Hair Care & Identity
February 2017

Each one of us has a unique head of hair, whether it straight, curly, frizzy, long, short, bleached, coloured or natural. We have approximately 150,000 individual hair strands on our head that grows approximately 1 cm every month.  Hair care and retention (loss treatment) is big business; globally the market is worth a £60 billion and £ .5 billion respectively.  Our hair, its health, style etc is very important to many of us. Recently BBC Horizon’s ‘Hair Care Secrets’, asked individuals about their hair.

What is hair?

"Hair really is the crowning glory, it can represent you in so many different ways."

"Hair is the most important thing with your identity."

"I think my hair says I'm a bit bohemian. It is totally flowing freely and bouncy; it's a bit like me."

Hair is something you can immediately see; it's like the clothes you're wearing, you are effectively making a statement."

"A lot of people laugh at me and say your hair (ginger). I just acknowledge it and move on".

How important is your hair?

"Hair is really important to how we look, it is our biggest accessory. Hair is something you have to wear every single day.”

"The thing about hair is that it is the one part of you that you get to design."

" I think a lot of importance is put on hair, whether we like it or not."

" [Prof Dame Anne Gliver programme presenter]: “The state of my hair is not always my top priority, but I like to feel that the style I’ve chosen reflects some of my personality, although it doesn't always go to plan. We've all had them days when you're here doesn't do the right thing and when your hair doesn't do what you wanted to do nothing else seems to go right either”.

“It [hair]can make or break a good day or a bad day. Good hair great day, bad hair it's not going to work out as well as I hope it is”.

"My hair has been very loyal to me all this time. I've hardly ever had problems; the ones that did [cause problems] I pulled up straight away."

"Bad hair day means more make up day for me”. Research carried out by Yale University showed that a bad hair day can negatively affect a person self-esteem and social insecurity.

“I know [molecular biologist and programme presenter] that what’s sitting on my head is dead, its just a mass of protein; so why does it have such a big impact on my mood?

One theory is that it points to the split second judgement that we make when we meet people for the first time”.

What do you look for in a hair product?

"I would smell them before I purchased them".

“ If it's a big enough bottle and I'm in a rush, I will buy whatever."

“Something that will match my bathroom.”,

“If you look at the back of a bottle of conditioner or treatment what are all those words "...

“I think even if I did look at the back of my bottle; I don't understand what is in it".

Professor Franz Wortmann (Manchester University) has spent 15 years in the hair care industry trying to develop ways of measuring the shininess of hair.

"The most important claim for the industry is shiny hair”, he states. ”Most products will claim in some way or another to shine, because shiny healthy looking hair is a very important component of our perception of beauty".

Shine is measured by relating the ratio of light reflecting off the hair surface and the light penetrating the hair and reflecting back out. The colour of the hair matters, the darker the hair is the less light is reflected from within giving a greater the shine ratio.

What qualities do you most desire for your hair?

“What I most desire is healthy looking hair.”

“Smooth and silky.”

“I would want my hair to look healthy and shiny”.

“Shiny hair is the killer, that’s the nice one; you want it to look like glass, reflecting light”.

Our culture values youth and being youthful looking, hair has a very significant role to play. Most people will find the odd grey here around 30 and by the age of 50 it is not unusual for 50% of or head to be grey. While some people in brace it others go to great lengths to cover it up. Dyeing your hair is currently the most effective way of treating grey hair. Aversion to going grey generates £450 million a year for the UK’s hair colour industry.

How do you feel about going grey?

“People want to retain that youthful look [hair stylist], they may just have one strand and think the world is ending and they decide they want to dye their hair. Men are just as vain as women often they opt for highlights and putting different colour variations so it looks more natural”.

“I have been quite lucky with grey hair. I haven't really found a grey hair yet.... I hope I will be one of those people that embrace it”.

“I have actually got a grey hair [hair stylist], I've got one which I quite like, although that means I'm not really a Peter Pan any more. It means I'm going to get old... Will I embrace grey? No way. I won't let any of my clients either”.

“I think grow old gracefully or disgracefully rather. I think it's great I think old-age is brilliant I think it's just embrace it”.

“I think I'm more likely to lose my hair before it goes grey!”

“Going grey is something that I am fighting.”

“Men look good when they grey and they have a full head of hair, so I'm quite looking forward to it.”

“I found two grey hairs recently, only in the last couple of weeks and they were plucked out immediately.”

Clearly our hair plays a fundamental role in who we are.