Hair Anatomy 

Hair grows from hair follicles situated within the fatty layer of the scalp. Contrary to the popular belief that hair grows as single strands, hair follicles actually grow in groups of 1-4 hairs called “follicular units”.

At the base of each hair follicle is a hair bulb where the growth mechanisms for producing hair occurs. Hair follicles get their nourishment from the blood vessels within the dermis. The cells divide and develop to produce the hair shaft. While the hair is still developing underneath the epidermis, it maintains a soft form. Once the pushes past the epidermis, its outside layer hardens into keratin.

hair anatomy illustration

Parts of the Hair

Dermal Papillae

The dermal papilla is responsible for regulating the hair cycle and hair growth, and is also comprised of androgen receptors that are sensitive to the presence of DHT.


The matrix surrounds the dermal papillae and contains all the active cells needed for hair growth and for the development of the different parts of the hair, particularly the outer root sheath, the inner root sheath and the hair shaft. Combined, the matrix and the dermal papillae make up the hair bulb.

Outer Root Sheath

The outer root sheath, or trichelemma, is the outermost part of the hair and is keratinized. It covers the entire hair follicle inside the dermis and then transitions through to the epidermis, providing the hair follicle with an opening from which to surface from.

hair anatomy - outer root sheath illustration

Inner Root Sheath

The inner root sheath is comprised of three parts: the Henley layer, Huxley layer, and cuticle. The Henley’s and Huxley’s layers are capsular layers that anchor onto each other with the purpose of stabilizing the hair. The cuticle, which is the innermost part that it closest to the hair shaft, is made from dead hardened cells and give the hair shaft added protection. This, together with the capsular layers that make up the Henley’s and Huxley’s layers, secures the hair and allows it to grow in length.

Hair Shaft

The hair shaft is the solitary part of the hair follicle that fully exits the surface of the skin. The hair shaft is made up of three layers: the medulla, cortex, and the cuticle.

The medulla is described as an unsystematic and unstructured area located in the innermost region of the hair shaft and is not always present.

The cortex, in contrast to the medulla, is highly structured and organized. The cortex is made up of keratin and is responsible for giving hair its strength and durability, as well as its water uptake. The cortex also contains melanin and determines the color of hair based on the number, distribution and types of melanin granules present.

The cuticle is the hair’s outer protective layer and is connected to the internal root sheath. It is a complex structure with a single molecular layer of lipids that helps hair repel water.

human hair growth anatomy