Under the Microscope: Hair

It’s a hairy situation we are examining today (see what I did there?) because the focus of this “Under the Microscope” post is hair. Hair is an interesting thing. Even the word is strange because if you have one, it is a “hair” and if you have several, they are “hairs.” But if you are talking about a whole head-full, then it becomes “hair” again.


Head hair

This is a close-up look at head hair. Did you know that on average, humans have 100,000 hair follicles on their heads? A follicle is the pocket in your skin out of which the individual hairs grow. Interestingly, the number of hairs on your head depends in part on the color of your hair. On average, blondes have the most hairs on their heads (an average of 146,000 hairs), while redheads have the fewest hairs on their heads (an average of 86,000 hairs).

The hair in this picture comes from the head of a person with brown hair. However, you may notice that not all of the hairs look the same shade of brown. In fact, there are many hairs that are even blonde or reddish in color!

Beard hair

This picture is of beard hair. The images of the head hair and beard hair come from the same person and this person has head hair and beard hair that are both brown. However, there are many men who have head hair that naturally grows in one color and beard hair that naturally grows in another color! Why? Well, there are two types of pigment that determine hair color: eumelanin (black or brown) and pheomelanin (blonde or red). In different parts of the body, there will be different colors and textures of hair, which is why beards sometimes have different textures and colors than hair on the head.
Notice as well that you can see a sharp, straight edge on the end of the hair in this picture. This is because this person shaves his beard with a razor regularly. So that is what gives the hair the straight edge.


Arm hair

This final picture is of arm hair. There is not a straight edge on these hairs because they have not been cut with a razor like the beard hair. In both the beard and arm hair images, you can see the textures of the skin cells behind them. Skin is a discussion for another week, but skin certainly does look interesting under a microscope!





If you want to view hair under your own portable microscope, you can purchase one here.