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The anatomy of hair

The anatomy of hair

What is hair made up of? What actually makes my hair grow? What does it look like in the first place? The process of hair growth can be a fascinating thing but what exactly do all these terms mean? This we are going to explain to you. From birth we naturally grow hair, something we think is pretty normal and don't give it a second thought... But it certainly has a function. Read more in this blog about the anatomy of hair.

What is the function of hair

Our hair certainly has a function... In fact, it has three:

  • 1. Protective function
  • 2. Social function
  • 3. Aesthetic function.

The most important function is the protective function, it protects against temperature changes, UV radiation and keeps unwanted moisture, dust and dirt out. The social and aesthetic functions come close to each other, of course we are all happy when we come back from the hairdresser's and shine with a beautiful fresh look. This makes you happy and also reflects your image. Besides the function of hair, we will tell you more about the origin and construction of hair in this blog.

The origins of hair growth

Head hair grows fastest relative to other human body hair. Hair can grow for two to seven years until it falls out. Hair growth starts in the scalp and to grow, your hair needs food and oxygen. Therefore, it is important to eat a varied diet to encourage healthy hair growth. For instance, salmon, green vegetables, eggs, oysters, beans, whole grain products and nuts are good for hair and these nutrients can promote growth. Hair goes through different phases, starting from:

  • 1- The growth phase. During the growth phase, blood vessels provide nutrients and oxygen to the hair and new hairs are pushed out from the scalp, this takes two to seven years. It then enters...
  • 2- The transition phase. The hair follicle closes and there is no more contact between the hair root and the hair bulb. However, the hair still remains in the scalp. After the transition phase, the hair enters the...
  • 3- The resting phase. This lasts for two to four months. During this phase, under the old hair, new hair forms. The old ones become loose and fall out. The growth cycle begins again.

Fact: By the way, did you know that on average you lose about 50 to 100 hairs a day, a lot, right?

groeifasen van het haar

What is hair made up of?

What is hair actually made up of? Sounds logical, but when you start thinking about it, it's rather disappointing... Hair consists of a root and a shaft, the hair root is located in the dermis. Surrounding the hair root is always a hair follicle, also known as the hair follicle. Attached to the hair follicle are the sebaceous glands. The hair follicle ends in the hair bulb, which contains the living cells. In the middle of the hair bulb is the hair papilla, which contains the blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients the hair needs to grow. What's also nice to know is that this is where pigment is produced, giving the hair its colour (see the top image for more clarity). The outer part of the hair is called the hair shaft and this consists of three layers:

  • The cuticle layer - this layer protects the two underlying layers. The cuticle layer consists of keratin scales that lie on top of each other like roof tiles. Keratin is a protein and are the building blocks of hair. In healthy hair, the cuticles are closed and reflect light coming onto the hair. This makes for strong and shiny hair. When these scales are open, split ends occur, it gets tangled quickly and is porous + dull.
  • The fibre layer - This is the thickest layer (the middle one) and consists of long fibres that give strength and elasticity to the hair. This contains various compounds such as sulphur bonds and hydrogen bonds.
  • The medulla - This is the innermost layer of the hair and nourishes the hair for as long as the hair is in your head.

See the image below for more clarity:

So much for the base of the hair, bizarre what all is contained in such a thin strand of hair, isn't it?


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