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What Are Cuticles and Why Are They Important?

Cuticles are an important part of your hair. Each hair strand has a protective shell encasing it. Known as the cuticle, it protects your hair strands from damage. What are cuticles exactly, and why are they important?

Overview of Cuticles

The cuticle is the outermost layer of a hair strand. Hair strands aren't solid. Rather, they consist of multiple layers. The innermost layer is the medulla. The middle layer is the cortex. The outermost layer is the cuticle.

Cuticles have a similar structure as roof shingles. They feature multiple scale-like sections that overlap each other. Each of these sections is comprised of protein cells. The protein cells bind together to form the cuticle over a hair strand.

Why Cuticles Are Important

Your hair's ability to retain moisture is dependent upon healthy cuticles. People with damaged cuticles often experience dry and frizzy hair. If your cuticles are dry, moisture will escape from the inner layers of your hair, resulting in increased dryness. Healthy cuticles protect against dryness by trapping moisture inside of your hair. With healthy cuticles, moisture will stay within the inner layers of your hair where it keeps your hair hydrated.

Healthy cuticles will also provide greater control over your hair. When your cuticles are healthy, your hair will be healthy. It won't suffer from extreme dryness, nor will it suffer from dryness-related damage that could otherwise make it difficult to control. In turn, you'll have healthy and beautiful hair.

Tips for Healthy Cuticles

For healthy cuticles, turn down the heat when washing and drying your hair. Since it's the outermost layer, cuticles are highly susceptible to heat-related damage. Either hot water or hot air may damage your cuticles to the point where they no longer fully encapsulate your hair strands. You can still wash and dry your hair; just remember to turn down the heat so that it doesn't scorch your cuticles.

You may want to reduce the frequency at which you wash your hair to protect your cuticles from damage. Washing will strip away your hair's natural oils. These oils, such as sebum, lubricate and protect your cuticles. Washing your hair too frequently will remove these oils so that your cuticles are exposed and vulnerable to damage.

You can also promote healthy cuticles by balancing your hair's pH level. Cuticles require a proper pH level. A high pH level means your cuticles are too alkaline, whereas a low pH level means your cuticles are too acidic. In both cases, your cuticles may break down. You need to achieve a balanced pH level that's not too alkaline nor too acidic for healthy cuticles.


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