Hair it seems, is a mystical beast that has the ability to make or break your entire day. It really isn't mystical. It just is often misunderstood.
The hair that you grow on the top of your head is more complex than what meets the eye. You’ve got this thin fiber that comes out of your scalp, how does it get there, what does it do, what is it made of, and how do you keep it looking bright, shiny and beautiful?
Image via Look Natural Hair Restoration
In order to have the best hair, it is important to understand it. You’d agree with me on that, right? Many things affect the look and feel of your hair. Knowing what does what, helps you make decisions on what you want and don’t want to do to your hair.
Your hair strand has a root and a shaft. The root is where the shaft, and the entire strand come from. Cells divide below the skins surface, in the follicle, and create a growing strand of hair. Your hair follicle is where any and all life pertaining to hair is. Anything above the surface of your skin is not living tissue. Your follicle is a specialized pore the houses all the tiny organs that make hair growth possible.
Your hair strand has layers to it. There are more than 3 layers, but lets focus on the 3 main layers. The Cuticle, the Cortex, and the Medulla. The Cuticle is what protects the hair strand from the environment, damage, and gives it its shine. The Cortex is where the shape and strength of your hair is. The fibers of keratin, a specialized and strengthened protein give your hair strand strength and elasticity. The Medulla is the inner core of the hair strand. Not all hair has a medulla, very fine, and the hair on children may not have this layer.
Your hair is mainly Keratin. This is a protein that has been strengthened by metabolic processes., and makes up the outer layer of skin, hair, nails, feathers, hooves, horns, claws. Keratin protects internal cells from stress and damage. A cell that is keratinized has no capacity for metabolic processes any longer, meaning it is no longer viable or living. This is why protection is important and why damage can not be removed once it has happened.
The cool thing about Keratin is how durable it is. It is particularly insoluble in water, and organic solvents, meaning it doesn't dissolve easily. Just because the protein itself is strong, doesn’t mean it is indestructible. While simply soaking keratin in water, think your nail in the swimming pool, doesn’t make it fall apart, you can do irreparable harm if you are careless. When it comes to your hair strand, chemical processing, heat, rough handling, and even sunlight can cause damage. What really damages hair, is high alkaline substances. These are designed to soften hair and the keratin making it more able to absorb chemicals. The chemicals then act on the bonds inside the hair strand and allow for physical changes to the strand. Yep, we are talking about perms, color, and bleaching. The care with which the process is done is huge, so is the application and the timing. Not paying attention, following the timing, or directions can make hair strand disintegrate, or become so damaged you can just pull them apart.
Rough handling of hair can affect the strength as well.
Don’t think this means you have to stop doing the things you love with your hair to create the look you want in it. Just be gentle, conscientious, and particular about who you allow to do what with your treasured tresses.