Hair factsFascinating Hair Facts: What determines the color, why it turns gray and other fun Q&A

Hair comes with different color and shapes. Do you know why? Let take a look at these 7 facts about hair!

Hair Facts #1: What Is It Made Of?

Hair is primarily made of a protein called keratin. Fingernails are also made of keratin, but it appears colorless because it lacks the pigment called Melanin, a dark-brown substance that "colors" our hair and our skin and products us from radiation from the sun.

Hair Facts #2: What Determines The Color?

The color actually depends on the amount of melanin on each strand. Black hair contains the most, while blond contains the least. Brown, red, and chestnut-color hair are somewhere in between.

Hair Facts #3: What Makes It Curly?

It all came down to genetics, and is determined by your hair follicles. Follicles making curls tend to be oval-shaped and produce hair with more "disulfide bonds". What's that?

As we learned from the above, hair is primarily made of proteins. Within this protein compound there are sulfide atoms. When sulfide atoms are close together, they form a bond called disulfide bonds ("di" means two). If they are further apart but manage to form the disulfide bond, these strong bonds will bend the protein, thus making it curly.

Some of us may choose to perm our hair, and the curls and waves is achieved by chemically altering the number of disulfide bonds in the hair. We can also perm it straight based on the same chemical process.

Although the verb "perm" comes from "permanent wave", it does not mean that we can have our hair permanently curled or straightened. This is because the the portion of hair grown after the perming process will not have the altered characteristics, and we have to keep perming to get the result.

Also, those with natural curls may notice that your hair tends to get more curled in humid environment. The air actually acts as a natural "air conditioner" and make your hair appear in its original curly state. In general, curls is drier and unfortunately frizzier than straights because the curls make it more difficult for the oil (from the root of the hair) to reach the tip of the hair.

Hair Facts #4: Why Do Hair Turn Gray As We Grow Older?

Under our scalp, we have lots of tissues called follicles where each strand of our hair grows out, and follicles contain pigment cells producing Melanin.

As we age, the pigment cells in the follicles begin to degenerate and less Melanin is produced, making the hair color less and less intense. Therefore, our hair gradually turns gray, or even completely white.

When does this aging process start? it depends a lot on the genes, so if either of your grandparents get white hair at young age, your parents will likely follow (so will you!). Certain disease such as anemia may cause graying of hair as well.

Hair Facts #5: Will Stress Lead To Gray Hair?

My mom used to say that but this theory has not been supported by scientific studies. Too bad, can't use the same trick on our children!

Hair Facts #6: Why Can We Temporarily Style Our Hair By Wetting Then Drying It?

Our hair is made of a type of keratin wounded in the shape of a coil. This "coil" is tightly held together by hydrogen bonds (bonds between hydrogen and other atoms).

When the hair is wet, these hydrogen bonds are broken down and we are able to stretch (slightly uncoil) our hair. When it is dried, the hydrogen bonds are re-formed and the stretched hair will stay in its form temporarily. However, this newly formed hydrogen bond is not strong enough to alter the natural curliness (or lack of) of our hair and thus our hair will go back to its original state within a few hours.

Hair Facts #7: Cool Hair Stats

A) How many strands of hair do we have?

On average we have around 100,000 strands. Red-heads have the least (around 90,000) while blonds have the most (around 145,000).

B) How long can it grow?

I have seen pictures of people with hair beyond their body height, but most stop growing somewhere between the waist and the ankle (makes sense, so you won't step on it).

C) When will hair stop growing?

Each hair follicle can grow approximately 20 hairs in one's lifetime. In general, men tend to get bald earlier than women.

D) How much hair do we lose each day?

About 100 strands a day for a healthy person. So no need to freak out when you see quite a few strands on your comb!

I hope you enjoyed this article and learned something interesting. Have a nice day!

* Photograph courtesy of Wiki Commons