly and dry hair types are usually more fragile than straight hair, so you’ll need to be especially careful about using heat styling products. Shampoos made for dry hair and hair conditioners can help.Your hairstyle. Heat styling products like curling and straightening irons can dry out even oily hair if they’re used too much. Follow the instructions carefully, and don’t use them on wet hair or high settings, and give your hair a vacation from styling once in a while. Ask your hair stylist or dermatologist for advice on using heat styling products.

Chemical treatments can also harm hair if they’re not used properly. If you decide you want a chemical treatment to color, straighten, or curl your hair, it’s best to trust the job to professionals. Stylists who are trained in applying chemicals to hair will be able to evaluate your hair type and decide which chemicals will work best for you.

Here are some things to be aware of when getting chemical treatments:

  • Relaxers. Relaxers (straighteners) work by breaking chemical bonds in curly hair. Relaxers containing lye can cause skin irritation and hair breakage. Although “no lye” relaxers may cause less irritation, both types of relaxers can cause problems if they are used in the wrong way (for example, if they’re mixed incorrectly or left on the hair for too long). Scratching, brushing, or combing your hair right before a chemical relaxing treatment can increase these risks. And don’t use relaxers — or any hair treatment — if your scalp is irritated.
  • If you decide to keep straightening your hair, you’ll need to wait at least 6 weeks before your next treatment to protect your hair. Relaxers can cause hair breakage when used over a period of time, even when they’re used properly. Using blow-dryers, curling or straightening irons, or color on chemically relaxed hair can also increase the risk of damage.
  • Perms. Perms take straight hair and make it curly. The risks are similar to those associated with relaxers.
  • Color. There are two types of color: permanent (which means the color stays in your hair until it grows out) and semi-permanent (the color washes out after a while). Some semi-permanent coloring treatments, like henna, are fairly safe and easy to use at home. Some people get a condition called contact dermatitis (an allergic reaction with a rash) from henna and other “natural” products, so be sure to test a small area first.
  • Other color treatments — especially permanent treatments — can cause hair loss, burning, redness, and irritation. A few types of coloring treatments can cause allergic reactions in certain people, and in rare cases these can be very serious. So talk to your stylist if you are worried that you may be sensitive to the products. Also, talk to your stylist about doing a patch test before using a product. And never use hair dyes on your eyelashes or eyebrows.
  • Regular haircuts are one of the best ways to help keep hair healthy. Even if you have long hair or you’re trying to grow your hair, a haircut can help protect the ends of your hair from splitting and damage. In fact, cutting may actually help your hair grow better because it’s healthy and not breaking off.

Skin Facts

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Skin Facts

Your skin is your largest organ.

If the skin of a typical 150-pound (68-kilogram) adult male were stretched out flat, it would cover about 2 square yards (1.7 square meters) and weigh about 9 pounds (4 kilograms). Skin protects the network of muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels, and everything else inside our bodies. Eyelids have the thinnest skin, the soles of our feet the thickest.

Hair is actually a modified type of skin. Hair grows everywhere on the human body except the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, eyelids, and lips. Hair grows more quickly in summer than winter, and more slowly at night than during the day. Like hair, nails are a type of modified skin — and they’re not just for beauty. Nails protect the sensitive tips of our fingers and toes. Human nails are not necessary for living, but they do provide support for the tips of the fingers and toes, protect them from injury, and aid in picking up small objects. Without them, we’d have a hard time scratching an itch or untying a knot. Nails can be an indicator of a person’s general health, and illness often affects their growth.

Skin Basics

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Skin Basics

Skin is essential to a person’s survival. It forms a barrier that prevents harmful substances and microorganisms from entering the body. It protects body tissues against injury. Our skin also controls the loss of life-sustaining fluids like blood and water, helps us regulate body temperature through perspiration, and protects us from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays.

Without the nerve cells in our skin, we couldn’t feel warmth, cold, or other sensations. Our skin can also respond to situations and emotions: Muscles in the skin called erector pili contract to make the hairs on our skin stand up straight (goosebumps) when we are cold or frightened — for insulation and protection. Every square inch of skin contains thousands of cells and hundreds of sweat glands, oil glands, nerve endings, and blood vessels. Skin is made up of three layers: the epidermis (pronounced: ep-ih-dur-mis), dermis, and the subcutaneous (pronounced: sub-kyoo-tay-nee-us) tissue.

