12 Unbelievable Things You Never Knew About Hair

We’ve all got it. Most of us, anyway. But what do we know about it? Here are 12 astonishing facts about hair.

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Yes, you read that right: FIVE MILLION! We have between 100,000 and 150,000 on our head alone. Add to that chest hair (for some of us), facial hair (yes, we’ve all got it), armpit hair, etc. and you get to an astonishing 5 million. Can’t believe it? Then you’d better get counting…

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Yes — SIXTEEN. KILOMETRES. That’s 1.3 kilometres a month! “Then how come I’m not Rapunzel?” you ask. Well, if you divide that total by the number of hairs on your head, it comes to an average growth per hair of 1.2 cm per month. So don’t count on letting your hair down for any princes any time soon. But if you do, you should know that…

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Meaning a head of hair could bear a weight of 12 tons. Or a lot of princes.

N.B.: don’t try this at home. Especially if you’re a man, because…

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That’s the hormone responsible for hair loss in men.

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Scroll down to discover another cause of baldness…

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Now try saying that ten times in rapid succession (check your colleagues aren’t listening first). Or read on to find out why 1500 years ago this habit was potentially lethal…

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France, 532 AD: as the Merovingian kingdom lies in turmoil, Queen Clotilde is offered an ultimatum by her power-hungry brother-in-law: let your sons’ heads be shorn or see them executed. Her answer: she would rather see them dead than without their hair.

Contrary to what you may be thinking, Clotilde wasn’t some early die-hard fashionista. For the Merovingian kings of Francia (5th-8th centuries AD), flowing locks cascading over their shoulders weren’t just a style statement: their shining manes were the very symbol of their authority. To lose them was a fate worse than death. Quite literally.

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King Clovis I of Francia (c. 466 — c. 511)

It’s a good thing they weren’t devotees of Vishnu, because…

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A barber and devotee at the Sri Venkateswara Temple

Every day, 30,000 Hindus visit the Sri Venkateswara Temple in Tirumala to have theirs heads shaved and offer their hair to Lord Venkateswara, an incarnation of the god Vishnu.

Do you know what long Latin word is revealed if you shave your head?

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Diagram of the infundibulum

infundibulum, noun, in·fun·dib·u·lum \ˌin-(ˌ)fən-ˈdi-byə-ləm\
plural in·fun·dib·u·la\-lə\
— the cup or funnel in which a hair follicle grows
(Origin: Latin for funnel)

Yes, your hair is that clever. It’s also a little bit dangerous…

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But don’t worry — only in tiny amounts. It also contains traces of calcium, cadmium, chromium, copper, mercury, zinc, lead, iron and silicon.

Scroll down to find out what the chemical analysis of hair revealed about a famous composer.

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Just before his death, the irascible composer asked his brother to establish once and for all what the illness that plagued him throughout his life really was “so that… the world will be reconciled with me”. His request was finally aswered in 2000 when analysis of the composer’s hair showed over 100 times the usual level of lead.

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Could lead poisoning be the reason for Beethoven’s brooding temperament?

And that’s not the only secret hair science has revealed…

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In 1976, in partnership with the Atomic Energy Commission and the Musée de l’Homme, L’Oréal’s laboratories conducted analyses of Ramesses the Great’s mummy. The results showed that the pharaoh (1303 — 1213 BC) was not only naturally reddish-blond but that he died his hair with a henna-based colorant. With great power comes great… vanity?

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Ramesses II’s mummy

Scroll down to discover another of L’Oréal’s great hair discoveries…

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A hair growing in a culture dish at the L’Oréal laboratories

This record-breaking achievement was accomplished in L’Oréal’s laboratories. A follicle was placed in a carefully determined medium in a culture dish where the hair grew just like it would on a person’s head, reaching a length of 1.5 cm! This revolutionary technique offers a unique way of resolving questions concerning the growth and regulation of hair.

So there you have it: hair in all its amazing statistical, historical, cultural and scientific glory! And you thought it was just something to cut and style…

Image sources:

6. By stuartpilbrow at Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

8. “Tonsure tirupathi” by Jamdirt631 — http://www.flickr.com/photos/98904746@N08/10075817186/. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons — http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tonsure_tirupathi.jpg#/media/File:Tonsure_tirupathi.jpg

9. Hair, L’Oréal Research & Innovation

13. Hair, L’Oréal Research & Innovation

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