Friday, June 1, 2012

Body hair, growth trends and baldness

One of the oldest and most practiced forms of body art is the altering
of body hair. It is noticeable that no other creature on the planet cuts
or colors their hair because they want it to look different. Apart from a
bit of hair or feather plucking, humans are the only animals that
deliberately change the appearance or presence of body and head hair.
From the extremes of full-growth to complete depilation, every
combination in between is possible.
An estimated seven percent of women in the USA cosmetically colored
their hair in the 1950s. Present industry estimates put the number of women
in the USA who currently color their hair somewhere between 55 and 75
percent. The secrecy between client and stylist of hair coloring in the
1950s has been replaced with high-end celebrity stylists and a booming
home product market. Teenagers worldwide have indulged in hair styling
as a reflection of rebellion against the present status quo to such an
extent that there is actually very little that anyone can do to their
hair that shocks or offends anymore.

Cultural styles and so-called norms can vary widely between societies
as well as between smaller groups within the whole. Looking at US culture
over the last several decades before the advent of the 21st century,
you can see many variations in popular hair culture. In the 1960s, there
was a revolution with the wearing of long and somewhat ungroomed hair
starting as a political statement and then becoming a popular fashion
trend. Into the 1970s, this trend continued and incorporated influences
from various ethnic hairstyles. The 1980s saw a surge in ultra short
“New Wave” hairstyles, influenced by the world of music. The 1990s produced the Internet, and now anyone can and often does have a media image. Politicians and sports celebrities get makeovers from high-end stylists and hairdressers.

Body hair also follows trends. Men’s facial hair has gone through every
conceivable styling trend over the centuries, from naturally grown out,
to complex mustache and beard styling to shaved smooth. Modern
feminists often complain that women are expected to be as hairless as a Barbie doll. With the rise of physical culture and the ever-present media
image, it has become popular for both men and women to remove nearly all their body hair below the neck. Sometimes growing or retaining hair is
believed to be more desirable, as in certain cultures or religions. In nearly
all cultures that wear facial hair, a beard is one of the main
distinguishing features separating the men from the boys.

Over 50% of men are bald or have significantly thinning hair by age 50,
whilst 20% of women are thinning and 5% are losing their hair in clumps
around the crown by the same age. A quick scan on the Internet will
expose hundreds of products alleging to cure baldness. The history of
baldness cures can be summed up in a few words. From prehistory to the
late 1980s, nothing worked. All baldness cures were metaphorically and
often literally snake oil. Then came Minoxidil (marketed as Rogaine)
followed quickly by Finasteride (marketed as Propecia or Proscar).
These products don't grow new hair, but they advertise hair loss. What is
intriguing, however, is that in this age of enlightenment many continue
to be tempted by so-called natural ointments, massage techniques and
even more absurd baldness remedies all based on timeless superstitions and misunderstandings about the original source of baldness.

The ancient Egyptians were among the first to develop treatments for
baldness - rancid fat from snakes, geese, crocodiles, hippos, lions,
and ibexes. These were severe topical ointments. Their bad smell was the
most important factor, for it was proof that the concoctions were working.
We're still fooled by this notion today in the belief that medicine is
supposed to taste bad. Denorex, a dandruff shampoo, prides itself with
the motto "it tingles" (1).

The Greek doctor Hippocrates treated his patients' baldness with pigeon
droppings. Aristotle tried goats’ urine to cure his own baldness.
Julius Caesar was bald, which is ironic because the name Caesar, from the
Latin "caesaries," means "abundant hair." Cleopatra prepared pastes for him made of ground horse teeth and deer marrow, but these didn't work.
Neither did Roman cures of sulfur, tar, and the finest samples of
animal urine from around the Mediterranean. In the end, Julius resorted to
covering his bare head with wreaths of laurel.

Baldness treatments such as urine and rancid fat survived the fall of
the Roman Empire. Cow saliva as a remedy for baldness was introduced in the Renaissance. Meanwhile in China, treatments progressed with the
introduction of animal testes mixed with ground herbs. Meditation and
headstands had long been a standard cure there and in India. With the
advent of modern technology in the late 1800s, baldness treatment
entered the realm of the titillating: electric shock, vibrators, motorized
scalp massagers, and suction devices.

What do all these treatments have in common, aside from the potential
of making you look foolish? They all work on three premises: increasing
blood flow to the scalp, unclogging pores or hair follicles, and
providing nutrients. Maybe these treatments really do that. These
aren't the causes of baldness, though. Baldness, for the most part, is
genetic. You'd have to be literally starving to lose your hair due to poor
nutrition. This is certainly possible, but far from likely. You don't
need extra blood in the head, either. The clogged pore idea is
absolutely wrong, unless you're coating your scalp with sealing wax or rancid
hippo fat. And whilst you can certainly lose your hair from stress,
medication, or chemotherapy, it usually grows back.

Genes are behind most of the bald and thinning heads out there, male
and female. You can inherit baldness from your mother or your father.
Baldness is not passed only through the mother's side. A quick look at
the countless number of bald fathers and sons will counteract this

Hair transplants take hair from the back and side of the scalp and move
it up top. This certainly works, but the procedure can be painful and
expensive. Usually, hair follicles never die until very late in human
life. Bald individuals have very tiny hairs in most of those 100,000
follicles. If the right drug comes along, those same hair follicles can
start producing longer, thicker hair. Scientists predict that very
soon, perhaps within a decade, there will be a drug that spurs head hair
growth (2). Researchers know what causes hair to stop growing and
pharmaceutical companies are pouring millions of dollars into drug development. They know that the anti-baldness pill has the potential to be as big as Viagra.

(1) Medtech Products, Inc. (2003) Denorex [WWW document]. URL
(2) Donn, J. (Sunday August 3rd, 2003) Genes begin to reveal secret
of longer life [WWW document]. URL

Content source:1001beautytips

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