Cells and Layers

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Cells and Layers

The upper layer of our skin, the epidermis, is the tough, protective outer layer. It is about as thick as a sheet of paper over most parts of the body. The epidermis has four layers of cells that are constantly flaking off and being renewed. In these four layers are three special types of cells:

Melanocytes (pronounced: meh-lah-nuh-sites) produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. All people have roughly the same number of melanocytes; those of dark-skinned people produce more melanin. Exposure to sunlight increases the production of melanin, which is why people get suntanned or freckled. Keratinocytes (pronounced: ker-uh-tih-no-sites) produce keratin, a type of protein that is a basic component of hair and nails. Keratin is also found in skin cells in the skin’s outer layer, where it helps create a protective barrier. Langerhans (pronounced: lahng-ur-hanz) cells help protect the body against infection. Because the cells in the epidermis are completely replaced about every 28 days, cuts and scrapes heal quickly.

Below the epidermis is the next layer of our skin, the dermis, which is made up of blood vessels, nerve endings, and connective tissue. The dermis nourishes the epidermis.

Many teens care for oily hair by washing it once a day — or more if they’re active. As long as you treat your hair gently when it’s wet, frequent washing shouldn’t harm it. If you have acne, it’s a good idea to keep the hair around your face clean so hair oils don’t clog your pores. Without certain molecules in the dermis, our skin wouldn’t stretch when we bend or reposition itself when we straighten up. These two types of fibers in the dermis, collagen and elastin, help the skin stretch and reposition itself when we move. Collagen is strong and hard to stretch and elastin, as its name suggests, is elastic. In older people, some of the elastin-containing fibers degenerate, which is one reason why the skin looks wrinkled (most wrinkles are caused by sun exposure, though!).

The dermis also contains a person’s sebaceous glands. These glands, which surround and empty into our hair follicles and pores, produce an oil called sebum (pronounced: see-bum) that lubricates the skin and hair. Sebaceous glands are found mostly in the skin on the face, upper back, shoulders, and chest. Most of the time, the sebaceous glands make the right amount of sebum. As a person’s body begins to mature and develop during the teenage years, though, hormones stimulate the sebaceous glands to make more sebum. This can lead to acne when pores become clogged by too much sebum and too many dead skin cells. Later in life, these glands produce less sebum, which contributes todry skin in older people.

The bottom layer of our skin, the subcutaneous tissue, is made up of connective tissue, sweat glands, blood vessels, and cells that store fat. This layer helps protect the body from blows and other injuries and helps it hold in body heat.

There are two types of sweat-producing glands. The eccrine (pronounced: eh-krun) glands are found everywhere in our bodies, although they are mostly in the forehead, palms, and soles of the feet. By producing sweat, these glands help regulate body temperature, and waste products are excreted through them.

The other type of sweat-producing gland, the apocrine glands, develop at puberty and are concentrated in the armpits and pubic region. The sweat from the apocrine glands is thicker than that produced by the eccrine glands. Although this sweat doesn’t smell, when it mixes with bacteria on the skin’s surface, it can cause body odor.

A normal, healthy adult secretes about 1 pint (about half a liter) of sweat daily, but this may be increased by physical activity, fever, or a hot environment.

Nail Care

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Nail Care

Nails grow out of deep folds in the skin of the fingers and toes.

As epidermal cells below the nail root move up to the surface of the skin, they increase in number, and those closest to the nail root become flattened and pressed tightly together. Each cell is transformed into a thin plate; these plates are piled in layers to form the nail. As with hair, nails are formed by keratinization. When the nail cells accumulate, the nail is pushed forward.

The skin below the nail is called the matrix. The larger part of the nail, the nail plate, looks pink because of the network of tiny blood vessels in the underlying dermis. The whitish crescent-shaped area at the base of the nail is called the lunula.

Fingernails grow about three or four times as quickly as toenails. Like hair, nails grow more rapidly in summer than in winter. If a nail is torn off, it will regrow if the matrix is not severely injured. White spots on the nail are sometimes due to temporary changes in growth rate.