Hair Cuticle – Understanding the Most Important Aspect of Your Hair

Would you like your hair to grow long and healthy? Then, take your time to understand hair cuticles.

Your hair cuticle is the most important for the health and length of your hair. It’s no wonder whenever we talk of hair you will always hear the word cuticles.

The hair contains dead cells you know. Furthermore, the hair survives using keratin protein, water, and protective layers. However, the outer layer-cuticle is the major part of your hair.

The Hair Structure

Hair Structure

photo credit:

For you to understand the topic of the day, you need to understand the structure of your hair too.

hair anatomyThe hair shaft

It’s the part that you call the hair. The one that has gone through the skin. It grows to be the lengths and thickness that you wish. The hair shaft is made using the keratin and it’s such a strong protein that is also resistant to wear and tear.

Beneath the skin is the structure of the hair. It has three other different layers.

The Cuticle

This is the protective layer of your hair thus the most important layer. It usually has overlapping cells. They look like fish scales. The cuticles hold the hair shaft on the follicle. It uses a bond called Velcro bond for the process.

It controls the movement of the moisture between the cuticles and the cortex. The cuticle does it naturally. But with the change in weather and chemical composition, the process may be altered.

The cortex

It’s responsible for the pigmentation of the hair. Its major composition is the keratin filament that is held by the hydrogen sulfide bond. It solidly depends on the cuticle to protect it.


It has transparent cells and airspaces.

How Does It Function?

As mentioned earlier, you have the cuticles consisting of the protein-based scales. This is the gateway to the nourishment and moisturization of the hair. It stays open and closed when activated.

The cuticles let the ingredients and chemicals into the strand and to the cortex. This cortex is the one responsible for the pigmentation, curl, thickness and pattern of the hair.

hair scalp structureIt’s also the work of your hair cuticle to allow the color into the cortex and only then will there be the color change. So, unless the ingredient can lift the cuticles, there won’t be any change in the structure of the hair.

The chemicals must lift the cuticles then manipulate the cortex for the change it. Also, when you use the relaxer on your curly hair the chemical lifts the cuticle then goes to break the bonds thus straighten the curls.

Unfortunately, once you make such changes, it’s irreversible and it can also be damaging ultimately. So, do what you have to do with moderation.

Therefore the function of the cuticle is to protect the most fragile part and brain of the hair which is the cortex.

As you have seen, the most important aspects of the hair strand are its brain-the cortex. So eventually the cuticle prevents damage of the cortex. You see if you damage it then your hair strand is also damaged.

So, the cuticles open to let the ingredients into the hair. It then closes to retain the moisture within the hair strand. It also protects the cortex from harsh environmental changes.

The Cuticles and Hair Porosity

The porosity of your hair is determined by the kind of cuticles you have.

The porosity of the hair is the hair’s ability to absorb moisture. The only way it absorbs and retains the moisture is through its cuticles. So, we have hair types that don’t absorb moisture easily and are therefore usually dry while others absorb the moisture and release it fast.

These aspects depend on the cuticles you have. You can determine the porosity of your hair by giving your strands a float test. If the hair sinks, it has a high porosity level, if it does stay in the middle then it has a normal porosity but if it floats then it has the low porosity.

High porosity hair usually has holes on its cuticles which leads to it absorbing too much moisture at once and not retaining it. This is caused by using too many chemicals, excess use of heat or the effects of the environment.

Low porosity hair has the hair cuticles being tightly compacted and therefore it never opens the cuticles easily. This means that it’s hard to hydrate or moisturize it.

More Reading: Best Products for Low Porosity Hair

Medium porosity hair, on the other hand, is the best type of hair you will have. It absorbs and retains the moisture with ease. This makes it easy to maintain hair as opposed to the two above.

So, if you have:

Low porosity hair: use more water-based products for ease in both hydration and moisturization. You can also use natural oils like jojoba, olive, avocado oil.

Medium porosity: just use the moisture-rich conditioners that are also silicone free. You can further use the natural oils for the sealing process.

High porosity: if you can find the rich creams and butter the better. My favorite butter product is shea moisture butter your hair should be fine. Find a good sealant as that will determine whether the moisture is retained on your hair or not.

More Reading: Best Products for High Porosity Hair

Types of Hair Cuticle

Since you know about the cuticles, you need to know how the types.

Normal cuticle

Normal cuticleThis is a replica of the virgin hair.

You have cuticles that haven’t been exposed to too many environmental factors and damage from chemicals. Therefore, the keratin lies flat and its edges are usually smooth. Each scale is closed and lies flat over the other.

While sometimes we can’t avoid the environmental effects, normal cuticle has been shielded from the adverse effects. This type of cuticles will retain the moisture. It, thus makes the hair shiny and healthy-looking.

Damaged cuticles

Sadly over 80% of humanity doesn’t have such beautiful hair cuticle that is also protected from damage. Our cuticles are mostly damaged from the use of the wrong products or overuse of products and tools.

