What are Hair Follicles?

At the base of the hair follicle is the papilla which is a type of connective tissue that connects the hair to the rest of the body. The hair follicle itself if comprised of a material called keratin, which is a type of fibrous protein. The bulb of the hair follicle is attached to the papilla which leads into the main hair sheath that extends outside of your skin to become a “hair”. The hair sheath is surrounded by various layers that support the hair sheath and connect it further to the surrounding skin cells.
A hair follicle is supported by a number of different structures that collectively serve as an important organ of the skin, keeping us warm in winter and keeping us cool in summer (due to sweat). These supporting structures include sebaceous glands (that produce an oily substance that acts to protect your skin), sweat glands, capillaries and muscles (known as arrector pili). The muscles are responsible for pulling your hairs into a vertical position in order to create “goose bumps” and keep you warm by trapping a layer of air close to your skin (a bit like the way a wet suit traps a layer of water close to your skin). Capillaries allow your blood to flow close to your hair follicles and thus provide them with nutrients and oxygen so that they can grow and for the arrector pili muscles to contract in the cold weather.    

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