The structure of your hair

Our hair structure is mainly made up of the tough protein keratin. However, our hair fibers have a structure that consists of several different layers.

The three different layers are the cuticle, which consists of several layers of flat, thin cells. The cortex, which contains the keratin, bundled in a cell-like structure and the medulla, a disorganized and open area at the fiber’s center.

Each layer plays a part in the characteristic of our hair. The medulla is not always present and is an open, unstructured region.

The cortex, or middle layer of the hair, is the primary source of mechanical strength and water uptake. The cortex contains melanin, which colors the fiber and determines the color of your hair, based on the number, distribution, and types of melanin granules. The shape of these follicles determines the shape of the cortex, and the shape of the fiber relates to how straight or curly your hair is

People with straight hair have round hair fibers, and people with oval and other shaped fibers tend to have more wavy or curly hair.

The cuticle is the outer covering of the hair, its structure slides as the hair swells and is covered with a single molecular layer that makes the hair repel water.


Classification Systems

To determine what your hair type is there are various systems that help people classify their curl patterns. It is important to know what your hair type is as it is a good way to know how susceptible to damage your hair is and in turn, how to care for your hair properly.

The Andre Walker system is the most widely used system to classify hair. The system shows four categories of hair types, all with subcategories that go into more detail.


Hair type 1: Straight hair

Type 1 is straight hair, which reflects the most sheen and also resilient of all the hair types.

Straight hair is very hard to damage, and also difficult to curl. This is because the sebum in this hair texture easily spreads from the scalp to ends without curls or kinks, and is also the oiliest hair type.

Hair Texture: Fine Hair
Fine hair is the most fragile texture and can be easily damaged. Contrary to popular belief, people with finer hair tend to have more hair than people with thicker hair strands. Fine hair can tend to be oilier than other hair types. For those of you with fine hair you may find difficulty holding a style; your hair is light and can fall flat against your head. Volume is often desired but not often
attained. Structurally fine hair has two hair layers – a cortex and a cuticle.

Fine natural hair:
•Doesn’t hold styles well
•Can become weighed down with heavy products, causing the hair to look stringy
•Can look thin
•Can break easily because it’s fragile


Hair type 2: Wavy hair

Wavy hair has a texture and sheen between straight and curly hair and is likely to become fizzy. Fine wavy hair can be tamed and easily styled, however, medium and coarse hair can be hard to style.

Hair Texture: Medium Hair
Medium hair is the most common hair type and often covers the scalp very well. This hair texture is not as fragile as fine hair and can be manipulated into styles easily. Structurally, medium textures usually have two layers – the cortex and cuticle – and may contain the medulla.

Medium natural hair:
• Holds styles fairly well
• Usually looks thick and covers the scalp well
• Is not as prone to breakage as fine hair


Hair type 3: Curly hair

Type 3 is curly hair, which, is known to have an S-shape. The pattern of the hair resembles an ‘S’ shape and sometimes a ‘Z’ shape. This type of hair is usually voluminous, climate dependent, and damage prone. If your curly hair lacks proper care you can cause less defined curls.

Hair Texture: Thick or Coarse Hair
This hair texture is strong because structurally it contains all three hair layers – the cortex, cuticle and medulla. The medulla, the innermost layer of the hair shaft is pretty much a series of empty spaces.  It’s an area filled mostly with air and protein. This hair texture usually takes longer to dry than others, and can be resistant to various chemical treatments. It can tolerate heat well and resist breakage better than the fine or medium hair.

Thick natural hair:
• Appears full
• Holds styles well
• Can tolerate higher amounts of heat
• Can be resistant to hair colouring and chemical relaxers


Hair type 4: Kinky hair

Coily hair, commonly referred to as Afro-textured or kinky hair, is naturally very dry and spongy in texture and can be soft and fine or coarse and wiry. Strands form very tight, small curls of zig-zags right from the scalp and are prone to major shrinkage.


Type 4 is Kinky hair. Despite many misconceptions, this tightly coiled hair is quite fine and fragile. It is wiry, and delicate by nature. Each strand usually has a zig zag pattern. Kinky hair is the driest hair type, thus it is more prone to breakage and requires a gentle touch. A misconception exists that this hair type does not grow. Kinky hair grows at the same rate as other texture, however, if not treated properly it breaks more than other textures. Treat this hair type like a fine silk blouse – cleanse gently, detangle softly, and avoid harsh chemicals.