Our hair is one of the most amazing features of the human body. So much emphasis is put on this anomaly that adorns the top of our body. For stuff just growing out of a round object, it accounts for 50% of how we see and feel about ourselves. Think about it for a moment, if you are dressed in your favorite outfit and your hair looks bad, do you feel like you look good? Yet, if you’re sporting a pair of bummy jeans and an old teeshirt and your hair looks great, how do you feel? So, what is this stuff that grows out of our head that influences our self image and esteem so much?
Hair grows out of a hole in our skin called the follicle. At the bottom of the follicle, there is a “bump” called the papilla. The dermal papillae, are small, nipple-like extensions of the dermis into the epidermis. They can be observed at the surface of the skin in hands and feet as epidermal orpapillary ridges (known as fingerprints). The dermal papillae nourishes all hair follicles and brings food and oxygen to the lower layers of epidermal cells.
Inside the follicle, there are sebaceous glands which produces sebum (oil) to help lubricate the skin and hair follicle. The papilla itself is fed blood by way of blood vessels to which it changes into hair. The hair itself is composed of about 70 to 80 % keratin protein (the same protein as our nails) which gives the hair strength and body, about 12 to 18% moisture which give hair its softness and elasticity. Finally 3 to 7% lipids (natural oils), melanin (color pigment) which is also a protein, carbohydrates and a few other things, but I think this is enough information for our purpose.
The hair shaft itself is composed of three layers. The first is called the “cuticle layer”, the fibre’s envelope that protects the inner layer. It has 3 to 10 layers that overlap like shingles on a roof. It’s primary function is to protect the second layer, the “cortex”, or cortical layer. It is here you find 90% of the hairs weight. This layer contains the amino (protein) chains which corkscrew through the hair shaft. They are held together by cystine bonds, the bonds which actually hold the hair together and make it….. hair. They, in turn, are held together in an inter cellular cement composed of a flexible keratin rich in lipids. Also found here in are grains of melanin which gives the hair it’s color.
The last is the “medulla” or the medullary canal. It is segmented through and in some cases leaves bubble like areas in the hair. It’s purpose in human kind is still unknown, but best educated guesses say that it is left over from when our ancestors carried clubs and killed dinosaurs. It is believed by some that it was hollow like animal fur and acted as a thermal regulator to keep them warm.
In our industry, we look at the texture of hair as a fabric. Fine hair we compare to silk, medium hair as cotton and coarse hair as wool. While we see more mechanical damage (ie hot tools) on coarse hair, we usually have more chemical damage (ie lighteners, permanent color, perms, etc.) on finer hair. This is the reason there are so many different shampoos, conditioner and treatments on the market. Look for our blog on these products and how they work.
So there you have it, the makeup of hair in a nutshell. You may have learned more than you ever wanted to know, but now you have a better understanding of what that stuff is growing up there.
As trained industry professionals, we at Gore Salon are continuously seeking out and sharing education, not just on trends or fads, but on all aspects of hair. The information that we must know to insure you, our clients get the very best service and experience possible.