The culture of the Maya people of Central America has been the subject of considerable attention and interest in recent months, thanks to the conclusion of the 13th b’ak’tun, a time period in the Mayan Long Count calendar, which fell at the end of December of last year. Although apocalyptic predictions concerning the end of the world stole much of the limelight, there are actually many other, interesting aspects to the Maya culture. One thing that the Maya are actually known for is their intricate, but scalp-damaging hair styles which almost certainly caused hair loss!
During the height of the Classical Mayan Civilisation (250 AD 900 AD), hair was used to denote rank. Ordinary people cut their hair short, while elites sported long, flowing ponytails. Elite women styled their hair into braids, woven with ornaments and ribbons on special occasions, whilst the men took the drastic step of burning the hair of their fringe to create their own receding hairlines, permanently damaging the follicles to create the effect of a higher forehead.
All this was done to create a more elongated profile; something that for the ancient Maya was the height of beauty. The elites took this notion to the extreme, by binding boards around the heads of their children as they grew to create a long cranial shape and slightly crossed-eyes evidence of which can still be seen in the skulls of dead Maya from that period. Warriors sported a tuft of hair on the left side of their heads, which was moved to the right once they had slain their first enemy in war.
Fascinating though all this complexity is, it wouldn’t have been without its downsides. Head-bindings and ornate hairstyles, pulled tight and weighed down with ornaments, could have caused Traction Alopecia hair loss due to mechanical stress on the hair follicles. Meanwhile, the burning of the hair on the forehead would have permanently damaged the scalp, leaving scar tissue and bald patches of skin where all the hair has been lost.
The Maya people still live in the rainforests and highlands of Southern Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. As with anywhere else in the world, some people have their hair cut in contemporary, fashionable styles you’d recognise on the streets of Mexico City or Milan, while others adopt a more traditional cut. Luckily, these days traction alopecia can be treated effectively by a personalised treatment programme which contains high strength minoxidil, so any Maya sticking to their traditional style needn't, in theory, suffer the hair loss associated with it. Watch the video for more information on this clinically approved hair loss medication.
The Ancient Maya may not have believed the world was going to end on a dramatic date, but their extreme hair practices are certainly a reminder to the modern world to style with caution!
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