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Quick Facts

The cuticle is a layer of cells on the external surface of the hair shaft, interlocking with the cuticle of the root sheath (Dorland, 2011).

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The hair shaft is a rigid cylindrical structure which extends from the dermis or subcutaneous tissue through to the skin surface. The hair is composed of three concentric layers, the medulla, cortex, and cuticle of the hair, originating from the hair bulb at the base of the follicle.

The cuticle is the outermost layer of the hair shaft, forming the surface of the hair. This is a thin layer composed of heavily keratinized flattened cells arranged as overlapping plates, giving the cuticle a ‘scaly’ appearance. The cuticle encloses the rest of the hair shaft components (Yang et al., 2014, Young, 2006).


The cuticle serves as a protective casing for the hair shaft and provides mechanical stability to the cortex.


Dorland, W. (2011) Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary. 32nd edn. Philadelphia, USA: Elsevier Saunders.

Yang, F. C., Zhang, Y. and Rheinstadter, M. C. (2014) 'The structure of people's hair', PeerJ, 2, pp. e619.

Young, B. (2006) Wheater's Functional Histology: A Text and Colour Atlas. Student consult: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.

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