Curly Coily Springy Kinky Hair Structure

09/07/2012 | By | More

Your hair structure is made up of layers, like a tree. And similar to the tree’s bark, your hair’s protective outer layer (the cuticle), is composed of multiple overlapping scales. This layer covers and protects the fragile core within it: the cortex. Under the cortex, especially in people who have coarser hair, is a central air-filled core called the medulla. The thickness of the medulla is similar to the way thicker trees have more rings that add to the diameter of their trunks than thinner trees have. This article explains in detail the structure of the human hair.

Hair Structure – The Cuticle

Your cuticle layer holds each of your hairs together and protects it. When the cuticle is destroyed, the center of each hair quickly follows. Every strand of your hair is covered five to ten shingles deep, much like the shingles of a roof. The shingles of the cuticle look like transparent, overlapping scales. These overlapping layers grow facing down, which is why it feels so unpleasant to run your hand up your hair. You’re going against all of those millions of microscopic scales that cover all the strands of your hair.

When these scales are intact and lying against one another, your hair looks shiny. It shines because the cuticles reflect light like a smooth sheet of glass. When the cuticle is damaged by rough towel drying, shampooing, perming, frequent or rough brushing, backcombing, or burning with flatirons, the scales are roughed up and torn off. And just like glass that has been ground down, scratched, and chipped, the cuticle becomes dull and no longer shines.

structure of the human hair strand

Hair Structure – The Cortex

The cuticle shields the fragile center of each hair: the cortex. The cortex is like your hair’s database. It holds the very characteristics that make your hair look and behave the way it does. When your cuticle is destroyed, the cortex (the spongy center) is left exposed and defenseless. Once the cuticle is gone, the cortex succumbs easily to destruction. After damage of any kind is done, it’s permanent until the damaged part is cut off or replaced by fresh new hair. Conditioners can coat the cuticles to make them more slippery, but once the cuticles are damaged, they can’t ever be repaired.

The cortex gives your hair its personality, because it determines the color, elasticity, and curl of your hair. Every cortex is composed of coiled keratin fibers twisted together like thin lengths of rope, which are then bundled to make thicker lengths of fiber. Lots of these fibers are finally bundled together to compose the cortex. The cortex also houses a mixture of pigment granules, and these give your strands their own unique color.

Hair Structure – The Medulla

The very center of your hair strand might contain a medulla. The medulla is often present only in people with coarser hair, and sometimes it doesn’t even run the entire length of each hair. The medulla is mostly filled with air held in a honeycomb pattern of keratin. In the coats of many animals, this air-filled layer acts as insulation to keep them warm. It’s believed that the medulla’s presence in our hair might be a remnant from the time when we were also covered with hair.

Understand what may be really preventing you from growing longer hair. A bit of education about hair structure and how your coily kinky hair strands are affected by damage may help you turn a corner in your natural hair journey. Use of chemicals and harsh styling methods can fatally damage hair structure, which means that  no externally applied product in the world will bring it back to health.

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Category: Growing

About the Author ()

Blogger, writer, relationships/dating expert, fitness trainer and natural hair enthusiast since 1997. Sharing information from grandmomma, books and scientific journals, as well as my personal discoveries and experiences with natural hair as we journey from relaxers, flat irons and weaves together.

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