Sun | Jun 7, 2020

Hair: The Long and Short of it

Published:Tuesday | October 31, 2017 | 12:00 AMSuzette Shaw Reid
Natural hair
Natural hair

My hair life was a fairly effortless journey until I decided to stop perming my hair. My new natural journey was not as easy as I had observed. There were so many rules to follow, especially having been informed by renowned salons that African textured hair is very fragile and requires keen attention.

'Picture perfect' twist-out or blow-out styles were based on specific products used, your curl pattern and humid conditions, I thought.

Isaiah Mustafa's quote,"what is good hair? It can be anything to anyone...." resonated with me. I realised that there were no guarantees to achieving the desired results I pictured in my mind or saw in magazines and self-acceptance was more important on this natural journey than an expensive jar of souffle gel.

But Mustafa's quote further states that, "Good hair is healthy hair, whatever you perceive that to be", which led me to my research, and I now realise that healthy hair isn't just dietary.

Healthy hair has a definition and the real growth magic to a beautiful "crown of glory" starts with the health of your hair cuticles. Yes, drinking lots of water, juicing and taking supplements (especially biotin and omega) are key, but the appearance of the hair depends largely on the health of the cuticle, the protective sheath of the whole hair, according to hair scientist, Dr Neil Persadsingh.




We have approximately 100,000 hairs on our heads. Each hair strand is made up of a tough protein called keratin. This is why protein is important for your hair because hair is made of protein; however, too much protein is not good for your hair. The responsibility of our hair follicle is to anchor each hair strand into the skin. The hair bulb forms the base of the hair follicle. In the hair bulb, living cells divide and grow to build the hair shaft.

Each hair shaft has three layers, with the cuticle, or outside layer, protecting the two inner layers. The hair cuticle is the outermost part of the hair shaft. It is formed from dead cells, overlapping in layers, which form scales that give the hair shaft strength and provide protection for it. Shiny hair is a sign of health, because the layers of the cuticle lie flat and reflect light. However, dull hair is a sign of damaged hair.

Other signs of damaged hair include hair that has split ends, hair that is brittle, tangles and breaks easily.




Without a healthy cuticle layer, you can never expect to reach your hair goals, that is, thick, long hair, which equates to healthy hair. This is why it is important to keep your hair cuticle intact because it is the protective cover for your hair strands.

So this brings us to the key question? How do we achieve this? states that optimising your cuticle layer is the ideal way to achieve this goal. Simply put, closing or sealing your hair cuticle ultimately controls the condition of your hair.




Learning to seal your hair cuticles is the secret to healthy, shiny hair. According to Kira Robbins, author of 'The Process to Seal Hair', "Human hair cuticles normally lie flat but can sometimes stick up, causing rough-looking hair."

A myriad of culprits can cause hair cuticles to stick up - chemicals in hair dye, hot water, too much wind and cold weather, to name a few.

Several approaches can be learnt to rectify the problem. One such way includes using the correct shampoos to create balance in your hair, that is, one with the correct pH and one with clarifying ingredients to remove heavy build-up.

Another method is using cold water. It helps by improving shine and reduces frizz, as it helps flatten and seal hair cuticles.

Practising to use a nozzle when blow-drying your hair is also key. It is also imperative to point the dryer down toward, the end of the hair. This technique encourages flattening of the hair cuticles as well as using the cool air setting.

Although our human head produces sebum or oil naturally, we can reduce the secretion by washing our hair too often. Adding beneficial oils, for example olive oil, distributed to the bottom sections of your hair helps to keep it sealed.




In a society where the consciousness of going green has been so elevated, being chemical-free is definitely a pro for going natural. Also, being able to watch your natural hair grow and flourish and not to mention being able to walk through a light drizzle to your car without any worries of a distorted hairdo is definitely a plus.

Strangely, the joy of your natural hair journey will depend on your level of patience, how much you are willing to spend on products and the curl pattern of your hair.

The truth is, maintaining your natural tresses takes time, whether you do it yourself or visit a salon, but it's a beautiful journey where genuine self-love can develop because you have to learn to appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of your hair.

The question is, "Are you ready for that journey?"