Have you ever stopped to think about what your hair is made of? You may know that it’s formed from strong proteins and that each hair grows out of its own hair follicle, which is located in your skin.

In an effort to make your hair grow faster, you may have tried layering on products that claim to stimulate growth.

None of these products really work, though, and it’s for one simple reason: Nothing you put on your hair can make it grow faster because all the hair you can see on your body is made of cells that are no longer living.

This doesn’t mean your entire hair shaft is dead — just the part that you can see. Read on to better understand this surprising phenomenon and how it affects your hair’s growth cycle.

No matter where you look on your body, you’re likely to find hair. Hair grows from follicles on nearly every part of you, with the exception of places like:

On some areas, like your scalp, your hair can grow to be several inches long. On other areas, your hair is softer and lighter, and it stays relatively short.

But all the hairs you see on your body have at least one thing in common: They’re actually dead.

Under a microscope, each of your individual hairs looks like a thick tube. This structure is called a filament, or hair shaft. A strong protein called keratin is what most of your hair is made of. Keratin is also the main component of your skin and nails.

Inside a hair follicle is a hair bulb. This bulb is where living hair is formed, as your blood vessels deliver nutrients to the cells inside. The hair cells then grow out of the hair follicle — this is when you’ll be able to see the hair on your skin.

Next, a string of new cells is created in place of the old cells. This process leads to the strand-like appearance of your hair.

As the hair follicle continually pushes old cells out and creates new ones, your hair stays rooted in your scalp and skin.

This is the reason why any home remedy or over-the-counter treatment for hair growth focuses on your scalp and hair follicles, not on the part of your hair that you can see. It’s also why it doesn’t hurt you at all when your hair is cut — there are no living cells to transmit pain to your brain.

Each hair follicle has a life span. Follicles go through phases of growth, transition, and resting/hair loss.

On any given day, it’s normal for your scalp to naturally release 50 to 100 strands of hair from your follicles. This happens as the follicles enter a phase of renewal and rest and temporarily take a break from pushing out hair strands.

Even though your hair is made of cells that are technically no longer living, you can still take care of your strands to help your hair look its best.

Hair that’s healthy and well maintained generally appears shiny and flexible. Here are a few quick tips:

  • Keep your hair clean. This doesn’t always involve washing your hair every single day, but it does mean figuring out how often your hair should be washed and the best products for your hair type.
  • Don’t take scalding hot showers. Hot showers can actually compromise the hair shaft and rob your hair of moisture. End every shower with a blast of cool water to seal and protect your hair strand.
  • Avoid heat styling, when you can. Heat styling will cause your hair shaft to dry out from the inside and make breakage more likely. Limit heat styling to once or twice per week, and give your hair lots of rest in between.
  • Get regular haircuts. Get a haircut every 10 to 12 weeks to get rid of split ends.
  • Eat well. Aim to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that’s rich in protein, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Even though the hair you can see isn’t made of living cells, your hair is very much a living thing.

Taking care of your hair properly can make all the difference in helping your hair strands last longer and look healthier.