The Science of Curls: Hair Follicles Gives Shapes to Hair Types
Your hair is unique to you be it straight, curly, kinky or wavy but what’s the biology behind the scenes? Whether or not your hair is curly depends on the nature of your hair’s follicles. On one level, you most probably inherited your hair, as studies have reported a hair inheritability of between 85 and 95 percent. This means more than anything, you have the hair of your parents and if they each had different hair, a cocktail of the two at best. The curvature of a hair strand depends on the nature of its follicle. Just to be clear, a hair follicle is a dynamic organ, a sheath of cells and connective tissue that surrounds the root of each of your hair strand. It is the part that resides within the skin of the scalp. When a follicle is asymmetrical, the resulting hair cross-section is oval in shape and tends to curl. Otherwise, the emerging strand grows round and straight. Photo Credit: hairman.com The nature of hair fibers shows diversity across all human populations, suggesting that the development of hair has been subject to adaptive pressure over the years. All human hair fiber has the same basic structure but the 3D shape of hair varies largely depending on ethnicity and geography, from sprung coils to very straight hair. Stella has a love-hate relationship with her curly hair. You must be thinking “Hey, curly hair is interesting and beautiful” but there are two sides to this. It is interesting and beautiful as you thought, but can sometimes be incredibly fizzy and temperamental. To her, it is simultaneously a blessing and a curse. Or at least it was until she made a conscious effort to learn what gives her hair the curls. Hair, whichever type, has two parts, the shaft, and the follicle. The follicle is the part within the scalp and the shaft is the strand(s) that you love to style. As mentioned, the shape of your follicles is a major determinant of your hair texture. Another contributing factor is the way the follicle is tunneled into the scalp. For straight hair, tunnels are tunneled straight down from the skin surface into the dermis. If it is tunneled at an angle, the hair curves as it grows, causing it to curl. The resulting hair is of gorgeous curls but a major drawback is a dryness. Here’s how that comes about: Special glands within the dermis are lined along the follicle and produce oil (sebum) to lubricate hair. When hair curves, the oil does not travel the length of the hair and the hair that didn’t get lubricated ends up being dry.Hair is a combination of several compounds of different compounds, keratin, and proteins which both formulate inside the follicle. These proteins combine with sulfur in the hair shaft to form disulphate bonds. The more the bonds, the more the curlier your hair is and vice versa.
Your hair strands are largely comprised of dead cells fully packed with the fibrous protein called keratin.
“Can I touch your hair?” This is a question that many black women are asked during the day to day interaction with other people. Sometimes, it is a cause for breaking social relationships even before the start. Despite the popular discourse to the contrary curly hair is desirable today, especially in its natural and chemical free state. It has inspired artists and photographers throughout history and has been closely linked to political movements. The beautiful thing with natural black hair is that when you sport it, you are free, your hair is wild and you have a new hairstyle every day. By choosing not to tease or tame your hair, you choose to express a personality of your own rather than look like everyone else. A number of myths going around about black hair some of which you may have become a victim. A common one is that natural hair unclean and unmanageable. This has led to a number of discriminatory events against women who wore their hair in Afro twists, dreadlocks or braids. All these are created by the lack of fundamental scientific knowledge. If only some of these people understood the morphological differences of hair across different peoples, they would have probably thought twice. Afro-textured hair can be categorized into five, all of which are variations of curly hair. These classifications range from a loose curl to very tight coils. Its curly disposition makes the hair more susceptible to breakage and makes less moisture than other ethnic groups. Sebum and water, present in everyone’s hair, moisturize and protect hair when they travel down the hair shaft or get absorbed into the strands of your hair. Since the hair is curly, the path for sebum and water is not straight, making the hair lose moisture with ease. This makes the hair drier than the rest. Straightening your hair is, and should always be, a matter of choice and not a requirement. To do away straighten the curls, there are only two options. You can opt for chemical or heat straightening, both of which damage the hair fiber to a great extent. Chemical relaxers open up the hair shaft making the strands vulnerable to breakage. Heat straightening harms the cuticles, leading to the same result. Both methods are unhealthy either to the hair or the body and for that reason, you should always go for protective hairstyles that promote healthy hair such as braids, updos or dreadlocks. The hair industry has shifted in the last decade and there are now more products specifically targeted for you who wear natural hair. Understanding these fundamentals will hopefully help the larger society appreciate the fact that black hair is morphologically different and has unique requirements.It takes discipline, and a little extra effort to acquire natural or relaxed hair. Of more importance is knowledge given above, and patience, as the hair growth rate differs across ethnic groups. Most black women lose hair through chronic breakage simply because they do not understand the nature of their naturally unique hair. With the info above, you are in a better position to grow long and healthy African American hair.
Grab your Free 30 days Hair Growth Guide to Retain Length