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Brittle hair

CATEGORIES SCIENTIFIC AREA

Scientific collaboration between Professor Marco Toscani and Dr. Pasquale Fino, Chair of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery, Umberto I Health Center – “Sapienza” University of Rome.

Brittle hair is hair that appears opaque and without shininess. It is characterized by glaringly visible damage and deterioration of the shaft.
The causes that lead to the problem of brittle hair may be of endogenous and exogenous origin.

An improper diet, psychological stress, genetic differences and hormonal imbalances are among the endogenous causes. Excessive exposure to the sun, atmospheric pollution and aggressive and frequent cosmetic hair treatments are instead among the exogenous causes of the condition.
Usually fine, thin hair becomes brittle more quickly and easily compared to thick and resistant hair, as its keratin structure is less compact and resistant.

As it is less hydrated due to the absence or reduction of sebum, dry and thin hair suffers damage from external agents more easily and as a result appears brittle. We can also include split ends in the category of brittle hair, i.e. when the shaft shows a breakage at the end.
To understand the hair deterioration and breakage process, it is important to understand its structure.

A cross section of the hair shows three concentric layers called the medulla, cortex and cuticle. The cuticle, which forms the outermost layer, is composed of keratin shingles (65-95%) overlapping on top of each other.
They form a hard, tough shield which has the function of protecting the hair from external chemical and environmental agents.
Under a microscope, brittle hair shows the absence of a cuticle. Without a cuticle, the hair will thin, becoming increasingly weak and fragile.
This leads to the deterioration of the structure of the keratin (compact microfilaments) which makes up the hair cortex. Hair found in these conditions and subject to a trichological or aggressive cosmetic treatment ends up deteriorating and ruining the cohesion and compactness of the cortex, resulting in the hair becoming brittle, easily breakable and more likely to fall out.

In the presence of brittle hair, it is necessary to avoid subjecting hair to vigorous brushing, chemical treatments, hair dyes, styling, bleaching, excessive exposure to the sunrays and other aggressive treatments. These methods cause massive damage to hair, as they destroy the keratin structure and impoverish the hair shaft of the sulphur-containing amino-acids necessary for making hair stronger and more resistant. These precautions are necessary to avoid further hair breakage, but are not a cure for hair that is already ruined. If hair is already ruined, it is important to act by identifying and overcoming the causes.

Excluding situations that require medical expertise, in the majority of cases the care and prevention of brittle hair can be managed by modelling a hair treatment on the specific and personal characteristics of the brittle hair in question, using customized trichological products and paying attention to avoid behavior that endanger the health of the hair.

Life cycle of hair

The life cycle of hair and its subsequent growth occur at a speed of 1-1.5 cm per month. Hair is a living element that follows a follicle cycle with an average duration of 2-6 years. In humans, unlike other mammals that are subject to a periodic change, this cyclic evolution is not synchronous (therefore each hair is independent from the others).

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Hair loss (telogen defluvium)

With the term Telogen Defluvium we mean a modest, not excessive, loss of hair in the telogen phase, but which tends to often be irreversible, with the precise characteristics of hair in decay or involution. The hair that falls out is usually short and fine, with bulbs that are undeveloped and reduced in size.

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Damaged hair

Changes in the hair shaft lead to deterioration with the appearance of ruined or damaged hair.
In healthy hair, the cuticle is whole, with overlapping shingles. Hair with whole ends appears shiny, elastic and brushes easily.

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Dandruff or pityriasis

Dandruff is a scalp condition that usually arises between the ages of 10 and 25. It may improve between the ages of 45 and 55 or may continue during old age.
Its cause is a result of an accelerated turnover of epidermal cells, which following an increase in migration speed, are unable to reach complete maturity before detaching. Whitish-yellow flakes (masses of corneum cells) form and detach, gathering in patches or often spreading evenly across the scalp.

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Androgenetic alopecia (pattern hair loss) or baldness

Androgenetic alopecia is the most common type of hair loss and affects the majority of white men, with varying degrees of seriousness. It is less frequent in other ethnic groups. Often it can be associated with a family history of baldness, but the absence of other affected family members does not exclude the diagnosis. The condition is characterized by progressive hair loss in the crown area, the front hairline and the temporal area.

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