On the contrary, cutting and shaving will cause the hair to grow longer for the time being, but in the end will inevitably shorten its term of life by exhausting the nutritive action of the hair-forming apparatus. When the hairs are frequently cut, they will usually become coarser, often losing the beautiful gloss of the fine and delicate hairs. The pigment will likewise change - brown, for instance, becoming chestnut, and black changing to a dark brown. In addition, the ends of very many will be split and ragged, presenting a brush like appearance. If the hairs appear stunted in their growth upon portions of the scalp or beard, or gray hairs crop up here and there, the method of clipping off the ends of the short hairs, of plucking out the ragged, withered, and gray hairs, will allow them to grow stronger, longer, and thicker.
Mothers, in rearing their children, should not cut their hair at certain periods of the year (during the superstitious time of full moon), in order to increase its length and luxuriance as they bloom into womanhood, and manhood. This habit of cutting the hair of children brings evil in place of good, and is also condemned by the distinguished worker in this department, Professor Kaposi, of Vienna, who states that it is well known that the hair of women who possess luxuriant locks from the time of girlhood never again attains its original length after having once been cut.
Pincus has made the same observation by frequent experiment, and he adds that there is a general opinion that frequent cutting of the hair increases its length; but the effect is different from that generally supposed. Thus, upon one occasion he states that he cut off circles of hair an inch in diameter on the heads of healthy men, and from week to week compared the intensity of growth of the shorn place with the rest of the hair. The result was surprising to this close and careful observer, as he found in some cases the numbers were equal, but generally the growth became slower after cutting, and he has never observed an increase in rapidity.
I might also add that I believe many beardless faces and bald heads in middle and advancing age are often due to constant cutting and shaving in early life. The young girls and boys seen daily upon our streets with their closely cropped heads, and the young men with their clean-shaven faces, are, year by year, by this fashion, having their hair-forming apparatus overstrained.
I also must condemn the modern practice of curling and crimping, the use of bandoline, powders, and all varieties of gum solutions, sharp hair-pins, long-pointed metal ornaments and hair combs, the wearing of chignons, false plaits, curls, and frizzes, as the latter are liable to cause headaches and tend to congestion. Likewise I protest against the use of castor-oil and the various mixtures extolled as the best hair-tonics, restoratives, vegetable hair-dyes, or depilatories, as they are highly injurious instead of beneficial, the majority of hair-dyes being largely composed of lead salts. But, should your patients wish to hide their gray hairs, probably the best hair-dye that can be used safely is pyrogallic acid or walnut juice, the hairs being first washed with an alkaline solution to get rid of the grease. Nitrate of silver is also a good and safe hair-dye, but its application should be done by one experienced in its use. The judicious use of these hair-dyes will give the hair above the surface of the skin a brownish-black appearance, the intensity of the color of which depends upon the strength of the solution. But hair-dyeing for premature grayness should be avoided, as the diseased condition may be averted by the proper remedies.
Never permit the hair to be bleached for the purpose of obtaining the fashionable golden hue, as the arsenical solution generally used is highly dangerous; but, if your patients must have their hair of a golden color, insist upon their hairdresser using the peroxide of hydrogen, which is less dangerous than the preparation first mentioned.
Perhaps one of the most pernicious compounds used for the hair at the present day is that which is sold in the shops as a depilatory. It is usually a mixture of quicklime and arsenic, and is wrongly used and recommended at this time by many physicians to remove hairy moles and an excessive growth of hair upon ladies' faces. Its application excites inflammation of the skin; and, while it removes the hair from the surface for a time, it often leaves a scar, or makes the part rough, congested, and deformed.
In the meantime, the hair will grow after a short period stronger, coarser, and changed in color, which will even more disfigure the person's countenance. With the present scientific knowledge of the application of electrolysis, hairs can be removed from the face of ladies or children, or in any improper situation, in the most harmless manner without using such obnoxious and injurious compounds as depilatories.
In conclusion, let me add that, if the hair becomes altered in texture, or falls out gradually or suddenly, or changes in color, a disease of the hair, either locally or generally, has set in, and the hair, and perhaps the constitution, now needs, as in any other disease, the constant care of the physician.
A general remedy for this or that hair disease that may develop will not answer, as hair diseases, like other affections, have no one remedy which will overcome wasting, thinning, or loss of color. Patients reasoning upon this belief, frequently apply to me for a remedy to restore their hair to its full vigor or give them back its color. I always reply that I have no such remedy.
The general health, as well as the scalp and hairs, must be examined carefully, particularly the latter, with the lens and microscope. All changes must be watched, and the treatment varied from time to time according to the indications.
No one remedy can, therefore, under any circumstances, suit, as the remedy used to-day may be changed at the next or succeeding visit. No remedy for the hair will be necessary if the foregoing advice be followed which I have just narrated, and which is the result of some seven years of labor and experience.
The proper consideration and putting into practice of these suggestions will most certainly secure to the rising generation fewer bald heads and more luxuriant hair than is possessed at the present day.
Abstract of a paper read before the Pennsylvania State Medical Society, at Norristown, May 10, 1883. - N.Y. Med. Jour.
[Concluded from SUPPLEMENT No. 387, page 6179.]