The hair on our head is something a lot of men take for granted but miss when it’s gone.
There are a few theories as to why we have had hair. It’s believed the hair on our head can offer some level of protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays, though further research has shown that our scalp can still suffer damage from the sun, due to it’s a natural part. Another theory is that head hair helps regulate our body temperature by wicking away sweat and having it evaporate from our hair.
Whatever the reason, collectively as a species, we spend a lot of time and money on our hair, But what is hair exactly? How do we keep our hair healthy and what tools will help us get there?
What is Head Hair?
In short, what you know as hair, the strands growing on your head, are primarily made up of a protein, known as keratin. A hair bulb is situated in the deepest layer of your skin ( The dermis) and a hair root grows through a tube-shaped hole in your skin, called a hair follicle, attached to the bulb is the sebaceous gland, which naturally produces sebum, which is oil for your skin and hair.
We have skin follicles all over our body but our head has roughly 100,000 on our head.
Three Phases Of Growth
The first one is the growth (Anagen) stage, in this phase cells in your hair rapidly divide, creating new hair. Depending on how you did in the genetic lottery, this period can last from 2-7 years.
The second phase, Catagen is only short, lasting 2-3 weeks. Here, the hair ceases to grow and detaches from the blood supply at the root of your hair follicle. This hair is known as a ‘club’ hair, it’s still attached to your head and will eventually shed or be pushed out by new hair.
The third phase is known as resting (Telogen) and this is where your club hair begins slowly being pushed out and replaced by new hairs. This period can last roughly 3 months.
Severe hair loss is caused when there’s an imbalance in these phases, specifically if the Growth phase is too short and the catagen/ Telogen is to long. ‘’In normal hair cycling, ~90% of follicles are in anagen phase, 1% in the catagen phase and 9% in the telogen phase at any given time,6 with the proportion of follicles in anagen phase declining with age’’ Link
Male Pattern Baldness is a result of an inherited sensitivity to a testosterone byproduct, known as Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and is the leading cause of hair loss. Other causes can be nutritional deficiency ( lacking iron, protein, Vitamin D), Stress, and cancer treatment via chemotherapy drugs. Either way, hair loss can have a pretty devastating effect on men’s confidence and sense of self, so if you still have your hair, it’s in your interest to start looking after it as best you can.
Just as with your skin, both exercise and diet play an equally important role in the overall health of your hair.
It’s understood that exercise can help to reduce stress, stress is something we want to avoid for our hairline. Exercise removes toxins from our skin and specifically for our hair, sweating unclogs pores providing increased blood flow to our hair follicles, providing them with more nutrients to stimulate and maintain healthy growth. ‘’Cardio exercises such as jogging can help to increase blood circulation to the scalp and this blood flow promotes healthy growth of the hair. Link
Exercise also helps to reduce stress, which is something we want to avoid with our hairline. Stress can force hair follicles into a state of rest, meaning they are no longer growing new strands, these resting hair’s stop receiving nutrients and eventually fall out. When we exercise, We produce a hormone known as serotonin, which can help to reduce stress and as a result, allow our hair to stay healthy.
It’s not just moving your body but also how you feed it that will have an effect on your hair. A poor diet lacking in vitamins and nutrients can lead to your hair thinning or in worst-case scenarios falling out altogether. In order for your hair to be at it’s best, it needs proteins, vitamins ( A, D, E & C), essential fatty acids, minerals, complex carbohydrates, and Iron. These can be obtained through nutrients and a balanced diet, a good starting point is to check out our Article on the BEST foods for your skin.
Our bodies view our hair as ‘non-essential’ meaning if there’s not enough of the nutrients to go around, hair misses out, as vitamins and minerals are allocated to more vital areas in the body. So stay hydrated by drinking 1.5-2 litres of water per day, eat lean proteins ( Salmon, turkey, eggs, etc), Fruit and vegetables for your vitamins and minerals ( Blueberries, oranges, spinach, etc). Improving both your diet and exercise routine will give your hair it’s highest chance to look it’s best.
Cleaning Your Hair
You wash your body daily ( or at least you should) so why not your hair? If you use a lot of product or you’re in a job role where you become covered in dirt and grim day in and day out then washing your hair every 3 days or so won’t hurt. In Fact, regular washing is recommended to remove product buildup such as Gel or Wax to help unclog your hair follicles. Washing your hair removes dead skin cells from the scalp, reducing dandruff. Washing your hair also sets it to be receptive to styling, making it easier to achieve your desired look.
If you wash your hair daily, you run the risk of striping the important oils from your hair and leaving both the hair and the scalp dry and itchy, so it’s important not to over wash your hair.
Outside of how often you should use shampoo, the next challenge is picking one best suited to your hair. Shampoo is the categories in personal grooming, go to any supermarket or pharmacist and you’ll be faced with a daunting amount of products.
There are Shampoos that repair hair, maintain color or combination shampoo + Conditioner. Ideally, you want to look for a shampoo that focuses solely on cleaning your hair.
