The Science of HairHome / Hair / The Science of Hair
Hair Follicles Hair has two distinct structures - first, the follicle itself, which resides in the skin, and second, the shaft, which is what is visible above the scalp. Two sheaths, an inner and outer sheath, surround the follicle. These structures protect and form the growing hair shaft. The inner sheath follows the hair shaft and ends below the opening of a sebaceous (oil) gland, and sometimes an apocrine (scent) gland. The outer sheath continues all the way up to the gland. A muscle called an erector pili muscle attaches below the gland to a fibrous layer around the outer sheath. When this muscle contracts, it causes the hair to stand up which also causes the sebaceous gland to secrete oil.
Hair Shafts The hair shaft is made of a hard protein called keratin and is made in three layers. This protein is actually dead, so the hair that you see is not a living structure. The inner layer is the medulla. The second layer is the cortex and the outer layer is the cuticle. The cortex makes up the majority of the hair shaft. The cuticle is a tightly formed structure made of shingle-like overlapping scales. It is both the cortex and the medulla that holds the hair's pigment, giving it its color.
Hair Growth Cycle Hair on the scalp grows about .3 to .4 mm/day or about 6 inches per year. Unlike other mammals, human hairgrowth and shedding is random and not seasonal or cyclical. At any given time, a random number of hairs will be in one of three stages of growth and shedding: anagen, catagen, and telogen.