Friday, 24 September 2010

Old Age: A Hairy Experience

When I'm in London, I have often walked past an elderly gentleman who must live nearby. Every time I pass him, I have been drawn to his eyes, fascinated by the sheer size of his eyebrows, unable to comprehend how someone can live with such irritatingly obscured vision. I mean these things are huge!

I know as a lady eyebrow plucking is socially acceptable and virtually expected and guys generally don't get the tweezers out but surely when seeing becomes a challenge, it's OK to bend the rules a little? I can only try to imagine how annoying having long curly wispy hairs permanently in sight must be – I sure as hell get annoyed when my rogue side fringe starts growing out. With the birth of the "metrosexual" male, it must be more common for younger guys to sneakily remove the odd hair, right?

Going bald and/or receding seems to be the universal male fear but unruly eyebrows never get a mention. Last weekend, celebrating an old codger's Birthday in a Leeds restaurant the topic of hair came up and I couldn't help but smirk, remembering an earlier hair removal session. Standing in the lift to the flat, I caught sight of two "mutant" insanely long eyebrows curling up and out of The Boy's beanie neatly distributed one per eyebrow. Sitting around the restaurant table chomping on Indian, similar confessions of recent disturbing discoveries started to come out.

I began to wonder whether there was any truth in the whole common belief that hair grows after a person dies and if so, whether greater nose hair, eyebrow and ear hair growth with age is somehow gently preparing us for death. A whole array of sites tell me the whole hair growth after death phenomenon is a myth and the more credible New Scientist confirm this – the hair and nails merely appear to grow as a result of the surrounding tissue drying out and shrinking away from the nail folds and hair shafts. So as the body gradually caves in the hair and nails appear more prominent.

Unfortunately the growth with age of eyebrows, nose hair and ear hair is no natural illusion. Unlike men, ladies are less likely to suddenly develop wild bushy eyebrows and are actually more likely to experience thinning or bald patches due to many years of extensive plucking. Those who notice eyebrows disappearing, may also suffer from general hair loss due to hormonal or thyroid activity changes or vitamin/mineral deficiencies. The so-called “sex steroid hormones”, principally oestrogen and androgen, are supposedly responsible for the thinning of hair and appearance of unwanted excess hair. The old skool method of re-drawing in arches with an eyebrow pencil, is now often overlooked for more realistic and expensive remedies like the recently popular eyebrow transplant procedures.

With age, men are often left with the opposite problem – their hormone levels also change and consistent or increasing levels of testosterone (up to the age of 70), can result in vigorous hair growth, especially in areas that flourished less in youth. Yep those pesky ear hairs, nasal whiskers and eyebrows! Trips to a a clinic for professional trimming and shaping, purchasing electrical hair trimmers, or perhaps the privacy of tweezers behind closed doors all suddenly sound more appealing.

The nose and ears have actually got thousands of hairs already on and inside them too small for the eye to see. After all, apparently the hairiest part of the body in terms of density of hairs per unit area is the tip of the nose and how many people complain of wolf nose? Although, I did use to work with a man many years ago who suffered from exactly that ailment. Some nasal hair is preferable to none to protect against allergies and particles in the air being inhaled, just like some eyebrow hair is useful to soak up sweat and protect the eyes. But when you have a brow streaked vision of the world things have surely gone too far?

1 comment:

  1. You're probably too young to remember much about Dennis Healey, but, as I've found out, his hirsute spectre will come to haunt the eyebrows and ears of any man over 40 :S
    - Leo P