The Anatomy and Physiology of Hair

Hair Structure and Growth

A better understanding of the physiology of hair will provide a clearer picture of what happens to the hair and hair follicles during hair loss, and more specifically how Androgenetic Alopecia evolves. Let’s take a closer look at hair anatomy and physiology.

The Anatomy and Physiology of Hair

The structure of hair: What is hair made of?

Hair is mainly made up of a protein called Keratin, and can be divided into the following components:

    • Root: The root is enclosed in the hair follicle, and is submerged in the dermis of the skin (about 2-5mm below the skin), ending at the base of the follicle (bulb). The dermal papilla cells at the base of the hair follicle help nutrients in the blood reach the follicle, which is essential for hair growth.
    • Shaft: The visible part of hair is called the shaft, and comprises of three layers, namely-

a.) The Cuticle This is the outer layer of the shaft. It consists of scale-like cells that overlap each other. They are flat and colourless. The ultimate strength of your hair is determined by this layer. The cuticle is susceptible to damage from excessive heat, over-exposure to the sun, harsh brushing, chemicals, etc.

b.) The Cortex This layer can be found in the middle of the hair shaft. It is formed of elongated cells filled with Keratin (protein) that are joined together. These cells give your hair flexibility, and adds to its tensile strength. The hair pigment (melanin) that determines your hair colour can be found in the cortex, and it is also where your hair type – curly or straight – is determined.

c.) The Medulla This is the innermost layer of the hair shaft. This section is made up of thin cells and air bubbles.

The Anatomy and Physiology of Hair

Help keep your hair healthy

Maintaining a full head of healthy hair need not be an impossible task. You can start by making sure you incorporate a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals into your daily life. Proteins and iron are essential for hair growth. Any drastic change in your diet could lead to hair shedding (Telogen Effluvium), so try to adhere to a stable, healthy eating plan. Click here to learn more about your diet can assist in maintaining your hair.

What causes hair loss?

There are many causes of hair loss. However, the most commonly seen type of hair loss is Androgenetic Alopecia (male/female pattern hair loss). This condition is caused by male hormones that bind with Androgen Receptors on certain hair follicles, causing a reaction that results in the miniaturisation of hair follicles. Click here to learn more about the causes and process of Androgenetic Alopecia, and how it can be treated. Book a consultation with Dr. André Nel at the Hair, Skin & Wellness Clinic in Dublin to get the best solution for your hair loss condition.

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