Shampoo is used to clean the scalp and hair by removing unwanted sebum ( natural oil), dandruff, environmental dust, and residues of hair care products, like wax and gel. Most of these are water-insoluble and cannot be effectively removed with water on it’s own.
A good rule of thumb is to find a shampoo with a small ingredients list.
You should be able to identify a good proportion of the ingredients on the list, things like green tea, eucalyptus, mint etc, these are ingredients derived from nature and help showcase that the product is as natural as possible. Additionally, natural ingredients should coincide with being ‘Fragrance-free’ and the aroma of the product is derived from these natural ingredients.
Similar to your beard wash, you want to look for products that are free of parabens, a synthetic chemical that acts as a preservative in cosmetics, it’s linked to increased skin sensitivity, breast cancer heightened cell damage from UV exposure. Another chemical to look out for is phthalates, a chemical used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break. If that sounds like something you shouldn’t put in your hair you’re spot on!
They are what’s know as an EDC ( Endocrine-disrupting chemical), meaning they disrupt metabolism and normal hormone function. This can lead to low sperm count, infertility asthma, and even obesity. For hair care, it is used as a solvent and fixture in fragrances. This is why you want to look for a product that is fragrance-free or has ‘’fragrance’’ derived from natural ingredients such as mint or lavender.
Conditioners are designed to replenish oils that may have been stripped away during the shampooing of your hair. They are generally made up of oils, silicones, surfactants ( soap detergents) and as we mentioned with shampoo, hopefully, yours has a list with natural ingredients. Hair conditioning helps to make hair smooth, easy to comb, and soft to the touch. This is not something you get from shampoo, so it’s important to use both. Hair conditioning helps to reduce friction between the fibres of hair, making it more manageable when styling it.
All business Buzzcut
If you’re a man who likes to avoid all the fuss of the latest style trends or perhaps you’re too busy to bother with hair, then you really can’t go past the buzz cut. Set the clippers to 0 and go to town, you’ve just saved yourself $25 at barbers and 20 minutes of a morning.
The ‘relaxed’ medium length mop
This style is for a man who wants to frame his handsome mug. The opposite of the clean-cut look of the buzz cut, this hair cut needs some maintenance in the cleaning department. The longer the hair is from the root, the more likely it is to develop split ends. Look to wash your hair with a quality shampoo and 3 days or so to avoid the greasy look on your hair.
From James Dean to Conen O’BRIEN this style is popular with men around the globe. Named after a French king’s mistress, named Madame de pompadour, the style has a lot of cartoons. The simplest method though is that a large proportion of your hair combed upwards and worn high over your forehead. Saying you’ll need some product is an understatement here and a good comb will be a must.
The Comb Over
A comb-over was something your mum gave you as a kid and it was painfully uncool. Fortunately, modern comb-overs are much more stylish. Being much less demanding in the upkeep department, you just need to add some pomade or wax and comb your hair to the side. This cut will work in at weddings and the pub.
What products to Use?
Picking a hair cut is one thing but styling it yourself? That’s a whole different ball game.
Gel: Gel is one of the first products blokes will try in their hair. It’s cheap and widely available in most Australian supermarkets and pharmacies. Hair Gel excels when using it for a styled wet look, as it leaves the hair with a wet-looking sheen. It’s best applied to damp hair and while they tend to come in a variety of strengths, it’s best to style your hair asap after application, as it tends to dry hard, leaving no room to style throughout the day. Hair Gel isn’t suited to men with thin hair, as it can easily weigh it down. Hair gel is also notoriously difficult to wash out, avoid it building up by regularly washing your hair.
Wax: Wax can be man-made or naturally derived from animals or plants. In opposition to Gel, Wax is applied to dry hair and can allow you to continue to style your hair throughout the day, it’s a pliable substance ( meaning easily bent or flexible), Allowing you to have more specific control over your hairstyle, being able to spiky hair, comb-overs, and messy bed looks.
Wax comes in both shiny or matte finish and water-soluble, meaning it’s much easier to wash out than gel. It’s worth noting that if your too heavy-handed, wax can feel sticky or greasy and it’s not as quick to style as hair gel.
Pomade: A go-to product for those with a combed hairstyle. Similar to wax’s, pomade won’t make your hair dry out and allows you to continue to style your hair throughout the day. Pomade comes in a base of oil ( petroleum), water-based or wax-based. We prefer a natural base of water here, as wax can be hard to wash out of your hair and oil-based products tend to strip the natural oils from your hair.
Traditional Stronghold, high shine pomade is used in slick backed, side parts and of course pompadour style of hair cuts. This works well with men who have longer hair. Gents with shorter to medium hair could utilise a water-based matte pomade, the matte can reduce oily or greasy build up in your hair.
Now with a greater understanding and hopefully a better appreciation of your hair, you can start taking better care of it. Pick a style, Use a quality product and get stuck into it.