Your Hair Genes
Where Did I Get This Hair!
The short answer: from good old Mom and Dad. In fact, nearly all of the distinguishing features of your hair—its length, texture, thickness, shape, coloring, and curl—are inherited traits.
Your Hair Genes
Now that you know the scoop, we’ll let you decide whether your parents should be thanked, or blamed, for your hair genes.
Blondes Have More … Hair!
It’s a fact: When it comes to the number of scalp hairs, blondes top the charts at 120,000 to 130,000 per head.
Why? Because blonde hair tends to be thinner than other shades. Your typical redhead, in comparison, has a paltry 60,000 to 90,000 strands, give or take, to call her own.
How Your Hair Gets (and Loses) its Color
Your natural hair color is determined by melanocytes, or pigment-producing cells, that live at the base of every terminal hair follicle and supply pigment to one particular strand of hair.
These cells function independently of each other, which helps explain why people usually turn gray gradually (the familiar “salt-and-pepper” look) rather than in a single fell swoop.
Women, luckily for them, are far less susceptible to premature greying than men are. That means you probably have until your 30s, or possibly even your 40s or early 50s, before those pigment cells start thinking about retirement.
Many people who wish they were blonde see their dream come closer to reality over the course of the summer. Ever wonder why? Well, the reason is that UV exposure saps pigment from the hair shafts on your scalp, thus lightening their color.
Now, if that were the end of the story, we could all go home happy. But those same UV rays also rob your hair shafts of their natural oils, which leaves the hair dry, brittle, and prone to break. Just one more reason to invest in a good, tightly woven (remember?) hat.
And You Thought Scary Movies Made Your Hair Curl!
The degree of waviness or curl in your hair is created by two kinds of chemical bonds: hydrogen bonds, which are relatively weak and can be broken down by mere wetting and combing; and sulfur bonds, which are stronger and require chemicals like those found in many hair care products to be broken.
In addition, the shape of the hair shaft influences how straight or wavy a given hair will be. Most people assume that an individual hair shaft forms a nice round cylinder, and indeed that’s the way you’ll typically find one illustrated in a textbook.
But in reality, the shape of the hair shaft varies by hair type. Straight hairs tend to have round shafts; wavy hairs usually have oval shafts; and curly or kinky hairs have a more flat, oval shaft. A wavy or curly hair, interestingly enough, begins to bend back and forth right at the base of the follicle—before we even have a chance to see it.
The space separating each bend determines whether the resulting growth appears as a long, flowing wave, a close, springy curl, or something in between. As common sense suggests, a shorter space between bends produces more pronounced waves and tighter curls.
Your Hair Genes