While most of the hair strand consists of the CORTEX, we must remember that the
cortex is protected by the CUTICLE. Nature has created this protective outer surface
in a way that resembles the scales on a fish, a closed pinecone, or the shingles on a roof: overlapping layers that when closed offer the very best level of protection.
Working with the cuticle is SEBUM.. which we often view as an offensive "oil" .. and might not
understand how important it is as a hair protector and lubricant. Part of our job is to inform
our clients to not allow sebum to "pool" at the scalp -- not permitted to move away from
the scalp.. and into the hair lengths....
SEBUM is a fatty acid substance, manufactured by the body. It is composed of 15% to 22%
water, 40% to 60% unsaturated fatty acids, and 15% to 30% esterified acids.
SEBUM acts as a lubricant, keeping the surface of the skin and hair smooth and supple.
SEBUM forms a slightly oily protective coating which prevents excessive water evaporation
from the hair lengths. Hair which never receives any of the natural sebum can become dry and brittle.
The overlapping "shingles" on the cuticle allow the sebum to be easily distributed into the
hair lengths residing further down the hair shaft. During the first part of the Twentieth Century, salons made a big deal out of brushing the clients' hair. And, they taught their clients how to do this at home.. even when the old-fashioned "helmet head" styles were
Up-scale salons expected clients to be there for at least several hours. Assistants were
trained to perform 'scientific brushing" when the client came into the salon for a hair cut,
or for a shampoo and styling. After protecting the client with a cape and towel, the assistant
parted the back of the hair from top center, down to the nape. And, working from this vertical
part, began brushing the hair firmly but gently, from root to ends. A 100% boar bristle brush
was used to do this. Each tiny section was brushed several times.. until the "teasing' or tangles were brushed out of the hair. And, as the assistant worked back to front, and then
into the crown, the entire scalp had been stimulated and massaged by the boar bristles.. AND the sebum was brought down into the hair lengths in a way to "pre-condition the hair
before it was washed. This brushing treatment was simply a part of the appointment and lasted about 15 minutes. After the brushing was complete, the client was escorted to
the sink for her shampoo.
The shingle configuration on the cuticle allowed the sebum to be very easily moved
down the hair lengths. Many women over the age of 35 remember this.. at least because the salon told them to brush their hair at home.. and the salon sold the clients a rather expensive 100% boar bristle brush. These are still available from Mason-Pearson and
other "better" brush companies.
For our "CURLY CLIENTS" brushing the hair has become a "no no".. and for good reason! However, salons spas still offer clients wonderful scalp massage when the client is relaxing or lying on the table. Massaging the scalp is a great way to distribute sebum. And, anyone can do this at home: even for a few minutes! Bend forward, apply the fingers to the scalp, and gently massage in a circular motion.
We ALL KNOW what a dirty scalp looks (and smells) like. This is usually the result of a sebum
buildup which has been permitted to be left unchecked for WEEKS!.. (Usually without the hair being brushed!)... And, during the teen years, sebum buildup may be so intense that
daily.. or almost daily shampooing is required. But, as we often see an oily scalp with dry,
brittle hair lengths, we might recommend brushing and/or scalp massage, along with a conditioning regimen addressing those compromised areas of the hair. Good hair color is
easier to achieve when the hair is in good condition! B