How Can Hair Styling Products Help?
Wet stylers like mousse and gel help the reshaping process in two ways. They help rewet the hair so that there is water available to loosen up the hydrogen bonds and polymers help hold the hair strands together in place until the strand is completely dry and the set is complete.
What about heat styling?
Curling irons work on the same principle – even on dry hair. The water embedded in the hydrogen and salt bonds mobilizes from the action of heat – allowing the bonds to be reshaped.
Watch out for humidity attack!
Water in the air as humidity can also penetrate your hair shaft and loosen up those hydrogen bonds you worked so hard to create. Note the effects of humidity in the images at right.
Hair Science Advice
The best way to prevent “humidity attack” is to use hairspray on your finished hairstyle. The hold polymers in hairspray are the most humidity resistant polymers around. That’s because hairspray polymers are not soluble in water alone- the water must be mixed with surfactants, like shampoo, to weaken hairspray bonds.
Hair styling products for volume can be generally categorized into three categories by their key holding polymers. All three have different unique benefits in the styling process.
Hair Gels & Mousses
Water-based hair styling polymers are delivered to the hair as a film that dries relatively slowly. As the film dries it forms a bond between hair strands, making the desired style easier to achieve and maintain. After the hair is dry, the polymer forms a hard film that bonds the hair into place. Combing or disrupting the hair can break the bond, but even the broken pieces provide some friction, which provides some hold benefits by helping to prevent hair strands from sliding across each other. This result leads to a smooth style that lasts. Water based polymers include:
- Hair Gels: Hair gels are water-based products that use water based polymers with a variety of thickeners to achieve the desired product consistency and texture. Because of their thickness they are particularly good for creating seam welds that increase apparent hair stiffness and give a texturized look and great root lift.
- Hair Mousses & Foams: Hair mousses and foams use a propellant and a surfactant in addition to water-soluble styling polymers to help create a smooth, creamy foam. When you shake the can, liquid propellant is mixed with the water based liquid concentrate. Then, when the can is inverted and product is dispensed, the pressure of the vapor propellant pushes the mixture of liquid propellant and liquid concentrate out of the can. The liquid propellant then quickly evaporates, creating foam. The mousse foam makes it easy to apply the styling polymers to your hair because in the foaming state it can be spread very thinly.
- Styling Product Advice: Mousses and foams are great for long hair that would otherwise be weighed down by large clumps of polymer. Another benefit of mousse is that its foamy state is not runny and thus will stay where you put it – making it another good alternative for adding root lift to a straight style.
Hair Waxes & Pomades
Hair waxes and pomades are the ultimate flexible hair styling products and can give great root lift. But be careful – they are potentially heavy and greasy if not used in the proper quantity. They are typically water and oil emulsions that combine water-soluble polymers with waxy ingredients. They are best used on very short hairstyles and create texture for a piece-y, chunky look. Because they are water repellent, waxes and pomades can be difficult to wash out of hair. Use of a clarifying or purifying shampoo is recommended with waxes.
They primarily hold hair through seam welds creating large locks of many hairs bonded together. The result is hair that stands up from the scalp in large chunks, creating a texturized look. The holding power is created by the waxy materials’ internal stickiness or cohesiveness. The waxy materials do not “dry” because they are not water-soluble. Thus these bonds don’t become rigid over time. The positive benefit of not drying means that the bonds can be easily remolded by running your hands through your hair over time.
Hair spray is the most common alcohol-based styling product. It is a solution of polymer in a mixture of alcohol and water that is sprayed on the hair in small droplets. The droplets are formed when the liquid is forced through a tiny pinhole in the nozzle of the can. In aerosol hairsprays, the force is supplied by pressurized gas called propellant. In non-aerosols, the force is supplied via mechanical action of pumping the nozzle. Typically, aerosol propellants provide more force than mechanical pumping, resulting in smaller droplet sizes. Smaller droplets dry faster, giving aerosol hairspray a “drier” feeling than non-aerosol hairspray.
It’s a myth that alcohol in hair spray dries out your hair. First, you don’t soak your hair in hairspray; you only apply a very small amount. Second, the alcohol evaporates away very quickly, without getting a chance to penetrate your hair or pulling out any water.
Alcohol-based styling polymers are delivered to the hair in a solution of polymer and alcohol that dries very quickly. The rate of drying is much faster than that for water-based styling products because alcohol evaporates much faster than water. As the alcohol evaporates the film dries, forming bonds between hair strands, welding the hairs together in the desired style. A fast drying rate makes alcohol-based stylers perfect for locking in finished styles because they do not rewet the hair.
Alcohol-based polymers are typically much more humidity resistant than water-based polymers. This is because alcohol-based polymers require surfactant, like shampoo, to make them soluble in water. Thus the water available via high humidity does not soften or loosen hairspray bonds.
The Biology of Hair Color
We know that hair color is genetically determined, the same as skin color. If your parents and earlier ancestors had black skin and black hair, the odds are that you will also have black skin and black hair. Or, if your parents and ancestors had white skin and blond hair, it is very likely that you will also have white skin and blond hair-unless.
Having said that, the follow-up question is: Why do humans have different skin and hair color? Why don’t we all have skin and hair of the same color? The best evidence available to science indicates that humans originated in Africa and migrated from there into the rest of the world over a period of several million years. The only human remains from those millions of years are bones; however, it is hypothesized that these early humans had brown or black skin, since that is the heritage indicated by people living in Africa today. White skin and blond or red hair appears to be a mutational development that occurred within approximately the past 50,000 years, probably in or near Europe. Why did this happen? There is no certain answer to that question yet. However, geneticists who trace human genes throughout human history point out that skin and hair color are traits that are highly likely to respond to the evolutionary pressure of climate. Thus, light-colored skin that synthesizes vitamin D more readily than dark skin in response to sunlight could have conferred a survival advantage in northern climates, where sunlight is weak, as humans moved north along the edge of the retreating glaciers of the Ice Age.
