Hair anatomy for the clinician

J Am Acad Dermatol. 1991 Jul;25(1 Pt 1):1-17. doi: 10.1016/0190-9622(91)70167-z.


The rational evaluation of hair disorders requires familiarity with follicular anatomy. Hair structure can be easily examined by studying clipped hair shafts, entire hairs gently pulled or forcibly plucked from the scalp, and scalp biopsies (sectioned vertically or transversely). Anatomic features will be different depending on whether a given hair is in the anagen, catagen, or telogen phase. Follicle size will also vary, from the minute vellus hair to the long, thick terminal hair. Each follicle can be divided into distinct regions--bulb, suprabulbar zone, isthmus, and infundibulum. Activity growing (anagen) hairs are characterized by a hair matrix surrounding a dermal papilla; inner and outer root sheaths are present and well developed. A catagen hair can be identified by its markedly thickened vitreous layer and fibrous root sheath, which surrounds an epithelial column; above this column, the presumptive club forms. A telogen hair is distinguished by its fully keratinized club, which is surrounded by an epithelial sac. Below this lies the secondary hair germ and condensed dermal papilla, waiting for the mysterious signal that initiates a new life cycle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Hair / anatomy & histology*
  • Hair / embryology
  • Hair / growth & development
  • Hair / pathology
  • Hair Diseases / diagnosis
  • Hair Diseases / pathology
  • Humans
  • Specimen Handling