Who defines the color of our hair?

When I get passionate about a topic I always like to go as deep as possible.

In the same way, I live my passion for hair which has led me to become more and more interested in how best to treat and pamper it. And in order to do that, I think it's a good thing to understand what and how hair is made . And I advise you to continue following this monthly column because we will discover some good ones.

And since what afflicts us most is white hair, in today's article I would like to explore with you what determines the color of our hair and understand why some hair is blonde , others red, brown, black and finally white .

What determines the color of our hair?

It is well known that hair color varies according to ethnicity and represents that particular identifier of each individual person. Mark our uniqueness, and in some cases, thanks also to the different hairstyles we prefer, denotes and also underlines our personality.

Who defines the color of our hair?

But who defines the color of our hair?

I asked the trichologist technician Francesca Esposito Amendola who will also support us in the future in discovering this wonderful universe:

" Well, the responsible substance that has the task of defining the pigment of the hair is MELANIN which is synthesized in our body thanks to MELANocytes.

The percentage of melanin present in the stem defines the shade of our hair .

Over time, the percentage of melanin can increase (in adolescence) or decrease, leading to graying. There are also extreme cases in which the body fails to naturally synthesize melanin leading to albinism (colorless, very clear hair).

We can distinguish 3 types of melanins:

  • the black-brown eumelanin ,
  • pheomelanin which is yellow to red .
  • Alongside pheomelanin, other red pigments , known as trichochromes , are also found in the hair

They are naturally synthesized by melanocytes and the greater or lesser quantity of one or the other determines the natural color of the hair.

In dark hair, in the heart of the stem, in the medulla and in the cuticle, there is eumelanin - to which we owe the black and dark colors - while in the other types of hair (blonde, red) we find pheomelanin - to which we owe the yellow - present only in the outer layer (in the cuticle), while we owe the red color to trichochromes .

Depending on the mix and the percentage of these melanins inside the stem, the hair will take on a different colour.

Blond hair for example contains both eumelanin and pheomelanin while the hair of people of Asian or African descent contains exclusively eumelanin."

What does hair color depend on?

When is the color of our hair defined?

Melanogenesis, or the production of melanin by melanocytes , is linked to the hair growth cycle . There is a period of proliferation, during the first phases of the anagen ( growth phase ), their maturation towards mid-end anagen, and then the death of the melanocytes during the catagen ( intermediate phase of the life cycle of the hair bulb during which the arrest of the vital functions of the hair takes place ).

In gray hair there are smaller and more sparse melanosomes, while in white hair the melanocytes are inactive.

Melanocytes are therefore active only during the anagen phase while they are inactive in the other two catagen and telogen phases of the hair cycle.

The genes involved in the production of melanin are activated at different times in life, as a response to the release of some specific hormones. So the definitive color of our hair begins to reveal itself from adolescence.

What does hair color depend on?

The medulla or the inner part, the heart of the hair, is made up of very large cells of spongy keratin separated from each other by cushions / air bubbles.

These empty spaces present between the cells affect the more or less light / dark shade of our hair. In thin and very fine hair, the marrow is absent while in thicker hair it plays the role of "skeleton" of the stem.

The intensity of the color of our hair therefore depends not only on the melanin pigments and air cushions present in the medulla , but also on the absorption of light and therefore on how healthy or not the hair cuticle is: if the "tiles " of the cuticle are open and raised, the hair reflects much less light so it will also be more opaque and lifeless.

Before saying goodbye, I'll leave you with a curiosity:

Did you know that blonde hair has the most hairs (over 150,000) while black and brown hair has about 100,000 and red hair only has about 90,000 hairs. So the pigmentation of our hair also gives us an approximate indication of the amount of hair in a hair based on its natural color.

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