Does your hair feel frizzy? Does it go haywire and rough within days of washing?
Are bad hair days more common to you?
Then, I bet that your mane is suffering from some hair cuticle damage.
Before you go on to slather some serum to make them look better. It will help to read further to get a long term solution to the problem.
Cuticle Hair Definition
All the hullabaloo on hair damage begins to show at the cuticle level. The cuticle is the outermost layer of each hair strands.
The second is the medulla. While the innermost is cortex.
These 3 layers determine the health of the hair. Thus, it is important to keep all 3 of them in good condition.
The outermost cuticle depicts mane health. That is inclusive of the health of each of 3 layers.
But the display of health by cuticle follows a lagging indicator approach. That means it will take longer for the anomalies at the inner 2 layers to show up at the cuticle level.
So, months might pass without you getting to know screw-ups at cortex/ medulla layers. During those times the cuticle may not show any signals of anything going wrong.
But by the time you get to know. You will find yourself struggling from one hair repair serum to others. Without even realizing that the issue is deep-rooted.
And so, the vicious product cycle and damage repair goes on.
What is hair cuticle damage
To understand hair problems. It is crucial to understand the structure of the hair.
If you see a single hair strand at a microscopic level. You will see a lot of individual layers on its surface.
Healthy hair has those layers stuck together with strong bonds. While the not so healthy ones have those layers messed up. That means the bonds in damaged hair set loose. Thereby causing the outermost cuticles to stand up.
This is the reason for frizzy and untamed hair. Cuticle damage leads to that flyaway hair.
Ever noticed luster on healthy hair? That is due to the neat alignment of cuticle layers. What happens at the cuticle level affects its structure.
While whatever goes on at the lower levels also creates an impact on the cuticle surface level.
Indicators of Hair Cuticle Damage
Arid hair is a prominent sign of hair damage. A deeper dive into that and other ones are as below:
1. Extreme dryness
Exposed hair cuticles cause hair dryness. Cuticles guard the insides of hair strands. So, when they remain open. The moisture oozes out giving the hair dry and dehydrated look.
Thus, applying and re-applying layers of hair repair serums does not work. It is because they provide an interim solution. Not a permanent cure. Silicones in serums and conditioners stick the cuticles back at their place. But that effect does not last long.
So, the next time you notice cyclic dryness in your hair. It is time to investigate cuticle damage. Often, excessive and recurring dryness is the beginning symptom of cuticle damage.
Since the cuticle is no more doing its job. The open hair structure exposes the strands to damage.
Thus, the inner layers of medulla and cortex break too. Thereby making the hair fragile.
Hence, the hair becomes susceptible to even the smallest wear and tear. So, you end up seeing a lot of hair in your washroom. On the clothes that you wear. Or even on your work desk.
Hair damage shampoos claiming to banish hair fall do not provide relief in this situation.
Though, they do excel in masking the damage for some time. But with time, the situation of hair fall reoccurs.
3. Split ends
I define split ends as the hair that gives up. Come to think of it. Each hair strand is lifeless. Life exists at their bases, at the hair follicles.
So, the concept of split ends comes as a surprise. It is as if the dead hair died a death again.
Hair splits when it can no longer afford its length. Cuticle damage can play as one of the factors for that split.
The absence of a protective outer layer causes the hair to split. When the inner layers cannot carry on with their lengths without the outer shield. They split. Thus forming the dreaded split ends.
4. Poor hair re-growth
When the damage travels to the deep layers of hair strands. It affects the hair regrowth as well.
Severe damage to the cortex affects hair regrowth cycles. For instance, persistent infection and skin issues go till the inner layers.
So, in such a situation. Even if the hair grows from the cortex and medulla levels. It lacks strength by the time it reaches the cuticle level. Thus, it either splits at the ends or breaks in between.
With such repeated cycles of breakage due to infection from the outer layer. The follicles may give up on regrowing altogether.
5. Scanty hair
Issues with the outer layer of the hair lead to less hair on the head. Dryness, breakage, poor regrowth are the combined culprits.
With time, these indicators end up giving prominence to less hair. Less hair, in the long run, becomes no hair on the head.
By the time that happens. You have little to no control in reversing the damages.
