What Is Hair?


Hair is a thin, usually pigmented outgrowth of the outer layer of skin (epidermis) that forms an animal’s coat. It’s one of the defining characteristics of mammals, though in some animals, including humans, body hair is limited to scattered bristles. Hair grows from follicles in the dermis and is made of nonliving cells called keratin.

Hair consists of two or three layers: the cuticle, the cortex, and, in some cases, the medulla. The cuticle is the outermost layer, made of a strong, brittle material that protects the more vulnerable inner layers from damage and the environment. The cortex is the main bulk and pigment of your hair, composed of long keratin filaments held together by disulphide and hydrogen bonds. The medulla is only present in some hair types, and it consists of a soft, thin core of transparent cells filled with air spaces.

Each strand of hair gets its shape and texture from the type of hair follicle it comes from. Circular follicles produce straight hair, while oval follicles produce curly or wavy hair. A follicle also contains an oil gland, known as a sebaceous gland, which produces oil that keeps the hair and skin moisturized. As new strands of hair grow out of the follicle, they get nutrients from blood vessels that run underneath them. These strands are then hardened into their final form by an enzyme called hemagglutination, which causes the protein keratin to fuse with other proteins. This process is referred to as keratinization (kair-eh-tin-zation).

Once your character’s hair is formed, it can be styled in a variety of ways. This is important because the way a character’s hair moves can tell you a lot about their personality. For example, if your character’s hair is wavy and frizzy, it can indicate that they’re an extrovert or a worrier. Alternatively, if their hair is straight and sleek, it can indicate that they’re more reserved.

Body hair is less likely to come up in description than head hair, but when it does, it can add another dimension to a story. For instance, a character’s armpit hair might be a giveaway of their sexual preferences or their level of self-control. Similarly, a person’s eyebrows can reveal their level of focus or concentration.

As a writer, it’s important to use every tool at your disposal to immerse readers in the world of your story. Hair descriptions can help to do that, especially when used in combination with other senses. For example, showing a character scratching their head as they comb their hair can give you insight into how they move and how they might react to certain situations. The more your reader can relate to a character, the more they’ll be drawn into the story. So be sure to include some hair descriptions in your next story!