When it comes to healthy hair care, you must know how the hair works. Understanding the hair cuticle is a crucial part of ensuring that all of the hard work you put into your natural hair doesn’t go to waste. The 3 key components to know about the hair cuticle is, what is the cuticle, how does it function, and how it pertains to your hairs porosity. I’ll try to not get too technical but give enough information so that you understand and if you already know this information then kudos to you! You’re ahead of the game, lol.
Understanding the Hair Cuticle
What is the hair cuticle & how does it function?
The cuticle layer is one of the three major portions of the hair strand. The outermost layer protects the innermost layers of the hair shaft, the cortex and medulla. It has tough shingle-like layers of dead cells that form scales that overlap. The layers can be 5-12 deep. The shape of the cells can vary. They can be egg shaped, elongated, or flat. The hair cuticle controls the water content of the hair fiber. It is also what protects the strand from damage. Excessive use of heat (using flat irons, curling irons) and chemical processing (using perms or texturizers) can cause damage to the hair cuticle. Environmental elements like the sun and wind can also damage the cuticle.
Now I mentioned earlier that the cuticle is what controls the water content of the hair fiber. Porosity is the hairs ability to absorb moisture. There are three different types of porosity categories, high, medium, and low. There are few ways to find out what your hair porosity is but the easiest, in my opinion, is the Float Test. Ok, for this test you will need a few strands of hair and a glass of water. Place the strands in the glass of water and wait about a minute or two. Check the glass of water. Did you float and stay at the top of the water? Then you have low porosity. Did your hair sink to the bottom of the glass? Then you have high porosity. Did your strands stay somewhere in the middle? Then you have medium porosity.
High porosity hair tends to be damaged either from chemical processing, excessive use of heat, environmental changes or surroundings. The hair strands itself will have gaps or holes in the cuticle which holds very little moisture. Medium porosity hair tends to be low maintenance and is able to retain moisture well. It looks healthy and resilient. The hair cuticle is loose enough to allow just the right amount of moisture in and keeping it there. Low porosity hair tends to be tightly compacted and repels moisture when wet. This type of hair is healthy and shiny but can be prone to protein buildup so be careful with the protein. If you are struggling or having a hard time finding products to use on your hair based on your porosity level, here are a few suggestions that may help:
• Low porosity-use a water based liquid leave in and seal your hair with a light natural oil like jojoba, avocado, or almond oil.
• Medium porosity-use moisture rich conditioners that are silicone free, Use a light weight or liquid based moisturizer and seal with a natural oil.
• High porosity-use rich creams or butters. ACV (apple cider vinegar) rinses are good for closing the cuticle and retaining moisture.
Understanding how the hair cuticle works and determining your hair porosity category will help you find products that suit your hair care needs. Knowing this will definitely save you some time and frustration in the long run on your hair journey. Did you try the Float test? How does your hair measure up?
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