Hair-care Myths: Not a strand of truth

Misconceptions make hair care a knotty affair. Here, we bust the 12 most common ones

woman with great hair

A few years back, I helped a popular actress clear her severe and unsightly acne. Later, when someone asked her the secret of her beautiful skin and hair, she remarked piously that it was because she believed in using only natural products on her skin and drinking two litres of water every day. When I questioned her on her comment, she laughed and said, “Doc, that’s what the public wants to read!” And thus, myths are perpetuated. Here, I blast some typical hair myths.

When you cut your hair, it grows faster. The new hair is even thicker

I wish life was so simple! And the above belief, is actually a misconception that has been around for years. Truth is, the hair seen on the top of our heads is the only ‘dead’ part of the hair follicle. The living roots are embedded deep in the skin. That’s why we don’t feel physical pain when hair is cut. Cutting hair certainly helps get rid of split ends, and maintain the integrity of the hair follicle, but it does absolutely nothing for the growth rate of hair or its density. The myth is advantageous for the various hair salons mushrooming at every corner, though.

Split ends can be repaired without trimming

Split ends are a result of bad hair grooming habits. Due to lack of proper hair care, the hair shaft gets damaged, and splits at the ends. Gradually, the split extends to involve the length of the hair, giving the shaft a dull, frizzy appearance. Although newer hair products have been developed to condition the ends, they do not completely seal the splits. Hence, it is important you trim the hair to cut off the split ends on a regular basis.

If you blow dry hair, it smokes

Blow-drying doesn’t make hair smoke, unless the hair is burnt. However, sudden overheating of hair during blow-drying can cause rapid evaporation of water leading to bubble formation in the hair shafts. [Such hair is called ‘bubble-hair’] At the areas where the bubbles have formed, breakage occurs, rendering the hair brittle with easy fragility. If a hair dryer is to be used sensibly, a gradual build-up of the heat, with diffusion during hair-drying is what is required. This is not always possible in salons where a quick turnover of clients is required, and hence speedy drying with high heat is done.

Washing hair every day, makes it dry

There is no rigid rule about how often hair needs to be washed; the frequency depends on several factors. People with dry scalp and hair, do not secrete adequate surface grease, and hence even a single wash can dry the hair/scalp, unless they use a conditioner after every wash. A person with a greasy scalp [a ‘scalp-sweater’] would require the scalp to be washed more often. Similarly, individuals who exercise regularly, would need more frequent shampooing. Modern shampoos have milder surfactants [cleansers] specially formulated for daily use, and for dry scalp/hair. So it’s not the frequency, but the hair type and activity levels that determine whether washing daily can dry out hair.

Shampoos lead to premature greying of hair

Shampoos are detergents that are specially formulated with neutral pH to cleanse hair and scalp. Just as soaps are used for bathing the skin, shampoos are used for cleaning hair. Since daily use of soap doesn’t cause our body hair to grey, logically, even if we used a shampoo daily, it should not turn the scalp hair grey. The reason for early greying is either genetic, hormonal, or vitamin deficiency. So, if all this time you were blaming your shampoo for your greys, it is time you get a check-up.

If you use the same shampoo for long, your hair will become immune to it

Like I mentioned before, the hair is actually a dead structure made of keratin. If a shampoo has been effective in cleaning your scalp in the past, it will continue to perform for all future washes, as a shampoo merely acts as a cleanser.

Rinse-out conditioners are of no use, as they get washed away

Most of the conditioners available are of the ‘rinse-out’ variety. And even-though they get washed off, they are certainly effective in smoothening out hair shaft surface. They are meant to be washed out and do their job in that much time. They do leave the hair shiny, and easy to comb or brush.

If you sleep with a wet head, your scalp will get fungus

The conditions favourable to fungal growth are moisture, grease, and warmth. There will be no fungal growth if you fall asleep with a freshly-shampooed head. The problem arises when individuals refrain from cleaning their scalp for several days, allowing enough grease build-up to encourage the multiplication of various organisms on the scalp.

If you pluck one grey hair, the greying spreads to other hair

Each follicle has a single hair, and plucking from one has no impact on the other. So, if you don’t like that grey strand, go ahead and pluck it out.

Products used in a salon are identical to the ones available over-the-counter

A salon usually stocks high-end products for the hair-dresser to be able to meet individual requirements of clients. The products are specialised for hair that has been treated [coloured/ bonded/relaxed]. Also, specialised serums, leave-on or spray conditioners are also available. Over-the-counter products are of a broad range and mostly basic in nature. They are meant for mass and not customised use.

Products labelled natural are safe to use as they are free of chemicals

This is totally untrue! The authentic natural products are actually what you get from your kitchen or garden. Such products spoil in a couple of hours, as they are not be stored at room temperature. Products labelled natural, have in fact, little of the ‘natural’ constituents. They require preservatives, colourants and thickening agents, most of which are also present in other so called ‘not-natural’ products. Even the flavours added are artificial. Unfortunately, in India, all the ingredients do not have to be displayed on the packaging. Hence, even the non-natural ‘natural’ products continue to fool the consumer. Be wise and alert.

If you brush thinning hair, it falls out faster

The commonest cause of hair damage is poor hair grooming. People tend to use bad combs/brushes, or are too rough whilst combing. This results in hair breakage, split-ends, and hair fall. Brushed inappropriately, thin hair with a smaller shaft diameter, is more easily damaged.

If you brush it gently, it doesn’t cause hair fall. So it’s not brushing itself that causes thin hair to fall, but the way you brush that does.

Magnifying lens over an exclamation markSpot an error in this article? A typo maybe? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!

Dr Nina Madnani, MD, DVD, FAAD, FISSVD, is the department coordinator and dermatology consultant at the P D Hinduja National Hospital & MRC in Mumbai.


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