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What is Damaged Hair

Today more than ever before people are concerned about the condition of their hair. This is of course due to the fact that we do so much more with our hair on a more frequent basis from washing and blow-drying it to perming and coloring it.

Now we are aware that hair can and does become damaged. But what does that really mean. What is “damaged” hair?

To begin with the human hair is a very strong fiber – much stronger than most of us realize. Its physical and chemical make-up makes it possible for us to constantly wash, style, perm and color it. To give you an example of how strong a fiber hair is, you can compare hair with a copper wire of the same thickness. The hair is stronger than the copper wire.

Hair is 97% protein (keratin). It grows on the average 1centimetre a month. A hair may live from 3 to 7 years before it falls out and is replaced by a new one. We lose between 50 to 100 hair a day. Each hair is replaced starting a new cycle of growth. A person has about 100,000 hair on their head.

The outer coating is called the “cuticle” which consists of several layers of overlapping transparent scales. The cuticle serves to protect the inside of the hair. It is hydrophobic which means it is water-resistant. These scales lie totally flat around the hair.

Hair that is short and that has not been colored (permanent color) or permed will have cuticles that lie flat. Hair in this condition is considered “healthy” hair.

Healthy Hair

This is a healthy hair shaft magnified 1000 times.

healthy hair shaft magnified

The cuticle lies flat around the hair shaft and is therefore considered “healthy”. The scales of the hair start protruding as a result of it being continually washed, dried, permed or colored.

You can see this happening with hair that is difficult to comb through, tangling after a shampoo. Hair stylists often refer to hair in this condition as “porous”. The surface of the hair is not smooth anymore; it has become uneven and rough.

Porous Hair

This is what “porous” hair looks like under the microscope.

porous hair shaft magnified

Hair is considered “damaged” when the cuticles start to lift up. However in this state your hair is still healthy enough.

There are different degrees that the cuticle can protrude. When the cuticle has deteriorated to the extent that it exposes part of the inside of the hair, the hair loses some of its protein (amorphous protein). Hair in this condition is truly damaged.

In this state hair can and will break off on some parts of the head, generally an inch away from the scalp. (The reason for this is that the hair is the healthiest the first inch). Remember it is not falling out. It is breaking off.

Truly damaged hair will have lost its elasticity and bounce and it won’t bend, won’t hold a style because it has lost too much of its protein. It is the protein which gives hair its elasticity and bounce.


Hi I'm Vincent, the editor of this website. I consider male grooming as a lifestyle choice. If you're comfortable with letting mother nature take care of your looks, then that's cool, however for those of you who want to make sure they look their best, I provide guides and tips for your male grooming needs.

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