Sunday, January 9, 2011

Closed Cuticle, Open Cuticle

When fighting frizzy hair and trying to obtain defined curls that "pop", it is important to know the difference between an open cuticle and a closed cuticle. A more correct description would be a lifted (aka open) cuticle versus a flat/smoothed (aka closed) cuticle.

When and why should cuticles be closed versus open? The main times you want open cuticles is when cleansing or deep treating the hair. For this reason, remember: HEAT = OPEN CUTICLE. When washing hair, you want to wet the hair with warm water to ensure lifted cuticles in order to remove dirt and product build-up. After thoroughly cleansing the hair, a rinse with warm water again will do just fine. Always use warm water to rinse before adding a conditioner that you plan to rinse out again. For example, when deep conditioning, rinse shampoo out (or just rinse hair if not shampooing) with warm water. The lifted cuticles enable the deep conditioning products to penetrate the hair shaft.

If you haven't already  heard of it, there is a technique in the natural hair community known as the cold water rinse. Rinsing hair with cold water, which should be done after rinsing out deep conditioner and before adding leave-in conditioners, rinse with cold water. Why? COLD WATER = CLOSE CUTICLE. This cold water rinse lays down the cuticles that have been lifted by the warm water, ensuring shiny hair. Remember that CLOSED CUTICLE = SHINY HAIR.

So from above you know that heat equals open cuticle and heat equals closed cuticle. You want open cuticles when cleansing and deep conditioning the hair. You want closed cuticles when doing your final rinse of conditioner, before applying a leave-in, to ensure frizz-free, shiny hair with curls that pop. Temperature is not the only factor that affects the state of hair cuticles. In a previous post, I shared that I do not use shampoo bars because the saponified oils lead to a more alkaline product. Saponified oils is another way of saying soap. Soap is more alkaline, whereas shampoo is more acidic. Hair has a pH balance somewhere between 4.5 to 5.5, meaning more on th acidic end. This goes the same for our skin, too. When choosing hair products, remember that ALKALINE = OPEN CUTICLE and ACIDIC = CLOSED CUTICLE. For this reason, I prefer shampoos which are acidic that soap/shampoo bars.

If I were to use a shampoo bar, which I am not ruling out completely in my natural hair care future, I would be sure to use a method that would close the open and vulnerable cuticles. Yes, I'll say that again OPEN CUTICLE = MORE VULNERABLE STRANDS. One very common way of reclosing the cuticle after using shampoo bars is the do an apple cider vinegar (ACV) rinse. ACV is acidic of course, which recloses the cuticle. Another acidic product that is very close to the natural pH level of the hair is aloe vera juice, which I use myself in the Kimmaytube Leave-In Conditioner recipe. Aloe vera is also one of the top ingredients in Giovanni Direct Leave-In conditioner, which is probably why it works so well for me.

For more information about pH and the hair cuticle, check out these posts by The Natural Haven, HERE.

For Kimmaytube's Youtube video on pH and the hair, check it out HERE.

I did this post mainly to explain why I am very particular about when I use warm water versus cold water when styling and caring for my hair. Also, this is a way to explain my choice of certain hair products and recipes.


  1. Hello, I'm glad I stumbled across your post because I have only recently gone natural and been washing my hair in cold or near cold water applying the cold rinse closed cuticle method, but I did wonder am I suppose to open up the cuticle by using warm water first? have just answered that question for me! haha thanks and great blog keep up the good work I don't think I was have even gone natural had it not been for ladies like yourself,Kimmay and other natural ladies very inspiring!

  2. Thanks for this post.. I was really looking for it :)

  3. "So from above you know that heat equals open cuticle and heat equals closed cuticle."

    Great article, but the above sentence needs to be re-written.