Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Grow Natural Hair, Retain Length: 4 Ways to Keep Those Cuticle Layers Closed & Retain Moisture

One key component of retaining the length of your natural hair, is to also retain its moisture.  This allows your hair to be more pliable (flexible), so that it doesn't prematurely break off, during normal (gentle) grooming, and general wear.

There is a science behind this, but I'll refrain from going all Charlie Brown’s teacher on you.  Getting to the nitty gritty, I present the high-level, RallyGirl version of why we want to nurture our cuticle layer, keep it closed, and 4 ways to do it.   Here goes....

Below is a diagram of a hair strand; as you can see, there are 3 layers.  This post focuses primarily on the cuticle; the outer-most layer.

  • Medulla
  • Cortex
  • Cuticle
How the cuticle layer scales depends on the hair type.  For example, for type 1 (straight) hair, the cuticle tightly hugs the cortex, so the layer’s scales lay flat.   As a result, straight hair tends to shine more often,and retain its moisture longer than other hair types.   Curlier hair types, especially natural hair (type 4 or afro textured), shine less, and can be dryer/frizzier, because its cuticle layer is naturally raised.
Magnified Strand of Hair - Smooth/Closed & Raised Cuticles.
Because it’s the outer, most protective (and what I consider the most important) layer, it’s best that we keep the cuticle healthy, and closed as much as possible.   Doing so, yields higher shine, strong hair, and longer lasting moisture, which = maximum length retention.

RELATED:  Grow Natural Hair, Retain Length:  8 Basic Tips to Jump-Start Optimum Hair Growth

RELATED:  Grow Natural Hair, Retain Length: 6 Co-Wash Must-Haves that Pack in Moisture


In a nutshell, hair cuticles lift and become damaged with the use of harsh chemicals like, bleach and relaxers.  Some shampoos, and the addition of warm/hot water tend to also lift and make cuticles swell.

Below are a few ways to close your hair's cuticle layer, when completing your co-wash routine:

- Rinse hair with cold water (perfect during the hot months when rocking your wash & go's).
- Finish with an apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinse -- 3 parts water to 1 part ACV = 3/4 water to 1/4 ACV.
- Finish by spritzing aloe vera juice or gel. (A good product to use on medium porosity hair)
- You can also do either of the above, follow with applying a refrigerated leave-in conditioner.

Complete the process with oil to seal in moisture, and you're done.

RELATED:  Grow Natural Hair, Retain Length: How to Seal in Moisture

I actually use a combination of these options, based on what's at my fingertips at the time.

Use this article is a guide to help you, but as always, be sure to do your research and experiment to see what your hair loves and responds to the best.

Thanks for reading, and of course, Mo' Hair!

RallyGirl ♥

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