There are many other mysteries associated with skin and hair color. For example, today we expect to find white skin and red hair concentrated in northern Europe-perhaps a legacy of the red-haired Celts who migrated across Europe thousands of years ago and are well described in writings of Julius Caesar and other Romans. As far as we know, the Celts migrated from east to west, starting from someplace in Eastern Europe but we really don’t know for sure why red hair is a common trait among Celts?
Go many thousands of miles further east, into central Asia. In 4,000-year-old burials in the bone-dry Taklamakan Desert, on the western edge of China, red-haired mummies have been found. Who were these red-haired people? No one knows.
How Hair Gets Its Color
We might not know the specifics on why hair is a certain color; we do know how hair gets its color. Hair color (pigmentation) is developed by melanocyte cells. These are specialized cells that synthesize the pigment melanin. The melanocytes that synthesize melanin for hair are located in the hair follicle. Melanocytes are also distributed throughout the body-in the eyes, the ears, the central nervous system, mucous membranes and skin. Interesting to know about Melanocytes:
- Differences in skin color are largely determined by the reddish-brown to black melanin pigment synthesized by melanocytes in the skin. Differences in eye color are determined by melanocytes located in the eye. Other pigments contributing to skin color or carotenoids (yellow), oxygenated hemoglobin (red) and reduced hemoglobin (blue).
- Melanocytes in the hair follicle are active only during the anagen (growth) phase of the hair cycle (see How and Why Hair Grows). No melanin is synthesized during the catagen (degradation) or telogen (resting) phases of the hair cycle.
- Two major types of melanin are synthesized by melanocytes that are specialized to synthesize just one type of melanin:
- Eumelanin, a brown/black pigment that gives the color to brown and black hair, is synthesized by oval-shaped melanocytes; and,
- Pheomelanin, a yellowish to reddish-brown pigment that gives color to red and blond hair, is synthesized by spherical melanocytes.
Melanocytes usually synthesize only one form of melanin at a time. The melanin is taken up by structural proteins located in the cortex at the center of the hair shaft (see How and Why Hair Grows). The synthesis of melanin and transfer of melanin into hair shaft proteins is regulated by genetically programmed enzymes and other regulatory molecules. Melanin synthesis is precisely coherent with the activity cycle of melanocytes; when melanocytes are not active they regress into an inactive phase that diminishes the melanocytes in size and brings all melanin synthesis to a halt.
Recent research has found that melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland is secreted in hair follicles. Both pineal and extra-pineal melatonin play a role in hair growth and hair cycling and may have functions in protecting hair follicle DNA from damage induced by potent chemical reactions that occur during anagen phase. Variations in hair color shades can be caused by the amount of eumelanin or pheomelanin taken up by the hair shaft proteins, or by the presence in the hair shaft of both types of melanin, for example, in dusky red auburn hair.
More subtle variations in hue and shade may be caused by:
- Reflection and refraction of light from internal interfaces of structural proteins in the hair shaft.
- Reflection or refraction of light from hair-styling chemicals that coat the hair shaft (the “sheen” promised by advertising for hair-styling products). White hair contains no melanin.
Hair Color and Hair Count
Provided there has been no hair loss beyond the roughly 100 hairs that are lost daily by normal hair cycling there are between 90,000 to 150,000 hairs on the average scalp. Blond hair (blond is not a color) is associated with the largest number of scalp hairs (about 140,000 to 150,000), followed by brown (up to 140,000), black (100,000 to 120,000) and red (90,000).
Hair Color Stereotypes
There are very widely accepted stereotypes associated with hair color; socio-cultural associations with hair color accompany these stereotypes. Some are age-old, others are recent, but all are all are perpetuated by the most frequent culprits in generating cultural stereotypes, television and movies.
Blonds are generally considered to be:
- Blonds have more fun (or, if they are females, blondes have more fun-the insertion of an “e” supposedly feminizes the word).
- Blondes are “bombshells”; whoever heard of a brown-haired bombshell? Marilyn Monroe remains the blonde bombshell archetype.
- Blond(e)s are icy-cold schemers; cinema perpetuates the character of the blonde “bad girl” schemer and the blond, blue-eyed Nazi villain.
- The “dumb blond(e)” is forever enshrined in jokes.
- Blond(e) hair gets a woman noticed by men. True or not, it is a belief that accounts for the sale of a lot of bleach and hair-coloring products.
Redheads are generally considered to be:
- Red hair is an indication of a fiery temper.
- Women with red hair are passionate lovers.
- Red-haired men are courageous warriors-a belief that may be grounded in Roman and later English experience of encountering red-haired Celtic and Scottish warriors on the battlefield.
Brunettes are generally considered to be: Brown hair is an indication of restrained emotion and an even temper.
Brunettes, if female, are wholesome and dependable. The classic television comedy “Gilligan’s Island” stereotypically pairs wholesome, dependable brunette Mary Ann with red/blond, ditzy, dumb, seductive movie star Ginger.
Changing Hair Color and Minimizing Damage
Hair color is one of those highly visible characteristics that individualize a person. That’s a frequent reason for wanting to change hair color or reinforce and brighten the color that naturally exists. Change of hair color may lend a characteristic prized because it has charismatic socio-cultural power. It may make a fashion statement. Or, change of hair color may just be a way to put a little excitement in one’s life. For all of those reasons and more, millions of people change hair color every year, using home hair-coloring kits or using the services of a hair-care professional in a salon.