Dec 20, 2019

Is Hair Alive?

The answer might be a little more complicated than you thought 👀

Here's a fun fact - if you can see your hair, it is technically a dead fiber. BUT, that hair wasn't always dead.

Confusing? Let's back it up a bit.

Hairs that have emerged from the scalp are not alive - instead, they are flexible tubes of dead keratinized* epithelial cells**

*(to keratinize is to change into a form containing keratin. Keratin is a key structural building block for hair, skin, and nails)

**(epithelial cells are cells that come from the body's surface, which provide barriers between the inside and outside of your body and protect you from viruses. Outside of hair, you can also find them in your skin, blood vessels, and organs)

Meanwhile, hairs that are still inside of the scalp (and are therefore unable to be seen by you) are parts of incredibly complex and dynamic living organs known as hair follicles. Hair follicles are buried beneath the skin and are the only part of the hair structure that is functionally alive.

However, this alive-ness does not transfer to the hair shaft once it leaves the hair follicle. By the time the hair shaft emerges from the hair follicle, cell nuclei have already been ejected from the hair shaft epithelial cells, leaving them functionally "brain dead" and unable to repair hair should it become damaged. Though it may seem like a bummer that your hair cannot repair itself, this isn't necessarily a bad thing at all - if you think a papercut hurts, imagine how much it would hurt to get a haircut if your stylist had to cut through living cells!

The bottom line is that once hair has emerged from the hair follicle, it is no longer part of a dynamic, living organ, and will pretty much stay as-is or degrade over time. This is why it is so essential to use high-quality products that will nourish and protect your hair over time, since it can no longer nourish itself. The goal of good hair care is to keep your hair as close as possible to the condition it was in when it first left your scalp - choose your products wisely!


The Formulate Team

Caroline Schmidt