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Home > Hair Growth & Hair Types > Racial Variations
The human race can be divided among several ethnic groups. Apart from the other morphological differences, there are characteristic differences in the hair types of these groups.
These differences in the hair are not only evident by the appearance of the hair, but also by the density and texture. For instance, red haired people have the least hair density while the blonde hair has the maximum hair density but usually blonde hair is also the finest hair.
Ethnicity can be grouped in 3 major divisions in accordance to ethnic geographic origin:
The hair fiber characteristics are broadly discussed with respect to these 3 groups although differences in hair type can be quite variable even within these three main groups.
Caucasoid hair typically has an oval cross-section resulting in a straight, but flexible length or loose curl. In contrast, Asian hair has a circular cross-section leading to straight hair that can be relatively resistant to curling. Caucasian hair has an intermediate diameter as compared to Asian hair and is more durable when compared to African hair.
Hair of Caucasian people may fall anywhere on the spectrum between the classic Asian and African hair presentations, but it is usually in between these two types – something of a mixture of the two.
Asian hair has a greater diameter and is very straight when compared to any other prominent ethnic group.
The tensile strength of a hair fiber is dependent on its maximum diameter. This tensile strength helps the hair to handle strain more efficiently. While Asian hair strands are often thicker, the hair is less dense. Asians may have as few as 80,000 terminal hair follicles on the scalp. For Caucasians the scalp hair density varies but averages around 100,000.
African hair is often oval to ribbon like in cross section. This means that the hair is more strong and rigid across the wide point of the hair fiber, but is very flexible in the other direction (i.e. like a ribbon). Because of this presentation, the hair often curls tightly.. It is irregular in diameter and the shape has several small twists along the length of the hair shaft, and neither the fiber diameter nor the cuticle diameter is consistent along its length. The shape of African hair has a resemblance to a twisted oval or ribbon. As such, the body of the African-American hair is often tightly coiled and is spiral in shape.
The shape of African hair indicates that there are several fragile points along the length. The outside of a tight curl puts stress on the outer hair fiber cortex and cuticle. The cuticle is very thin and flakes easily on the out side of the curl. As such, these areas of stress in the hair fiber are prone to damage by chemicals and even vigorous combing is enough to flake the cuticle. The water content is minimal which also makes the hair more prone to weathering or severe damage. Also, research has shown that African hair is low in density on the scalp and tends to grow more slowly when compared to the other ethnic groups.
African hair is extremely curly in nature and can be very difficult to comb. The hair breakage is a particular concern in people with African hair, even in chemically untreated hair. While applying styles in curly hair, extra attention and care is required when compared to the styling application of Asian or Caucasian hair. There are black hair care product specifically formulated strictly for African hair. A perming process in this hair is to be done by a special method.
African hair is quite different from Caucasian and Asian hair. So it responds differently when general grooming products are applied on them. Also, the hair is more fragile and tends of break down quickly when compared to other hair types. So it is very necessary to take extra care and use specifically formulated black hair care products in order to get best results.
Need for ethnic-specific hair growth products
The need for ethnic-specific products like hair growth products designed specifically for African hair is largely based on some of the unique properties of ethnic hair types.
Research has demonstrated that African hair is less dense and tends to grow more slowly than the hair of Caucasians. With the significant fragility and slower hair regrowth alopecia is a major concern for many African American women in particular and so hair care with specially formulated hair growth products is important. Humectants in black hair care products are particularly useful to moisturize the hair fiber. Hair straightening products need to be specially formulated to reduce the damage by the chemicals and extra care is needed with processed hair to avoid split ends and breakage.
Reason behind ethnic hair differences
In all the three ethnic groups the content of protein and amino-acids that makes up the keratin protein in the hair are equal. Although the pigment accounts for the major color differences in the hair in different ethnic groups, no quantitative differences in melanocytes have been shown among different ethnic groups. The melanocytes of dark-skinned individuals produce greater quantities of melanin, and melanosomes are often singly dispersed within melanocytes. Caucasians have the same number of melanocytes, but the cells produce less melanin and the melanin they do produce has less color.
The ethnic difference in hair can be related to the different hair shaft
The shape of the hair follicle acts as a mold for the creation of the hair fiber or shaft. Beneath the skin of the scalp, in between the dermis and epidermis there are some specialized cells that are continuously multiplying and are added to the soft hair shaft. The newly produced cells take the shape of the hair follicle root sheaths as soon as they are attached to it. They are then squashed to the already attached cells and then keratinized. The chemical bonds form and hold the newly formed cells to the hair follicle. Thus the newly formed cells get the shape of the hair follicle – curly or straight.
The difference in the fiber characteristics might be related to a difference in the chemical composition of hair in different ethnic groups, but while some studies have suggested a difference in chemical composition this claim still needs to be proved by conclusive studies.
Whatever are the reasons for differences in the hair, it is of importance for all to take specialized care of their hair by good nutrition or supplements and only by special hair care products.