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Should Skin Care Stop at the Hairline?

By: Rhonda Allison
Posted: December 30, 2011, from the January 2012 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

What is at the root of aging hair? Could it all tie into the aging skin on the scalp? Daily hair loss is natural and, although there is no quick fix, recent research has found that many of the cosmeceuticals used to maintain skin health produce the same benefits when applied to the scalp and hair.

The scalp, and thus the hair, ages much like the rest of the body’s skin. It loses tone and elasticity, and cell production declines. As the scalp ages, the hair weakens. It is part of the life cycle of the hair follicle, but that lifespan can be extended when the same methods and ingredients for skin care are applied to the scalp. So why do skin care professionals stop at the hairline?

Understanding hair

The hair follicle is made up of the hair bulb, the inner root sheath and the hair shaft. The hair bulb is onion-shaped, and contains the hair matrix—the germ layer that forms the inner root sheath—as well as the hair shaft, which comprises the medulla, cortex and cuticle. Blood vessels supply the follicle with much of its nutrients, but topical formulas can also provide a boost of nourishment, especially if the blood vessels aren’t supplying an adequate amount. The hair bulb, along with the inner sheath, secures the hair shaft within the follicle, and is continuous with the basal layer of the interfollicular epidermis.

In healthy conditions, hair strands typically grow for two to six years at approximately half an inch per month. At any given time, 10% of the hair on the head is in a resting phase. After this resting period, which typically lasts a few months, the hair falls out and is usually replaced with new hair. The cycle continues like clockwork, but as the scalp ages or is affected by a disorder or disease, the cycle can be disrupted.

Internal and external nutrition is vital to correcting—or better yet, avoiding—disruptions. Internally, healthy hair thrives on micronutrients, including vitamin B, amino acids and proteins. Externally, the hair and scalp need a system of preventive and corrective care that includes cleansing, strengthening, building and restoring. Together, these factors help support healthy hair cycles, which include the following three phases.