The part of hair that we can see covering the scalp is dead. Dead, dead, dead. It can be pampered and helped to remain in place with good care just as you would a leather shoe which was once a living skin but now must be brushed, cleaned, polished and kept away from water and chemicals to preserve its strength and beauty for a long time.
All hair is made up of three layers – the medulla in the center is surrounded by the cortex and finally the cuticle which is the outermost visible part. This outermost layer is the layer that we try to impact with the soaps, shampoos, perms, hair colors, oils and other products we apply to our hair.
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The cells of the cuticle are arranged in overlapping layers – like scales on a fish or tiles on a roof. In straight hair, such as that of Asian and some Caucasian people, these ’tiles’ form a smooth cover that lies flat and protects the hair shaft leaving it smooth all the way down the shaft. Because it is straight it is also easy for combs and brushes to slide over. In the case of tightly curled Afro hair the layers of the cuticle behave the same way the tiles of a roof would if the roof was round and twisted leaving gaps where rain and dust can leak in. The cuticle layers do not sit flat but are easily lifted in the places where the hair curves and gaps result. When the cuticle is lying flat or closed, it also allows light to be reflected off the surface giving hair a natural sheen. Since curly hair grows in curves the cuticle cannot lie flat, which makes it more difficult to reflect light and maintain shine. The gaps in the cuticle also allow water, air, pollution, and chemicals to move into and out of the hair strand. Afro hair is the curliest hair and so has many gaps in the protective cuticle even at its healthiest (See Image 3 above).
First understand that if you have very dry Afro hair that feels hard and scratchy you are probably normal; you share this complaint with just about all the African population on the planet!
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