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Hair cuticle

Recommended video: Scalp and hair [28:45]
Histological features of the scalp and hair.

The cuticle is the outermost of the three layers of a hair shaft, encircling the middle cortex layer and the innermost medulla. The cuticle is relatively thin but highly keratinized, consisting of a single layer of overlapping keratinocytes (a.k.a. cuticle epithelial cells) which compact the underlying layers and give hair a scale-like appearance. It provides mechanical strength and protection to the hair shaft to resist abrasion.

The hair cuticle can become worn over time, resulting in the fraying of the cortex and medulla, commonly seen as "split ends". Although it is the most superficial layer, the cuticle does not provide color to the hair, which is instead determined by the melanin pigment located in the cortex. 

Terminology English: Hair cuticle
Latin: Cuticula pili
Definition Outermost layer of a hair shaft
Function Strengthens and protects hair shaft

Learn more about the structure of hair with this study unit (and article):

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