Root Cause of Damaged Hair

In college I studied accounting which required me to take some business course electives.  In a few of my management classes we learned about Root Cause Analysis, which is basically a method that will help you determine the root or main reason why something happened the way it did.  When it comes to my health and body I like to know the main reason (or the root) of why something is happening before I’m given the antidote.  Therefore, I thought I would do some research and provide a little guidance on hair damage.  Quite often we tend to see resources on how to fix our damaged hair, but not too often resources breakdown what causes hair damage.  Knowing why we are seeing hair damage is the first step to minimizing hair damage.

Let’s start off with some background about the hair shaft/strand.  The hair shaft is made up of keratin, which is a hard protein.  Please note that this protein is dead; therefore, the beautiful strands you see coming out of your head is not living.  The keratin of our hair has three layers:  the inner layer is the medulla, the second layer is the cortex, and the outer layer is the cuticle.  According to article “What Factors Can Cause Damage to Hair” on the Schwarzkopf Professional website, the cuticle has approximately 10 layers of cells.

Basic image of the hair shaft layers.

Now that we know the outer layer of the hair strand is the cuticle we probably think the cuticle is the layer we have to protect, right?  Well yes but there is more we have to think about.  The cortex is the layer that gives our hair its thickness, and the cortex controls how elastic our hair strands are.  The cuticle is many layers of cells that protects the cortex.  When our cuticle is disrupted the cortex is at risk of being damaged.  When we think of what damaged hair looks like we think the hair would be brittle, thin, and have a dull color.  All of those things previously stated are determined by the health of the cortex.  To heal hair damage we need to minimize disruptions to our hair cuticles so the cell layers of the cuticles remain flat (unlike the featured picture at the top of this post).  Below are a list of things which can cause disruptions to our hair cuticles.

  • Tools/Techniques
    • Combs
    • Brushes
    • Ponytail holders
    • Any kind of curl tools (flexi-rods, perm rods, etc)
    • Heating tools (flat irons, curling irons, blow dryers and even hooded dryers)
    • How we wash our hair (rubbing and scrubbing hair aggressively)
  • Chemicals
    • Coloring
    • Perming
    • Relaxing
    • Medications
  • Shampoos
    • Shampoos may have too much PH, which can cause an imbalance leaving your hair cuticles rough
  • Environment
    • Sunlight
    • Swimming (salt and chlorine)
    • Humidity (opens up the cuticles creating the opportunity for damage)
  • Health
    • Vitamin deficiency
    • Lack of water

I think it’s hard to prevent the disruptions previously listed; however, I do think we can control how we disrupt our hair.  All of this research really demonstrates that we should be gentle to our hair.  Also, when you are buying hair products be conscious of the information above.  For an example, don’t use a bristle brush every day, don’t go heat style too much, and drink water (please drink water).  Remember, if we allow the damage to come it will not go away on its own.  We have to be proactive about preventing and healing our hair from the damage.  I hope this information gives you an idea on how to heal or prevent hair damage.

Check out the links below on where I dug up all this information from.

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