Sun, 13 Jun 2004

Crowning glory: Going to great lengths for a luxurious mane

The hair lengthening method called hair extensions, where hair is basically glued to your natural hair to give a desired length, has been all the rage for some time now.

Now, a modification of hair extensions, called hair progression, which is said to gives thickness and volume instead of just lengthening the hair, has arrived for the follically challenged.

"Hair progression is one step ahead of the hair extension. It gives length and volume, so your hair looks natural. You can also choose the type of the hair, curly or straight, or colored," tricologist Teo Kim Teik from Singapore's Svenson hair center said recently.

Hair progression, which began about nine months ago in the United States, has been patented by Svenson with the brand name Ultratress II.

Teo said the method can only be obtained at Svenson hair centers here.

The method entails gluing strips of the additional hair to several layers of your hair. It can also be applied to areas of the head, such as high up on the temples or the anterior mid- scalp.

"We use 100 percent treated human hair. Sometimes we use synthetic hair for religious reasons, but very little," Teo said.

The process, he added, took only around 90 minutes, compared to about five hours for hair extensions.

"But because of hair growth, you have to come back every one to two months for reattachment," said Teo, who declined to give the cost of the treatment, saying "it's worth every rupiah you spend".

Hair extensions cost about Rp 2 million (about US$222).

According to Teo, the application has become popular in the U.S. and Singapore, especailly for people losing their hair due to medical conditions.

The popularity is also due to the seeming increase in hair loss among men and women, including younger people.

Over 90 percent of hair and scalp problems worldwide, Teo said, were caused by nonmedical factors.

"Trigger factors include stress, poor diet method, scalp problems because of a hair process like rebonding and all, or too many chemicals in the water."

Teo's colleague, tricologist Denise Lundie, said hair loss was increasing rapidly among women. As Asian hair is thicker than Caucasian hair, hair loss is more apparent in the former.

"Perhaps because women are playing a much more active role right now. So, the men's hormone testosterone is more active in women now," she said.

A stressful environment, however, reportedly plays a significant role in losing hair.

Stress hormones produce an enzyme called 5-alpha reductest, which turns testosterone into dehydro testosterone, affecting the scalp and causing hair loss.

Poor diet and drastic weight loss can also cause hair loss, and in some cases, a vegetarian diet lacking in essential nutrients.

"Some 10 percent of our clients in Singapore who are suffering from hair loss are vegetarian. Hair is protein, you see. So, if you're vegetarian, eat a lot of nuts to compensate for lack of animal protein," Teo said.

To ward off hair loss, he added, people must keep their scalps healthy.

Daily shampooing is recommended to eliminate bacteria in the humid climate. Change your shampoo once in a while, for instance by using a different make for a whole week every month.

"Shampoo is actually no problem, unless you're not rinsing it thoroughly. Choose the shampoo that matches your scalp condition, and the conditioner that suits your hair type. Usually, the more expensive the product, the better," Teo said.

The scalp is where it's at in hair health: Since it is as soft as your skin, massage it gently instead of rubbing it vigorously.

"When hair loss occurs, determine first whether it's a problem or not. Then seek professional help, in this case a tricologist. Because a hairdresser only weighs whether hair will look good, while the tricologist emphasizes healthy hair," Lundie said.

-- Hera Diani