Physiologically speaking, the hair that exists on the exterior of your scalp is dead. It contains no nerves, muscles or blood and - thank god - it doesn't hurt when it's cut. Which begs the question: why should we bother to look after it at all?
There are a few answers to this, some obvious, some less so. First, and most obvious of all, is that while it may be dead, it's still attached to your skull and you carry it around everywhere with you. It's only naturally to want it to be clean and hygienic. Then there's the fact that hair may be deceased, but that doesn't mean it exists in a static state. Quite the opposite: hair cells are vulnerable to all kinds of influences, from scorching sunshine and drying icy winds to chlorinated swimming pools and nasty styling products. Even dead cells react to their environment.
Medically, we should also note that the hair we see may be dead, but the 'below-surface' hair underneath it is still very much alive. It needs oxygen, protein and nourishment from hormones and blood supply - much like every other part of your body.
This all becomes important to the man who's already started, just starting, or worried he's about to start, balding. - a situation that has been the focus of public attention this week with the 'outing' of Gareth Bale and Tiger Woods as hair loss sufferers. Interestingly, while Bale is said to be considering a transplant, Woods appears to be embracing his thinning locks, which just shows that everyone's approach to hair loss is individual.
The good news is that it's quite possible to keep your hair in good nick and hence stave off - at least to some degree - the ravages of hair loss, without going under the surgeon's knife. Here's how to prevent unnecessary hair loss due to its poor health...
1. Keep up the protein
Hair is made of protein so if you're not consuming enough in your diet, your body will struggle to rehair your head. Eggs for breakfast, tuna salad for lunch and steak for dinner don't sound too hard to take, do they? Or, if you're vegetarian, go for beans, lentils and soy protein. (Soy, in fact, has been found to strengthen hair and promote its growth.)
2. Tone down the stress in your life
Whether stress causes you to figuratively or literally tear your hair out makes no difference - just different means to the same split ends.
Stress is the enemy of thick, healthy hair. So, meditation, yoga, walking in nature, attending comedy gigs, boxing, gardening, sex - it doesn't matter what destresses you, so long as it's legal and works.
3. Get plenty of shut-eye
Never underestimate the value of good, restorative sleep. Our body does its best work when we check out for 7 or 8 hours; that's when it recharges all of its systems, including rebuilding and fortifying muscles, bones, skin and - drum-roll please - hair. When you're sleep deprived, you make it harder for these things to occur.
Take affirmative action and get into bed at a reasonable hour every night. And while you're at it, avoid stimulants from early afternoon onwards. That includes cigarettes, caffeine, sugar-laden soft drinks and alcohol.
4. Feed your hair
Eat healthily whenever possible. Ditch the junk food and aim to consume only quality foods that deliver high nutritional bang-for-buck. Avoid foods that are heavily processed and which are high in sugar and unhealthy fats.
5. Try some supplements
The key to keeping your hair healthy as you grow older is optimising its growth cycle. There's myriad hair health promoting products out there in the crowded marketplace - personally, I'd recommend Hairfollic Man by Vitabiotics, which is something of a hero to men seeking to retain their head of hair. It's a blend of vitamins, minerals and bio-active nutrients which, taken orally, can be delivered via the bloodstream directly to the hair root and dermal layers of the scalp.
6. Pamper your scalp
A 2016 study found that a four-minute scalp massage administered every day for 24 weeks resulted in increased hair thickness, suggesting that increased blood flow makes your hair happier. So, book in for a weekly scalp massage to stimulate your hair follicles, Or ask a kindly friend/partner/pet to oblige, or just do it yourself.
7. DIY hot oil treatment
Buy some coconut oil. Wash your hair as usual and towel dry. Place a small, clean bowl over a pot of hot water and mix two tablespoons of coconut oil with one tablespoon of olive oil (for dry hair or dandruff) or one tablespoon of jojoba oil (for fungal scalp problems). Apply to the scalp and massage the hot oil from the roots to the ends. Warm a towel in the clothes dryer or with a hair dryer and wrap your hair for 20 minutes. Finally, wash and rinse your hair then style it as usual. Do this once a month to protect the shafts of hair.
8. Be kind to your hair
This one is common sense, really. Avoid using hot water, straighteners or blow dryers on the hot setting. Don't brush, comb or handle your hair more than is necessary. Use only quality shampoos, conditioners and styling products and give your hair a break from mousses, gels and waxes when you're not going out.
9. Trim regularly
Once every month to six weeks is a good idea to keep split ends at bay.
10. It's never too early
Don't wait until you notice gaping bald patches on your noggin. All the above recommendations - especially getting started on the supplements - are useful for men who care about keeping their hair healthy (and growing). So get used to them now and you'll hold on to your crowning glory for longer.