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Secrets and Myths of Hair and Nails

From Rapunzel’s flowing locks to eating crusts for curls, our hair and also nails are the subjects of many popular tales, beliefs and sayings. We nail down the truth.

Secrets and Myths of Hair and Nails
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Black hair is the strongest: FALSE
While Asian (the strongest) and Caucasian black hair usually have a higher tensile strength than blonde hair, African black hair is often more delicate and Indigenous Australian and Islander hair can be, as well. Tight braids, beads and heat can damage all hair types.

Scare brings grey hair: TRUE
Research suggests that the stress hormone adrenaline may damage DNA in the genes responsible for the production of melanin, the pigment that gives hair its colour.

Hair grows faster in summer: FALSE
There’s nothing intrinsic to summer that speeds up hair growth. However, many people do receive a boost from diets richer in fruit, vegetables and proteins rather than the carbohydrate-rich foods we love in winter.

… as do nails: TRUE
Nails grow faster in warm climates, so they benefit from summer’s better weather, as well as taking advantage of the same dietary changes as hair. Men’s nails generally grow more quickly than women’s and fingernails tend to grow faster on your dominant hand. The nail on the middle finger grows fastest; the thumbnail slowest. And fingernails grow faster than toenails.

Hair can turn white from fright: FALSE
Dermatologist Dr David Orentreich says no. You can’t lose pigment in your hair because hair is dead when it leaves your scalp. But a severe shock may trigger alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition that causes bald spots. In very rare cases it can cause only pigmented hair (black, brown, red or blonde) to drop out, leaving grey and white hair behind.

White flecks on nails mean lack of calcium: FALSE
This myth may arise from the fact that calcium is white. While calcium is vital for forming strong bones and teeth, nails, like skin and hair, are made of the fibrous protein keratin, which contains only a small amount of calcium. White spots are usually symptoms of minor injuries to the nail bed.

Cut toenails straight across: TRUE
If you cut into the sides of a big toenail, the skin around the nail may swell up at the nail’s edge, leading to an ingrown nail. Cutting straight across is the best way to prevent this.

Cutting hair by the moon speeds its growth: FALSE
One Brazilian myth is that hair cut between a full and quarter moon grows more strongly, while in other cultures it’s said that cutting hair under a waxing moon promotes growth. Neither one is true. Hair does not grow back more strongly after it’s cut – at any time.

Fenugreek strengthens hair: FALSE
Fenugreek (methi) is used as a hair tonic in India but, while it keeps hair soft and shining and can help treat dandruff, there is no evidence for strengthening or regrowth.

Study Your Hairbrush

You can lose 50-100 hairs a day – even more when you wash your hair. But if you’re losing an excessive amount, ask your doctor to check your levels of blood ferritin, an indication of how much iron your body is storing. Low levels may be related to hair loss. Thyroid disease is another common cause, while conditions such as lupus and diabetes can also make your hair fall out. A severe emotional shock or physical trauma (such as surgery) can also cause a thinning thatch.

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