We look at our hair in the mirror every day – we style it, dye it, and customise it. But how much do we know about what we see? Here are some facts about hair that you may not have known…
Hair grows from follicles which are located in the dermal skin layer. These follicles are organs, and appear all over the body, even in places you wouldn’t think to look! The base of the follicle is called the papilla, which connects it to blood vessels. Follicles produce various types of hair, which are different depending on where the follicles are located. Follicles go through three main stages – first is the anagen or ‘growth’ stage which lasts around 2 to 6 years. It is during this stage that the follicle is attached to a blood supply, which then allows hair to grow. During the second catagen or ‘transition’ stage, the follicle detaches itself from the blood supply, stopping any growth. As a result of this, the follicle may shrink. The third stage is the telogen or ‘resting’ phase, where the hair shaft is often shed.
A strand or shaft of hair has three layers. The outer layer is the ‘cuticle’, protecting the rest of the layers within the shaft. The middle layer is the ‘cortex’ and contains most of the pigment (melanin) that produces colour. The inner layer is the ‘medulla’, and is the weakest and most vulnerable layer.
Vellus hair is the name for the fine strands that appear on the majority of the body, for instance, the face and the stomach. This develops during childhood and remains on the body for the rest of your life. However, thicker Terminal hair replaces this in certain areas such as the face, head, and chest. This occurs at puberty.
There are a few mammals that are nearly hairless, which includes elephants, pigs and rhinoceroses.
If you examine a person’s hair in a forensic investigation, this can determine the subject’s ethnicity and sex. You can also work out whether someone pulled the hair out forcefully or whether it fell out. Furthermore, you can even see if the owner took any drugs.
Every single follicle has its own blood supply, as well as its own muscle and nerve which link to the base or papilla of the follicle. The blood supply helps the follicles to get the nutrients they need.
The average person has around 100,000 to 150,000 hairs on their head at one time. Blondes have the most hair in comparison to other colours.
A strand of hair can last for up to 7 years. This is the same amount of time as the lifecycle of the follicle, though the ‘growth’ phase takes up the majority of this time.
In ancient times, people used a technique called ‘sugaring’ to get rid of hair on the body, a process similar to waxing. People applied a sticky, honey-like substance that stuck to the hairs and removed them when people took the substance off. It is amazing to think we use the same sort of methods in modern culture that people used thousands of years ago!
The follicle treats and supplies the base of the hair shaft with nutrients, meaning it is ‘alive.’ The rest of the shaft coming out of the scalp is ‘dead.’
This goes to show that hair is complex, and there is a lot more to it than we think! Maybe next time you look in the mirror, you will see your body in a whole new light!
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