Welcome to my very first blog post and decoding session!
It’s really great having you here getting a taste of what this blog has to offer. Before we can start to get into the nitty-gritty topic of our hair, we first have to get up close and personal with our crowns. Just as it’s important to know how to care for it, it’s just as important to have a good understanding of what exactly we have at hand.
So, I’m dedicating this blog post to decoding what’s on our heads!
There are many layers to our crowns, and I’m going to help you explore each layer and explain the importance of them in regards to hair growth and hair care.
When we talk about our hair, we tend to talk about it as if it stood on its own and not address the system that it’s part of. Just like flowers, our hair is part of an ecosystem. An ecosystem by definition is a complex network or interconnected system. For a flower to thrive and grow it depends on the soil for its minerals, nutrients and water. Well, so does our hair but with our scalp. Therefore, the scalp is part of our hair’s ecosystem.
Something I have come to notice is that we tend to neglect our scalps during our natural hair journey, I can also put my hand up for this. This is as there isn’t enough emphasis on scalp care. Proper scalp care can play an instrumental role in the growth of our hair.
The scalp has an intricate network of blood vessels moving and carrying nutrients throughout the scalp. The intricate blood vessels are just like the roots of flowers that are housed beneath the soil, and just like roots, the blood vessels carry essential nutrients, glucose and oxygen to our hair strands which are used to support hair building and growth.
The scalp, much like the soil, houses water in the deeper skin layers which slowly migrate upwards to provide moisture and hydration to the uppermost layer of the scalp (the stratum corneum) when necessary. When growing a flower, it’s stressed that you must keep the plant hydrated by misting the flower and watering its soil. This is the same thought process with our crowns. For our crowns to grow, we need to ensure that we always keep the scalp and ourselves hydrated. The scalp also provides moisture to the hair and itself via the production of sebum produced from large oil glands in the scalp.
The Unseen Roots
Remember the blood vessels that I was talking about which nourish our hair strands? Well, these blood vessels specifically target our roots (follicle). But not the roots we see attached to our scalp, I’m talking about the roots on a much deeper level. These blood vessels directly target the bulb (dermal papilla) of our hair strands. Have you ever noticed on shedded hair that some hair strands have a round transparent end? That’s our hair bulbs.
Our hair bulbs are located underneath the roots of our hair and support the production of key amino acids (the building blocks used to make proteins, i.e. keratin, which are then used to build our hair strands).
Wondering why I am telling you about this? Hands up if you have been advised to massage your scalp? I have, and I am about to ask you to do the same. Here is why: massaging your scalp increases blood flow, thus increases the rate at which we receive the essential nutrients, and can result in increased hair growth and hair thickness.
Crown Fact – A study investigated the impact of regular scalp massages for 24 weeks on our hair bulbs and found that there was a significant increase in hair thickness at 24 weeks. Furthermore, they also found that hair cycle-related genes were upregulated. They concluded that the increase in hair thickness was due to improved blood flow and direct stimulation to the hair bulb.
Hair Structure and Form
The roots just below the scalp are called hair follicles which is where our hair originates from and grows out of. These reside just above our hair bulbs. As the hair follicles produce new cells, the older cells harden (keratinise) and are forced upwards through the scalp and are what we see and interact with daily. Once the hair is pushed through the scalp, it’s no longer alive. That’s right ladies and gentlemen; our crown is in fact dead! Now, this doesn’t mean that you should abandon your routines just because your hair isn’t alive, it’s still important to look after your hair regardless.
Our hair strands are called hair shafts and are primarily composed of proteins, water, and fatty acids. The way the proteins are bound and structured together, to form the hair strands, controls our hairs various characteristic including appearance, ability to absorb water, and its overall strength. Therefore, if our hair suddenly becomes inelastic, chronically dry or limp, it suggests that there is something wrong with the way the proteins and other molecules making up the hair shaft are interacting with each other.
Our hair strands are made up of three layers: the innermost layer (medulla), the cortex and the outer most layer (cuticles). However, I will only be addressing the cortex and the cuticles. The cortex is where our hairs strength, colour and elasticity originates from. Hair companies tend to try and produce products that can either reach or protect the cortex.
The cuticles protect the cortex and are made up of overlapping layers of cells arranged like shingles on a roof. However, each layer of the cuticle is attached to the cortex at its base. The number of layers reduces significantly from the roots to the tip due to natural weathering and damage, which also explains why our ends are usually the weakest and thinnest parts of our hair. This is as excessive lifting, and destruction of the cuticles has occurred from natural damage. The healthy appearance of our hair depends upon the condition of the cuticles. Worn and damaged cuticles not only reflect light poorly (giving your hair a dull look) but also increases friction between hair strands preventing them from moving well against each other.
Psst! Check out this paper where they really spill the tea on the investigation:
 – Koyama, T. et al. (2016). Standardized Scalp Massage Results in Increased Hair Thickness by Inducing Stretching Forces to Dermal Papilla Cells in the Subcutaneous Tissue. Eplasty16:53-64.