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What is Hair Made of?

Abhijit Naik

This is likely leave you baffled, but our hair is made of the same ingredients as the horns of rhinoceros.
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 hair within the follicle, i.e., beneath the skin layer is called 'Hair Root'. The part outside the skin is called 'Hair Shaft'. At the base of the hair root lies the hair bulb, receives nutrients needed for growth. It 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, 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.

Composition of Single Hair Strand

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 its about the width of the hair, its generally refer to its diameter. It is virtually impossible to come across a single standard figure of width of a hair strand.
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 µm (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.