Hair cuticle and the role it play in hair extensions

Getting the facts on hair cuticle is an important component of any hair care regime. A lot of things can go wrong when it comes to hair care. Knowing the in and out of hair cuticle might help you rectify your routines so that your hair can grow long and healthily. Getting the right info will make sure you handle your natural hair correctly. Beyond that, this knowledge can even help you shop wisely and know the right method to take care of these costly investments. We will help you understand the definition and function of hair cuticle. At the same time, users will also understand what they should look for when shopping for hair extensions.

What is a hair cuticle?

To get a clear definition of this outmost layer, you must first understand all the components that constitute a hair strand. This basic info on hair anatomy will illuminate many pre-existing questions you may have about hair care, hair types, and routines. Any hair strands on your head should be made of 3 layers: the cuticle, the cortex, and the medulla. Let’s explore in-depth each of these 3 components to get a firm grasp on this issue.

The hair shaft

What you would call hair can be called a hair shaft. They go through your own skin and hair follicles. In its growth, it may increase in length or suffer from breakage. Similarly, the hair strand may become more concentrated and grow thicker or you may experience thinning. Most of the hair shafts are made of keratin. These dead protein cells resist any tearing and wearing, hence creating the texture and feel that we all know of.  All the three layers that make up the hair play a unique role and function. You can briefly see the structure through our hair cuticle diagrams.

Hair Shaft Structure : hair cuticle, cortex and medulla
Hair Shaft Structure : hair cuticle, cortex and medulla

The cuticle

The cuticle layer, which we will further discuss in other sections, is likely the most important layer of our hair. It has a roof-shingle-like structure that overlaps each other. The cuticle helps the hair shaft stay on its follicle. Not only keeping the hair shaft attached to its root, but the cuticle layer of hair also plays an important role in regulating moisture within the hair. In a way, the cuticle plays the role of a natural gatekeeper to let moisture in or shut them out of the inner layers like the medulla or cortex. It achieves this feat by its natural scale design, however, with exposure to the sun and heat treatment, the cuticle’s moisture barrier function might become compromised.

The cortex

This part stores the color (aka pigmentation) of the hair. Inside this layer is a group of keratin filaments held together by hydrogen sulfide bonds. Since this layer dictates the color of your hair, you will have to open the outmost layer in order to get to the cortex and change the hair color in the dyeing process. The integrity and the health of your cortex depend on the cuticle layer to protect it.


This very center of the hair shaft occupies a small space. The medulla layer consists mostly of airspace and transparent cells. Some hair doesn’t even have it.

Hair cuticle and its functions

Our first line of defense

As we briefly mentioned above, cuticle consist mostly of keratin scales. This layer act as the gatekeeper to let moisture and nutrients come into the hair. To play this role they have to be opened or closed as needed.

The cuticles will be the layers that let hair chemicals and other nutrients come into the hair strands and affect the cortex. The cortex, which is responsible for pigmentation, thickness, curl, and hair pattern, will be altered when it comes in contact with nutrients and chemicals. The cuticle also lets the color and pigmentation come into the cortex and this is the sole mechanism when one wants to change their hair color. 

Get past the cuticle to bring about permanent change

So if you want to change up your curl pattern, color or thickness permanently, you will have to lift your cuticles to let chemicals do their work with the cortex. Most often, the process involved lifting the cuticle first and then the chemicals would operate on the cortex to bring about desired changes. This rule holds when you need to change your hair curl pattern permanently, using a relaxer solution. With the relaxer, you must first lift the cuticles and then the relaxer would come into the cortex to break down the bond and hence straighten up the curls.


A women getting her hair relaxed
Using Hair relaxer regularly will lead to irreversible hair damage

However, if you have ever dealt with relaxers, you will know that they can be damaging to your hair. The effects and damages it does are also irreversible, so we recommend that you do these treatments moderately. 

So in a nutshell, your outmost layer plays 3 important roles: they act as the gateway to let moisture and ingredients in, they protect and prevent damage done to the cortex, and they retain moisture of the hair shafts when closed. As the cortex is the central operating system of the hair strands, any damage done to the cortex will eventually damage the hair. As such, if you don’t have a strong first line of defense, you will see your hair strands become damaged.

Hair cuticle types: healthy hair vs damaged hair

As you can see, the cuticle plays an utmost important role in guarding the cortex, which can help explain to us how people with thick cuticles tend to have less hair damage. Now the thickness of your cuticle layers often depends on your race. If you are Asian, your hair cuticle tends to have many layers and should protect your hair fairly well if you learn how to take care of your hair and use treatment moderately. While if you are black, or of African descent, your cuticles would be thinner and of fewer layers. This is why black ladies have to be very careful when dealing with their Afro-textured hair since their guard layers are not as well-equipped.

