Thursday, November 17, 2011

Makeup of Hair

Your hair is made up of a few parts, and is a little complex. Understanding these parts, and their individual functions can be beneficial when it comes to achieving healthy hair, and scalp. It's also very important in growing long, healthy hair, and maintaining the hair you have currently.

The main parts of your head of hair involve your scalp, hair, hair follicle, sebum, and the sebaceous gland.
What exactly are these?


Hair: Keratin that's composed of two parts; the shaft (the visible part above the scalp) and the follicle (which can't be seen and is below the surface of the skin).

Keratin: Protein that gives hair its strength. It makes up your hair, nails, and top layer of skin.

Follicle: Is the living part of the hair containing blood capillaries. The follicles shape influences the shape of the cortex, which in turn determines what the hair type will be. Ex. curly, straight, wavy

Shaft: Is made of three layered keratin layers. Ex. cuticle, cortex, medulla

Sebum: A natural oil that's produced by the sebaceous glands. It helps protect the skin and hair from drying out. It's usually odorless unless there's bacteria present.

Sebaceous Gland: Responsible for producing oil that protects the hair and skin.


To maintain healthy hair it's very important to protect and nourish all parts of your hair.

Cuticle in Detail
  • The outer most layer of hair
  • Gives hair its sheen
  • Made of tight scaled keratin layers- think roof shingles
  • It's transparent
  • Functions as a protective layer to the hair
  • Part that absorbs conditioners
  • Causes tangles and snags if the layers are lifted or damaged
  • Can't repair itself once damaged

Cortex in Detail
  • The second layer of the hair shaft
  • Makes up the majority of the mass
  • Contains pigmented cells that gives hair its color
  • Helps determine the elasticity of hair
  • Area of the hair that experiences damage from heat and chemicals
  • Holds moisture
Medulla in Detail
  • Center of the hair shaft
  • Isn't continuous throughout the length of hair
  • Thick or coarse hair has a medulla
  • Thin hair usually lacks it
  • Blonde hair doesn't have one
  • It's purpose is unknown

The shape of your hair follicle determines whether your hair will be straight, wavy, or curly. You can have more than one type of hair, or even curl pattern on your head.

The size of your hair follicle determines the thickness.


Hair Facts:
  • There's over 100,000 hair follicles on your head
  • Thick curly hair tend to be short, because sebum can't reach the length of the hair shaft causing the hair to be dry and brittle
  • Hair uses the same cells that are responsible for bone growth
  • There's a muscle fiber connected to the sebaceous gland that controls goosebumps and your hair standing up on end.
  • An unbalanced diet can cause brittle and dry hair
  • Hair gets it shine from sebum the scalp produces
  • Made of about 10% water
  • Animal hooves, claws, and feathers are made of the same thing as your hair - keratin
  • Sebaceous glands are found everywhere except on the soles of your feet and the palms of your hands

If growth and retention are important to you when it comes to hair you should keep all of this in mind. Once your hair is damaged (sun, heat, chemical, etc) it can't be undone. To correct badly damaged hair your only option is to cut it. You can temporarily repair hair with smoothers, conditioners, sealants, silicones, etc, but they're not permanent solutions. Making sure you care for your hair properly can help prevent unwanted chops.

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(Above) Blue: Cut mark   Red: conditioners
1. A healthy hair can experience slight damage from normal wear of a day. Chlorine, dyes, heated tools, winter hats, brushing, and hair accessories can all wear on your hair over time. The key is protecting your hair and being aware of its state. If you keep up with necessary trims there will be minimal hair removed.

2. After a while your hair can become frayed, experience heat damage, or break off from over processing. You may notice uneven pieces of hair, fly aways, or split ends. This is when you want to start taking action before it spreads. Unattended split ends can travel up the length of the hair causing more damage. These splits get caught on each other, and this causes tangles which can cause further damage.

3. Conditioners, silicones, and oil treatments, for example, can help temporarily seal split hairs, but it's not permanent. After washing those seals are removed and need replaced. This is why conditioning is important. Once the cuticle of your hair is damaged it can't repair itself. It's up to you to maintain and protect the hair.

4. If your hair is continually neglected, or trims aren't being done as necessary you may end up having to cut more than anticipated in order to correct the damage.

5. You can see the difference between trims. If you address it early you'll retain more length than if you put it off. Hair grows at about 1/4 inch a month so in order to retain some length you don't want to cut more than that. Example: Roughly 1.5 inches can be grown in about 6 months time. If you trim more than that it's like knocking your hair length back 6 months. So your hair may healthier if it was damaged, but you won't see the growth. That's why it's important to stay on top of it!

How often do you trim your hair? What do you do to make sure your hair is healthy?

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