When your hair turns frizzy, dry, and tangled, it’s often a sign that your hair cuticles have opened and thereby become damaged. But what are hair cuticles and what are the best methods to close them?
Written By Summer Wise
Some of the best ways to close hair cuticles and keep your hair looking healthy include the use of cold rinses, acidic products, and avoiding heat damage. Some hair types may be more prone to cuticle damage but this is an issue that can affect most people.
What Is A Hair Cuticle?
The structure of hair consists of three distinct layers – the medulla, cortex, and cuticle.
So, what is the function of those three components?
The medulla is a soft inner core of the hair, more present in thicker hair types and sometimes non-existent in very fine hair. This is coated by the cortex.
The cortex makes up a major part of the hair strand and mainly consists of keratin. It also contains melanin, the pigment that gives hair its natural color. The cuticle surrounds the cortex and the medulla.
The cuticle consists of overlapping keratin cells in a downward pattern that resembles scales. These cells protect the hair from external damage by remaining closed and tightly packed, but they can allow moisture in and out of the hair strand.
The cuticle is essential for protecting the hair from outside elements and keeping unwanted moisture out of the other layers. Cuticles are only visible under a microscope but taking care and preventing damage to the cuticle is essential for healthy hair.
What Can Cause Cuticles To Open?
The cuticle can become damaged by heat or other external conditions and the cuticle becomes no longer closed, diminishing its ability to protect the hair.
When your cuticles are naturally prone to opening, you have hair with high porosity. If your cuticles tend to remain closed, your hair is low porosity. Porosity is the ability of the hair to take in moisture.
Your cuticles most often lift when in contact with hot water during hair washing.
This means that hair is more fragile when wet, as the cuticles are open and any damage from heat will cause more damage than when the hair is dry.
When water enters the hair through the cuticle, the strand swells and pushes the scales of the cuticle even further apart.
Different Hair Types And Open Cuticles
Curly hair is more likely to experience open cuticles than straight hair, even when given similar care.
The structure of curls means that there are more points where the cuticles are raised, while straight hair hangs from the head without curving or bending.
This means cuticles in straight hair are more likely to stay flat but not in every case. All hair types can suffer from open cuticles in the hair and experience symptoms of hair damage.
Symptoms Of Open Hair Cuticles
- Dry hair
- Frizzy hair
- Easily tangled
How Do You Know If Your Hair Cuticle Is Open?
You’d definitely prefer your hair cuticles firmly closed, but how can you tell whether those keratin cells are open or closed? The difference is on a microscopic level but causes some very noticeable effects on your hair overall.
Opened cuticles often result in frizzy, tangled hair. When the cuticle is damaged, the cells being open allows moisture to enter and exit the hair much more than usual.
While it may seem that moisture would be likely to nourish the hair, the open cuticle also allows any moisture to quickly leave the hair.
Therefore, open cuticles tend to result in dry, frizzy hair. It is also easy to tangle, often more likely to break under pressure, and result in flyaway hairs.
If you are noticing these symptoms in your hair then it is possible your cuticles are often open and accumulating more damage through the conditions of daily life.
Products For Closing Hair Cuticles
Using a leave-in conditioner gives hair protection and nourishment by coating the strands. milk_shake leave-in conditioner is suitable for all hair types and works to condition the hair using fruit extracts and milk proteins to help smooth the cuticles.
L’Oreal Leave-In Conditioner No Haircut Cream is designed for damaged hair and contains keratin and castor oil to help enrich the strands. This makes it perfect for hair with damaged or open cuticles.
OGX Argan Oil of Morocco Penetrating Hair Oil is specially formulated for dry, coarse hair which may come with open and damaged hair cuticles. Using this on hair after washing or before bed will help close hair cuticles and coat them in a protective layer to seal moisture in.
Remedies For Closing The Hair Cuticle
So, you suspect your hair is suffering due to open and damaged cuticles but how can you help your hair recover?
Here are a few methods for ensuring the cuticles remain closed and therefore preventing further damage:
Rinse Your Hair With Cold Water
When hair is exposed to hot water the cuticles are pushed open and water absorbs into the hair shaft. If the cuticle is not closed again, it can leave hair vulnerable to damage from heat, aggressive brushing, and external factors such as UV.
After shampooing and conditioning hair in the shower, rinse the hair with cold water to help seal the cuticle.
Using cold water to close hair cuticles will leave hair smoother, shinier, and healthier overall due to avoiding damage caused by open cuticles.
Use An Apple Cider Vinegar Treatment
Acidic products such as apple cider vinegar will help to keep the cuticles closed due to their ph. pH indicates whether something is acidic, neutral, or alkaline along a scale.
Anything below a 7 is acidic, 7 represents neutral while over 7 is alkaline. Hair scores around 5.5, making it mildly acidic.
When exposed to a pH lower than 6, the cuticle will contract and create a tighter layer over the hair.
Alkaline substances do the opposite and cause the cuticle to open. Therefore products such as apple cider vinegar are recommended for cuticle closing and refining due to their acidic nature.
Before or after washing hair, use a diluted mixture of apple cider vinegar and water to help close the cuticles. This helps keep the pH of your scalp at the right level.
Use Oil In Your Hair
Using oil such as pure Argan oil or grapeseed oil will help to coat the cuticle entirely. When the oil coats the hair strand, it creates a barrier that traps moisture and helps to prevent external damage.
If your cuticles are open or damaged, adding oil alongside other methods can help to close the cuticle again.
Avoid Heat Use And Harsh Styling
The use of heated styling tools can cause cuticles to lift, especially if water has caused the hair to swell beforehand.
Blow-drying after a shower or hair wash can cause a lot of damage to the hair shaft while the cuticles in damp hair are already open.
Always ensure to use a cool or low heat setting on your tools as well as a protective spray.
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