Hair growth is inevitable; healthy hair growth requires better understanding of the hair, your hair. Did you know each tiny strand of hair is made up of 3 layers? Let’s get into it.
The hair is so much more than you see on the surface, it is made up of an amazing yet complicated network that is responsible for support and nourishment. The hair starts out in a small sac called the follicle, the follicle is connected to blood vessels that provide nourishment to support hair growth, a sebaceous gland that provides lubrication and external nourishment as the hair shaft pushes out of the scalp.
The hair structure is formed of the hair shaft, the root and the bulb. The shaft is what you see, the root is within the follicle, underneath the skin and the bulb is in the deepest layer at the base of the follicle. This is where new hair is created, the cells become keratinised and the hair gets its colour.
If the hair shaft is sliced in two, you’d see it is made up of three sections. The outer section is called the Cuticle, a mid layer called the Cortex and the innermost layer called the Medulla.
Not much is known about the Medulla, it is the thinnest part of the hair shaft containing round cells with air pockets, but not much is known about its function.
The Cortex is the thickest part of the hair shaft, and contains melanin, which diminishes as we age and leads to greying.
The Cuticle is the outermost layer, it is quite thin and layered like the shingles on a roof. As it is so thin and gets the most assault from external agents, it is the first to get damaged. This is the part that requires your attention, it needs your help to maintain its integrity to keep the hair healthy.
Hair consists of water, keratin, lipids (oils and oil like compounds), minerals and pigments. Alpha keratin is the protein that is most abundant in the hair, it is insoluble in water. The lipids contained in the hair include triglycerides, waxes, phospholipids, squalene and free fatty acids. Minerals include iron, magnesium, zinc and copper.
The main chemical elements in the hair are carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen and sulphur. The main amino acids that make up keratin are cysteine, serine, glutamic acid, threonine, glycine and arginine.
Hair grows approximately 1 – 1.5 cm per month, it is stated by some studies that Afro Curly Hair experience the slowest growth, approximately 10cm per year, in both males and females. However, it has to be noted that hair growth is quite individual.
Phases of Hair Growth
There are three universally known hair growth phases, anagen, catagen and telogen. However, a new phase has recently been published, exogen, see study here.
The anagen phase consists of 80-90% of your hair, this is the phase of continuous growth. It can last anywhere from two to six years.
In this phase, the hair stops growing and consists of approximately 1% of your hair. It lasts for about one to three weeks.
This is known as the resting phase. It lasts for approximately four months and during this time, the hair is slowly being pushed or climbing to the surface of the skin/scalp prior to its exit and to make way for the new growth.
This is being suggested as the shedding phase after telogen, however, wider research needs to be done for more concrete proof and understanding of this phase.
As you may have heard, humans shed approximately 100 strands of hair per day, naturally. Afro Curly Hair is said to be the finest and have approximately 100,000 hairs on our head at any one point. This is why it is important to keep hair manipulation to a minimum if you want to sustain hair growth.
As I mentioned in another post, most hair tools are not conducive to our hair and can cause a lot of breakage and damage. In addition to this, the constant parting of our our hair traumatises the scalp, pulling into tight cornrows and braids lead to hair loss and even alopecia. Have you noticed that if you favour a parting – say left parting or middle parting – that section always ends up with less hair and the parting gets wider?
Tips for Maintaining Healthy Hair Growth
These have been said time and time again but I will reiterate. Hair is always growing, how we treat it determines how much of it we get to keep. Our hair is our crown and means so much more than just hair, it is our identity. My hope is that if you are reading this and have read this far you have transcended the need to make your hair fit a mould, your aim is to learn more about your hair so you can take the best care of it.
My simple but effective tips:
- Wash your hair weekly and deep condition with an oil rich conditioner.
- Wear low manipulation hairstyles that will last you until your next wash day.
- Rotate your hairstyles; don’t keep parting in the same place, don’t wear tight buns all the time or hair pulled back all the time.
- If you wear braids, continue to care for your scalp and do not leave them in for more than 3 weeks. If you wash your hair in the braids, be very gentle as you can break the hair off whilst trying to scrub the scalp.
- Our hair is not strong, it is versatile and amazing, but not strong. Long and heavy braids can lead to thinning hair and hair loss.
- Keep silicone containing conditioners and shampoos to a minimum. They give great slip and a nice feeling to the hair but see my post about conditioners here and here.
- Keep detergents to a minimum, they are too harsh for our hair. There are mild shampoos out there that you can use weekly. If you want to know more, see this post here
- Your hair needs oil. There are many people who would like to tell you otherwise, I would suggest experimenting for yourself. There are oils that are great for our hair and others that aren’t. The trick is in finding the right balance.
- Your diet is more important than anything you put on your hair. A hydrated, nourished and healthy body will produce hydrated, nourished, healthy hair
I will leave it there, if there is anything you’d like clarification on or more information, leave a comment or come talk to me over on our Facebook and Instagram pages.
Be Great x