What is hair?
First off, your hair grows out of follicles on your scalp. Hair starts out as a bulb. Then the follicle grows under the skin and the shaft is the part of the hair that is seen outside the scalp. The only part of the hair that is really alive is what is under the skin. This is where the hair grows. Also under the skin around the hair follicle are the sebaceous glands which produce sebum, an oily substance that coats the hair making it semi waterproof. This is what allows water to run off hair when it is washed. This diagram shows a picture of hair under the skin.
Hair is primarily made up of a protein called keratin which gives hair its strength. The hair shaft itself is made up of three parts. The first layer is the medulla. The second layer is the cortex. This layer is the main source of the shafts strength and where the hair collects water. The top layer is the cuticle. This is the layer that provides protection thanks to the cells that make it up. This is the layer of the hair that is damaged by things such as rough brushing, heating products such as curling irons, flat irons and blow dryers, as well as chemical damage from hair color. It is important that you use protective styling products to keep you hair as damage free as possible!
What determines hair type and color?
The secret of hair type and color lie in cortex layer of the hair. The shapes of the cells that make up this layer determine how straight or curly your hair will be. The more round the cell the straighter the hair and the more oval or abnormally shaped the more curly. As for hair color, it is determined by something called melanin. Different types of melanin and the abundance of it determine hair color. Eumelanin causes dark blonde, brunette, or black hair. Pheomelanin makes red hair. Blonde hair is not caused by a specific type of melanin but the lack of melanin. Grey hair begins to show as the melanin in your hair starts to decrease and slowly disappear.
Now that you know a little more about what exactly your hair is I hope that you will appreciate it more. Hair is more complex than we like to think. It is very important to keep your hair healthy and protected so you will always have you best accessory!