Why is hair curly? Deductions from the structure and the biomechanics of the mature hair shaft

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The final shape of a head hair is predetermined through a variety of factors during its formation in the follicle. These are genetic pathways, specific growth factors, cell differentiation and segregation, etc., with spatial as well as chronological dynamics. The cortex of hair consists of two major cell groups. These are characterized by parallel (para-type) or roughly helical arrangement (ortho-type) of the intermediate filaments (IF). There are also cell-specific differences in the disulphide content, that is, the cross-link density of the IF-associated matrix proteins. Given the current state of the academic discussion, we consider it as timely to support and broaden the view that, the structural differences of the cell types together with their lateral segregation are the main driving factor of curl formation. The mechanical effects, which derive thereof, are triggered in the transition zone of the follicle, that is, upon formation of the mature hair shaft. Furthermore, an irregular, ‘flat’ cross-section of the hair shaft is shown to be a synergistic but not determining factor of curl formation. The degree of cell type segregation along the mature hair shaft together with dynamic changes of the location of the plane of segregation, namely, in a non-circular cross-section can account for very complex curl patterns. Against the background of these views, we argue that contributions to hair curl are implausible, if they relate to physical mechanisms which are active below the transition zone from the living to the mature (dead) hair

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalExperimental Dermatology
Early online date14 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019