What is Scab Hair?
It’s really not a scientific or medical term and it’s used to describe hair that is in the process of being in transition. The term has nothing to do with literal scabs but is a layman’s term. Scab hair has no definitive texture or curl pattern and tends to feel wiry. It is the first few inches of hair that grows after a chemical relaxer has been stopped. As the hair grows out from the chemical treatment your “real” hair and texture will begin to grow in. These hairs differ from your natural hair in terms of curl pattern and texture. The hairdresser who used to texturize my hair made an interesting conclusion
from observing her clients’ hair throughout the years. She once said to me that she believes that the hair changes every 7 years. She made that statement as though it was fact and I haven’t been able to find any scientific information to support that. However just because there is no research doesn’t mean it doesn’t occur. It may just not be a phenomena that is investigated yet, hence the lack of supportive evidence. What we do know is that the hair texture will change naturally as we age due to hormonal fluctuations, nutritional status, medical conditions and medications. You’ll notice a huge change in texture from a baby through to adulthood. The shape of the hair follicle determines if someone’s hair is straight or curly. Oval-shaped follicles produce curly hair and round-shape follicles produce straight hair. What determines the shape of the follicle is hormones and genetics.
Hormones are mostly to blame for the changes to the shape of hair follicles that produce various hair types and textures. Scab hair is considered a non-hormonal texture change and it could be that relaxers temporarily change the hair follicle shape over time from an oval shape to one that’s more circular or any other variation. The hair follicle is constantly producing new hair cells and the changes in its size and shape affect the hair texture and shape that is emerging. The scalp cells and follicles may be changed over time with regular relaxing. Think about it – a relaxer every 8-10 weeks for 10-30 years is a LONG time! It’s entirely possible that even when relaxers or other chemical processes are stopped the follicle cells may return to another orientation that is genetically set.
This theory of scab hair may explain why people are seeing hair texture changes after relaxers. This combined with the hormonal changes that occur from infancy through to adulthood can be why the hair texture we had when we were younger is not what we have now. However a different perspective on scab hair is given by the Natural Haven. She points out that in order for the follicle to change there needs to be some change or mutations to the DNA which controls the follicle shape. Relaxers haven’t been observed or reported to do this. She brings up some interesting points and offers an alternative explanation for scab hair.
While it’s not definitive and there is definitely more research that needs to be done, it is a plausible explanation for what’s at the heart of hair texture changes after relaxers. Keep in mind that this hair texture change doesn’t happen with everyone. However it occurs frequently enough where there are many women who talk about how relaxers changed their hair. Would their texture and curl pattern have changed anyway? I’m not sure.