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Discovery Magazine 4/1/1991

Let's Hear it for Hair!

If someone walks up to you and asks you if your hair is alive, what will you say? As strange as it may sound, hair is not living; and, it does not really "grow." The hair we see on our bodies is actually dead protein (PRO-teen) which has been pushed up from special cells deep in our skin. These cells are called follicles (FALL-ick-culs). These follicles are alive, but the hair they produce is not. There are about 5 million hair follicles spread all over the body. Some people have more, some have less. About 120,000 follicles are found on the scalp, yet they can produce as much as 100 feet of protein a day (that would be 7 miles of hair a year).

Scientists tell us that the average scalp hair produces about a half-inch per month. But not all follicles make hair all the time. Some follicles hibernate (rest), sometimes for 3 or 4 months, and then begin producing hair again. Some hair is straight, some is wavy, and some is curly. How a hair grows depends on the shaft (base) of the hair.

Hair comes in a variety of colors, too. The color comes from special cells called melanocytes (mell-un-O-sites) which deposit pigment (the substance which gives hair its color) in hair roots. As people grow older, pigment is produced less and less, causing gray hair. White hair is caused when there is no pigment at all. As we grow older, some of us will lose our hair and become bald! Look around at how many bald men there are. Scientists suggest that 20% of all men will be bald.

Hair serves several important functions. First, it acts as a sensor to tell our brain when something touches our skin (like a mosquito). Second, it provides protection. Eyelashes, for example, help keep foreign objects out of our eyes. Third, it can "shield" portions of our bodies from harmful effects of the environment. Hair on our heads often helps prevent serious sunburn (which is why many bald men wear caps!). Fourth, hair sometimes provides insulation for the body, and works with the skin and glands to prevent heat loss or to lubricate the skin.

Did hair "just happen?" No! God created hair to do all the things we have just mentioned. Some evolutionists say man is a "naked ape" which has lost most of its hair. The Bible says God created man (Genesis 1:26,27). Man is no "naked ape."



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