• Question: What is hair made of / how is it made?

    Asked by 928fasp22 to Stewart, Miriam, Laura, Kathryn, David on 14 Nov 2018.
    • Photo: David Ho

      David Ho answered on 14 Nov 2018:

      I’m no expert on this (the particles I study are millions of times smaller than a hair), but I know that hair is made of a protein called “keratin”. It’s actually the same material as fingernails, horses’ hooves, and rhinos’ horns, but arranged in a different way to have different properties. I don’t know exactly how hair is made but I know that a special cell group of cells at the base of each hair called a “follicle” is involved.

      Another cool hair growth fact — people used to think that beards and hair grew after you die. But scientists now know that the reason it seems that way is because the skin retracts when it dries out, making it look like hair’s grown longer! This could have been the source for some of the myths and legends about undead creatures…

    • Photo: Stewart Martin-Haugh

      Stewart Martin-Haugh answered on 14 Nov 2018:

      Hair is made of a protein called keratin – same as your fingernails. Hair is dead and doesn’t have any nerves, which is why it doesn’t hurt when it gets cut.

      One fun fact about hair that I only learnt recently – you might wonder why hair on your arms is shorter than on your head (unless you shave your head, of course). The answer is how often it falls out – it takes much longer for head hairs to fall out so they have time to grow longer.

    • Photo: Miriam Hogg

      Miriam Hogg answered on 15 Nov 2018:

      Hair is made of keratin. I don’t know that much about them but I know that hair follicles have periods of growth and rest. The follicles will turn ‘on’ and start producing keratin in the form of hair, after some time (between 1-6 months) the follicle will turn ‘off’ and the hair won’t grow for a while. Each follicle will have its own on off cycle so it looks like your hair is continuously growing. At some point the hair will shed and the cycle will start over again.

      I’m not sure how accurate I was with that explanation but there are a few YouTube videos by ‘SciShow’ who have answered this question if you want a more thorough explanation