WHAT MAKES CURLY HAIR CURLY – LESSON 1
What makes curly hair curly? Starting anything new can be overwhelming. Especially if like me, you have been following the same hair washing routine practically your whole life!
We will begin with a nice easy start and the basics of curly hair – What makes hair curl? This will help you to understand why curls curl and the reason curls need special care.
Welcome to Curl Club – Lesson 1.
When it comes to curly hair there are a few things you need to remember:
- Curly hair is more fragile than that of our straight haired counterparts
- Curly hair is naturally dryer.
- The type of hair you have is determined by the shape of your hair follicle.
The first two points, we can do something about, no. 3 not so much. Learning how to care for your curly hair will make all the difference to how it behaves.
“CURLY HAIR IS NATURALLY DRIER”
People born with straight hair have circular follicles and those with wavy hair have slightly flattened follicles. The flatter the follicle the curlier the hair! So curly haired follicles are oval in shape and the really kinky, coily hair has an almost flattened hair follicle.
The way your hair follicle tunnels into your scalp is also determined by the type of curl. Straight haired follicles burrow vertically straight down into the scalp. If the follicle angles into the dermis, as they do with curly hair, then the hair will curve as it grows. This can lead to gorgeous curls but also presents a problem. Within the dermis is a sebaceous gland and this secretes the oil (called sebum) that lubricates the hair. When follicles curve, the sebum cannot move down the shaft of the hair which is why curly haired beauties have an issue with naturally drier hair.
A strand of hair is made up of largely dead cells packed full of the fibrous protein Keratin. This protein contains lots of copies of the amino acid called cysteine. This is a special amino acid because it has a sulphur-containing chemical group that allows strong bonds with other sulphur containing molecules. In the hair, because it is largely made up of keratin, the cysteine amino acids can bond with the other cysteines further down the shaft, which contributes to the curling of the hair between bonds. These bonds are known as disulphide bonds. Curly hair contains many more of these disulphide bonds when compared with straight hair and because of the follicle shape and the angle, this allows different regions of the hair to come closer together which makes these bonds easier to form.
This is why perms and hair relaxing treatments were developed. These treatments take advantage of the keratin disulphide bond’s ability to change the structure of the hair. Relaxants break the disulphide bonds and perms can create them.
Curly hair from one person to the next can be so very different and understanding that is important. This means that there can be no one size fits all approach. There are however some “rules” to follow which can help to control how your hair behaves. Over the next few weeks we will examine what those “rules” are and why they are important.
Check out Lesson 2 – Curl Pattern to learn a bit more about what type of different curls there are.
Yours Curly x