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Hair Anatomy 101: What Stylists Need to Know About Hair Structure

Hair types
While the anatomy of hair may not seem important, a lot of what we do as stylists can affect the structure of the hair. If you are completely unaware of what it even is, how do you help someone achieve their best color? Or even more importantly, help get their hair into good health?

Every service we perform as stylists changes the hair structure itself. Coloring can be very damaging and it really is our responsibility to educate our clients so they can understand why taking care of their hair and scalp is important. It’s easy to look at it as just hair, but the reality is it truly is an important part of someone’s identity. This is why it can be so traumatizing to have a bad hair experience.

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Some things are out of our hands, but pointing people in the right direction can help save their hair. It will also help us do the best work we can to persevere the integrity of the hair and give advice on all different scenarios. The more we know, the more trust we can earn with our guests.

Breaking Down the Anatomy of Hair

In order to perform your services with the goal of keeping your clients’ hair healthy, it’s important that you understand the anatomy and structure of hair, as well as how different services affect it.

To start, the hair follicle anchors each hair into the skin, which is why scalp health and follicle health need to be considered. When someone has overproduction of oil or a super dry scalp, chances are the follicle will also be impacted. Products, minerals, medications, and hormone imbalances can impact the health of hair in so many ways.

The hair bulb forms at the base of the follicle and inside the bulb are living cells that divide and grow to build the hair shaft. The hair bulb is where blood vessels nourish and deliver hormones for growth. It takes a lot to grow one strand of hair and we can see this when someone’s health is affected so is their hair.

The hair shaft, which is mostly made of the protein keratin, is made up of three layers including the cuticle, cortex, and medulla. Most of the hair’s pigment is found beneath the cuticle within the cortex.

Hair anatomy

Photo courtesy of Hairmax

Tips for Stylists to Keep Hair Healthy

1. Practice safe lifting.

Lightener breaks down the hair structure in many ways. Because most of the hair’s pigment is found in the cortex, lightener works by opening the cuticle in order to remove color from the inner layer. However, doing so weakens the cuticle leaving the hair in a more fragile state than before.

When it comes to preserving the strength of the cuticle, there is safe lifting and unsafe lifting. Knowing where that line is is absolutely our responsibility as stylists.

2. Maintain the hair’s integrity.

The protein that gives hair its strength is yellow. This simple piece of information will help you understand why lifting beyond pale yellow is not acceptable. Even at this stage, the hair is fragile and must be supported with protinizing products that include moisture as well. If you lift your client’s hair past pale yellow, you will cause damage to the hair shaft and risk breakage.

3. Use the right products.

Look for shampoos, conditioners and products that contain natural based proteins within the first three ingredients. These products are the ones that will help maintain the strength of the hair.

Remember that products alone will never truly repair, but they will help prevent further damage. At the end of the day if someone has too much damage, a haircut to remove the unhealthy lengths of hair is really the only option for optimum health.

4. Stop breakage.

While regular trims don’t make hair grow faster as some people believe, frequent haircuts do help to keep hair from breaking. Hair grows from a healthy scalp and the ends do not impact this, however if hair is not stable on the ends it will continue to break causing the illusion of no growth.

5. Educate the client.

Proper lightening will only ever be achieved if someone’s hair is healthy and able to be lifted. That is the top concern for stylists and always should be. If you are not comfortable with lifting someone's hair because you fear causing additional damage, it's ok to say no and explain why. Provide them with advice to strengthen their hair so that in the future you can perform the service with confidence.

Healthy Hair, Happy Clients

The underlying anatomy and structure of hair can be easy to overlook as stylists, but the truth of the matter is that it impacts every service that we perform.

Not only should you have a clear understanding of what makes hair healthy, but you should also be able to evaluate the health of each canvas that you’re working on. That’s why it’s so important to conduct a thorough hair consultation with every guest that sits in your chair. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to create a plan of action that will result in beautiful, healthy hair, and ultimately happy clients.

Have you been struggling with your confidence when it comes to formulation? Building confidence in this area is the key to becoming a better stylist, empowering you to deliver the results that your clients are looking for. Sign up for the Salt Lab course with Christine, where you'll learn the fundamentals of color theory and real, tactical skills that will allow you to formulate with the confidence that you need! You can also sign up for our free Successful Smudging Masterclass by clicking the button below.

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