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a close up of the hair root in the scalp

Your guide on how to maintain root hair health

We all know that hair is made up of the key protein and the holy grail, Keratin. But do you know how the actual structure of the hair works and the role of our roots? Also why they’re so important, how they can become damaged and ways to fix this? We’ll cover everything you need to know about your roots and how you can ensure they’re healthy and strong.

Summary


  1. What is the difference between hair roots, hair bulbs and root follicles?
  2. How do root hairs grow?
  3. What type of tissue are root hairs?
  4. Can we reverse damage to our root hair?
  5. Conclusion

What is the difference between hair roots, hair bulbs and root follicles?


Every hair on our head is made up of the hair shaft and the hair root.

  • The hair shaft is the visible part of the hair that comes out of our skin.
  • The hair root is the part of the hair below the surface of the skin. The root is the part that interacts with many other structures within the dermis and hypodermis layers of skin. It is surrounded by the hair follicle, a sheath of skin and connective tissue, which is always connected to a sebaceous gland.

At the very base of the root hair cell, the root widens to a round hair bulb. This is where the hair papilla is found, which supplies the hair root with blood.

The difference is that the hair shaft is the part of the hair not anchored to the follicle. Therefore, most of it is exposed to the skin’s surface.

The rest of the hair (which is anchored in the follicle) lies below the surface of the skin. This is referred to as the hair root.

How do root hairs grow?


A graphic explaining the hair root growth cycleHair is formed by cells in the germinal matrix which undergo mitosis, or cell division, and move upwards in the follicle and become keratinised.

Keratinised cells were once alive, but filled with the keratin protein as they matured. This process caused them to lose their organelles and die.

New cells are continuously forming in the hair bulb – our hair shaft grows from this group of cells. This is the anagen phase of hair growth (the growth phase).

Single hairs on our head grow at a rate of about 1cm per month. Scalp hair can live between 2 and 6 years, then die and are replaced by new hairs.

As we age hair may thin, or baldness can develop with heredity hair loss being the main cause.

Why are root hair cells long and thin?

Epidermal cells can have two alternative fates, they are either a trichoblast (hair cell) or an atrichoblast (non-hair cell). Root hairs are similar to plant roots and plant cells in that they are both long and thin.

Therefore, water and minerals can penetrate easily and they have a large surface area for the absorption of water.

What type of tissue are root hairs?


At the bottom of the follicle is the hair bulb is the germinal matrix which consists of epithelial cells, epithelial cells are cells that protect and line the surface of the body and act as a barrier.

Inside the germinal matrix is the hair papilla. This is composed of connective tissue and houses nerves and also blood vessels that nourish the germinal matrix.

Connective tissue is the most important tissue in the body as it creates protective barriers, which supports other tissue and transports substances in the body.

What is special about root hair?

Root hairs are made up of lots of essential bodily tissues. The main function of root hairs is to absorb nutrients and also to protect the scalp.

They’re the base point for strong healthy hair. Hair that’s unhealthy leads to thin and weak hair at the root, and damaged strands can lead to hair breakage.

What can cause the hair roots to become damaged?

  • Over styling our hair: Any hairstyle that pulls tightly on the hair can cause damage to the hair follicles. Try to avoid hair extensions, tight braids, tight ponytails, and tight buns.
  • Heat: Using heat on our hair can be incredibly damaging and cause excessive breakage. If you have straight hair, enhance the shine and sleekness with cleansing and conditioning products. For curly hair, use products specifically for wavy textures.
  • Stress: Stress hormones can cause blood vessels supplying nutrients to your hair follicles to constrict. Thus, blood is diverted from your skin to your vital organs as the body’s fight or flight response to stress. It causes the cycle of the hair follicles to enter the shedding phase, resulting in more hair loss than usual.
  • Colouring Our Hair: Colouring, bleaching, straightening and perming our hair damages the hair follicles and makes our hair extremely weak. Reduce the number of procedures done to your hair that will result in weak strands. If you do, make sure you’re using products that will help strengthen and minimise damage to the hair.
  • Thyroid Imbalances: Medical conditions (i.e. an underactive or overactive thyroid) trigger hair loss. This is because your thyroid plays a role in producing new strands of hair at the root. When you produce too few thyroid hormones, the imbalance, therefore, causes your hair to become dry and brittle.
  • Alopecia Areata: Classified as an autoimmune disorder, alopecia areata can be triggered by hormonal changes. Characterised by T cells around the hair follicles, these cells release pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines that reject the hair.

What can I do to get strong, healthy roots?

  • Drink plenty of water: Staying hydrated ensures that your hair follicles and scalp receive adequate moisture.
  • Scalp Massages: Massaging your head improves blood circulation to the scalp, enabling hair follicles to receive adequate nutrition for hair growth.
  • Eat a healthy diet: Eating a diet rich in healthy fats, protein, vitamins and minerals will do wonders for hair growth. Foods like chicken, fish, eggs, nuts and leafy greens are great for improving hair follicle health.
  • Supplements: In addition to a healthy diet, supplements ensure that hair follicles are getting sufficient nutrients to promote hair growth.
  • Use the correct products: Make sure you’re using hair products that are suitable for your hair. Also, use products that use natural and nourishing ingredients that contain amino acids and strengthening properties.

Can we reverse damage to our root hair?


A close up of a bald patch forming on a mans scalpSometimes the hair might become so damaged it falls out. There are a number of factors that depend on whether our hair grows back after the hair has been damaged and has caused hair loss. Certain medical conditions mean that the hair won’t grow back.

Commonly used hair loss treatments include medications such as Finasteride, which stops your body from converting testosterone into DHT, and Minoxidil which is a solution that is applied to areas where your hair is thinning. These medications both have side effects and only work for as long as they’re used.

What is the most effective way to solve damaged roots?

The most effective and permanent solution for hair loss is a hair transplant. Those are the most successful form of hair restoration as opposed to over the counter medication, and are amazing for those wanting a full head of hair.

Hair transplant procedures involve taking the hairs from the back of your head and transplanting them where you’re bald. A hair transplant surgeon sterilises the donor area and numbs it with a local anaesthetic.

When conducted properly with an experienced surgeon, a hair transplant is a great decision to combat hair loss. Be sure to choose the correct hair transplant surgeon, clinic and method for you to ensure a successful hair transplant.

Conclusion


Healthy hair starts at the root, where the hair cells are formed. This is where they continue to grow for as long as six years, therefore it is extremely important that we keep our roots strong and healthy.

However, if the hair is damaged and will not grow back, a hair transplant is the most effective permanent solution for hair loss.

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