By Allison Ford, Divine Caroline
They say a womanís hair is her crowning glory, and boy, do we take that to heart. Women spend inordinate amounts of time and energy washing, styling, and caring for their hair (and letís be honestómen do, too), all for the sake of keeping it shiny, healthy, and manageable. Like many areas of modern life, thereís plenty of advice and chatter on how to handle your hair better, faster, and more easily. Thereís bound to be some folklore out there, like these points of hair-care ďwisdomĒ sprinkled in with the facts.
Myth 1: Brushing one hundred strokes per night makes hair healthy and shiny.
At one point in hair-care history, someone thought that excessive brushing stimulated blood circulation, prompting lazy hair follicles to work extra hard. The truth is that although individual strands of hair are fairly strong, brushing more than necessary is much more likely to cause excessive breakage and damage than to leave you with thicker, shinier hair. This is especially true if you use a brush with plastic bristles, which can catch and snag. Natural-bristle brushes (like those with boar bristles) can distribute beneficial oils from the root to the ends of the hair shaft. But no matter what kind of combing implement you use, you should leave your hair alone once the snarls and tangles are gone. Want an all-natural, vegan hairbrush? Read Easy Greening: Hair Brushes.
Myth 2: Prenatal vitamins help hair grow longer.
Although some women swear by them, thereís no evidence to suggest prenatal vitamins are particularly helpful for hair growth. Hair does grow longer and thicker during pregnancy, but thatís because of higher hormone levels, not because of the vitamins themselves. Vitamins can be helpful for people experiencing poor hair growth due to a vitamin deficiency, but in those instances, a regular multivitamin or an iron supplement will perform just as well as the prenatal variety.
Myth 3: Male-pattern baldness is passed down by the mother.
Baldness isnít just momís fault. Conventional wisdom holds that a manís baldness is determined by his maternal grandfather, but itís actually much more complicated than that. The gene for androgenic alopecia, as itís formally called, can be inherited from either parent. It is true, however, that the X chromosome, passed down by the mother, is the most important determining factor as to whether or not baldness will actually develop. Both men and women can inherit the gene for baldness, but men are more likely to express it, in the same way that theyíre more likely to express legitimate X-linked disorders like hemophilia and color blindness. Since they donít have another copy of the X chromosome to cancel out abnormalities, theyíre stuck with whatever gene is on their single X. Read about how to combat hair loss naturally.
Myth 4: You can restore damaged hair back to health.
All hair is dead, and unfortunately, thereís nothing we can do about it. Once hair emerges from its follicle, it has no biochemical activity, no nervous tissue, and no pain receptors. There is no way to magically heal or restore hair thatís been damaged by chemicals or rough handling. The only solutions are to use products that artificially add moisture and mask the damaged texture or to cut if off completely.
Myth 5: A cold rinse keeps hair shiny and frizz-free.
Contrary to popular belief, giving freshly washed hair a final rinse with cool water does not seal the cuticle, keep it shiny, or prevent frizziness. Cold water can temporarily help the hairís cuticle to lay flatter, but the effect instantly wears off after towel-drying, blow-drying, or intense styling. The only thing a cold-water rinse is good for is a morning pick-me-up. Try this DIY formula for shiny hair.
Myth 6: Shaving hair makes it grow back thicker.
Some misguided moms even resort to shaving their infantsí heads in the hope that the hair that grows back will be thicker and fuller. In reality, shaving doesnít affect the quality or texture of the hair, according to dermatologists at the Mayo Clinic. Shaving acts on the hair shaft (which, of course, is dead to begin with), not the follicle. Whether itís on the head or the legs, hair thatís growing back may seem coarser, thicker, or more noticeable, but itís not.
Myth 7: You can train your hair.
Unfortunately, if youíre the owner of a noticeable cowlick or natural part, youíre stuck with it. No amount of styling, fixing, or cementing hair into a different orientation will ever make it grow that way. Hair follicles lay in different orientations all over the scalp, and whatever pattern youíre born with is what youíll have to live with.
Nowadays, anyone with a computer and the software to build a Web site can market him- or herself as an expert and dispense advice to the masses, but a healthy dose of skepticism is still the antidote for misinformation. A dermatologist or trichologist (hair doctor) can help you understand your hair and determine the best way to treat it. Their first piece of advice? Donít believe everything you read on the Internet.
Related: Repair Your Hair with Olive Oil