Welcome to the exciting world of natural hair care! Before we dive into hair care tips, protective styles and Do’s and Don’ts; let’s talk a little bit about the science of hair. It is important to understand how your hair works, where it comes from and what it is made up of. Let’s start with the latter.
You may know that hair is made up of a protein known as keratin. Keratin itself is constructed several by amino groups; among which are carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen,and cysteine. Hair consists of three distinct parts: cuticle, cortex, and medulla. (1) The cuticle consists of smooth scales that lay like fish scales and has a small part of fibre; (2) cortex, the middle layer shaped cells filled with keratin; (3) medulla contains air pockets running through the cortex.
Where does hair come from?
Simply put, from the skin. They are tube like follicles under the sk kiin that extend to the surface. At the bottom of each follicle is what is called the hair bulb which is where the hair cells multiply. As they multiply the hair is pushed up and out of the skin where they can be seen. But remember the hair that is seen on the surface is actually dead cells. Which is why it doesn’t hurt when you get a haircut. Well, at least not physically.
Dead cells? Hair doesn’t look like it is dead! How does hair grow?
Well it is, but thanks to the sebaceous glands, they help the hair grow but give it shine. Oil from the provided by the sebaceous glands travels down the hair shaft and nourishes the hair strands. Because ethnic hair is coily, these oils don’t always make it to the ends of the hair strand. This is why we have to add oils, liquids and creams to our hair for extra nutrients; while paying special attention to the ends. Whereas those with straight hair --with the help of gravity -- oils travel uninterrupted down the hair strand and can build up much easier. Which is why they have to wash their hair more frequently and use less creams and oils. This is why different hair types require different care methods called regimens.
What are some of hair types?
Hairs are given their characteristics at the follicle level with the shape of the hair follicle contributing to the shape and appearance of the emerging hair fiber. Those of African descent have hair that grows an elliptical shape while Caucasian and Asian hairs grow in a circle shape/ structure. Hair type is critically important factors in determining one’s hair care. Based on Andre Walker’s definition of hair types, there are four main categories of hair:
- Straight => Type 1
- Wavy => Type 2
- Curly => Type 3
- Kinky => Type 4
Additionally, you have course, medium or fine textures.
Type 1 one is hair which is naturally straight tends to be very soft, shiny, uniform in thickness from root to the end and difficult to hold a curl. Asian descend usually fall in this category
Type 2 hair differs from Type 1 hair because the majority of the hair is naturally wavy and has a defined S pattern. It may be loose wave or deep wave.
Type 3 hair is a combination of textures as it ranges from a loose curl to a big curl and has a strong elasticity and it tends
Type 4 hair is very curly also known as kinky hair as the coils are very coarse together.
More on Type 3 and 4 Hair
With Type 3 and 4 hair has several sub-categories ranging from A to B. “A” being loose and “B” being the tight coils. For both categories, the hair naturally has an oval pattern, and points of tension because the ovoid follicles flatten the hair as they emerge from the scalp creating unpredictable curl. With type 3 or 4 the hair fibers may reverse in curl direction as they grow and which weakens the hair fibers. This makes type 3 & 4 hair very fragile.
Take your time to read and understand this article, it will help you throughout your hair journey. By understanding the science behind your hair you will learn how to care for it properly.
Follicle: The hair follicle is a structure of the skin from which the hair grows.