Dry, Dry Baby: Understanding Dry Hair
As a stylist, the number one thing I hear from my clients, family, friends and others who are in need of hair advice is that….
Help me! My hair is dry!!
I would be rich if I got a dollar every time I heard that statement (well, I may be able to pay a few bills but you get the picture lol)
No one, I mean NO ONE, wants to have dry hair. It lacks shine and luster, it makes it difficult to create and maintain a style and it can ultimately lead to some serious breakage. Believe me ladies (and gents) I also share some of the same sentiments.
BUT, THIS CAN BE HANDLED!
*Grabs Olivia Pope jacket*
Now to combat dry hair, you first have to understand the structure of OUR hair and why it tends to be dryer than other textures of hair. I know for my #nappyhair ladies, it seems as though you cant knock the dryness, but there is hope!
Okay, okay enough of me…let’s get to the tea!
What is hair?
Hair is primarily made of mostly protein, which begins in the hair follicle. Overtime, the hair forms the main protein known as keratin. Over 90 percent of our hair is made of protein! The keratin found in the hair contains 18 amino acids, with cystine being the most abundant amino acid. Cystine is responsible for giving the hair much of its strength.
The hair shaft is made up of three important layers: the medulla, cortex, and cuticle.
The Medulla: is the innermost layer of the hair shaft and is usually found in those who have very thick, course hair. Those who have fine hair may not have this layer.
The Cortex: is probably the most important layer of the hair shaft. The cortex makes up the majority of the hair fiber and is responsible for the hair’s strength and elasticity. It is also the home for melanin, which determines hair color.
The Cuticle: is the outermost layer of your hair shaft and it protects the cortex and the medulla (if present). The cuticle has several overlapping sheaths of cells that resemble shingles on a roof. The cuticle is what we can physically feel on our hair strands. The healthy appearance almost solely depends on the condition of the cuticle. Relaxers, coloring, excessive use of heat tools, weather, and aggressive manipulation all play a role in the condition of the cuticle.
What is dry hair?
Dry hair by definition is: hair that does not have enough moisture and oil to maintain its normal sheen and texture. Sebum is the natural oil our scalp produces in order to keep our hair moisturized.
What causes dry hair?
There are a quite a few things that cause our hair to be drier than other ethnicities. One thing in particular is the structure of our hair. Due to the many curls and bends we have in our hair, sebum has a hard time traveling down our hair strands to provide moisture. Hormones mainly control sebum production, so the production rate varies. When our hormones are unbalanced, it can reduce or increase the amount of sebum produced. Another cause of dry hair is the lack of water intake. Water lubricates the scalp and increases the production of sebum. When we are dehydrated, our scalp suffers. The lack of water can increase dryness and ultimately cause breakage. There are other contributing factors to dry hair:
- Improper Diet
- Lack of Sleep/Rest/Exercise
- Not receiving haircuts/trims frequently
- Lack of deep conditioning/hydration treatments
- Porosity levels
- Overuse of heavy oils
- Excessive heat/chemicals
- Absence of proper head wear (i.e. satin scarves, bonnets, satin pillowcase)
- Product Buildup
How can we combat dry hair?
Now that you understand what hair is made of, what it means to have dry hair and the causes of dry hair; we can discuss solutions to these ongoing issues. I’m going to give you salon solutions in combination with home solutions.
It is highly important to invest into treatments during your salon visits. For example, I will recommend a steaming/hydration treatment to all of my clients who suffer with dry hair and for those who want to maintain their moisture levels. Steam treatments allow for deep treatment masques to penetrate the cuticle by releasing a warm steam to the hair strands. It helps to increase the elasticity and strength of your hair strands that leaves your hair amazingly hydrated! Another way to combat dryness is to stay up to date on trims. I get on my clients nerve with this (if you’re my client, you already know!) but getting a trim can alleviate a lot of problems with dryness. In some cases, the dryness we feel is isolated to our ends. When we rid ourselves of our old hair, we allow for moisture to properly be received by our hair. Trimming is a fresh start to having great, moisturized, healthy hair. Make sure you do your research to find a stylist that assists you in your needs. One last thing I want to point out is VARIETY! Make sure your stylist listens to your hair care needs and can provide different styling options that will preserve the integrity of your hair. If you wear your hair straight on a frequent basis, try to give your hair a break and opt for a protective style. Your hair will thank you.
Home solutions are just as important, if not more. You are with your hair more than anyone so it’s important that you do your part to help with dryness. Having a good diet is crucial for combatting dry hair. Incorporating LOTS of fruit, vegetables and proteins and healthy grains can alleviate dry hair overtime. Make sure that you are giving yourself conditioning treatments in between the salon. I will break down the different types of conditioning masques to choose from in another post. Now this is cardinal rule among us black girls: MAKE SURE YOU ARE WEARING A SCARF OR BONNET EVERY NIGHT! When your hair is in contact with the cotton sheets and pillowcases, they will make sure to strip any moisture you have in your hair. The satin scarves and pillowcases protect your hair from drying. Another great way to combat dryness is to make sure you are using products that are water based. Adding a water-based moisturizer to your hair care regimen will assist in alleviating dry hair.
WHEW!!! That was a lot to take in, I know. However, it’s better to have the information you need rather than to be lost and frustrated about how to handle this problem. If you made it to the end, you are the real MVP! If you have any questions, you are more than welcome to contact me in the comments as well as email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t let this be your only source of information. Make sure you do your own research as well and really dig into the knowledge about our beautiful #nappyhair!
Until next time,
Check out some of the sources that I used!
The Science of Black Hair by Audrey Davis Sivasothy