Would you like to grow a long, soft, full, and healthy hair?

If yes, then I would advise you take your time to understand the hair cuticle. Indeed, understanding the hair cuticle is a crucial part of successfully growing a healthy natural hair you’ll be proud of and that will be the envy of your friends and colleagues.

As Dr. Neil Persadsingh, a renowned hair scientist, puts it:

The appearance of the hair depends largely on the health of the cuticle, the protective sheath of the whole hair.

In this article, you’ll learn about what the hair cuticle is all about and how to prevent it from damage; you’ll also learn about how to open and close the hair cuticle. ‘And why should I often even do that?’ you may ask.

Not to worry, I will cover such and similar topics.

So, let’s get started.

Now, for you to understand the position of the hair cuticle and therefore appreciate the topic of the day, we’ll take a look at the hair structure.

Read More: What is Hair Porosity?

The Hair Structure

hair cuticle

There are basically three layers to the hair:

  1. The Medulla is innermost layer of the hair
  2. The Cortex is between the cuticle and the medulla
  3. The Cuticle is the outermost layer of the hair

What Is The Hair Cuticle?

So, as the outermost layer of the hair, the cuticle is the protective layer of your hair and thus, it is often regarded as the most important layer.

It is the cuticle that holds the hair shaft on the follicle using a bond called Velcro bond for the process.

The cuticle is the layer of the hair that determines how well your hair styles and how it feels. It is also what is responsible for allowing moisture to pass into the hair shaft and stay there.  Thus, it controls the movement of the moisture between the cuticles and the cortex.

The cuticle does this naturally, but with change in weather and some chemical composition, the process may change.

Functions of the Hair Cuticle

The cuticle is what is protecting the brain of your hair called the cortex. It is the cortex that tells the hair strand what to do. Virtually every attribute of the hair strand from its color, texture, and curl pattern to thickness is dictated and controlled by the cortex.

Also, it is the cuticles that help to prevent damage to the cortex. Any damaged cortex is a damaged hair strand that cannot be repaired.

Chemical treatments to the hair are only effective because they are able to go inside the hair strand, passing through the cuticle layer to reform the cortex.

How the Cuticle Layer of the Hair Works

hair cuticle image

The cuticle layer consists of protein called keratin scales which either rises open to receive an ingredient or closes to lock the ingredient within the hair strand.

When the fibers of the cuticle are lifted, substances can become deposited within its structure. When it is closed, the cuticle can prevent moisture-loss and also act as a shield to protect against damaging environmental forces.

If the cuticle is strong and healthy, the hair will also be strong and healthy.

Read Also: What is the LOC Method?

How to Make Hair Cuticle Work for You

The condition of the hair cuticle whether good or bad directly affects how your hair looks and feels. So, if you have the capacity to manipulate the scales of the cuticle, then you’ll be able to control the appearance of your hair.

Now, if your hair is dry and easily breaks; then the cuticle is most likely open and a lot of moisture from the hair has evaporated into the air.

If your hair is soft and shiny on the other hand; then it is most likely that the cuticle of the hair is closed and containing the moisture within your hair.

The best thing about ensuring that the cuticle is closed is that you can experience soft, moisturized hair for several days at a time. And this is, by far, the most efficient way to moisturize your hair and prevent constant dryness.

Causes of Hair Cuticle Damage

The more harmful or abusive practices on your hair, the faster you will damage the hair cuticle. And if you destroy the cuticle layer of the hair, the less opportunity you have to experience longer hair.

Instead, your hair will become porous. The more porous the hair is, the more incapable the hair will be at containing moisture. The less moisturized the hair is, the more your hair is exposed to damage.

So, stop these abusive behaviors on your hair cuticle:

Bleaching and hair coloring

Chemicals in bleach and hair dyes affect negatively the hair cuticles. When you bleach the hair, all cuticles are open to remove the pigment. Your hair cuticles therefore become weaker and prone to split ends. Your hair may also become dead hair after bleaching.

Over-styling hair

Heat and chemicals can change the hair structure, so much that your hair shafts cuticle will get damaged and begins to fray. Heat is bad as it opens up all cuticles and dries up moisture that is necessary for your hair.

Over shampooing

Yes, we shampoo our hair daily to cleanse and remove excess oil from the scalp. But washing the hair too much is not good for the hair health. The shampoo can strip natural oils away from the scalp, making the hair dry and easily broken.

Read Also: Best Shampoo for Hair Loss

How to Open the Hair Cuticles

hair structure

Why would you want to open the cuticles? You may need to have the cuticles being so that the conditioner can be effective.

One way to do this is to apply coconut oil before washing the hair. It will make the cuticles smooth and also make it easy for the moisture to penetrate.

Secondary, when you use the deep conditioner, allow it time to penetrate into the hair cuticles. And you could also use the heat to open the cuticles for the conditioning to work in hydrating and moisturizing the hair.

Additionally, only use mild heat on the hair to open the cuticles. Wash your hair and then wrap it with a towel for a couple of minutes. That is enough to get the cuticles open.

You can also use hooded dryers and set them at a low temperature. You can apply the conditioner then sit under the hooded dryer for a few minutes and this will moisturize your strands.

How to Seal the Cuticles

Learning tricks and techniques to seal hair cuticles is definitely the secret to shiny, smooth hair. And the only way to contain moisture when your hair cuticles remain open is by sealing the cuticles.

Here are a few ways to do that…

Use cold water

It is often recommended to use cold water when rinsing your hair as cold water helps to reduce frizz and improves the shine.

Use the PH balance

The hair is normally at the PH of 5 and 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.

Shampoos can sometimes cause the pH of hair to become unbalanced and making your hair cuticles rougher. If you discover that you have been using products that interfere with the PH you should find ways to combat that.

An apple cider vinegar rinse is one way to balance the pH of your hair. Use ½ tablespoon to 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar mixed with 1 cup water after shampooing and pour the mixture on your hair, ensuring you avoid the scalp.

You may want to rinse the apple cider vinegar mixture from your hair or not. However, the vinegar smell should reduce once your hair dries.

The Cleansing

Usually, most of the products we use forms buildup on our hair. The buildup usually damages your hair and will often raise the cuticles.

So, it is advisable to use clarifying shampoo to cleanse the hair thoroughly. Do this once a week to get rid of the buildup completely.

The oils

Coconut oil or olive oil are great oils that both moisturize the hair and also act as sealants.

How to Smoothen Hair Cuticles

To hold the moisture on your hair for a long time, you need to smoothen the cuticles. Smoothening the cuticles will have your hair being moisturized for up to 3-5-days.

After washing and trimming your hair, you can spray the hair with water-based coconut oil. Then, you can use your hands to smoothen it in a downward motion.

Other natural oils such as argan oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, etc. will also work for this purpose.


Unlike the skin, our hair cannot recover itself. So, focus on the basic needs of the hair cuticle. Take care of your hair every day, keep the cuticle free from peeling and damaging.

Hopefully, you have learned some proper ways to protect your hair cuticle and make your hair healthier and radiating.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here