Notice that there’s a difference between the two images. Here you have the scales being rough and open. That is the typical description of the damaged cuticle.

Describe the Hair Cuticles In Regards To The Different Hair Types

  • Type 1- straight hair

In this case, the cuticles hug the cortex so tight.

Its cuticle layer also remains flat as its normally needed.

This explains why you have the straight hair being shiny and moisturized. They mostly have good cuticles.

  • Wavy hair

With this, it all depends on how curly the hair is. If it’s too curly then you will have the same effects that those with curly hair do have. The cuticles are mostly raised when you have curly hair. However, if it leans on the straight end then the cuticles are flat.

  • For the curly hair

You will find that the cuticle layers are raised and they never lay flat.

No wonder you will find that the hair is never as shiny as the straight hair and yet it doesn’t feel smooth.

Since the curly hair has raised cuticles it also suffers from frizz and easy tangling. These are the effects of having damaged cuticles.

Best cuticle sealing product

1. Joico K PAK cuticle sealer

Here you have the product that neutralizes the PH which is what you need to keep the hair cuticles sealed. It’s an acidifier that smoothens and tightens the cuticles.

The low PH is good for reducing the swells that are formed when you use the different hair product on the hair. It further has 19 amino acids. It uses them to protect and reconstruct your hair structure from the cortex to the cuticle.

2. TRUSS Professional Amino Miracle

This is one product you should never miss on your list of must-have products. It acts as a heat protectant spray. Its work is to keep the hair safe when you are using hot tools.

When the hair cuticles stay raised, frizz is inevitable. Thankfully, this product will smoothen the cuticles thus keeping it from the frizz. It helps to retain the moisture within the hair too by sealing the cuticles.

It’s a powerhouse of amino acids and keratin which means that you will maintain your hair health. With the protein building blocks, you can forget about the damaged to your cuticle though. It also regains the color of your hair.

3. Collazen Care Cuticle & Cortex Care Aroma Therapy

When you are looking to moisturize your hair deeply, consider the Collazen care product. It’s, in fact, ideal for you if you are experiencing any form of hair dryness. Since it reaches your cortex, you will have the hair being shiny and soft.

This product isn’t sticky, dull and greasy. Mind you, you can use it for all hair types including the hair extension.

4. Keranique Scalp Stimulating Keratin Shampoo Damage Control

A good shampoo should enrich the hair rather than strips it from its nutrients. This is a toxic-free shampoo that is rich in keratin. If you have been keen through our article you will have noticed how important keratin is to the cuticles.

The essence of the cuticle is to protect your cortex but the essence of this shampoo is to protect your cuticles. This ultimately makes sure you develop rich and nourished hair. It does so with its complex amino complex.

It will even smoothen the cuticles thus avoiding the hair damage completely. Your hair remains moisturized thus developing a perfect shine.

5. Renpure Coconut Whipped Creme Leave-In Conditioner

Coconut oil is ideal for anyone who is looking forward to nourish their hair strand yet keep it moisturized. It ensures your hair remains moist and not dry. You won’t be dealing with frizz.

Since the conditioner is water based, it works on your low porosity hair. It even has vitamins that will heal your cuticle shells and the cortex. When you keep using this, your hair will look beautiful and nourished.

6. Senscience CPR Cuticle Porosity Reconstructive Treatment

Do you think you have damaged cuticle?

You need this reconstructive treatment to help you regenerate new cuticles shells. The item is loved mostly because it not only nourishes your hair but also fortifies the hair. It repairs the hair by helping it in the restoration of the nutrients. It will moisturize the damaged hair.

It will take you time but eventually, you will develop healthy cuticles and therefore healthy hair.

How to Seal the Cuticles?

The only way to maintain the moisture when your cuticles remain open is by sealing the cuticles. Below are the tricks you could use to seal it.

  • Use cold water

When you are rinsing your hair for the last time, you should use cold water. Cold water will help to reduce frizz as it improves the shine. It will seal the cuticles thus retaining the moisture within.

  • Use the PH balance

Your hair, although it’s normally at the PH of 5, will react with the PH of the environment or substance you subject it to.

When you have the PH being 5, the cuticles also remain closed. But when it comes into contact with the product of different PH, then it raises its scales.

For your hair to grow long you need to have the cuticles closed thus retaining the moisture. This means that since your products won’t print the PH of the product on the package, you need to measure the PH yourself.

If you realize that you have been using products that interfere with the PH you should find ways to combat that. Use the apple cider vinegar to balance the PH. Do this after you have shampooed your hair. You can then rinse it or just leave it unrinsed.

  • The Cleansing

How you clean the hair will determine whether you seal the cuticles or not. Unfortunately, most of the products we use will form the product build up. The buildup usually damages your hair. ultimately it will raise the cuticles.

Therefore, you should use the clarifying shampoo to cleanse the hair thoroughly. Do it once a week to get rid of the buildup completely.

  • The oils

There are many great oils for your hair that not only moisturize the hair but also act as sealants. Use oils like coconut oil or olive oil for the process.

