The Story of the Follicle and the Shaft

cross section of the skin showing the hair follicle

What you don't know about your hair will surprise you!

Each hair on our heads grows from a tiny hair follicle, a bulbous shaped pore in the scalp. At the bottom of each follicle is a cluster of special cells that reproduce to make new hair cells that are added to the root of our hair causing it to grow. Our hair itself is made of a protein produced by the follicles called keratin. Humans are born with around 100,000 hair follicles on the scalp, all they will ever and always have. However, even though follicles remain for our lifetime, the cells within follicles can die or go dormant and quit producing keratin causing hair loss and baldness. We will discuss how to keep our hair follicles healthy in a future article.

Many people think that hair is alive, but this is not true. While the part of the hair that is inside the scalp is alive, the visible part of the hair, the shaft, is made up of cells that aren't living anymore. Understanding this is critical if we are going to take good care of our hair, and if we are going to minimize the use of products and treatments that are potentially damaging to our hair. When we experiment with coloring, perming or straightening our hair, it is important to remember that it can not heal. It’s not just sick, but permanently damaged, and if it is damaged badly enough our only option will be to cut the damaged hair away and wait for new hair to grow out. 

So remember, hair grows from a follicle which is alive but the visible part of the hair (the shaft) is not alive. We cannot create new follicles, but the good news is that follicles are alive, so we can take care of our scalp, and they will remain healthy and productive. Hair, on the other hand, is not alive. If we damage it, we can’t heal it. We might be able to make it look better or appear “healthier,” but it can’t be healed. In fact, if the damage is very bad, the only remedy is to cut off the damaged parts.

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