Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Basics: Natural Hair Tendencies

The following information is meant to raise awareness about what our hair does and guide you in ways to prevent these characteristics from being more negative than they have to be. After all, knowledge is power.

1. Naturally curly hair can be dry.

Sebum is an oily substance produced by the sebatious glands in the skin. The purpose of sebum is to water and weatherproof the hair and protect it from drying out (wisegeek.com). Based on the structure of curly hair, it is very hard for the hair's naturally produced sebum to travel down the hair shaft. With straight hair (aided by gravity), sebum travels very easily down the hair shaft and is effective at preventing damage. Curly hair however, needs extra help. Let me use an analogy: Remember those toy wooden roller coasters at doctor's offices? Think of the sebum as the beaded balls and the metal beams as our hair shaft. Like the beads on the toy, sebum gets caught along curves of our hair shaft and is prevented from reaching to the ends of our hair.


 As naturals,or anyone with curly hair for that matter, the natural sebum that is intended to coat our hair just doesn't make it far down our hair. To counteract that, we have to actively make sure our hair is protected  against dryness by applying an oil. It is not necessary to use a lot of oil because the hair will just use as much as it needs and the rest will just make the hair oily

2. Naturally curly hair is fragile

Despite what our texture may suggest, our hair is more fragile than you may think.When compared to straight hair at a microscopic level, curly hair (regardless of race and gender) has an uneven distribution of keratin proteins (proteins responsible for a lot of the hair's strength). Thibaut et. al.(2007) found that in straight hair keratin is evenly distributed along the hair shaft, but in curly hair, keratin collects on the "concave of the curvature" (if looking at the hair, you will see hills and valleys.The keratin collects in the valley of the hair). These researchers also found a correlation between hair curvature and keratin distribution. This means, that the curlier the hair strand, the more uneven the keratin distribution. Uneven distribution means the hair is weaker at certain points.
 In addition to uneven keratin distribution, Pantene.com reports that because of the uneven pattern in curly hair, the cuticle layer (which usually lays flat) has an opportunity to raise and leave parts of the hair cortex exposed. Exposed cortex can lead to weakened hair and eventually damage. Imagine trying to wrap a rigid ruler (cuticle) around a tire(curve of the hair). If you do accomplish this, there will be places where the ruler will be broken.


Because a lifted cuticle can make curly hair fragile, the best way to stop hair from being as fragile is to make sure that the cuticle stays as flat as possible. Using products with a low pH is excellent at keeping the cuticle on the hair shaft from raising (salonweb.com). If you want  more information about pH, feel free to read my post on pH or see what Google has to offer.

3. Our hair likes to knot and tangle.


 Because of the shape of curly hair, there are lots of places where it can connect with another hair and create a lock. This natural inclination is beneficial when we braid our hair; we don't often have to secure the ends of our braids. It's also great when we decide to create dreadlocks in our hair. However, the downside is our hair is almost too excellent at creating knots and if you are not careful, you can end up with knotted hair.

There are a number of reasons why knots are created in our hair such as teasing, product build up, and split ends, but I have found that a majority of knots that I experienced are caused by trapped shed hairs. When the hair sheds, our hair acts as a web and keeps the shed hairs on our head. Unlike our straight hair sisters whose hair sheds all over the room and you find their hair all your jacket in your closet:(... Hopefully you get the point, our hair just doesn't shed the same way so we must manually remove the hairs to prevent knotting.


 Preventing a majority of your knots is actually quite simple. It can be done by gently pulling the shed hairs out of the hair ( my finger combing post will show you exactly what I do). That's right, it's that easy. Note: the hair sheds on average about 50 to 100 hairs a day (nutrihair.co.uk), so it's important to remove shed hairs relatively frequently.


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