Raised Hair Cuticle Vs Healthy Hair Cuticle
Raised Hair Cuticle Vs Healthy Hair Cuticle

Healthy hair cuticle

Healthy cuticles are the kind that has their scales lay flat against each other, which give them a smooth feel. This happens when the cuticles lay flat and close off. Healthy cuticle also gives off a lot of shine since the scales can easily effectively reflect light off its tightly shut scale. Of course, everyone wants their cuticle heakthy since the hair strands with intact cuticles don’t tangle and they feel smooth when touched.

Damaged hair cuticle

Unlike the healthy cuticle, damaged cuticle is dull and rough. The scales here can either be split off or raised. As this type doesn’t provide enough protection for the inner layer, it tends to lead to damaged hair strands. Since the raised cuticles can create a lot of friction, people with damaged cuticles will likely experience tangled hair.

Can I open my hair cuticle? How about closing it?

Open hair cuticle – a familiar process

It should be easy to open the hair cuticle. You likely have done this process before, namely when you tried to color or bleach your hair. To successfully carry out these tasks, you will have to open the hair cuticle to let the chemical do its work with the cortex. Only when the hair color makes contact with your cortex, then you can change your hair color.

While not as drastic as lifting the hair color and/or dyeing it, you also slightly open the hair cuticle when you wash/wet your hair. Both hair shampoo or water alone can impair the shape of your hair cuticle a bit every time you wash your hair. This is why it is advisable that you only rinse your hair a few times per week unless your scalp health requires more frequent washing.

Close hair cuticle – A must for many damaged hair girls

While opening your hair cuticle is not difficult, learning how to close your hair cuticle is a different matter. If your hair cuticle has already been tampered with, raised, or stripped off, it will be very hard to revert it to its original state. You can either patch the places it has been stripped off or try to keep the cuticles down with some hair cuticle sealer. However, on their own, the shingle-like scales won’t automatically lay flat like they used to be if you don’t apply any products. The products that people most often used to “close” their hair cuticle are hair oils or conditioners with silicones.

Hair Oil Is A Common Hair Sealant
Hair Oil Is A Common Hair Sealant

This should explain to us why bleached/colored hair requires a lot more TLC than virgin unprocessed hair. The dyeing and/or bleaching processes have to deformed your hair cuticle for them to become successful. This will then require you to put more effort and time into looking after your damaged hair. 

The importance of hair cuticle in human hair extensions

The quality of your human hair extensions, including wigs and weaves, will depend on three factors. These include the hair source, the processing of hair strands in the factory as well as the integrity of the hair cuticle.

While the last factor is the main and decisive factor when it comes to hair quality, the first two factors directly affect the third factor. Let’s explore them in detail.

The collection process

Where and how your hair supplier sources their material for hair extensions matter a lot! Since Asian hair has thicker cuticle layers, the Asian hair supplier has a clear advantage in providing healthy unprocessed human hair to the world. Vietnamese human hair is a clear example of this advantage since many Vietnamese rural women keep and grow their hair long without doing any harsh chemical treatments. This makes them the ideal donors for our raw material collections.


The processing process

But hair extensions made from virgin human hair with healthy cuticles are not the whole story. All of our hair is sourced in the “ponytail” fashion to ensure cuticle alignment. We also have to make sure that our processing is gentle and non-invasive. A gentle, chemical-free process will protect the “brain” of the hair and preserve the virgin status of the hair cuticle. This practice has allowed our customers all over the world to enjoy long, lustrous, healthy hair.

Hair cuticle in hair extensions

Finally, the integrity of hair cuticle, which is the direct result of the first two processes, will be the decisive factor in keeping the hair quality top-notch. Since hair suppliers like Luxshine make our hair extensions from real human hair, all the above rules still apply here. If the cuticles are stripped or raised, the issue of hair tangling, breakage, and broken, damaged hair will become unavoidable.

Getting the best experience out of your hair extensions

To get the best experience out of your hair extensions, you should prioritize buying from a trusted supplier. Luxshine has been working tirelessly to form partnerships with salons and hair extensions providers all over the world. We take pride in our intimate knowledge of how to source the best virgin Vietnamese hair. But our expertise doesn’t stop here. We make sure that our processing technique won’t raise or strip the intact hair cuticle of the hair material. We collect all of our hair in the remy fashion, which minimizes friction and eliminates the entangled issue. But buying from a good hair supplier alone is not enough. You should also follow our aftercare guide to maximize the longevity of your hair extensions.

We hope that this post has been helpful and informative. With a clear comprehension, you will now know what is best for your natural hair. Alternatively, if you need to buy hair extensions, you will also know how to choose the right sellers for your needs.

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