Our beautiful Afro-textured hair is made up of primarily the protein keratin, but it also consists of multiple chemical hair bonds that hold the hair shaft together. These hair bonds are natural forces that are exerted within the hair in order to prevent the strands from breaking very easily. Healthy hair can stretch up to 30% of its length, and it can absorb its weight in water and swell up to 20% of its diameter. Hair that is unhealthy will break very easily due to the fact that one or more of the hair bonds within the strands is compromised.
Hair Bonds and How They Affect the Hair
There are many bonds present in the hair shaft, but there are 3 specific bonds that play a huge role in length retention and the overall health of the hair. The first bond that I will share with you is the Hydrogen Hair Bond.
Hydrogen Hair Bond
The hydrogen bond in the hair plays a very important role. It accounts for 1/3 of the hair’s strength, but the bonds become very weak when the hair gets wet or when heat is applied to the strands. This is one reason why your hair becomes very fragile when it’s in its wet state. The hydrogen bonds also provide strength and elasticity to the hair, but when heat is applied it fries the bonds and change the structure of the hair. This is what is known as heat damage.
So why is it better to detangle when the hair is wet?
When the hair is dry the bonds in the hair are very strong thus making it difficult to pry the hair apart without breakage. When the hair becomes wet only the hydrogen bonds are compromised, so it becomes easier to gently take the hair apart. The other bonds account for the strength of the hair while the hydrogen bonds are weakened to allow detangling, so don’t freak out too much about your hair being too weak. It will regain its normal strength after the hair becomes dry.
Disulfide Hair Bond
Disulphide bonds are one of the strongest occurring bonds in the hair. It also accounts for about 1/3 of the hair’s strength, however, it’s not affect by heat or water. This bond is only affected by chemical processes such as the ‘creamy crack’, color treatments, texturizers, etc.
When this bond becomes compromised the majority of the strength in the hair is lost. The hair becomes very weak and brittle, and overtime it will start to break. Chemically treated hair becomes very weak especially during washing or while using heat because at this point both the disulfide bonds and the hydrogen bonds are broken down.
If the disulfide bonds are broken in the hair this will greatly affect the strength of your hair which in turn affects your ability to retain your length. Women with relaxed hair can grow long hair, but they will have a major issue with breakage and thinning because over time manipulation will slowly break the hair down.
Salt Hair Bond
Salt bond is a physical side bond in the hair, and it’s affected by changes in pH. The hair and scalp have a pH of between 4.5-5.5. This balance prevents the growth of fungi and bacteria in the hair/scalp, and it keeps the cuticles healthy. Products such as baking soda has a pH of about 9 which is on the alkaline end of the spectrum. Using baking soda on your strands will raise the pH of the hair and scalp which causes a disruption in the pH balance of the hair.
This can affect the porosity of the hair and can cause breakage and thinning. If you use a product that takes the pH balance of the hair out of balance then you must follow-up with a product that will take it back to its origin. For ex: using baking soda then following up with Apple-Cider Vinegar.
It’s important to know what affects the strength and health of our curls in order to grow long and healthy hair.
I hope this was helpful, and if so please share this with your family and friends.
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