Then, camouflaging a bald scalp remains the lone option.
Hence, it is essential to notice the initial stages of cuticle issues. This calls for the reformative steps for cuticle damage.
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Steps to Hair Cuticle Repair
1. Hair gadgets and accessories
Rubber bands, clips, styling products may not be as good as they seem. The styling benefits that they offer may cause cuticle damages.
So, it makes sense to use hair friendly gadgets and accessories. Cotton/silk hair accessories with a slide on clips are better than complicated ones.
Likewise, styling equipment with a heating base damage cuticles. While milder velcro stylers are much better in comparison.
Even if you end up using heat-based rollers/ straighteners. Then, make their use infrequent. Also, consider using a natural protecting agent to help minimize the damages.
Shift from plastic combs to natural wide toothed ones. I love handmade wooden combs made from neem barks. They reduce static and are safe for use.
2. Use of Protecting agent
You might reach out to an expensive hair protecting serum at a beauty store. But I am sorry to tell you that it will not work.
It has silicones and mineral oil derivatives that engulf the hair. Thus, creating a barrier between a damaging agent and hair. But it is akin to wrapping your hair in plastic.
Use of a regular conditioner after hair wash also helps.
3. Reduce external wear and tear
At times without noticing, we end up damaging the hair. Experiencing the wind blowing through hair is fun. But in the process, cuticle becomes fragile.
Apart from the wind, the Sun and water also cause damages to the cuticle. The solution lies in avoidance from these harm causing factors.
So, consider covering your hair with a scarf when going out in the Sun or the wind.
Hard water with dissolved toxins also damages hair. You should avoid borewell water for washing hair. Installing a water filter works as a solution to this issue. Also, do not use hot water for hair wash. Tepid water can work. Though cold water works the best. Since it closes the hair cuticles, thereby reducing the probability of damage.
The extent of wear and tear of the hair depends on how strong your hair is from roots. The stronger the roots, the lesser the damage. That is why nourishment of hair roots is important.
4. Nourish from within
A healthy diet is the foundation of healthy hair. Since the hair has keratin as the major ingredient. It is obvious to consume a diet rich in good quality protein.
B-complex vitamins and minerals like iron and copper are essential too.
Green leafy vegetables, chia seeds, and nuts/oilseeds help combat nutritional deficiencies.
Oil massages help circulate blood flow. Some of the oil seeps into the follicles through scalp skin as well. Thereby providing nourishment to the hair roots.
For extreme dryness, argan oil works the best. Its molecules penetrate better due to their small sizes. Moreover, the argan oil structure is similar to human sebum. Thus, it has a better affinity with the skin.
But for situations worse than that, clipping is the best solution.
5. Clipping damaged strands
I hope you do not come to this solution for hair cuticle damage repair. This is the lone hack to get rid of cuticle damage.
Tangled knots in fine hair, wet hair breakage, extreme hair loss are scary.
There is no way to reverse this extreme stage of damage. No matter how unfortunate it sounds. Snipping off the damaged strands works for the holistic health of your hair.
Matted hair struggles are real and pesky. Tugging them stresses the other healthy hair in their vicinity. Hence, chopping them off works well.
As it is there is no point overloading the already dead hair strands. Cutting their length saves them from an unnecessary burden.
Hair cuticle damage is the major reason for dry and unmanageable hair. When the cuticle layers remain open. They are susceptible to moisture losses and breakage.
Layers of repair serums close the cuticles for some time. But they do not tackle the principal issues of hair damage.
If the inner underlying layers of hair remain damaged. The cascading effect shows on the outermost cuticle layer.
The solution to the issue begins with the food you ingest. Since keratin forms the major portion of hair. It makes sense to increase protein-rich food.
Essential vitamins and minerals play other roles such as binding the hair molecules. Hence, you need those too.
Apart from consuming good food. You need to lower your external hair damage as well.
The heat from the Sun and gadgets play havoc on hair.
Hence, protecting hair is important. Also, choosing the right hair care products goes a long way in maintaining a healthy mane.
It takes a little thought to make some changes to improve your hair’s condition.
It makes sense to incorporate those changes today. Else, tomorrow it might be too late.
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