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Moisturising the Hair

Part 1- Hair bonds, dryness and their effects
Monday, April 23, 2012

So far in the series, we have seen the importance of detangling, cleansing and conditioning the hair. I have also pointed out some myths traditionally passed down to us and a general synopsis of factors which affect the healthy growth of our hair. Today and in following issues however, I will be looking at the importance of moisturising the hair. In examining this, the issue of dry hair will be addressed this week and next week, showing why moisturising the hair is crucial to preserving it. Different elements which contribute to this dryness will then be further explained, along with the types of bonds in the hair and its strengths and weaknesses. When looking at the dryness of hair, it is important that you know about the effects of what is called weathering. Weathering is the gradual wearing away of the cuticle. As this cuticle wears away, the cortex, which is on the inside of the hair strand becomes exposed. If you keep your hair dry and also do not protect it from external factors such as dust, friction and sunlight, the cortex will also wear away. After this, the hair eventually splits and ultimately it breaks. This is why conditioning is so important. As discussed in the last article, conditioning gives some moisture back to the hair which was lost during the cleansing stage. It also helps to strengthen the hair. In order to fully understand dry hair and its effects, you should also have some knowledge on the bonds in your hair. The hair is made up of several types of bonds, found in the cortex of the hair strand. These bonds are hydrogen, salt, disulfide and peptide bonds. Although hydrogen and salt bonds are far more abundant than disulfide bonds, disulfide bonds are the strongest of the three. 

Disulfide bonds - These are chemical bonds and can only be broken by chemicals used in permanent relaxers, texturizers and other chemical processes. This type of bond can be reformed or converted to another type of bond called a lanthionine bond. However, it can never return to its original state, hence the reason why you cannot wash or sweat out your chemical hair treatments. Changing these bonds tends to weaken the hair and also make it drier than how it would have been if you hadn’t had a chemical treatment on your hair. This is why it is especially important that you condition and moisturise your hair if it is chemically treated. Hydrogen bonds - These are weak, temporary bonds. However, they still account for some of the overall strength of the hair. These bonds can be broken by water or heat. For example, if you straighten your natural hair using just a flat iron, these bonds would be broken until your hair cools. However, when you wash your hair, after and it dries it will return to its original state and the hydrogen bonds will be reformed. Hydrogen bonds reform by drying or cooling the hair. Another example of the reforming of these bonds is when you sit under the dryer in order to obtain a flexi rod set or curly wet set. Salt bonds - These, too, are weak, physical bonds. They can be broken by changes in the pH of the hair. Hair has a pH of about five and the products you use in it should also have a pH around five. If a solution is too alkaline or acidic, this can break the salt bonds of the hair, dry it out and in turn weaken it. This again leads to breakage. If you would like the best for your hair in terms of moisture, it is best to leave it in its natural state. Afro textured hair tends to be drier than other hair types because of its shape. In addition, performing procedures to break the bonds in this type of hair especially can dry it out and also weaken it. If you insist on doing chemical treatments, ensure to condition your hair regularly and moisturise it. In the following issues I will further address the procedures and external elements which cause damage to the hair. Also look out for the article in which I concentrate on proper moisturising of the hair and ideas to bear in mind while doing so.


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