Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hair Theory: Growth and Retention

Hi Guys,

This post is just to shed some light on rentention.

ALL hair grows!!!

To often I have heard persons saying that their hair isnt growing and that african hair cannot get as long as indian or caucasian hair. This is completely FALSE.

If your hair has been at the same length for almost all your life, it may seem like it is not growing but what is actually happening is that you are not retaining the length. For example, a person may go to the salon every 6 weeks to relax their 'new growth'. If you have new growth then it must mean that your hair is growing but why are you not seeing any progress in the length of your hair? Why is your hair still shoulder length after soo many years or relaxing your new growth?What causes you not to retain length?

Well the answer is simple....BREAKAGE BREAKAGE BREAKAGE!!!

Let me explain, you are not seeing a difference in the length of your hair because you are losing hair from the ends. Those short pieces of hair that is all over your sink and clothes after combing...yup...the hair on your bedsheet..check.... hair coming out in clumps after a wash and detangle... definately!! All of these are clear indicators of breakage. Your hair strands are breaking from the ends... even sometimes midway up the shaft and this is why you never see any progress.

Now this is not to be confused with shed hair. We shed hair every single day, this is when hair falls out of the scalp after finishing the growth cycle. We can identify shed hair by looking for a white bulb at the end of the strand.

Now that you have had your light bulb moment... lol...lets talk briefly about some of the ways we can keep our hair on our heads instead of in the bathroom sink.

Nutrients: Hair is dead... but there are certain compounds needed to prevent it from breaking off. Some of these include water, protein, fatty acids etc.

Styling: This is very important when it comes to retention. Protective styling and low manipulation styles significantly reduce breakage.

Healthy Pratices: There are vairous practices that aid in rentention. Stretching relaxers, using heat protectant, careful detangling are just a few of the ways we can retain length.

All of the post on this blog will in either directly or indirectly be related to helping you retain length and would go more indepth in the aforementioned points. I just wanted to create a clear understanding of growth and rentention as all of my future posts would be aimed to towards helping African women grow long hair.

Thanks for read.... HHJ

Hair Theory: Hair Structure


I wanted to come at you first and foremost with some information about the structure of the hair strand and some of the challenges we curly girls face because of the structure of our strands.

Ok, so the  basic layers of a hair strand are captured in the image below. Any type of hair from pin straight to tightly curly  is made up of these three layers. This is just a basic overview of each layer for general knowledge, not going into too much detail to confuse anyone.
Cuticle- This is the outermost layer. It is made up of  transparent/colorless scales that overlap eachother in order to protect the inner layers of the strand. Most topical hair products are aimed toward affecting the cuticle in some manner.

Cortex-This is the largest layer of the strand and is made up of a protein called keratin and pigment. Within the cortex there are protein bonds, the number of bonds determine the texture and strength of the hair. Greater the number of bonds, the curlier the hair. The pigment present in this layer also determines hair colour. All chemical services/thermal services aimed towards changing the curl pattern of the hair or changing the colour of the hair affects the cortex.

Medulla-This is the innermost layer and its actual purpose uncertain.

Challenges for curly girls:

1. Curly hair is often dry as it is difficult for the natural sebum (oil) produced by the scalp to move downward towards to end of the strand. This is why most curly girls add oil in their hair daily while persons with naturally straight hair complain about having 'oily/greasy' hair.

2. The cuticle layer of curly hair opens easily just due to the curl pattern. An open cuticle is one of the main reason we experience breakage an splits as the strand is not properly protected. Relaxers and/or chemical services done by most african women also raise the cuticle causing the cortex to be open to the elements. In my up coming articles about healthy hair practices you will hear me talk about ways that we can close this cuticle layer and thus greatly minimise damage.