What makes hair curly or straight?

This depends on the shape of the follicles from which the hair grows. The follicle moulds the developing hair, which is pushed up through the follicle towards the surface of the skin by new cells forming underneath. As it pushes up, the cells harden (keratinise) to form hair. Some hair follicles are straight and cylindrical, which result in straight hair, while others are oval shaped or flattened, in which case the person will have wavy or kinky hair. Of course there are degrees in between, but the flatter the follicle the curlier the hair, and the rounder the follicle the straighter the hair.

Is it true that people living in very cold climates have little body or facial hair?

Yes, this is true. If there is little hair, moisture cannot be trapped near the skin’s surface where it can freeze and cause frostbite. Similarly, tightly coiled hair, such as that seen on people of African origin, aids cooling by allowing sweat to evaporate, as the hair doesn’t spread and stick to the skin.

What makes hair curly or straight? Photo Gallery

What is hair analysis?

This is chemical analysis of a hair sample. It is widely used in forensics (e.g. crime identification) and toxicology (determining levels of toxic chemicals or drugs in the body). Some complementary and alternative therapists as well as medical practitioners analyse hair samples to check for nutritional deficiencies and imbalances. Hair samples are easy to take and can show what has passed from the bloodstream to the follicle in the previous 6-8 weeks.

An important aspect of the holistic approach to health is being able to recognise the limitations of the treatment you offer. A diligent professional therapist is aware of the benefits of other treatments and knows when to refer clients to a medical practitioner or to a more appropriate complementary or alternative therapy. Even though they are frequently grouped together, a distinction may be made between complementary and alternative medicine. Complementary therapies do not focus on diagnosing or curing disease, but can be used simultaneously with conventional medicine to reduce side effects and stress and to increase well-being. Alternative therapies such as osteopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, herbal medicine and homeopathy, all have an individual diagnostic approach and can in some instances be used in place of conventional medicine. In this chapter we discuss some of the main complementary and alternative therapies. If you are a therapist, you should experience some of these therapies yourself so that you have first-hand knowledge to pass on to your clients, as well as benefiting your own well-being.


This is a traditional Chinese bodywork technique that is based on the same ideas as acupuncture but without the use of needles. It involves placing physical pressure (by hand, elbow or with various devices) on points on the surface of the body to release blocked energy and bring about relief through greater balance and circulation of energy in the body. Depth of pressure and length of time applied are important aspects of the treatment. This treatment can be performed through clothing.


An ancient Chinese technique involving the insertion of fine needles just under the skin in specific locations, according to a mapping of energy pathways (meridians), to relieve pain and treat a wide variety of complaints. Acupuncture can be beneficial in a wide range of medical conditions, including neurological, gastrointestinal, mental and emotional. It is commonly used to control pain and to treat chronic conditions such as allergies or addictions. Disposable needles are used for hygiene and safety purposes.

Alexander technique

Frederick Mathias Alexander (1868-1955), an Australian actor, developed this technique after discovering that improving his posture stopped him losing his voice. It is usually taught in individual lessons, during which the student becomes aware of unconscious bad habits and patterns in their everyday activities, including walking, sitting, standing, bending and lifting. Alexander technique provides a means for overcoming these habits by teaching clients how to stop interfering with their body’s innate co-ordination and guiding them through simple movements to become aware of proper physical function. Alexander technique is especially useful for treating backaches and headaches, which are often due to poor posture.

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