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Maybe the name makes his hair grow faster

ScienceScientific ResearchBiologyRick James

Talk about a head of hair! This photo was sent to us by Robert Speed of San Diego, who challenges anyone to come up with tresses as long and luxuriant as his own.

"People are saying I have the most unique and longest hair they have ever seen," wrote Speed, who -- according to a San Diego area news report -- "is an R&B and rock musician who's toured with big names like Rick James and Sister Sledge. He began growing his hair out in the '80s, when his record label told him he needed a standout look."

"It weighs about 30 pounds, and has to be washed in sections," the article continues.

We don't know what Speed's trick is, but it is true that some people can grow far longer hair than others, generally for reasons of genetics.

If you're interested in more fabulous hair facts, go to the "Amazing Hair Facts!" Web page of Dr. Jerry Shapiro of the University of British Columbia. It's at www.dermatology.org/skincare/hair/hairfact.html. Lots and lots of hair science, meanwhile, is to be found at www.keratin.com, the website of hair scientist Kevin McElwee, who works in Germany.

Some fabulous hair facts:

* Hair -- next to bone marrow -- is the fastest-growing tissue in the body

* The average scalp contains 100,000 hairs.

* The average head produces 35 meters of hair every day.

* You can lose more than 50% of your hair before it is apparent to anyone.

*Hair follicles (where hairs are grown) go through phases:

-- The "anagen" phase -- the time when the follicle is busy making hair. It lasts 500 to 1,800 days, during which time the hair is growing about 0.3 millimeters a day.

-- The "telogen" phase -- when growth stops and the hair is shed.

Then the cycle begins again.

Some people -- most likely for reasons of genetics -- have follicles that stay in the anagen phase indefinitely. That was probably the case for the seven Sutherland sisters. Their hair reached the floor and they used their fabulous tresses to tout a quack hair-growth treatment early last century. Maybe Speed, too, is in perpetual anagen?

He has a while to go, however, before he challenges the official world record holder, Xie Qiuping of China. Her hair, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, was 5.627 meters (18 feet, 5.54 inches) when measured May 8, 2004. She'd been growing her hair since the age of 13, in 1973.

-- Rosie Mestel

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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