The Basics of Hair


Hair is a feature characteristic of many mammals (but not all), and it serves a number of functions, including protection, communication and thermoregulation. Hair is composed of a fibrous protein called keratin (kair-tih-neh) and grows from follicles in the skin.

Hair comes in a variety of lengths, textures and colors, and people can style it in a variety of ways. However, a person’s natural hair texture, thickness and porosity affect how easily it styles, and how it responds to different environmental and product factors.

In most cases, the best way to determine how a particular type of hair will look is to try it out, but be sure to consult a professional stylist if you plan on trying something new. It is also a good idea to get feedback from friends and family about the new look you are considering. This can help you keep your style looking fresh and can give you ideas that you may not have thought of.

Most of the time, the first impression that a person gets from another’s hair is its color and length. The shape of a person’s face and head can also influence the look of his or her hair, and how it is cut. This is why it’s important to visit a qualified hairstylist for a haircut, so the cut will be appropriate for the face and head shape.

Whether it’s blonde, brown, red or black, everyone’s hair is made of the same biomaterial: a tough, fibrous protein called keratin (kair-tih-neh) that is insoluble in water and gives the body’s hair its shine and strength. Keratin is produced in specialized cells called keratinocytes and deposited in the epidermis as a helix-shaped filament.

When a new strand of hair begins to grow, the follicle produces an embryonic root cell that is similar to a skin pore. This cell is covered with a protective layer of epidermis, and when the hair grows out, it pushes the epidermis to the side and forms a new shaft. The follicle continues to produce new strands of hair and a fatty substance called sebum, which acts as a natural lubricant and keeps the hair healthy.

The hair’s cortex, which contains the bulk of its weight and pigmentation, is made of bundles of keratin fibers. The elongated bundles are woven together by microfibrils, and they’re held in place by disulphide and hydrogen bonds. The cortex is filled with melanin, which is produced by specialized cells in the follicle and deposited into the keratin fibers as they are formed.