Chemical Composition of Hair

Hair is made of protein which originates in the hair follicle. As the cells mature, they fill up with a fibrous protein called keratin. These cells lose their nucleus and die as they travel up the hair follicle. Approximately 91 percent of the hair is protein made up of long chains of amino acids. The amino acids are joined to each other by chemical bonds called peptide bonds or end bonds. The long chain of amino acids is called a called a polypeptide chain and is linked by peptide bonds. The polypeptide chains are intertwined around each other in a helix shape. There are various elements found in the hair and they are used to make amino acids, keratin, melanin, and protein. The average composition of normal hair is composed of 45.2 % carbon, 27.9% oxygen, 6.6% hydrogen, 15.1% nitrogen and 5.2% sulphur.

Hair Growth


First of all, did you realize that your hair grows about 1/4 to 1/2 inch per month? What determines how fast your hair grows? Your parents’ heredity. Does this mean you cannot change or alter what happens to you? No! By changing some of your everyday habits, you can see a significant improvement in your hair’s length and health.

1.   Your Hair’s Condition Reflects What Is Going On Inside

Certain medications, some illnesses (anemia), changes in hormone levels, stress, and even different times of the year can affect the condition of your hair. Some of these cannot be helped, but if you are smoking or overly stressed, this is a good time to fix the situation.  Seek help if needed so that your body can operate at its best capacity.

3.   Treat Your Body Good And Your Hair Will Respond Beautifully

If you eat a good diet and exercise, not only will your hair respond, but your skin will too.   Foods that are good for your hair include beans, fish, cheese, nuts and leafy green vegetables. A good vitamin may also help to supplement your diet. And drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.  A hydrated body works more efficiently, and this affects the health of your hair, too. Water and Nutrition: Lack of sufficient water can make hair dry so drink up more H2O, your hair will thank you for it. Also, there are certain nutrients that encourage the growth of hair, skin and nails. You can eat more foods that are strong in these nutrients and you will see your hair and skin responding. Crash diets and yoyo dieting are hair strand killers; try to eat balanced organic foods and you will experience a positive change overall.

2.  Your Hair’s Condition Reveals

How You Treat It

Excessive heat, sun, brushing, and lack of conditioning all affect how our hair looks and behaves.  Our hair is very fragile, especially so for certain ethnic groups, so we should treat our hair with care. You wouldn’t want to put a valuable oriental rug out in the hot sun for days on end, nor would you leave a hot iron on it everyday.  Neither should you do this to your hair! The sun can damage your hair, but we usually don’t protect it as we would our skin. Trimming your hair’s ends periodically will also help to remove split ends and ragged edges.  Doing this will stop hair breakage, and this will help the hair appear to be growing longer because it is not breaking just as fast as it is growing. Excessive chemicals on the hair will only weaken the hair. This will lead to hair loss and hair thinning.

4. Brushing and Combing

Are the tips of your brush bristle ragged and uneven and hard? If they are, this creaties trouble for your hair. Do the skin test with your brushes, run it down your arm with the same vigor that you do your hair. It will be painful and may scratch your skin and that is exactly what it does to your hair/scalp. Stop using brushes all together and observe your hair for a while. You will find that the hair does much better without a brush.

Thinning Hair

Here are some of the most common reasons black women find their hair getting thin:


While nothing can be done about aging, this is a common cause of thinning hair. It doesn’t only affect men. Extremely thinning hair can be traumatic for women who have always enjoyed thick locks. Choosing different styling methods and hairstyles are both effective ways to camouflage thin hair. Styling should be gentle. This includes using the right tools and accessories, gentle cleansers and fewer chemical treatments. If thinning is around the hairline, you may choose styles that cover this area. If your crown is the problem spot, a short haircut may be in order. You might also want to talk to your stylist about placing wefts of hair over thinning areas.

Tight Styling

This problem may have begun in your childhood. Tight ponytails and braids pull on delicate hairlines. If pulled tightly enough, the hair follicles will be permanently damaged, leading to hair loss, or traction alopecia. When chemicals are then placed on these already-stressed hairlines, thin hair is often the result. Once a hair follicle is dead, there’s no amount of treatment that will bring it back to life. Whether you’re styling your hair or your child’s hair, ponytails and braids should not hurt. If you feel any pain, loosen the style. This doesn’t mean that you can’t ever wear ponytails or braids again. It simply means that you should avoid any tight styles over extended periods of time. Ponytail holders or elastics should be removed before going to bed. Also, don’t wear the same styles repeatedly — this places tension on the same areas over and over again. Switch up styles every time you fashion a new set of braids if they’re going to be worn for weeks at a time

Chemical Abuse

Improper use of relaxers, colors and other chemicals is a big contributor to thinning hair. Although relaxers are easy to purchase for home use, following the directions is crucial to avoid hair damage and loss. This means do not leave it on longer than the recommended time frame, don’t apply to damaged scalps and hair, don’t apply touch-ups more often than every four weeks, and do not apply relaxers on very young children. If you apply permanent color the same day (or within two weeks) you apply a relaxer, you’re asking for trouble. Temporary colors or rinses are safe enough to use at the same time as a relaxer application, but permanent dyes are not.

Scientific Glossary of Terms for Hair:

  • Amino Acids – any one of a large group of organic compounds; the end product of protein hydrolysis.
  • Chemical bond – the force exerted by shared electrons that hold atoms together in a molecule.
  • Disulfide links – bonds or linkages between polypeptide chains of the hair cortex.
  • End bonds – the chemical bonds that join amino acids to form the long chains characteristic of all proteins.
  • Eumelanin – one of two types of melanin, black /brown pigment.
  • Hydrogen bond (physical bond) – the molecular association between an atom of hydrogen and an atom of oxygen in the hair forming an electromagnetic bond. Gives strength and elasticity to hair and form to the hair when it is dry.
  • Keratin – a fiber protein characteristic of horny tissue; hair, nails, feathers etc. it is insoluble in protein solvents and has a high sulfur content.
  • Melanocyte – a pigment cell producing melanin in the hair bulb.
  • Peptide bonds – the joining together of amino acids
  • Phaeomelanin – naturally occurring red/yellow pigment in melanin.
  • Polypeptide bonds – bonds that link peptide chains together to form protein.
  • Polypeptide chains – amino acid chains joined together by peptide bonds; the prefix “poly” meaning many.
  • Sulfur bonds – sulfur cross bonds in the hair, which holds the chains of amino acids together; position determines curl present in the hair.