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Hair 101...Part 1: Follicles

Posted by t de lisle on

One of the joys of being a mammal is that we all get to be cute and furry! Well, technically. We actually grow three types of hair in our lifetime; the type that gets the most attention is Terminal Hair-scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, armpits, etc.

For our purposes, terminal hair has two main zones:

  • the part we can see: Shaft
  • And the parts we can’t: Follicle. Made up of: the hair bulb, root, muscle (that makes hair stand on end), blood capillaries to feed the hair, oil glands to moisturize it, nerve receptors, etc., etc., etc.
Hair shaft emerging from the follicleHair shaft anchored in the follicle on normal scalp.



Did you know? By week 22 of pregnancy, all our follicles are already formed! We don’t generate any additional ones as we grow, so if you find your hair isn’t as ‘thick’ as it was when you were younger…that’s normal! You have the same amount of follicles, but now- as we say in Trini- yuh head big.


Even though we care about the shaft the most, all the drama happens below the surface. The living part of the hair is at the very base of the follicle-inside the scalp, where growth comes from! Tiny blood vessels feed the hair cells; that’s why diet, exercise and all that good stuff matter the most when it comes to healthy hair.


Did you Know? Your hair can grow a maximum of about 6 inches per year, E.V.E.R.Y.B.O.D.Y’s hair. True, growth differs based on ethnic background, age, etc. but it generally does not cross 6 inches per year, ½ inch per month, 0.44 mm per day. RETAINING that length is a whole other story and that’s all about how you treat the shaft, we go talk ‘bout dat jus’ now.


How does hair grow? This is known as the Anagen phase-Cells slightly above the middle of the follicle:

  • divide and transform into hair cells
  • combine with keratin ( a fibre like protein that protects and provides structure)
  • then die.

Yup. The cells die, why? They’re being pushed up, out and away from the capillaries and tissue that fed them. But don’t cry; now it becomes part of the shaft! All happy and keratinized, still dead though.


Did you know? Living hair cells divide/grow faster than any other in the body, every 23 to 72 hours! Still, only a maximum of about 6 inches per year people (just be grateful those cells aren’t in your nose or ears).


Another important part of the follicle is the sebaceous (oil) gland. This produces sebum which conditions the hair and skin, keeps them from becoming dry, brittle and cracked. As we brush or comb our hair, sebum gets distributed along the shaft. Curly hair struggles with dryness partly because:

 1) curls and kinks make it hard for sebum to move along the shaft and

2) we usually don’t brush regularly, so distribution is limited.

That’s one of the reasons curly hair <3 oils, we need sebum back up!


Did you know? Lanolin is basically sheep sebum.


Balance is needed- if naturally oily hair is an issue for you, washing often with shampoo may not be the best solution. Stripping hair of sebum too often can lead to:

  • dry scalp and flaking or
  • even oilier hair as your body tries to compensate!

Using products with little or no mineral oils; shampooing less (you can rinse out sweat and some dirt with water only) and using oils like jojoba, which help regulate sebum production, are definite options.

There you have it! Hope this helps a bit, up next, drum roll…the Hair Shaft!  

I'd love to hear your tips or questions so feel free to say hi.



*Mixtress Musings is based on personal research, thoughts and the experiences of myself, friends and clients. I am not a medically certified trichologist or chemist, hence the |imho*|


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