Let’s Talk Follicles

As if you’d ever need a reason to become forever devoted to maintaining your gorgeous curly mane (ha!), you may be interested to know that there is no known non-surgical way to permanently straighten your hair. Some of us have tried various techniques, and I’ve heard friends say, post-keratin/chemical straightening, that they have found that their hair has grown out much less curly. Some even turn straight, God forbid!

The truth of the matter is, your hair is curly because your hair follicle, which is grown in a tiny sac beneath your scalp, is oval-shaped. The curlier the hair, the more oval-y (?) the follicle is. Case and point, here is the cross-section of a piece of African American hair (right). This is the extreme, a wavy or loosely curly hair follicle would be much more circular.

Conversely, if you have stick-straight hair, your hair follicle is a circle. As the hair grows down your back, the shape of the follicle determines whether it spirals down or hangs straight. Take a look at this Asian hair follicle (left).

Now, the health-conscious reader may wonder to themselves as to what chemical reaction could possibly cause permanent hair relaxing, if this is indeed possible. It’s quite alarming that a hair treatment might affect the shape of the hair that grows from a fixed-shape follicle in our scalps. Other factors may also be affecting it, like any big life event that changes your body as a whole, such as aging, a major surgery or — pregnancy! This is why many of us notice that our hair changes after having kids. I say, learn to love it and always keep your hair well-hydrated with monthly if not weekly oil treatments. Dehydration is one of the biggest reasons that curly tops become unhappy with their natural locks.

It’s science, really.

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