Trichology Corner: Principle of Hair Damage

A healthy hair has cuticles scales that are intact, healthy, compact, and flat against the hair shaft. Hair is naturally acidic with a pH level of 4.5 – 5.5.

Factors causing Hair Damage

Chemicals such as relaxers are very alkaline with a pH level of 12 -1 4. This alkaline solution causes the cuticle scales of the hair to raise, and the molecules to enter the cortex and change the pattern of the hair completely. The disulphide bonds are permanently broken.

Apart from hair loss and scalp burns, which are the impact relaxers can have on the scalp, hair breakage is also very common after the use of a relaxer. Hair at the nape of the neck is affected the most because the chemicals are applied there first, and left for the longest time.
The frontal and temporal regions of the hair are the secondary locations of damage because of long exposure to the chemical, and overlapping during the touch up services.

Heat styling can have a similar effect on the actual hair shaft, but it happens slowly and over time, unlike the chemical which immediately changes the pH of the hair, and causes damage to the cuticle. With the excessive and abusive use of heat on a regular basis, slowly the cuticle itself becomes damaged and causes a weakening of the hair shaft, leading to breakage, and also permanently breaks the disulphide bonds over time.

Another common type of cuticle damage is the abraded cuticle, which occurs as a result of tugging and pulling the hair while styling it, especially when wet.

Friction caused by combing and brushing the hair is one way the cuticle can get damaged over time.
Heat styling also causes damage to the hair shaft by causing blisters and fracturing of the hair which can lead to other hair disorders such as trichorrhexis nodosa.

Heat styling can also cause damage to the cortex, and it is possible to melt the cortex. If the dryer is too close to the hair or curling iron is left too long, the hair might not only become brittle, but the cortex will melt. If the cortex is damaged, it means the cuticle has been damaged too. However sometimes, the hair is damaged on the inside, with very little noticeable damage to the cuticle scales. But once the cortex is damaged, eventually the damage on the inside will reflect and manifest on the outside.

With styling, there are some brushes that can pull and stretch the hair till it breaks, leading to abrading of the hair, and loosing of the cuticle cells.

Rubber bands, tight hair and braids, in addition of wrapping rollers too tightly around the hair can also cause hair damage.

N.B: Remember that when it comes to hair care, there's a lot of fact, fiction, myth and reality on the internet. In the event of any confusion, it is advised you see a professional hair care expert.

Atilola Moronfolu (HPT) is a certfied hair care expert and a holistic practitioner of trichology certified and accredited by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners and Mahogany Hair Revolution, Los Angeles, California. To book a hair clinical appointment with Atilola in Lagos Nigeria, send a mail to or call 07061141501.

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  1. Interesting and very detailed read, thanks for sharing!

  2. Thank you for a very informative article, I definitely learnt something new from reading it.

  3. Very Informative...
    this reminds again why i dont like making my hair

    1. lol. that's jus a phobia. Making your hair shouldn't damage your hair.

    2. hmmmm, This phobia has refused to pass away then.. because all my life till now i cry for hair.. i am an agbaya,thats ok, lol. tying scarf makes my head ache. i can only tolerate little to No manipulation on this big head of mine. so is it still a phobia?

  4. Am learning more everyday.
    Thanks AN.

  5. Mad at tangles, vexed at tugging and styling, I big chopped my hair of two years on Monday...

  6. I was scared of stretching to relaxers or heat styling... The fear of hair damage is real..

  7. This is so much good info. Thanks


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