What is hair made of?
Hair is made up of a dead, tough but flexible protein called keratin which has great strength and elasticity. Hair consists of ninety-one percent (91%) proteins as well as other pigments such as fats and minerals.
Hair grows from hair follicles, which are embedded below the skin on our scalp. The part of the hair strand that is in the hair follicles is known as the root. Our hair strand is what we see, touch and style.
At the base of the root is the hair bulb and this is where nutrients are converted to new hair cells, blood vessels deliver nutrients and where hormones come to change hair growth and structure during different times of life.
The hair strand is composed of three layers: Medulla, cortex and cuticle.
The cuticle is the outermost layer of the hair strand and consists of about ten (10) overlapping layer of scale-like protein cells similar to that of shingles on a roof. This acts as a protective shield to the hair shaft and is coated with sebum. Sebum is your hair’s natural oil and this is what gives hair its natural sheen. The protein scales of the cuticle overlap to lock moisture within the hair strand.
Directly under the cuticle is middle layer known as the cortex and accounts for 90% of hair’s weight. The cortex determines the strength, elasticity and texture of the hair. So this is the most important part of our hair and we should pay very special attention to it.
The changes involved in hair coloring, wet setting, thermal styling permanent waving and chemical hair relaxing all take place within the cortex. If the cortex is damaged it will appear fragile and weak and will break easily. Deep conditioning and regular treatments are necessary to strengthen the cortex.
Another important function of the cortex is the fact that it contains melanin, which gives our hair its beautiful color.
The innermost central layer is the medulla, it function is not known however and it said to contain air. This layer is sometimes absent in some types of hair but is said to be always present in thick hair.
So now that we know what hair is made of, how can we use this information to help us to make better decisions regarding our hair? Let’s talk about how the cuticle works and pH of castor oil and what all this have to do with you and your tresses.
How does the cuticle layer of the hair work?
When the cuticle is strong and healthy, our hair is strong and healthy as well. Although hair is dead, the scales on the cuticle layer either open to receive an ingredient or close to lock the ingredient within the hair strand.
Once the fiber of the cuticle is lifted, substances such as castor oil or your other favorite ingredients can become deposited within its structure. When closed, the cuticle can prevent moisture loss as well as act as a shield to protect against damaging environmental factors.
So now I’m sure you’re wondering if my cuticle can do all this, is there a chance that it is open now???
Well to be honest, yes it could be. But this all depends on what was the last thing you used in your hair and just how long ago this was.
So how can you make the cuticle of the hair work for you?
By having the ability to manipulate the scales of the cuticle allows you to control the appearance of your hair. The condition of the cuticle ultimately affects how your hair looks and feels.
Do something for me, run your hand through your hair and feel it.
Was it dry and brittle? Then your cuticle is likely open and a lot of moisture has evaporated into the air. If it was soft and shiny then your cuticle is closed and keeping moisture within your hair.
The most beneficial thing about making sure your cuticle is closed is that you get to experience soft, moisturized hair for several days at a time. This is the most efficient way to moisturize your hair and prevent constant dryness.