Healthy Curl Basics: Curl Structure
Hello everyone!! Class is in session!! I realize from talking to some new naturals that some people do a Big Chop, and then look in the mirror like, “Now what?!”. When you start your natural journey, there is some basic knowledge and skills needed to make your natural hair journey exciting and ENJOYABLE!! Trying new things with your hair should be fun, not continually frustrating! So first, let’s go over the basics of hair structure.
Of course, most of us know that hair is made of protein called Keratin. Keratin is also the protein found in our nails, and the hooves and horns of animals. Pretty strong for something you can’t even see, right? Keratin is a perfect example of the phrase ”strength in numbers”. Individual cells (which are shaped like rods) are organized into bundles, and a collection of bundles forms the cortex of a hair strand, which is how hair gets its strength! (That was the simplified version. We’re fearfully and wonderfully made, you know!)
A strand of hair has layers, just like a tree has bark. The outside layer of the hair strand is called the cuticle. The cuticle allows moisture in and out of the hair strand, and is the protective covering for the inside of the hair, which is called the cortex. The cortex is where those bundles of keratin are located, and in some cases, the cortex surrounds a hollow space called the medulla. The size of the medulla determines the diameter of each hair strand. Essentially determining whether a hair is fine (small diameter), or coarse (large diameter). Sometimes, very curly hair won’t have a medulla at all! We will talk about the differences between coarse and fine hair, and how you must take care of each another time.
How much our hair curls depends on the shape of the hair follicle, and the rate at which each side grows. A curly hair grows from a curved follicle with an oval opening, causing one side to grow faster than the other, creating a curl.
It’s very important to protect your strands as much as possible. Once the cuticle is damaged (by rough handling, chemical treatments, heat styling, etc.) it is permanent, and cannot be repaired . If the cuticle is damaged, the cortex (which determines the color, curl, and elasticity of your hair) is vulnerable to damage as well. No amount of care or ‘miracle hair treatments’ can totally repair damage to the cortex. It must grow out, or be cut. Since damage to hair is so permanent, it is better to prevent damage as much as possible! My mom always said, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”. Be proactive about your hair, and protect it as much as you can!
Look at all the detail that goes into making our hair curly and fabulous! Our hair is unique in every way! Always remember that unique hair requires unique care, people! It’s up to us to learn how to maintain these works of art! Until next time!
What were your first few months as a new natural like? Did you have the information and resources you needed from the start, or did you figure it out as you went along?