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Black Curly Hair Chemistry Demystified


To better manage your black curly hair, it is first important to understand your specific hair type. Most of us Africans usually have what is referred to as grade 4 hair types. These have the most curls and this type of hair is generally the most difficult type of hair to manage. What causes these curls and where do they come from?

What is hair?

This may seem like a simplistic question, but really – what is hair? Hair actually has two main parts, the living part below the epidermis (skin) called the hair bulb and the dead part which we see above the skin called the hair shaft. Since 90% of hair is made up of keratin proteins, your daily diet should have a good amount of proteins. A good balanced diet with a sufficient amount of protein works wonders as good ‘food’ for hair.

Why the curls?

Let’s take a look at the chemistry of the African black curly hair. There really is no mysterious secret behind the curls. It is quite simple actually. The chemistry behind our curly African hair is explained by its composition of keratin proteins which are joined together from end to end by a type of polypeptide bond called disulfide bonds. Sometimes these bonds form cross links or just links, hence making the hair curlier. There are more disulphide links in African hair than any other hair type hence the multitude of curls. Simple yes? Now you know the chemistry behind your curly African hair.

These curls make the hair more difficult to manage and prone to damage because the sebum (natural oil produced in the sebaceous gland under the scalp) is not able to flow to the tip of the hair due to interference of curls and kinks. It is because of this reason that African hair is usually dry naturally and breaks easily without proper care. It is therefore really important to ensure there is added moisture to make our kind of hair elastic and supple.

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Keeping your hair undamaged

Now that you understand a little more about your hair, and its make-up and nature, it would be useful to also know what you need to do to ensure you have beautiful, healthy and un-damaged hair.

Whether your hair is short of long, please ensure you:-

  • Shampoo your hair with a sulfate free shampoo once a week or at least every two weeks.
  • Use a hydrating conditioner once a weekly or at least every two weeks.
  • Ensure deep conditioning once a month, some heat would help the conditioner to penetrate the shaft better.
  • Moisturize your hair everyday with naturals oils like coconut oil that can penetrate the cuticle of the hair or shear butter oil which helps to seal off split ends and avoid tangling.
  • Trim split ends every three to four months.
  • Use a protein treatment monthly to add strength and body to your hair.
  • Avoid heavy oils like petroleum and hair foods as they attract lots of dust to your hair.
  • Avoid hash chemicals and over blow drying hair as it causes damage.
  • Always cleanse you hair gently, detangle gently and apply oils gently.
  • Ensure you use well-spaced combs that are gentler on the hair.

I believe that hair is the best barometer for good health. You can tell one’s internal health just by taking a good look at their hair. So ladies – yes you are your hair and please note that your hair speaks volumes about you, hence the need to better take care of it.

Stephen Omollo is one of the only two trichologists currently practising in Kenya. A professional trichologist certified from IAT Australia, he works as a hair transplant clinician at Med Health Solutions, Bishops Road Forte Granite Flatz, Suite 1 0721320151/0735775935 [email protected]


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