Hair Care 101:
Hair care can seem like a complicated process, but it really shouldn’t be! I know how daunting it can be to find a new shampoo or condition when you have so many choices at the local supermarket. Most people stick to their trusted regime but overtime, our hair can change and what we would usually use is no longer able to provide us with the necessary attention that our hair needs.
First things first, what is hair? Yes, I know it’s that “knotty mess of fly-aways that you didn’t brush before you ran out of the house with your breakfast in hand so you could eat it in the car because you over-slept”. If that description sounds like you, then you should definitely keep reading. So getting back to the original question: what is hair? Our hair is made up of a protein known as keratin, which is also found in our nails. The visible part of the hair is dead tissue and is known as the shaft. The only living part of the hair is the root, which has a fancy name but we don’t really need to know that.
Each strand of hair is made up of three layers: the cuticle, cortex and medulla. The cuticle is the outermost layer which is a shield for the underlying layers. The cuticle itself is made up of scales which overlap each other, similarly to roof tiles. When all of these scales lie flat, your hair appears neat and nothing can penetrate the cortex and medulla. The cortex consists of fibrous cells that are responsible for the strength and elasticity of your hair. Melanin pigments are also found in this layer. These pigments are responsible for the colour of your hair. Lastly, at the centre of the strand is the medulla. Now the actual purpose of this layer of the hair is unknown but it is most likely that it carries nutrients to the tip of your hair.
Now that we have established the structure of your hair, it will make it easier to identify which type it is. There are multiple variations of hair and it is more than likely that your hair will fit into more than one category. Once you have found the type that matches your hair the best, you will find advice to provide the best care for your hair.
So let’s look at the hair types:
If your hair is neither dry nor oily, then you have what every aims for…normal hair. Bear in mind this mainly applies to hair that has not been coloured or chemically treated. This hair type is able to hold its style relatively well and looks good most of the time.
To care for this type, choose a very gentle shampoo or opt for a two-in-one shampoo and conditioner to remove any product build-up while keeping your hair smooth and shiny. A conditioning treatment is recommend every once in a while but not necessary.
Dry hair tends to tangle very easily and appears dull and feels dry. It lacks moisture which is why it is so difficult to brush or comb through, especially if it is wet. This can be caused by excessive shampoo, overuse of heat, environmental damage or over/misuse of chemical treatments. These causes open up the cuticle leaving the underlying cortex susceptible to damage, resulting in loss of moisture.
If the hair is badly damaged, it will not be able to repair itself but precautions can be taken to prevent further damage. Use a nourishing shampoo and an intensive conditioner to help recover your hair’s bounce and elasticity, also avoid all heat from blow dryers to curling tongs.
Mainly associated with teenagers, oily hair appears to be greasy and needs to be washed frequently. This is caused by the overproduction of sebum which is a result of a genetic condition, environmental influences, perspiration, constant touching or even stress.
Firstly, look at your diet and start cutting out all greasy foods as well as dairy fats. Drink plenty of water too. Avoid touching your hair when you can and consider looking into a light perm which will lift your hair at the roots to limit the amount of sebum production. Opt for a gentle shampoo that will also add volume to the hair.
This is a fairly common hair type which is mainly identifiable by oily roots and dry or split ends. This can be caused by frequent chemical treatments, overexposure to sunlight, overuse of detergent based shampoos and overuse of styling equipment. This continuous abuse results in the hair overproducing sebum to help protect itself but at the same time, lifting the cuticle scales so the medulla and cortex are exposed and allowing it to dry out.
To control this condition, you will need to experiment with different shampoos for oily hair if there are none available for combination hair. Again, look for one that is very gentle on your hair and only use a conditioner on the mid-lengths and tips. Avoid overusing a product because it can cause your hair to dry out or become extremely oily.
With age, our hair slowly decreases its production of melanin and this is how your hair turns grey hair. This type of hair tends to be a lot coarser than younger hair and is prone to turning yellow.
To avoid the tinge, look for a shampoo that has a toning component whether it is a purple shampoo or a silver one which will counteract the colour and leave it in one even tone. Ensure that your shampoo will also provide environmental protection which is crucial in obtaining healthy hair.
Sources: The Professional’s Illustrated Guide to Haircare and Hairstyles by N. Pope, pages 14 – 17