Hair – A Symbol of Beauty and Status

Hair is a filamentous, keratin-filled structure that grows from a small hole in the skin called a follicle. A strand of hair can be identified by its shape, size, texture and color. Hair is usually long but can be short or bald depending on genetics and environmental factors. Hair is a symbol of beauty and status in many cultures. A person’s hair color and style can indicate their social class, worldview, sexuality, gender, age and religion. For example, a woman’s head shaving can be seen as an act of mourning or liberation and men’s wearing of turbans can be a sign of religious devotion.

The hair is composed of a cellular matrix with a protein layer and an external cuticle. A human hair is a complex filamentous structure with a diameter of about 100 microns. Each hair has a distinct follicle which contains the papilla (where new strands of hair grow from). A strand of hair can be cut, brushed, combed, or twisted into various shapes. Hair follicles are surrounded by a thin layer of tissue that provides nourishment. Hair can be dyed to change its color or length. Hair extensions, wigs and hats can also be used to change an individual’s appearance.

A person’s hair is a unique physical characteristic and is easily recognized because it has a distinct pattern of growth, texture, color and volume. Hair color varies from light to dark and contains gold and red tones. It can be blond, strawberry, champagne, chestnut, golden blonde, or coppery brown. Hair can be straight, wavy or curly and may have a definite S-shaped curl pattern. It can also be coarse, frizzy and thick with a loose S-wave pattern or tightly coiled.

Whether a person’s hair is silky, dry or rough is determined by the condition of the scalp and follicles. The sex of an individual can be determined by staining the follicular cells for sex chromatin. Hair that is treated or colored can also be analyzed to determine the type of treatment.

Styling tools such as combs, brushes, bobby pins, hair clips, barrettes, ribbons, scrunchies and rubber bands are used to keep hair in place or to create a specific style. The hair can also be embellished with beads, ornaments, flowers and jewelry. Styling products can include leave-in conditioners, conditioning treatments, mousse, gels, lotions, waxes, clays and oils. Many people use a combination of these items to achieve the desired look.