by Jc of The Natural Haven
Hair care has many facets but I am increasingly aware as I make my journey through the science, that hair in great condition is hair with an intact cuticle.
What is the cuticle I hear you ask? Well the cuticle is sort of like the roof that protects the hair shaft (or cortex).
So why does the cuticle deserve so much attention? If your pursuit is great hair, you need the cuticle. Its function is protection, protection, protection, shine, protection and protection. How does the cuticle work?
1. It protects the hair shaft from damage due to swelling, preventing uptake of too much water (J Invest Dermatol 105: 96–99, 1995).
2. It protects the cortex from damage from frictional forces for example combing (Wear, pg 1012–1021, 2005)
3. It is the first line of defence against chemical damage, with hair even preserving its strength after the cuticle is damaged (Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, pg 59–67,1991)
Are you convinced yet? If not then let me tell you how damaging the cuticle affects the hair. There are many sites that talk about pH. Let me make this relevant
Apple cider vinegar is acidic (low pH 2–3),
Hair has a slight acidic pH (5–6)
Water to rinse your hair is neutral (pH 7)
Relaxers are alkaline (high pH 9–10)
Generally low pH up to pH 7 does not really change the cuticle but raising it to 8 and above causes the cuticle to lift up (see the diagram below) and this is when real damage can occur since the cortex is exposed to the elements. Some studies have even observed visible disintegration of hair at high pH (J Invest Dermatol 105: 96–99, 1995).
So what can you do to protect your hair cuticle from damage?
1. To protect it from swelling and damage, try some coconut oil, scientifically proven to reduce cuticle damage during washing (see the science on my blog).
2. Use conditioner when combing your hair, less frictional force to your hair! (Chemical and Physical Behaviour of Hair,Robbins)
3. Avoid using chemicals, bleach and color.
What can you do if you have already damaged your cuticle? Well after you give yourself a slap on the wrist, you can try and patch it up using hydrolysed protein like the diagram below (read the science here).
Great info Jc! Ladies, does this enhance your understanding of the cuticle?
*This article was originally posted on July 7, 2009*