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What Is the Root of the Hair?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 15 March 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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The root of the hair is a place where body cells band together to form a protein that creates hair. It is just beneath the skin and located in a small tube called the hair follicle. This part of the body dictates how straight or curly the hair is once it is formed. Beneath this follicle are blood vessels that feed the root to allow the hair to grow. Maintaining a healthy diet contributes to the strength, shininess, and growth rate of the hair.

Hair follicles are attached to sebaceous glands that produce sebum, which determines how thick a person’s hair will be. The overall straightness or curliness of a person’s hair is also determined in the same area. In addition, follicles grow hair in cycles, so when a person shaves, he or she may notice that the hair grows back unevenly. Contrary to some myths, shaving or waxing does not irritate the root of the hair into producing thicker or darker hair. Sun exposure breaks down the melanin in hair, so it may seem like hair removal makes hair darker, but the darker shade is actually the original hair color.

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The hair root is essentially alive and pushes hair out of the follicle as it grows. Once hair can be seen above the skin, it is just dead skin cells. If the hair was still alive above the skin, a person would likely be able to feel water on the hair and haircuts might be painful. Some types of hair removal pull the root of the hair out instead of just cutting hair at its base above the skin. These procedures are usually painful, and it can take the body weeks to rebuild the root and push more hair above the skin.

Just like the rest of the body, the root of the hair needs nutrients to maintain normal growth. When a person’s diet is not optimal, the body diverts nutrients to more important functions and growth. This can lead to dull, brittle hair that does not grow as fast as it could. Sometimes a poor diet also encourages the hair follicles to go into resting mode, and new hairs do not form when hair naturally falls out, leading to bald spots. On a healthy diet, a person can expect his or her hair to grow about ½ inch (1.27 cm) per month, with old hair falling out every two to six years.

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Discuss this Article

anon937560
Post 5

I personally don't know much about this because I am only a 16 and the only knowledge I have on follicle shape is research. Hair products that we use like shampoos, etc., only get into our hair strands and cannot penetrate further to the point where it can reach our follicles.

However, hair relaxers and texturizers can actually damage our follicles as it can temporarily change our follicle shape. (I do not know about the dyes)

The things we eat affect us, and it is said that our hormones change follicle shape, which is quite understandable and testable. Food/supplements have also done the job of temporary hair texture change.

anon329625
Post 4

What if a small portion of scalp is detached by an accidental pulling of hair, and the hair has thinned in the particular region. Is there a chance of more growth in the region in the future?

candyquilt
Post 3

I had no idea that hair follicles are responsible for our hair being thick or thin, straight or curly. That's really interesting!

Does this mean that our hair follicles are shaped by genetics then?

I heard once that our genes determine if our hair will be straight, wavy or curly. People always say that the Chinese have very straight hair because of genetic differences.

Do our genes give our hair follicles and roots a special shape or characteristic that determines all this? Can scientists make changes in our hair root to change the kind of hair we have? I have really thin and straight hair for example. Could I have thicker, curly hair if changes were made in my hair roots?

SteamLouis
Post 2

@fify-- I'm not an expert on this subject but we did learn about hair follicles in class this week. Based on what my instructor told us about hair follicles, I think hair products can only get as far as the hair shaft. Hair shaft is the first part of the hair that is above skin. Below the skin is the hair root. This is also where the sebaceous gland and the hair bulb is.

I think some of these companies make very generalized claims about their products. Saying that a product goes to the root of the hair and makes it stronger doesn't make sense to me. Like the article said, that can only be done by eating a healthy diet and getting enough nutrients.

In my opinion, the most that a product can do is nourish the hair and the hair shaft. I would imagine that dying "roots" with hair color wouldn't affect the actual root either. But it will definitely affect hair and can damage the hair shaft.

I hope this helps!

fify
Post 1

There are a lot of products on the market that claim to promote healthy and strong hair if it is applied to the scalp. Since only the root of the hair is alive and that is below our scalp, do these products actually do anything?

Similarly, when we dye our hair or apply other chemicals on our scalp, can it reach all the way to the root and damage it?

I use a lot of hair products for different purposes and I've always wondered what kind of an effect these products have on the roots of my hair if any. The way I see it, the root is the most important part and we need to keep it healthy. Because without the root, there wouldn't be hair at all.

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