Cristale is an online author and publisher. Her articles vary in topics and focus on life situations.
What Is the Basic Structure of Hair?
Hair is composed of multiple layers of the same fibrous protein that skin, fingernails, and toenails are made of. It is also found within certain organs and glands. This specific protein is called keratin, which also protects epithelial cells from damage or stress.
A single hair strand has multiple layers—the cuticle, cortex, and medulla.
- Cuticle: This is the outer layer of hair and is where shine can be seen. Hair cuticles resemble shingles or scales that open and close with heat and cold, respectively.
- Cortex: The cortex is where the strength, color, elasticity, and texture of hair comes from. The fibrous cortex accounts for 90% of hair's total weight.
- Medulla: This is the innermost structure and is only present in large, thick, and/or coarse strands of hair. This layer is typically not found in naturally blonde or fine hair.
- Hair follicules anchors each hair into the scalp, where the hair bulb forms the base of the hair follicle within the dermis.
Different Hair Textures
The texture of hair refers to the circumference of a single strand of hair, which is:
Think about when all of the hair on the head is pulled back...How thick is it in your hand?
If one single strand of hair is medium or thick, then it contains a medulla. If one single strand of hair is thin or fine, it does not contain a medulla.
Basic Types of Hair
The different types of hair refer to how hair naturally looks. Some of the most common types of hair are:
- Curly (loose, tight)
- Wavy (loose, tight)
- Kinky (loose, tight)
A person could have one or more of the basic types of hair. For example, straight hair in the front and curly hair in the back.
Having Manageable Hair Is Possible
As a person ages, so does their hair. Hair changes its texture, type, elasticity, and even strength over time. Years of sun damage, hard water, harsh styling products, and heat styling begin to show on the outside layers of hair.
The cuticle may become frizzy, brittle, and dry—kind of like hay. Hair may also stop growing and or even thinning because of the years of damage. When hair is not properly maintained and cared for, this causes other problems besides damage like unruliness.
Having manageable, healthy hair is possible for any type with proper and consistent care and maintenance. Healthy hair starts from the inside before it grows and shows on the outside. Caring for hair regularly will encourage new growth and increase the shine and durability, for a more radiant appearance as well as texture.
How to Manage Any Hair Type
There are some facts and tips about hair care that are necessary to manage and maintain hair for healthy new growth with added shine and strength.
Often times, many people take the time to style their hair but never actually take care of it. Caring for and maintaining hair should be part of everyone's regular routine, just as brushing teeth and taking a shower/bath. Caring for hair is essential for a neat, clean, and well-groomed appearance and also for overall, general health.
Managing hair is easy and will have noticeable effects, but it must be consistent and regular. Over-caring for hair is also possible by overdoing certain things.
1. Maintain a Healthy Diet
This does not mean to go on a diet, but to pay attention to the foods that are being consumed on a regular basis. A healthy daily diet that consists of foods that are high in protein, antioxidants, nutrients, and vitamins is best for making hair durable, shiny, and strong, along with encouraging natural, healthy growth starting from the inside underneath the scalp.
Foods to avoid:
- foods that are high in sugar content
- Black tea can hinder hair growth.
- Alcohol is dehydrating which makes hair dull and flat.
- Consuming large amounts of coffee is also dehydrating (caffeine also makes hair dry and brittle).
Vitamin supplements may be added to increase healthy, strength, and shine to hair.
2. Drink Plenty of Water
Water is the best and most natural way to add moisture back into the hair. About 8 [8-ounce] cups of water are what is recommended for adults, which may include flavored water.
Your hair will have increased body and shine from proper hydration. On the flip side, it will become dull, lifeless, and hard to manage when lacking water. Try adding some clean and fresh rose petals for a more enhanced taste.
3. Wash Hair Correctly
Knots and tangles after washing are not only a nuisance but also cause breakage. Even with a detangler, there are always knots and tangles to comb out.
- Brush your hair before you wash it: I have learned that if you do this, there is a drastic reduction in the number of knots and tangles afterward. Also, brushing before washing can help to properly disburse shampoo and conditioner, instead of just washing one big tangle. The strands of hair are neater and less jumbled up.
- Never pile hair on top of the head to wash: This will cause deep tangles in the hair. Instead, it is best to wash from the scalp down to the tips. The same applies when conditioning, however, do not apply conditioner directly on to the scalp because hair tends to look more oily even after just being washed.
- Never use hot water on hair: It will cause dryness, increased frizz, and unruliness.
- Pat and squeeze hair dry with a soft cloth or even a t-shirt: This reduces knots and tangles, but can also reduce static, breakage, and frizz.
4. Know When Not to Wash
Washing hair not only removes product build-up and dirt, but it also washes away precious oils that help hair to stay manageable, shiny, and healthy.
There are many times when hair always looks better the next day, the day after washing. That's because there are natural oils that have accumulated that naturally maintain frizz, dryness, and even static.
How often should I wash my hair?
I recommend washing hair every other day for very oily hair and every 2–3 days (aim for 3 days) for other types. However, don't wait too long because you'll have build-up on the scalp that can clog and damage hair follicles.
This is the best and most natural way to have manageable hair with the least amount of work. The new dry shampoos are intended for days when hair is unwashed, but those dry out hair and cause more harm to hair than benefits because of all the chemicals.
This is only recommended for hair that has no styling products. Styling products cannot be left on the hair for long periods of time.
5. Always Close the Cuticles After Any Heat Styling
Certain elements and conditions can change the hair cuticle's movement. When heat is applied to hair, like hot water or heat from the blow dryer, the cuticle opens which makes the hair appear frizzy and untamed.
When cold air or water is applied, the hair cuticle closes which makes hair more manageable and smoother.
Rinsing hair with lukewarm water during washing and conditioning will open the cuticle for proper cleansing and moisturizing. Finishing with a quick rinse of cool water will close the cuticle further for a healthier appearance.
A cool shot of air following the completion of blow-drying hair will allow for a closed cuticle with a smoother finish. Use only warm air just until hair is dry.
6. Do Not Over-Use Styling Products
Styling products are not the same as thermal protectors, glosses, or oils.
- Many styling products like mousse and hair spray contain large amounts of alcohol in some form, which is very damaging and drying to the hair cuticles.
- Extra harsh styling products such as pastes and waxes will strip hair of all moisture and the scalp of natural oil along with shine and health. Plus, these are very difficult to remove from the hair unless there are multiple washes.
- The alcohol contained in many styling products is usually the first ingredient listed and will build up onto the scalp and onto the hair. This build-up will weigh hair down, eventually depleting the natural body and volume of hair.
- Sleeping with any type of styling product left in hair is definitely not advised because the hair follicles will remain covered up to reduce natural hair growth.
Styling products are optional and should always contain natural ingredients. So while the hair may look and feel great immediately after styling, the result is more damage and long-term consequences.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: Can we use hair setting spray on hair?
Answer: Too many products cause build-up and residue.
© 2012 Cristale Adams
Cristale Adams (author) from Florida on September 14, 2020:
Thank you for reading and for commenting on my article.
Eleanor P from New York on June 23, 2020:
Erin Lizzy from Ohio on June 20, 2014:
Wow! Great article and information!
dinesh hair stylish on July 05, 2013: