The biology of human hair: A multidisciplinary review

Sandra L. Koch, Silvana R. Tridico, Bruno A. Bernard, Mark D. Shriver, Nina G. Jablonski

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


In the last century, human scalp hair morphology has been studied from multiple, and sometimes mutually exclusive, perspectives by anthropologists, biologists, geneticists, forensic scientists, and cosmetic scientists. Here, we review and synthesize historical and current research on hair to better understand the scientific basis and biological implications of hair microstructure and morphology. We revisit the origins of existing nomenclature regarding hair morphology and classifications, discuss the currently recognized limitations to hair analysis within the varied scientific disciplines studying hair, point out aspects of hair biology that remain unknown, and the great potential for integrating these diverse perspectives and expertise in future scientific investigations, while highlighting the benefits of combining nondestructive microscopical analysis with chemical and genomic analyses for explicating hair biology. Further, we propose consensus terminology for root growth stages through descriptions and images that will aid in the morphological and microscopical analysis of human scalp hair, thereby reducing confusion and the promulgation of inaccurate information that is presently in the literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere23316
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anatomy
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology
  • Genetics


Dive into the research topics of 'The biology of human hair: A multidisciplinary review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this