Lamellar subcomponents of the cuticular cell membrane complex of mammalian keratin fibres show friction and hardness contrast by AFM

J. R. Smith, J. A. Swift
  • Journal of Microscopy, June 2002, Wiley
  • DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2818.2002.01028.x

Atomic force microscopy yields new information about the human hair surface

Photo by ahmad kartubi on Unsplash

Photo by ahmad kartubi on Unsplash

What is it about?

A number of reports have appeared showing hair fibres have an unusual fatty acid, 18‐methyleicosanoic acid (18‐MEA), covalently linked to its outer surface; this material is also present on layers that separate cuticle cells from each other. The low cohesive forces that exist between the cuticle layers are thought to present a fresh layer of 18‐MEA to the newly exposed surface. We have used lateral force microscopy and force modulation atomic force microscopy (AFM) to examine human hair fibres in which the non‐covalently linked fatty acids have been removed. Examination of the lateral force images of new cuticle surfaces revealed by the attrition of overlying cuticle layers showed three separate zones of clearly defined frictional contrast, providing more information about the 18-MEA layer.

Why is it important?

Understanding the fundamentals of the human hair surface provides an important basis point in the development of cosmetic products.


Dr James R Smith
University of Portsmouth

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