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Hair 101: The Follicle

Posted by De L'isle on

(A quick 4 min. read)

 

One of the joys of being a mammal is that we get to be cute and furry! Well...technically.

 

Our hair serves mainly to:

  1. Protect e.g. the hair on our head protects the scalp from the sun. The ones in the nose, ears and around the eyes trap dust, allergens, etc.; while our eyebrows help protect the eyes from dripping sweat among other things.
  2. Regulate body temperature by insulating the skin from cold and aiding in sweat evaporating from our pores.
  3. Receive sensation as hair is more responsive than skin to movements in the air, environment and on the skin’s surface itself.

 

We actually grow three types of hair in our lifetime-lanugo, vellus and terminal hair. The type that gets the most attention is Terminal Hair - scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes, armpits and the like.

 

Each strand has two main zones:

  • Shaft – the part of the hair above the scalps surface
  • Follicle – the pore that the strand protrudes from

Did you know…

By week 22 of pregnancy, all our follicles are already formed? Approximately 100,000! 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 Trinidad

‘yuh head big’.

It’s also why you should take care of the ones you have.

 

Even though we care about the shaft the most, all the drama happens below the surface at the root!

The follicle is a marvel, made up of many different parts, including:

  • Hair papilla- tissue, nerve endings and blood capillaries. The capillaries feed nutrients and oxygen into the follicle

 

  • Hair matrix – where hair cells & colour are generated. As cells are produced and become infused with the protein keratin, they push out of the follicle as hair strands. Since keratin is white, melanocytes (cells that contribute melanin) give colour to the strand. The matrix has the fastest growing cell rate of any body part, fueled by the blood capillaries.

 

Did you know...
As we get older, melanin production decreases so hair loses pigment and the keratin’s colour shows as white/gray.

 

  • Arrector pili muscle- connected to the hair shaft, it can make hair stand on end and gives goosebumps. This affects how air flows across the skin, as well as the flow of blood near the skin’s surface.
  • Sebaceous gland – produces sebum (oil) to moisturize, condition and protect the hair strand; it keeps hair from becoming dry and brittle. We only produce approximately 1 oz every 100 days.  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. 

 

If oily hair is an issue for you, shampooing often may not be the best solution.
Stripping hair of sebum too often can lead to: dry, itchy & flaking scalp, thinning or even oilier hair as your body tries to compensate!

 

Using products with little, preferably no mineral oils & silicones; shampooing less (e.g. you can remove sweat & some buildup with warm water & conditioner vs. shampoo) as well as using oils like jojoba, which help regulate sebum production, are good options.

Source: lumenlearning.com

 

The only living, growing part of the hair is at the very base of the follicle , connected to the papilla. So what’s the secret to hair growth?

 

Stay tuned…

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