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Hair Science 101...Part 2 :-Strands

Posted by t de lisle on

This is the hair zone most of us obsess over!

Thankfully, it’s an easy structure to understand, there are no magical, secret mysteries and it's way stronger than you may think.

There are three main layers to your hair strands:-

    • Medulla – core of loose cells & air spaces
    • Cortex – tightly packed keratinized cells, which give hair structure, strength, flexibility, curl, etc.
    • Cuticle- a single protective outer layer of scale like cells that overlap a lot. Affected by heat, moisture, acidity, etc.



Side point-hair colour is affected by eumelanin (a form of melanin) found in the cortex and air in the medulla (especially for gray hair)-that’s why dying usually involves forcing chemicals past the cuticle which may damage it.



Hair fibres are approximately 91% protein; proteins are made up of long chains of amino acids. The most common hair protein by far is Keratin while Cystine is the most popular amino acid.

These amino acid chains are held together by three types of bonds: Hydrogen, Salt and Disulfide bonds.

  • Hydrogen bonds are a physical type of bond affected by water and heat (wet sets and thermal styling)
  • Salt bonds are also physical and affected by pH (acid/alkaline)
  • Disulfide bonds are different- they’re strong chemical bonds, affected by chemical treatments like relaxers, etc.
Healthy hair is strong! An individual strand is stronger than an aluminum fibre of the same thickness and has a wrap round structure kind of like wire cables. An average healthy head of hair can lift over 12 tonnes of weight! Your neck is a different story though so don’t attempt.

With all these bonds, you can understand just how elastic hair is. At its maximum: wet, healthy hair can be stretched 40% to 50% of its length without breaking. Wetting also swells and softens the cuticle though, which may make it easier to damage while combing. So like with just about everything else, a little care and balance when dealing with wet hair is all you need. De ting real strong!

There are other helpful properties to know when dealing with hair: Density, Texture, Porosity and Curl Pattern.


Hair texture is due to the cross sectional shape of the strand! Relatively, straight hair is round, wavy hair is oval and kinky hair is flat.


Next stop...growth cycles and why your hair may never reach bra length *gasp*…no need to panic ;)


I'd love to hear your tips or questions so feel free to say hi.



*Mixtress Musings is based on personal research, thoughts and the experiences of myself, friends and clients. I am not a medically certified trichologist or chemist, hence the |imho*|



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