Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What is Hair?

Hair 101

Hello Beautiful Ones,

I feel that if I am going to blog about hair and hair styling options, I first must discuss what hair is:  the structure and its components. How can you learn to care for your hair if you do not know what it is?

Let’s take a quick look at a scientific understanding of hair:

  • ·         We all have between 100,000-150,000 follicles and hairs on our head, which is genetically predetermined. (2)
  • ·         Each hair on our scalp is composed of a protein called keratin, which is made of amino acids. (2)
  • ·         Hair also contains lipids (fats), water, and melanin granules (this gives our hair color and minerals). (2)
  • ·        The hair follicle is a tubular sheath that encloses the root of the developing strand. (2)
  • ·         The hair (protein in the hair) beneath the scalp becomes hardened. (3)
  • ·         It is pushed out by growth that continues in the hair follicle. One the hair is pushed out of the scalp it no longer experiences cell division. (3)
  • ·         Cells that are no longer dividing are dead cells. (3)
  • ·         Technically, hair is dead. Not just the ends, but the entire strand. There are no living cells above the hair follicle. That is why when you cut or trim it, you do not feel a thing. (3)
  • ·         We sometimes assume it is alive due to lifelike characteristics: shine, elasticity, and resilience. (2)
  • ·         The hair follicle can produce other characteristics such as tightly curled hair, wavy, and straight hair, depending on your genetic makeup. Some people have hair follicles that produce wavy, curly, and straight hair and a combo of all three. (2)
  • ·         The hair shaft has 3 components: (1) (4)
1.       The Cuticle: An outer protective layer (Form overlapping scales which make the hair flexible). The cuticle has no color. You can “open the scales’ to allow substances and chemical to penetrate the shaft
2.       The Cortex: A Central Middle. (Determines the color of the hair). It is made of long fibrous polypeptide held together by 3 bonds: hydrogen, salt, di-sulphide or sulphur. The chains give us the ability to stretch our hair into different hairstyles
3.       The Medulla: A Central Core (typically found only in thick, coarse hair).
  • ·         The Sebaceous Glands (oil) are part of the hair follicle. These glands produce sebum, our hair & skin’s natural oil. (Not on palms of hands or soles of feet). (1)
  • ·         Sebum conditions the skin and act as barrier to prevent moisture loss. Sebum is made of a mixture of fatty lipids-glycerides, fatty acids, wax esters, squalene and cholesterol. (1)
  • ·         The structure of the hair gives it a healthy appearance (3)
  • ·         Depending on the porosity and flexibility of the hair, you can loss that healthy appearance. (1) (2)

Healthy hair strand

Damaged Hair Strand

Understanding the structure and characteristics of your hair is important. Please understand that hair is not living. This will help you understand the importance of preserving your strands, which I will discuss in future posts. You will be more likely to engage in healthy hair practices once your understand hair preservation. This knowledge will further aid you in developing a solid hair care regimen.

Did you enjoy this quick scientific breakdown? Please give me your feedback.

Hope this information will be useful in your hair journey!


Hair Kitty Kitty


1.       Audrey Davis-Sivasothy, The Science of Black Hair: A Comprehensive Guide to Textured Hair Care, ( Stafford, Texas: Saja Publishing Company, LLC, 2011).
2.       “What is Hair”, 2012.
3.       Chicoro, Grow It: How to Grow Afro-Textured Hair to Maximum Lengths in the Shortest Time, (ChicoroGYA Publishing, 2009).
4.       “What is Hair: Hairdressing Training”, 2012.

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