Natural Hair 101 Series

Part 2: The anatomy of the hair

Our hair forms part of our body. It grows from just about everywhere. On our face, arms, toes, in our nostrils and even our lady bits. Hair has different functions too. In our noses, it collects moisture and makes sure no unwanted particles like dust, enter or nasal passage. The hair on our legs are there to trap in more heat on colder days and the brow hair is there to prevent sweat and anything else to fall into the eye socket.

Human head of hair

The hair on our heads has a similar function, to regulate our body temperature and protect us from the deadly rays of the sun. While this serves to be the truth, for most women, hair is much more than that. To me, the state of my hair plays a huge role in how I feel about myself on that particular day. If I’m having a bad hair day, I can guarantee you that I’ll feel crappy and have a pretty crappy day. I am sure many women can relate to this. If you can’t, have yourself checked, ha!

The hair anatomy

Let’s have a deeper and closer look at our hair so that we can have a better understanding of what it’s about. [bctt tweet=”Knowing more about our hair will result in knowing how to care for it better.” username=”curlyheadsand_d”]

The Hair Structure

It is very obvious that everything starts below the skin, at the root. This is where new follicles are formed and once they are large enough, they are pushed out from under the skin causing visible hair growth. Just so you know, once visible, hair becomes dead tissue. (strange how dead tissue controls your mood, lol)

One single hair strand

A strand of hair is made up of two main components;

  • the hair shaft
  • The root

Hair segments

Each strand of hair is divided into 3 segments

  • Cuticle – the outer layer
  • Cortex – below the cuticle
  • Medulla –  the core of each hair strand

The Cuticle

The cuticle is made up of hard, transparent cells that overlap each other. Just think of the scales of a fish. The cuticle layer gives the hair its elasticity and resilience and serves as protection for the layers below. Knowing the condition of your cuticles can give you an idea of  how to care for your hair.

The Cortex

The cortex is situated just below the cuticle and is the thickest layer, providing the hair with strength and determines  the colour and texture. This layer is actual fibres which are made up of Keratin – a protein, that serves as protection from damage and stress. These fibres are kept together by permanent bonds which are very tough and can be broken only by strong chemical substances.

The Medulla

This is a very thin and sometimes absent layer, situated right in the centre.

All of this may seem like a load of crap and insignificant to anything natural hair related. Wrong, this is very much where every one of us should start. Next week we will be focusing on ourselves, putting our own hair under the microscope to determine the state of our hair.

Till later.

other posts in this series:


All images sourced from Google.

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