Getting down to the root of the issue, a multi-ethnic study has demonstrated the “superiority” (of health) of the Indian hair.

A team headed by Yashwanth Kamath, who used to head the Textile Research Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, tested samples of hair for four characteristics that determine healthy hair - thickness, tensile strength, shine, and smoothness. Caucasian, Asian and Indian hair samples were put to the test for the World's Best Hair study.

Their results put an end to any splitting of hairs over the issue: in terms of health, the Indian hair is the best, topping other ethnic groups on all four counts. So, are we only genetically endowed, or do we even do a better job of grooming?

S. Sugandhan, consultant dermatologist and cosmetologist, MIOT Hospitals, says other studies in the past have proved that Indian hair is also the densest – in terms of number of hairs per follicle. “Hair health depends both on several physiological, pathological causes and grooming. The latter is more to do with preventing breakages and split ends,” he says.

These are the facts: On an average, everyone with a head full of hair has one lakh follicles.

Of this, it is estimated that about 85 – 90 per cent are in the growth phase, about 15-10 per cent are resting and hair fall also happens between these stages. Normally, hair grows in cycles of growing, resting and shedding and each strand has a life of 4-6 years. Everyday, the body normally sheds nearly 50 – 100 strands of hair.

Vegetables, milk help

Is that reassuring? G.R.Ratnavel, consultant dermatologist, Apollo Hospitals, says 30-40 per cent of his patients come with hair problems – dandruff and hair fall (nutritional, hormonal or because of excessive use of cosmetics). Of this 10 per cent are unnecessarily worried about hair fall, he says.

Even as you thank your parents and ethnic group for the hair you have been endowed with, remember that nutrition is responsible for good health. Eating dates, greens, milk, vegetables and using oil (the anti-fungal gingelly oil is apparently best) help.

Among women, anaemia and thyroid problems are the major causes for hair loss, Dr. Sugandan says. High stress situations, such as examinations or pregnancy; chronic illness or acute illness resulting in hospitalisation can also cause hair fall. Dull, lifeless hair, split ends and hair breakage have external causes – frequent beauty parlour procedures - specially curling and straightening. As for hair colouring, using a darker colour is okay, but not light colours, as for this, the hair will have to be bleached first, he adds.Pollution and using hard water also affect the strength of the hair, says Dr. Ratnavel. Using shampoo (the right one for your hair and skin) regularly will, contrary to public opinion, prevent dandruff; and conditioners coat the hair and improve its strength texture. Comparisons between Indian oiled and unoiled samples in the World's Best Hair Study demonstrate that oiling modifies certain physical characteristics like the diameter of hair and also lowers loss of vital proteins.

Loss of hair density and greying are attendant with the ageing process and are determined by what genes one has inherited.

But with premature greying and balding too, solutions are available, dermatologists assure. And for those who cannot be helped that way, there is always hair transplantation.