While no two heads of hair are the same, there are three main classifications of hair type based on race – Asian hair, Afro hair and Caucasian hair. There will of course be small regional differences, but in general there are defined similarities among each ethnic group. Whether it is a question of the hair’s density, speed of growth or the shape of the hair follicle in the scalp, we can consider that each of the ethnic types mentioned above has its own identity.
All hair – be is straight, wavy or frizzy – is essentially made up of the same thing. Each strand consists of three layers, the cuticle, cortex and medulla, and a protein called keretin is the hair’s main component. However, the shape of the follicle is what determines the hair’s shape. Asian hair grows from a round hair follicle, while Afro hair sprouts from an oval one, and Caucasian hair follicles vary. Being a dead material, the hair subsequently keeps this original shape – Asian hair is usually bone straight, Afro grows in a spiral like fashion, and Caucasian hair can be anything in between.
Hair growth rates also vary between hair races. Caucasian hair grows at a rate of about 1.2cm a month and has the greatest density of all three hair types. Blondes have about 146,000 hairs on their heads, black-haired beauties about 110,000 hairs, brunettes 100,000 hairs and redheads roughly 86,000 hairs. Afro hair is predominantly black and a healthy person possesses about 50,000 to 100,000 hairs on their head but they have the slowest growth rate of about 0.9cm per month. Asian hair – the most dominant hair type in the world – out speeds the rest with a growth rate of 1.3cm per month, and despite an estimated 80,000 to 140,000 scalp hairs, it usually has the least density.
Despite these marked differences, the causes of greying hair and hair loss do not differ between the races. Genetics, hormones, environmental factors – all of these play a large role in hair thinning as well as certain lifestyle and hairstyling habits. There are a high numbers of genetic hair loss cases in Caucasians, but traction alopecia is prevalent in people of Afro-Caribbean origin. While Asians tend to be less susceptible to hair loss, it is becoming more common as their lifestyles become more westernised and Asian women are more likely to notice thinning hair compared to their Caucasian and Afro-Caribbean counterparts.
Even though the types, prevalence and severity of hair loss and greying hair may vary between the hair races, the causes are invariably the same and so too is treatment – generally speaking. FDA-approved hair loss treatments – Propecia and minoxidil – are usually suitable for all hair types but you should get a specialists’ opinion if thinning or receding hair is a concern. There can be individualised variations on these treatments and sometimes a combination of proven treatments, hair supplements and hair growth boosters might be the most beneficial solution. Unlike hair loss, greying hair cannot be reversed but it can be masked with colour treatments.
The racial differences in hair shape means that different care is needed for each. For hair that is prone to dryness, extra moisture is needed daily and monthly conditioning treatments are also recommended if dying or colouring your hair. Because Afro hair grows in a tight spiral fashion, it’s difficult for the natural oils to work their way from the scalp to the ends of the hair. It can be more vulnerable to certain scalp problems and tends to be dryer and more prone to breakage, whereas Asian hair usually has higher porosity levels, absorbing and retaining moisture more quickly. Although, because Asian hair grows faster and tends to be longer than other hair types, it too can suffer dryness as it tends to lose moisture along the length of the shaft.
If you’d like more information about hair loss, or to find out more about what can be done for thinning hair, contact the Belgravia Centre on 0207 730 6666 or send an email. Alternatively, fill in the online diagnostic form for an individual hair analysis and one of our advisors will contact you shortly with the results and recommendations.