The Anatomy of a Hair

hair follicle

We spend so much washing our hair, trimming our hair, colouring our hair and styling our hair that it's a wonder it stays attached to our heads for as long as it does. While you're teasing your tresses into the latest trendy coiffure, have you ever taken a moment to marvel at the sheer durability of your crowning glory?

It's easy to take something so simple as a strand of hair for granted, but a closer look reveals it to be a structure of beauty and hidden complexity. Hair is such a complicated and interesting structure, that there is a branch of science - Trichology, dedicated to it.

On the surface

The part of the hair on the outside the skin - the hair shaft, is constructed from up to three layers of Keratin Protein the same protein found in Toppik Hair Building Fibres, the surface of your skin and your nails. The outer layer is known as the cuticle and is scaly in appearance. When these scales lie flat, your hair will be shiny, sleek and the natural oils produced by your scalp will have the easiest time travelling along the whole length of each strand. Friction, heat and chemicals can make these scales stand up or weaken, which can make hair appear dull and lifeless. The ruffled scales allow hair to become more porous, increasing the amount of liquid the hair can absorb. Quality shampoo and conditioner are so important as these can help smooth down your hair surface. Beneath the cuticle is the cortex this is the thickest layer of the hair shaft and is responsible for giving your hair its colour, strength and flexibility. The innermost layer, known as the medulla, is only present in thicker hairs and is the most delicate layer of your hair, however, the exact function of the medulla hasn't yet been satisfactorily determined.


The Beauty is Skin Deep

Beneath the skin's surface is where hair is shown to be a very complex structure. The construct each hair grows from is known as a follicle, from the Latin word folliculus which means 'little bag'.

Fans of forensic TV shows and the more observant amongst us may be aware that the naturally shed hair is a straight shaft, but plucked hair has an enlarged end. The base of this bulb, a shape which helps anchor the hair to the skin is known as the follicular papilla. This is connected to a blood supply and it is from here, the only living part of the hair, that growth occurs. During a follicles growth phase, this bulb narrows and detaches. As a new hair grows, the old hair is pushed out. A plucked hair will, therefore, have a bulb to a greater or lesser extent and if the forensic scientists are very lucky a trace of DNA. Naturally shed hair, however, has no DNA, just Keratin, so CSI won't be solving any crimes with those!

Just beneath the surface of the skin, each follicle has a sebaceous gland which produces a natural oil (sebum) which keeps your hair glossy, nourished and water resistant.  If you've ever wondered why brushes made with natural fibres make your hair glossier than synthetic bristles, it's because these natural materials are better at 'grabbing' and distributing your natural lubricant along the length of your hair. This also explains why it's important, once your hair is free of tangles, to brush from your scalp all the way to the tips as this gives you the best chance to pick up those precious oils.

Part way between the bulb and the surface of your skin, the hair follicle is connected to a tiny muscle, the 'arrector pili muscle'. This muscle is responsible for making your hair stand on end (also goosebumps) in response to various stimuli and may also play a role in pushing the oil from the sebaceous glands toward the surface of the skin.

The Passage of Time

You're born with all the follicles you're ever going to have and while each follicle will grow many hairs over the course of your lifetime, they don't last forever and the older you get the more will stop working. It's never too early to start looking after your hair, the better you treat it when you're young, the more of it will stick around for longer. However, even the most carefully curated scalp will eventually start to show signs of thinning and that's where Toppik Hair Thickening Products can help. Where nature lets you down, we'll help you feel more confident with products to give you the appearance of thicker, fuller looking hair.

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