For us to be able to care of our hair properly, first we have to understand what it’s made of and how it works! That’s where the Geeks come in…

Let’s start with the structure of the hair

Hair is composed of two parts – the hair fibre, which is the visible hair on our head, and the hair follicle. Every hair fibre on our head is created within a hair follicle, and can continue to grow for between two and five years!

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The hair fibre is made up of three concentric layers, starting with the outside layer, the cuticle. The cuticle is made up of overlapping cells, arranged in a regular formation like tiles on a roof and its purpose is to protect the hair fibre, like the bark of a tree is to protect the inner tree trunk.

Moving inwards, the next layer is referred to as the cortex, which is the main bulk of the fibre and is responsible for its strength. The cortex is packed full of strands of a protein called keratin (click here if you would like to brush up your knowledge on keratin), which run the length of the hair fibre and are intertwined and bonded together to provide our hair with strength and flexibility.

As well as providing our hair with strength, the cortex also contains melanin, which you may be familiar with as the pigment that provides us with our holiday tan, but melanin also provides our hair with its colour. Melanin is found in two different forms, eumelanin which provides the brown/black colour and pheomelanin providing the red/yellow colour. It is the unique combination of these two pigments, determined by our genes, that provides each of us with our distinct hair colour.

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The very middle layer of the hair fibre is the medulla, which contains several cells but its mainly empty space. However this structure is not present in all hairs so we won’t dwell on it too much!

Keep your eyes peeled on the blog for the next instalment of hair science for beginners…

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