There's a lot of information out there about the importance of the hair's cuticle and keeping it closed and smooth. However, it's important to note that you first actually want to open it to allow in the moisture and nourishment! This article will share details on the structure of the hair, and how to open and close the cuticle to retain proper moisture levels for healthy natural hair care. A smooth, closed cuticle really is the secret to stronger, healthier hair.
Parts of the hair
It is essential to know the parts of the hair to properly understand what it is and what it needs to stay healthy. There are three main parts of the hair:
-Root (part growing in the follicle),
-Shaft (middle of the length of the hair)
-Tip (the end of the hair farthest away from the root).
There are also three layers to hair:
Medulla (innermost layer of the hair)
Cortex (between the cuticle and the medulla)
Cuticle (the outermost layer of the hair.
The cuticle is made of a tough protein called keratin and is really a series of overlapping scales.
The cuticle tends to be unorganized and overlapping like a roof shingle and these layers work defensively to prevent damage to the hair’s innermost structure while holding onto the water content of the hair fiber. The strongest hair has a smooth, closed cuticle because when the cuticle is raised or chipped it is extremely difficult to maintain hair’s moisture levels.
When the cuticle layer is open or raised, chemicals, ingredients, and water can pass through to the center of the hair strand and this is how you can add color or relax the hair by altering the cortex. Now, being able to open the cuticle is just as vital as being able to close it and while it is necessary or happens in everyday styling and care, the simple act of opening and closing is damaging to the strands.
What opens up the hair cuticle?
Potential of Hydrogen or pH is the measurement of how acidic or alkaline a substance is and is judged on a scale between 0 and 14. 0 to 6.9 is acidic with 7 being neutral and 7.1 to 14 is alkaline. Human hair is 4.5 or 5.5. A base or alkaline will open the hair’s cuticle and while chemicals like color and relaxers have ingredients that do open the cuticle simply adding water to moisturize your hair or some shampoos will also slightly swell and raise the hair’s cuticle too according to The Natural Haven.
This means even if you are trying your hardest to keep your cuticle intact that will be impossible as simply cleansing is raising the cuticle and a necessary component of healthy hair care. The problem lies when the cuticle is damaged and will not close and many who bleach or relax their hair suffer from this problem.
What closes up the hair cuticle?
The opposite of what opens up the hair’s cuticle is what closes it so that would be ingredients of an acidic nature like many DIYers favorite, ACV. Conditioners do exactly the same thing as they contain positively charged or cationic surfactants. The Natural Haven
A properly closed cuticle will contain the moisture that is in the hair shaft, seal it in allow for flexible, soft and more manageable strands. Many also believe that simply running cool or cold water on hair will close the cuticle but there is no evidence to support that claim. The Natural Haven
Also understand that the hair cuticle is not something as rudimentary as a door that one can open and close just as easily. It can be damaged and repaired and really no need for force to open it. Wetting the hair or using most shampoos will open it while conditioning and deep conditioning (which should be done after every wash) will close it after it has applied the necessary moisture. By washing, styling and dealing with the environment will cause damage to your hair.
This is inescapable so maintain the hair by cleansing, conditioning, deep conditioning, and protecting it from the elements, over-manipulation, heat, and chemicals. Do what you must and what you want but always be sure to care for it and if you are inflicting more damage than usual than think about protein treatments or a break from the damage.