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Understanding your hair's anatomy

On average, a human being can count around 100,000 hair strands on one's head. The main purpose of hair is to protect our head from foreign object by acting as a cushion to your skull and to provide heat.

While this was surely very useful in earlier times, hair has now become a fashion item rather than a necessity for survival. Many of us nowadays spend hundreds of euros/dollard/etc. per year on hair care products without really understanding the nature of our hair, and therefore the products that work best for us.

Before leaning about your hair type, hair porosity and many more to help you better understand what will work best for you, we wanted to take the time to review the basics of hair anatomy.

1. Basics of hair anatomy

Let's start with the basics and make it simple. At the base of your hair strain, there is a hair follicle. Each hair strand has its own and this is where it grows from. At the base of the hair follicle, there is a hair bulb which contains your hair cells and which is responsible for your hair growth. These hair cells will push upwards and harden gradually, which is the beginning of hair growth.

Source: Wikipedia

Specific cells called 'melanocytes' are contained in your hair bulb and will define the colour of your hair.

The shape of the hair follicle defines which hair type you have (straight, curly, wavy, kincki - but more about this later).

As you can read, hair growth happens at the hair bulb and hair follicle level. Therefore, if you want your hair to grow quicker, you need to focus on taking great care of your scalp to stimulate your hair bulb. Note that myths such as 'cutting your hair for it to grow more rapidly' are not true. Hair growth happens at the roots, and not at the tips. Therefore, frequently cutting your hair will not have any impact on how quickly your hair grows.

Right, so now that we have reviewed how your hair grows, let's take a look at what your hair is made of.

2. Hair structure

The hair that grows out of your follicle is made up of three layers. These layers include:

  • The cuticle: This is the protective outer layer of your hair which is made up of a series of smaller cuticles that overlap each other and that face downwards. They can be compared to fish scales. How tight these cuticles are to one another will define how easily it is for your hair to absorb and retain moisture. A healthy cuticle is smooth and flat. This gives your hair shine and protects the inner layers from damage.

  • The cortex: This is the thickest layer of your hair. It contains fibrous proteins (keratin) and the pigment that gives your hair its color. The health of your cortex depends largely on the integrity of the cuticle protecting it.

  • The medulla: This is the soft, central part of the hair shaft but it is only present in thicker hair types. It consists of a soft, thin core of transparent cells and air spaces.


For your hair to stay healthy and hydrated, water, oils, and other moisturizing products need to be able to pass through the cuticle to get to the cortex.

The protein contained in your cortex is made up of keratin which is the same material your nails are made of (or feathers and claws in the animal world).

One more important thing to note is that your hair strand is a 'dead' matter. It does not contain any nerves or blood. Therefore, your hair strand itself will not react to food supplements etc. in the hope of making your hair look healthier/shinier/etc. However, these may impact your hair bulb and help improve the health of the hair strands that grow from these, as this one is connected to your bloodstream and nerves.

3. Hair growth phases

Unfortunately, your hair does not grow continuously. Instead, it will transition through a variety of phases. These are the three main growth phases of your hair:

  • Anagen phase: this is the active growth phase of your follicle. It can last between 2-7 years.

  • Catagen phase: this is a short two-week phase during which your hair is transitioning from a growth to a resting phase. Your hair is still growing but at a much slower pace because your follicle begins to shrink.

  • Telogen phase: the follicle is resting. The hair is not growing anymore and will soon be ejected. This phase usually lasts around 3 months.

  • Exogen phase: the old hair is ejected from the follicle and the hair bulb is already growing a new hair underneath.

We hope this was helpful to you in understanding how hair is produced by your body, how it it structured and how it grows.

Stay tuned for our next article about hair types!

Thanks for reading,

The MADU team

MADU is a natural hair care brand making products based on honey and beeswax from our family's hives. Discover our 100% natural hair oil today and follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more beauty tips.

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