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China's First Lady of Long Hair Reveals Scalp Secret

China's first lady of long hair whose tresses are 4.2 meters long was the star attraction at another exhibition in the ongoing "The Year of France in China" which delved deeply into the secrets of the growth on everyone's scalp.

An old Chinese saying says that long hair will bring a woman "troubles." However, that is definitely not the case with fashion-conscious ladies in today's China who well know the importance to their appearance of having a chic hairstyle.


Just ask Dai Yueqin.


Dai, the woman with the longest locks in China, removed the scarf wrapped around her head to show off her 4.2-meter-long hair at the "Decoding the Hair" exhibition in Beijing last week. Dai has not cut her hair for 26 years from when she was 14 years old. She was swamped by visitors at the exhibition and she shared with them her tips on how best to look after one's hair.


"Though it's hard, beyond the imagination of most people, to be able to keep one's hair so long, I love it. It's the only way I know," she says with the excitement that comes into her voice when she talks about her special claim to fame.


As a special guest of the exhibition designed and produced by La Cite des Sciences and L'Oreal, Dai also works hand in hand with hair researchers to pass on the secret of her lovely long hair.


Patricia Pineau, a professional hair expert, says given that an individual hair grows between 1 and 1.5 centimeters a month and that its usual life expectancy is about three years, a person with very long hair is quite exceptional.


Judging by the first-day crowds at the exhibition, the silky strands that adorn human heads are indeed a subject of fascination.


How fast does hair grow? Does grey hair really exist? These questions and more were answered at the exhibition. Visitors were able to learn all about the social and scientific aspects of hair: composition, growth, loss, color, shape, types and properties.


The exhibition, another highlight of "The Year of France in China," debuted in Paris in 2001 and was a great success.


It then went on a tour of Holland, Portugal, Germany, Finland, Britain and Mexico. Before arriving in Beijing, it also stopped in Hong Kong where it drew tens of thousands of visitors.


The exhibition features multi-media displays, computers and interactive games. It includes four topics: "Between Life and Matter," featuring the structure and properties of hair by using a model of a hair root; "Science Behind the Products," emphasizing industrial research related to hair care; "Hair throughout the World," enabling visitors to explore different "hair cultures;" and, the "Metamorphosis Room," which is particularly popular with visitors as it has more than 120 different hairstyles in multi-media simulation games.


Visitors can try any and every daring hairstyles with just the click of a mouse. The styles date from the 16th, 18th or early 20th century down to a quiff right out of the 1960s, a bob in the style of Louise Brooks and traditional hairstyles from Papua New Guinea, Namibia and Brazil.


Liang Yanchun, a visitor at the exhibition, says that she was intrigued by the way that the "science of hair" has been presented.


"We can touch, we can see and we can have hands-on experience," she says. "The exhibition combines sheer fun with informative insights into the world of hair. After seeing this exhibition I feel that my understanding of hair is growing."


In order to unravel the mysteries behind the astonishing growth on our heads, visitors are allowed to examine their own hair under a microscope and look at hair that has been magnified 1 million times.


As "Decoding the Hair" demonstrates, there is much more to hair than meets the eye.


Stephane Commo, a hair expert with L'Oreal, points out that hair is made up of an exceptional material: its strength is such that a lock of hair can easily support great weights.


Historians and archeologists have found traces of cocaine in the hair of a 4,000-year old Peruvian mummy.


And, 3,000 years after the death of the Egyptian Pharaoh Rameses, hair analysis shows that he had red-blond hair and pale skin.


Unlike blood, hair can store evidence of a person's toxicology and food habits. So 6cm of hair can hold six months' worth of information about their lifestyle.


And it pays special attention to one's hair in summer. The sun-drenched season can be extremely harmful to hair and while people use some form of skin-care protection, most don't even think about the harsh effect the sun has on hair.


Alain Franbourg, one of the co-authors of the "Science of Hair Care," says that sunbathing and swimming will damage even the healthiest hair by exposing it to harmful UV light, sea salt, and pool chemicals. And if one's hair is already dry, brittle, damaged, bleached or dyed, great care is needed to protect it.


Unprotected hair soaks up the sun's rays and the pool's chlorinated water like a sponge.


Heat has a drying effect. Wind dries out the hair and increases static electricity. UV rays weaken the hair and fade color.


Salt and chlorine attack, the hair follicle opens up and hair can fall out or split ends appear.


Franbourg says that Chinese people's hair is much more malleable compared with that of Europeans and its completely round circumference indicates that it should have a better sheen. However, Chinese hair still needs protection.


The newest development in hair care is protective products that utilize natural plant proteins in shampoos and conditioners, vitamins, UV filters and polymers that coat and actually repair damaged hair.


A healthy diet also helps. Nuts and seeds can help promote luster and the fiber from fruits and vegetables help to restore shine and body.


And don't forget to have eight to 10 glasses of water a day because water benefits both hair and skin.


And last of all, Franbourg warns "not to brush your hair too much" because it hurts the scales protecting the hair strands.


The exhibition free of charge to visitors runs until September 15 at the China Science and Technology Museum in Beijing.


Though Shanghai will miss the event this year it's always nice to learn more about one's hair - after all, no one wants to have even one "bad hair day."


(Eastday.com July 6, 2005)

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