A new book in the French collection "Découvertes Gallimard" , to allow you to discover the passion of hair and its history which animates since nearly once century the scientists of L'Oréal.
100,000 to 150,000 hairs or 200 to 300 hairs per sq. cm: it is the average number of hair on the head of a man or woman. A hair grows about 0.3 to 0.5 mm per day or 1 to 1.5 cm per month. Taken for the head as a whole, this rate of growth represents production of 1.3 km of hair per month and 16 km per year! Straight, curly, frizzy, blond, red, chestnut brown or brown, there is an infinite variety of shapes and colors depending on ethnic origin, genetics and age.
Hair : a Subject of Fascination
Today, there are intense scientific efforts to study and explain the nature of hair and the causes of their growth or loss, their mechanical and cosmetic properties. Throughout history and in all civilizations, hair has been a subject of fascination. In primitive societies, in the world of the Bible, and in ancient history, hair was thought to have magical or sacred properties. The soul is linked to the body by the hair. Samson loses his strength when Dalilah cuts his hair as he sleeps. The Francs, Aztec priests and today the Sikhs do not cut their hair. The Iroquois, with the practice of scalping, used the hair of the dead for the living men.
In society, there are many terms used for hair : its abundance or scarcity, color, and shape all reveal elements of character. Hair is sacrificed for religion when it is shaved off or covered with a veil. Some societies shaved the heads of slaves, prisoners or adulterous women. In more recent times, short hair for women symbolized liberation and long hair for men was a challenge to and refusal of the establishment.
Hair also expresses culture : while the savage is hairy, civilized man has cut and styled hair. Hair expresses beauty, sensuality and place in society. It is styled, dyed, made into wigs or hairpieces. Magic and scientific potions are used to maintain it, embellish it, treat it, or to understand it.
Marie Christine Auzou is a pharmacist. In addition to working on many publications, she also taught technical and regulatory aspects of cosmetics in several French universities before founding the Department of Scientific Communication of the Hair Applied Research and Development Laboratories of the L'Oréal Group in 1984.
Sabine Melchior-Bonnet is a historian in the department of modern and contemporary history (College de France). She is interested in changes in trends and the history of women.