What is hair, exactly? Technically, its part of the skin, but, like finger and toe nails, it separates from the skin as it grows. Interestingly, the hair we see above the scalp is dead, despite its reputation as the crowning glory of human heads. Hair does respond to good, or bad, treatment, so, it’s vitally important to take time to treat your hair well. While it’s not “living”, hair can still be damaged.
Why do we have hair? What purpose does it serve other than its beauty and possibly helping us to attract a partner? Before going into some detail, it’s important to consider why humans have hair on the head and body.
Here are some considerations about hair loss:
- Hair protects your head and body—against sunburn, windburn, chaffing, scrapes and impacts, etc.
- Hair helps regulate your body temperature by keeping you cool in summer and warm in winter.
- Hair serves as an early warning sign for intrusion – since you feel it for example when an insect lands on your skin, protecting you from bites and stings.
While all of the above are true, it must also be said that human hair is in part simply a remnant from earlier, hairier times in our evolutionary history. Our ancestors may have had a heightened need for hair – beyond a slick new style for date night – and the hair we have today is simply that which has not yet evolved away.
It is crucial to understand that genetics rule the appearance of your hair just as much as the rest of your body. Keeping in mind that most people’s genes today are highly diverse (due to globalization), we can make some general statements about hair in different racial groups.
Native Americans tend not to experience hair loss and nobody seems to know the reason why. Among other races, it seems not everyone is created equal. For instance, African Americans have hair that tangles together making it appear thicker. On average, each square centimetre contains 130 hairs. Asians have the thickest and coarsest hair. This gives the appearance of having more hair. Yet, each square centimetre contains only 150 hairs. Caucasians have the thinnest hair of any ethnicity; although, they have the highest number of hairs on their heads at up to 200 hairs per square centimetre.