The Hair: Structure, Qualities and Hair Care

There are different types of hair. Hair can be curly or straight, short or long, hard or soft, oily or dry. Hair can also have different colours. In most parts of Africa, people have black or dark brown hair. Most Europeans have straight hair which can sometimes be brown in colour. Hair that is well cared for looks clean and neat. A stand of hair has three layers. These are the cuticle, the cortex and the medulla.


The human skin and hair image credit:

The Cuticle

This is the outside layer of hair. It has scales which make the hair to shine. When the scales are dead or injured,the hair becomes dull and it splits. The scales can be injured or killed if the hair is over-treated with hair relaxer or over-heated combs or if washed with harsh chemical. Too much back combing and rough brushing can also affect the scales of the hair.

The Cortex

This is the middle layer of the hair. It makes the hair stretch and return to its size. The cortex also contains the natural pigment which gives the hair its colour. When chemicals like hair relaxer is applied to the hair, it becomes straight. This means that the chemicals or relaxers used have relaxed the cortex of the hair. Neutralizers which are chemicals used to stop the action of some other chemicals like relaxers should be used so that the cortex is not damaged.

The Medulla

This is the central part of the hair. It is very thin and helps the hair to grow. Sometimes, when hair is very light, it has no medulla.

Qualities of Healthy Hair

It is necessary to understand the qualities of healthy hair. This will help you understand what care you should always give to your hair to make it healthy. A healthy hair must possess the following qualities:

a. It must look shiny or glossy

b. It must not be too brittle or break easily

c. It must grow; and

d. It must not smell badly.

Materials For Hair Care 

To look after your hair properly, you need the following basic hair care tools: combs, brushes, mirrors, plating threads and a towel. These are all you need for a simple hair care.


Combs are used for dividing the hair into sections for plaiting, straightening the hair or for keeping the hair smooth and nice-looking. There are different types of combs and they are used for different types of hair and for different purposes.

For hard textured hair, you may need a big wooden or plastic comb. For soft hair, you may need a fine toothed plastic comb. Afro combs, usually made of wood, metal or plastic are good for long kinky hair.

The wooden comb needs to be kept oily to prevent splitting or cracking. If the teeth of the comb splits, it will cause the hair to break. Wooden combs are very good for sectioning when plaiting the hair. Their points are well trimmed to cut unclustered sections. Rubber combs are very common. They are very cheap but often have jagged edges that can injure the scalp of the head. Make use of the appropriate comb for each type of hair because there are differnt combs for combing natural hair, permed hair, curly hair and plaited hair.

Always keep your combs clean after use by removing any hair, dirt or oil hanging on the teeth. Wash the combs regularly.


Brushes can be used to straighten the hair and remove knots. There are different types of brushes. There are some for short hair and some for long hair. People with very short hair require brush especially if the hair is very thick. Long hair like that of the Fulani or relaxed hairs require the use of long bristled brush. The hair should be brushed regularly to remove dirt and to keep it shining and neat.

Some brushes are made of harsh nylon, some are made of plastic with bold strands while some are rubber cushioned and are best for brushing the hair. Avoid the use of harsh nylon brushes as they may injure the scalp and make the hair break. Bristle brushes are good for the appropriate type of hair.

A brush can last for a long time if it is well cared for. Rubber cushioned brushes are very good for brushing and for massaging the scalp. When brushing long hair, it is good to divide the hair into sections and brush in strokes from the scalp to the tip of the hair.


A mirror is very essential in hair care to enable you see how your hair looks.

Plaiting Threads

Plaiting threads are usually black. They are of different qualities. Some are made from cotton while some are made from plastic. Some are thin while some are thick. Thin threads are always used in multiple strands. The plastic threads are thick and can also be used in multiple strands.

However, cotton threads are better for achieving soft and long hair texture. Threads of different colours and other adornments can be used to beautify the hair.


Towels are necessary for drying the hair after washing. Towels must always be kept dry and clean.

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Oluchi Chukwu

Oluchi is a seasoned Information blogger, content developer and the editor of Nigerian Queries. She is a tech enthusiast who loves reading, writing and research

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