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Hair Structure

By :Nyaki Tshabangu 0 comments
Hair Structure
Hair growth is one one the biggest goals we have- we want long strong healthy hair. But before we get there you must understand these two things:
  1. Hair is dead! Once it has been damaged, there is nothing you can do to repair it in any way shape or form. Repeated blow drying, styling, brushing chemicals, sun exposure degrades your hair and this damage is irreversible. As in IT CANNOT BE UNDONE, Reversed or FIXED.
  2. Hair has a particular genetic or hormonal generated nature. You can only ever work with it, and spend time controlling it, and find products that simulate a different look and feel but you CANNOT change the way that it grows. Relaxers, colour, lotions, potions and viatimes can change the appearance of your hair and not the way it goes. 

The pursuit of products that will finally make your dream hair come true are endless, we all want to have thick luscious long hair, and unfortunately, the beauty industry knows that with the right branding, and marketing, we will buy anything that promises our hair dreams.

  • Used this to turn your relaxed hair curly again
  • This products reverses split ends
  • This hair colour actually makes your hair stronger:

We’ve all heard them, and we’ve all fallen for them but, while products promise and sometimes deliver on these dreams, its important to actually understand your hair and how it grows before diving into the sea of making it flourish.

Don’t get me wrong, there are wonderful products on the market that can temporarily wash and learning about your hair will help you identify them. 


Why we need hair

First up, the purpose of hair; why do we have it, or need it: 

The most obvious is aesthetic. Hair is pretty, it makes us feel pretty and confident. For eons, women (and men) from all walks of life, treasure hair because it is probably one of the most noticeable features on your face. 

But besides that it protects us from heat loss, brain trauma and exposure to excess sunlight.


How it grows

Human hair follows a specific growth and shedding pattern that’s hard coded into your individual DNA. A single strand of hair is only 0.02mm- 0.04mm thick, but is remarkably strong with a tensile strength equivalent to a thin strand of wire. 

Why then does hair seem so fragile? 

Hair stretches easily, unlike wire, and it just fine when it extends to about 30% of its original length. However anything beyond that damages the hair strand. At 80% stretch, the hair shaft fractures. Hair is even more vulnerable to breaking when the hair shaft is damaged or wet- but more on that later.



Each hair strand is made up of three layers: The cuticle, the cortex, and the medulla. (insert image)

The cuticle is the outermost layer of the hair strand. It has flaps that overlap and work at protecting the cortex. The cuticles are semi-transparent and can either reflect or refract light to provide shine and sheen to your hair. The cuticle is responsible for maintaining moisture in the hair strand and a damaged cuticle will have trouble retaining moisture. 

The cuticle can easily become damaged by chemical processes like relaxers and colouring, poor hair habits like constant manipulation. 

The cortex is the middle layer of the hair strand and this is basically ‘your hair’ making up 90% of its weight and giving hair its strength. The cortex also provides colour to your hair determined by melanin pigment. 

The medulla is the innermost part of the hair and its function is still unknown. Some hair, particularly grey or very thin hair doesn’t have a medulla and science doesnt know why! 

Hair damage is mainly as a result of the breakdown or damage of any one of these layers, primarily the first two – cuticle and cortex.

what is hair made from

Hair is made up primarily of a protein called Keratin. Keratin is a solid resilient water resistant form of protein. Getting a bit more technical, keratin is made up of amino acids linked together in a chain. Amino acids are the building blocks of the hair. 

These amino acids are called cysteine- and cystine is important to hair because it contains sulphur and sulphur can link together to form a disulphide bond, which is what gives the hair its shape strength and flexibility. 

Two other bonds are formed- namly hydrogen bonds; which are the weakest bond and can easily be broken by water or heat. THis is how your hair is able to be manipulated to become straight or curly. Adding more hydrogen repairs these bonds returning them to their natural state. 

The third kind of bonds are salt bonds, and these are broken and damaged by a strong acidic or alkaline product like baking soda. 

Disulphide bonds are the ones that break when we colour or relax our hair and cannot be repaired

Scalp Care

As you know, the hair shaft comes out of the scalp; but the scalp is ALSO made up of a number of layers and parts. 

The scalp has three layers: the epidermis,the dermis, the middle layer where most of the action happens and the hypodermis in the bottom layer. 




The epidermis is the layer we feel and can see. The dermis is the middle layer of the scalp and is the home of the hair follicle which is responsible for hair production as well as  texture and thickness, sebaceous gland, that produces sebum needed to keep hair lubricated, and blood capillaries that ensure blood and nutrients make it to the hair follicle.


Dermis and Hyperdermis


The hypodermis mainly consists of fat cells and nerve endings. 

Diving deeper into the dermis, just underneath the hair follicle sits a little pear-shaped ball called the Dermal Papilla. The dermal papilla is responsible for transferring vitamins and Nutrients from your bloodstream to your hair strand. The dermal papilla supports the production of key amino acids. Think of it as the umbilical cord of your hair.

HAIR Matrix

Wrapped around the Dermal Papilla is a structure called a hair matrix. This is where your hair pigment is produced and most importantly this is where a massive cell division takes place that forms the major structure of your hair.

In fact, the cell division and renewal process in this area is one of the fastest in the human body. So to tie it all together when you eat food, vitamins, and nutrients get broken down into your bloodstream, the dermal papilla transfers those nutrients into the hair Matrix and encourages cell division.


This rapid cell division is what forms your hair strands and the whole area is called the hair bulb.

The replication of cells at the base of the follicle is the continuous process by which our hair grows. As the hair follicle produces new cells, the older cells are Keratinized or hardened and forced upwards through the scalp. Once the hair leaves the protection of the hair follicle it is no longer a living tissue. 

And that is how your hair grows… easy right? 

All these beautifully shot images are courtesy of  Retha Ferguson from Pexels 


The science images are from

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