Understanding the Hair Cuticle Anatomy & Dry Hair

“My hair is very dry & frizzy!”
“Which conditioner or mask can I use to save my dry hair?”


When it comes to haircare, these two lines are frequently heard. If you are reading this article, you probably have said one of these two sentences before. 

Today, we will go through the Hair Cuticle Anatomy before learning the varying degrees of damaged hair. 

This is a cross section of a Hair Shaft. The hair is made up of 95% keratin and it contains 18 amino acids. The amino acids in the keratine forms bonds between hair molecules, adding rigidity and resistance to the entire structure. It’s very Important to eat the right balance of vitamins and minerals to grow strong hair.


The cross-section of a hair strand is made up of 3 distinct parts:


  • The Hair Cuticle: the outermost part of the hair shaft. It is composed of cells shaped like scales overlapping in layers that strengthen and protect the hair shaft. The cuticle has a structure of overlapping scales in a vertical alignment, which is made up of many layers of keratin. measuring about 60 micrometres long and about 6 micrometres wide. It houses and protects the cortex and is strong. How strong, you ask?


    Each strand of hair can support up to 100 grams in weight. Multiply that by the average 100,000 to 150,000 strands on each head, Your entire head of hair could support the weight equivalent to two elephants! Imagine that.

  • The Cortex: main component of the hair which contains long keratin chain that add elasticity, suppleness and resistance to the hair. The cells of the cortex are joined together by an inter-cellular cement rich in lipids and proteins. Each cell has microfibrils which are made up of microfibrils, which in turn contain protofibrils.
  • The Medulla: the connection to our hair bulb, to our source. The hair cortex is where you will find the melanocytes. Melanocytes produces Melanin, and Melanin determines our skin pigment and our hair color.

When you dye your hair permanently, you are actually changing the color at the cortex layer. This is what your hair looks like through the dyeing process.



What the hair dye does is that it lifts up the hair cuticles and depositing the color at the cortex to change the color. Let's move on to the varying degrees of damaged hair!


This is a picture of a Healthy Hair Cuticle. 


This is a picture of a Healthy Hair Cuticle. As you can see, the hair cuticles are closely knitted with healthy density and it is not porous. The hair structure is strong and shiny and it reflects light. The hair is not heavy or weighed down by silicone.


If you have healthy and shiny hair, you can maintain your hair with Phytoprogenium Ultra-Gentle Daily Care Regime!


Next, this is how a porous open cuticle look like. 


This is normally caused by prolong exposure under the sun. If you are one who loves the beach, do note that the salt from seawater and sunlight dries your hair. If you dye, perm or rebond your hair, chances are that your hair cuticles look like this too. As the hair cuticles are still open, we recommend extra treatment to replenish & seal the cuticles to restore the shine. If you just colored your hair, we advise you to avoid the swimming pools or beach for at least 2 weeks to prevent it from getting damaged even more!


If you find yourself having dry hair even though you have not done any chemical work to your hair nor visit the beach, this is because our natural sebum can only moisturize our hair till our ear lobes. For people with long hair past their ears, you will still need a weekly hair mask treatment and daily conditioners to keep your tresses hydrated.




If you fall under this category, make sure that you use the right hair treatments regularly and diligently. You will definitely be able to achieve healthy and shiny hair again! Phyto recommends PHYTOJOBA Moisturizing Range to restore softness and shine to dry hair, without weighing it down.


Finally, if you are one who bleach, perm or rebond your hair frequently, this is how your hair looks like under the scope! 



Your hair has not been given enough time for it to recover before your next trip to the salon.



When you bleach your hair, the bleach contains 12% peroxide which damages your hair cuticle at least 50%. At this point, we would recommend you to ease on the chemical work for at least 6 months to let your hair recover before it gets too damaged! Phyto has the perfect elixir to treat such hair conditions – Phytoelixir Intense Hair Nutrition Program.


What happens if your hair cuticle 80% damaged? Find out here!


Watch the full episode of PHYTO Hair Talk here.