This article is from the August - September 2000 The Mexico File newsletter.
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Maximum Hair Length

by Bruce McGovern 

In the 17 years since I first visited rural Puebla, television has invaded. In 1983, most rural women still wore long braids. Today, that is rare. Those poor, rural women look much like their big sisters on TV, though there are still a few women who wear long hair, even if itís seldom braided. 

Recently, I ran across an article in Discover magazine on hair length. Maximum hair length is biologically, and perhaps genetically, determined. Hair follicles have two modes: growth, and rest. 

Most people have a 6-month growth mode, then the follicle rests, and the hair dries and falls out. Later, the follicle produces hair again. So, no matter how much you spend on conditioners, your hair will never get any longer than it can grow during the growth cycle. 

My wife believes that growth cycle changes with age. That could explain why older people often have short or sparse hair. My wife also said once they cut the really long hair, it will never grow that long again. I must wonder if that is more circumstance than biology, because I suspect once a woman gets rid of that daily chore of caring for extremely long hair, she will never again tolerate it. I think it is no coincidence the long hair usually disappears just about the time the babies come on the scene, and her work load goes up. 

My daughter needed her hair brushed the day she was born. Until she was 18, her hair length varied between knee length and floor length, depending upon when it was trimmed. In retrospect, I am assuming her growth cycle was at least 18 to 24 months. But, we're not sure, because it was always trimmed when she started walking on it. 

Discover magazine said the longest recorded hair was 23 feet, belonging to a man from India. Itís interesting to note that some of my daughterís ancestry is from India. 

My wife said her own hair fell below her waist, which would imply an 8 to 12 month growth cycle. When my kid was little, I was brushing her hair under the avocado trees. My wife asked me to move so her grandma could watch, since it's not common for Mexican men to brush their daughterís hair. Grandma, who died in 1985 at age 99, watched with great interest. She then told me her hair, when she was a young woman, was so long that when she piled it up for a dance, the weight of it on her head gave her headaches.