African American hair or Black hair types have special needs. Black hair needs often stem from hair being excessively dry or damaged due to harsh chemical treatments like relaxers.
In order to understand these needs, it's important to look at the structure of African American hair.
African American hair is composed primarily of proteins (88%). These proteins are of a hard fibrous type known as keratin. Keratin protein is comprised of what we call "polypeptide chains.” The word, polypeptide, comes from the Greek word "poly" meaning many and "peptos" meaning digested or broken down. In essence, if we break down protein, we have individual amino acids. Many (poly) amino acids joined together form a "polypeptide chain".
African American hair has two amino acids for hair growth are joined together by a "peptide bond", and the correct number of amino acids placed in their correct order will form a specific protein; i.e. keratin, insulin, collagen and so on. The "alpha helix" is the descriptive term given to the polypeptide chain that forms the keratin protein found in human hair. Its structure is a coiled coil.
The amino acids link together to form the coil and there are
approximately 3.6 amino acids per turn of the helix (coil). Each
amino acid is connected together by a "peptide bond".
The peptide bond is located between the carbon atom of one amino
acid extending to bond with the nitrogen
atom of the next amino acid.
The damage African American hair can sustain from hair relaxers has to do with these peptide bonds. Hair relaxers work by breaking down these bonds, while this does cause a straightening effect, it will eventually break the hair.
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