Welcome to Hair 103
Well done, you're through to the final leg of the Introduction to Hair series!
As mentioned before, hair is made up of almost 100% protein called Keratin which is found in the cortex. The keratin gives the cortex, which gives the entire hair strand its strength and structure. It also has water for elasticity and trace elements.
The keratin chains are made up of amino acids which are formed by carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and sulfur elements. The amino acids are joined together by peptide bonds. Long chains of peptide bonds are called polypeptide chains which are in turn joined by single bonds. There are three types of single bonds: salt bonds, hydrogen bonds, and disulfide bonds.
Now this is where it gets interesting and to the part you've probably been waiting for. The salt and hydrogen bonds, though more prevalent than the disulfide bonds, are weak and easy to manipulate. These bonds can be broken by heat and moisture, this is what makes hair floppy when it's wet. It is also the reason we're able to straighten or curl hair using heat. This type of manipulation is gentler on the hair, and can be reversed. Repeated or over-exposure to heat and other manipulations including combing can lead to permanent damage such as split ends, or breakage.
The more disulfide bonds there is in a protein chain the curlier the hair becomes. These bonds are unyielding, they are fewer but much stronger! Chemicals are required to break these bonds in order to manipulate the hair and that's exactly what chemical relaxers do. When applying relaxer or dye, there is a chemical reaction which occurs and breaks these bonds in a way that cannot be reversed. That's the long and short of it. The undergrowth which appears at the base of the hair after a few weeks is not the relaxer wearing off, it's new hair which has formed.
"A little weird how it’s called a “relaxer”. This cycle is nothing relaxing to your hair. Instead, it is very stressful for your strands to be torn through like that. Not to be dramatic but bonds are broken!" Posted in Going Back To Natural - The Series
Though relaxing or dying is a stressful procedure for hair, we believe good hair and skin are healthy hair and skin, and we want you all to have them. Relaxed or dyed hair can be healthy too.
"I think it is important for people, especially Africans to understand how these things work. These are the first steps to understanding ourselves and how to better take care of our hair and skin." Getty
Well done, You're through Hair 103! Hopefully you have learned a lot through this series. Please let us know what you think. We'd like to hear your thoughts.