With more and more help on hand, embracing your natural colour, hair type and knowing how to care for processed hair is slowly becoming easier. However, bombarded by information on caring for short, straight, curly, dark or light locks and a jungle of products which are ‘anti-this, pro-that’ makes it very difficult to know which ‘box’ we tick and what products we should use. Keeping hair happy can become a system of trial and error: a frustrating dance from product to product which can be difficult to master, a circus of lotions and potions laughing unforgivingly at our bad hair days.
Knowing what product to use and how to use them is half the battle, “If you just smash a load of avocado onto the hair, it won’t do much. It’s about putting the right menu of ingredients together so that they can be applied effectively”, explains product trainer and Mystic Meg of the hair world, Aleksandra Herbich. Getting to know your hair will enable you to choose a bespoke list of ingredients so that you can get the best results from your hair. Queue ‘the hair reading’.
Forget smoke and mirrors, or rabbits appearing out of top hats, the only theatre needed here are dramatic results and head-turning, screen siren hair, both of which can be achieved without a magic wand, illusions or misdirection. A simple set of questions and a scope of smart hair products are the only secret to show stopping hair.
Without subjecting you to a tiresome biology lesson, your hair is quite amazing, (no not just your new hair cut) but the architecture of it. Hair is unique to us in the same way our fingerprints are, hence why prescribing someone a product simply based on the colour of their hair would be futile. Think of your hair type as a personality; two friends may share similar traits but that doesn’t mean they have identical personalities. Your hair is similarly complex and unique to you.
In brief, your hair is made up of a bulb, shaft, cuticle, cortex and in some cases a medulla. All this sounds very technical, so let’s break it down. The bulb is the set of cells which produce the hair, whilst the hair shaft is the part of the hair seen above the scalp. The shaft contains three layers:
The cuticle: the outer layer of the hair made up of overlapping keratin scales. This waterproofs the hair and provides elasticity to prevent breakage.
The cortex: an inner layer made up of keratin fibres that run parallel to one another, giving strength to the hair.
The medulla: a keratin structure containing air pockets. The medulla is sometimes not present in naturally fairer hair as it is often finer.
Both the hair cuticle and cortex determine what kind of hair you naturally have. The cuticles on straight hair tend to lie flat and hug the cortex tightly meaning straight hair tends to retain moisture for longer and looks shinier as it reflects more light, unlike the cuticles on curly hair which are raised. Because of this, curly hair often does not shine as much and can sometimes tangle more easily. The cuticle rises and flattens in response to many factors, such as hot or cold water, chemical processing and heat styling. This is often why it is recommended to rinse your hair with cold water after washing as it helps to close the cuticles and lock in the moisture from shampoos and conditioners. The cortex of the hair also helps to determine your hair colour, curl and thickness.