The science of mixed-race hair – explained

Carly Lewis-Oduntan investigates why mixed-race hair differs from other textures

Photo: LabelM

Typically when we hear the term ‘mixed-race hair’ we think of full-bodied curls, somewhere between wavy and afro-textured. But just like anyone with natural hair, a combination of different heritages can result in a diverse plethora of hair types from straight or wavy to curly, coily and kinky. After all, your genetics directly link to not only your hair texture but also the thickness of your individual strands which is ultimately determined by the shape and size of your hair follicles.

‘Mixed hair has more para-cortical cells than ortho-cortical cells, meaning it’s less prone to damage than African hair and it’s stronger and more elastic,’ says Michelle Thompson, afro hair specialist and creative director of the Francesco Group. ‘It also has more of the cell membrane complex, which is what holds the cortical cells in place. This allows the hair to be more resistant to manipulation. Lastly, mixed hair also has more cuticle layers than African descent hair, which lay over the ortho-cortical cells, meaning the hair is less exposed to external damage.’

Though there are a wide range of hair textures that we see in people of mixed-heritage, it’s common for mixed-race hair to lean more towards the afro than the straight side of the spectrum. The science behind the make-up of mixed-race hair doesn’t give us a definitive answer as to why this is, however, research shows that in the rare cases of white and Asian people born with afro-textured hair, only a single version of the gene that produces this hair type has to be passed down from either the mother or father. Therefore it makes sense that whilst mixed-race hair isn’t typically the most coarse or tightly coiled, it still has more characteristics that are comparable to afro textures than straighter European hair.


Textured hair types…

3 Comments

  1. by Marissa on 19/02/2021  5:56 PM Reply

    What sources were used for this “investigation”?

    • by Slaw Bunnies on 21/05/2021  8:20 PM Reply

      Candice supported your claims

  2. by Marsha on 13/09/2020  5:59 AM Reply

    I am trying to figure out my correct hair care. I naturally have 2 different types of strands 4 and 2 because of mixed heritage. The 2 dries quickly and frizzy while the 4 shrinks and tangles. This is the 4th time I've let my hair regrow from being relaxed and I prefer natural so, I am looking for advice.

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