We all have between 100,000 and 150,000 hairs on our head, but what is human hair made out of, anyway? Each of the hairs on our scalp is composed of nature’s most powerful protein, called keratin. It is stronger weight-for-weight than steel! The hair shaft has three major components: an outer protective layer (the cuticle), a powerful central middle (the cortex), and in some hairs, particularly gray ones, a soft central core (the medulla). Hair also contains lipids (fats), water, melanin granules (what give hair its color and minerals, like zinc. Hair is in fact made from the same materials that make up fingernails, birds’ feathers and reptilian scales. And while human hair is technically dead—it has no living cells above the hair follicle—it does, however, have many of the characteristics we equate with life and health, like shine, elasticity and resilience. It can withstand tremendous punishment, which is why we need the right hair care to keep it looking healthy and beautiful!
Our bodies are covered in an estimated 10 million hair follicles. (Only the palms of our hands and the soles of our feet are truly hair follicle free and thus hairless.) But what exactly is a hair follicle? The hair follicle is a tubular sheath that encloses the root of the developing hair strand. The hair follicle is a remarkably flexible little factory that is capable of producing several different types of hair fibers in its lifetime, including the fine dark hair we lose after we’re born, to the long pigmented hair we start to grow in childhood. Hair follicles can produce hair of wildly differing characteristics too, such as tightly curled or long and straight, depending on genetics. Some people even have hair follicles that produce both curly and straight hair!