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What is Hair Made Of

You'll Be Truly Baffled to Know What Hair is Actually Made Of

This is likely leave you baffled, but our hair is made of the same ingredients as the horns of rhinoceros.
HairGlamourista Staff
Last Updated: Dec 10, 2017
Hair is basically the filament made from protein (in most of the cases), which grows from follicles found in the dermis, i.e., the deep vascular inner layer of the skin. In humans, these follicles are present on every part of the body, except for the palms and soles.

What is Hair Made of and How Does it Grow?

The part of the hair within the follicle, i.e., beneath the skin layer, is known as the hair root, while the remaining part protruding outside the skin is known as the hair shaft. At the base of the hair root lies the hair bulb, which receives nutrients necessary for proper hair growth. The hair bulb forms new cells by absorbing nutrients from the dermal papilla, i.e., the cone-shaped protrusion at the base of the follicle.

As new cells are formed, they start moving up through the root. What follows is a process referred to a keratinization, wherein the new cells are filled with a fibrous protein and lose their nucleus. As the cell loses its nucleus, it is no more alive, and as it continues to grow, the only thing left is a fiber made from keratinized proteins.

Keratin and Lipids
Keratin makes up 91 percent of ingredients required to produce a single strand of hair. This strong non-soluble material made up of amino acids and cysteine disulfide, is also the major constituent of our fingernails, and the hooves and horns of several other living organisms as well. Other than keratin protein, hair also contain lipids, i.e., the natural oils and water. All these ingredients come together and form the 3 primary structures of the hair.
  • Cuticle: The outermost, shingle-like layer of the hair.
  • Cortex: The inner portion of hair made from bundles of protein filaments.
  • Medula: A soft spongy core in the center of the cortex.
The amino acids that make up keratin contain various elements including carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen etc., which are joined together by peptide bonds.

How Wide is a Strand of Hair?

When we talk about the width of the hair, we generally refer to its diameter. It is virtually impossible to come across a single standard figure when we measure the hair width. The size, which differs from individual to individual, is largely dependent on genetic factors as well as climate. Usually, the diameter of the human hair is known to range anywhere between 17 to 181 ┬Ám (millionths of a meter).

Another important aspect of hair which fascinates many people is the natural color, which depends on a melanin-type pigment produced in the follicle. There are basically two types of pigments: Phaeomelanin, which is responsible for yellowish-blond to red shades, and Eumelanin, which gives brown to black shades.
Hairs under the microscope
Hair healthy and stressed under microscope
hair follicle
Diagram of a hair follicle