We all know the story of Rapunzel, the 1812 Grimms Brother fairy tale of the beautiful young woman trapped in a tower. Using her long hair, she pulls the witch up into the tower whenever the witch calls out:
"Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your hair so I can climb the golden stair"
A few weeks ago, I found myself writing about Rapunzel's hair, an unusual event in my day to day activities. But the story of Rapunzel has a few important lessons for anyone interested in learning more about the magic of hair.
1. Hair is remarkably strong. The Grimms brothers were correct in creating this fictional character who could help pull up another human being with her own hair. Our hair is incredibly strong. In fact, a single hair fiber has about the same tensile strength as a copper wire of the same caliber. If a hair is stretched very slowly it will support about 70 grams. Of course, if a hair is tugged quickly it will break. Hair is so strong that Rapunzel could have supported 50 people climbing up her hair - at once!
2. Blondes have more hair. Rapunzel had blond hair. Although most people don't know it, blondes have more hair than those with brown hair. Those with red hair have the least. The more hair you have the more weight you can support, so it's no wonder Rapunzel was created a blonde.
3. Most people can not grow hair as long as Rapunzel. The maximum length our hair will grow is determined by the length of the growing phase (also called the anagen phase). For most humans, the anagen phase of scalp hair varies from 2 to 6 years. Because hair grows about 15cm per year, most people can only grown hair down to their mid back and rarely to their waist. It is only a rare person who is able to grow hair down to their feet (or beyond). At my last check, the world record for the longest hair belongs to Xie Quiping in China. Her hair length was once measured at 6.627 m (18 ft 5.54 inches). It is not true that Xie's hair grows fast rather her anagen growth phase is very, very long.
Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887