What is Hair?
Ok, so I don’t want to lose you here, but think about this for a second with me. Artists need to know their materials that they are using to create their work. Whether they are working with canvas, clay, glass or wood, they must be familiar with the properties of their material. Hair is the material hair stylists use to create, so its imperative to have a basic knowledge our most important material.
All human hair is made up of the same things no matter how different the color, texture, thickness, shape (wavy, straight, curly, etc.). Up to 91% of hair is made up of a non-living protein called keratin. Proteins give the hair strength and flexibility (or elasticity). Moisture is the next most predominant (approx. 10%) and keeps the hair soft and also adds flexibility to the hair. Lipid oils keep the hair soft and pliable. Of course, hair contains pigments that add color to the hair & also absorb UV rays. The hair also contains a small amount of minerals & carbohydrates that pertain to the cells of the hair.
Hair starts at the root and what we see is called the shaft. We don’t see the root because it is found below the surface of the skin. In that area, we find the follicle. The shape reminds you of a tube. Hair & its color is made at the very bottom of the follicle (called the papilla). You have heard that hair is actually dead. This is because the part we see (the shaft) has no blood, nerves or muscles. When its cut, it does not feel pain. The actual ‘living’ part of the hair is in the papilla. Blood and nerves do exist here where growth and cells form.
The shaft is where are do all of our magic. So, let’s learn about what makes up the shaft. The shaft has 3 layers.
Hair Cuticle – This is the outside of the hair & is actually see through. This outer layer is a hard keratin protein that protects the rest of the hair strand.
It is the cortex, the middle layer that contains the hair pigment (or melanin) and is softer, giving the hair its strength & flexibility.
The medulla, is the middle portion & as far as I understand no one knows why we have this portion.
Everybody has the same 3 parts that make up the hair shaft, but can contain different proportions. Color change occurs mostly in the cortex, so people with a very high percentage of cortex may be more difficult to color.
Unique characteristics of hair
Now we need to break down and learn about the physical properties of the hair. Everybody’s hair is different in these areas: texture, amount, and formation.
The texture is determined by how round or big each strand actually is. Is the hair fine, medium or course? This is important to consider when determining the course of action to take to achieve a certain color result. As stated earlier, if there is a large portion of cortex contained in the hair, like those with a course texture, lightening or lifting the hair will be more difficult than fine hair and may require a coloring product that has more “punch”.
To determine the amount or density of hair a person has depends upon how many actual strands of hair a person has per square inch. A person can have a fine hair texture but have a thick head of hair. On the other hand, a person can have medium or course textured hair and have an average or thin head of hair. This is important when coloring a person’s hair with highlights. If someone has a thick amount of hair, more highlights will be needed to be noticeable than if the person has a thin amount of hair to achieve a similar looking result. You may need to take thicker or thinner strands in your foils, as well. If the strands taken are too thick, the color may not coat the hair evenly and the result may be an uneven color. It is also important to know the density of the hair to determine the ideal size partings for an all over color application.
choosing what color technique to use. For example, a fine head of hair will look better if more than one color if chosen and using a lighter tones. This will make the hair look fuller, appearing to have more body.
What are your favorite techniques taking into consideration the unique characteristics of the hair?
(To be continued)