Beginner’s guide to hair growth & anatomy

Reading time: 9 minutes (1564 words)

We all have to deal with our hair.

Maybe you braid it.

Maybe you wash it every day with the fanciest of shampoos.

Maybe you’ve dyed it every shade of the psychedelic rainbow.

Ooooorrrrrr maybe it’s been a hot minute since you’ve grown a full head of hair, so it’s not exactly a daily concern….

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I’m sure Patrick Stewart saves mad money on celebrity hairstyling.

Either way, we have all dealt with hair at some point in our lives. 

Yet we know very little about it.

Before I actually started studying hair, I probably spent a good 20 years of my life not knowing anything about it.

Clearly, I survived.

So I’m not gonna try and tell you that this is essential knowledge or something.

BUT, knowing something about what hair actually is and how it grows may help you make more informed decisions about the way you cut/dye/pluck/wax/treat/do whatever to it!

And (BONUS!) for those of you who want to understand the science of hair, a basic introduction to hair growth & anatomy will definitely come in handy.

Think of this post as the ‘How it’s made‘ of hair:

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Disclaimer: this is not how hair is made. I just really like this pasta making machine. How it’s made has excellent pasta GIFs, just saying.

Really, the point of this post is to teach you the basics and answer questions like:

  • “What is hair, even?”
  • “How does hair grow?”
  • “If I shave my mustache, will it grow back thicker? And if so, can I prep for Movember this way?”

I don’t know what your hair questions are… I’m just guessing here.

But without further ado, let’s get on with today’s lesson!

Overview of the stuff you’re going to learn:

  • Hair is part of the integumentary system and it is an appendage on the skin.
  • There are two parts to “hair”: the hair shaft and the hair follicle.
  • The layers of the hair shaft are the cuticle, the cortex, and the medulla.
  • The hair shaft is produced by the hair follicle, a complex mini-organ in the skin.
  • The hair growth cycle has an anagen (growing), catagen (resting), telogen (shedding) phase.
  • (If you’re really keen and want to read more, there are scientific references at the bottom that are cited throughout the post with little numbers)

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