How to Open the Cuticles

While you need to have the cuticles being open so that the conditioner can be effective, it’s not that easy to open the cuticles. Let’s agree that raised cuticle is not open cuticles.

But what most people do is use the coconut oil before washing the hair. It will not only smooth the cuticles but also make it easy for the moisture to penetrate.

Another option is when you use the deep conditioner, allow it time to penetrate the hair cuticles. Better yet, you could use the heat to open the cuticles for the conditioning to work in hydrating and moisturizing the hair.

Notice that scientifically, if you are using substances that have the right chemistry, they will naturally penetrate the cuticles. You don’t need to open the cuticles at all.

A good hair structure will open and close its cuticles naturally.

Method 2

You should use mild heat on the hair to open the cuticles. By mild we don’t mean too much heat. You can wash your hair then wrap it with a towel for a couple of minutes and that is enough to get the cuticles open.

Also, you can use hooded dryers and set them at a low temperature. Hair therapy wrap is another great method to open the cuticles.

If possible, you can apply the conditioner then sit under the hooded dryer for a few minutes and this will moisturize your strands.

How to Close the Cuticles

You can try this simple version that I use to close my cuticles although I believe this is a more natural process.

You should take your product like coconut oil and rub it on the palm of your hands then onto the hair. Don’t rough up the hair rather apply it in a downward motion.

Another method is to ensure you have the right products that are slightly acidic but with the correct PH that balances your own hair PH. My favorite product again is usually the apple cider vinegar which will balance your hair PH.

Use it after you have finished washing the hair and have it close your cuticles.

How to Smoothen the Cuticles

Remember in order to hold the moisture on the hair as much as possible you need to smoothen the cuticles. If you smoothen the cuticles you will have it being moisturized for 3-5days.

  • The coconut oil method

Once you finish washing and trimming, you can spray the hair with water-based coconut oil. Then just use your hands to smoothen it in a downward motion. Generally, natural oils like argan oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil will work for you on this step.

Another method is using the apple cider vinegar it works to open close and smooth the cuticles.

Why Is Your Hair Short?

Have you ever wondered why your hair remains short as though it has reached its old phase? Sometimes the reason is that your cuticles are damaged. As earlier mentioned, environmental factors are among the few ones that you can’t resist. They usually take a toll on your cuticles.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that you can’t take protective measure to stay safe. If you don’t shield your hair, then the cuticle damage is inevitable. When the layer is damaged then your hair will stagnate.

So, with damaged cuticles, your hair can’t hold moisture and when you can’t hold the moisture then your hair remains fragile and it will even begin to break.

How to Repair Damaged Cuticles

After you notice that your cuticles are damaged, you may decide to rejuvenate it and you can use simple methods to achieve massive results.

  • Protein deposits

Naturally, the protein in the products will fill the gaps that have been created on your cuticles. When the gaps are filled it looks as though your cuticles are actually not damaged. You should know now that when you can keep the cuticles intact, the hair shaft will be strong.

Therefore, your hair will grow long. So, with protein deposits, your hair will continue to grow and with time regain their normalcy.

  • Use protective agents

While you may want to use the protective sprays, some of them may be further toxic. This is because they mostly have silicon and some oils that will suffocate the hair.

Use natural oils as protective agents. They include argan oil, jojoba, coconut, avocado oil among others. Cocoa butter is also great.

  • Try to protect the hair from external damage

Sometimes, it’s not possible to protect the hair from environmental damage but you should. If your hair is weak, cover it with a scarf when you are going out on a sunny day.

  • Enrich your hair from within

You will need a healthy diet to partake in this process. Consume healthy protein for the development of keratin.

Use other foods like chia seeds, green leafy veggies, nuts and the right oils.

Can You Maintain Healthy Cuticles?

Yes, you can maintain it by using just the necessary products that are also mild. If possible, also reduce the level of manipulation on the hair.

The other method is to develop a regimen where you condition and give your hair the TLC it needs.

Some of us don’t even observe our hair. Take time to observe it and if you notice changes take the remedies to keep it healthy.


How will you know you have the damaged cuticles?

  • The only way to know that you have damaged cuticles is by looking for the signs. Remember, the hair cuticles are tiny so that you can’t even see them properly unless you use a microscope.
  • The way you know that your cuticles are damaged is mostly if you have high porosity hair. This means that your hair absorbs moisture but doesn’t retain it.
  • The other factor is that when you have damaged cuticles, you normally have the hair fibers getting dislodged and split. Thus, sometimes too much split ends are an indication.
  • You may experience too much shedding yet the hair remains stagnant in growth. When this happens then your cuticles are probably damaged.
  • When you feel like the hair is constantly dry, you need to check the cuticles too.

How long does it take your cuticles to grow?

How long it takes the cuticles to grow depends so much on the care you give the hair. If you are keen and taking good care of the hair, it should take you four to is weeks to regrow the cuticles.

Leave a Comment