The Science of Hairstyling: 10 Facts You Probably Didn't Know

I had a lot of “A ha!” moments in cosmetology school. Learning not only how to create a certain look, but also WHY it works, really connected the dots for me and helped me become a better stylist. I still constantly think about all of the lessons I learned in beauty school and share that information with my clients. I’ve found that some people have really enjoyed learning more about the science of hairstyling. If you are a geek at heart like me and naturally inquisitive or skeptical, this post is for you. Click through the slideshow for 10 things that blew my mind in beauty school.

  • The Science of Hairstyling: 10 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know 1 of 11

    Photo credit: Paige Powers/Flickr

  • Healthy Cuticles Are Key for Shiny Hair 2 of 11

    Let's start with the basics, shall we? Hair anatomy includes the cuticle, the cortex, and the medulla. The outermost layer, the cuticle, is constructed like the tiles on a roof. Tighter cuticle tiles mean healthier, less porous hair. The cortex is where hair color molecules (melanin) live, as well as the bonds that hold your hair together. The medulla is the innermost part of the hair shaft. It does not affect hair styling and is not always present.

    Learn more on Parlor.

  • When You Style Your Hair, You’re Actually Breaking (and Re-forming) Bonds 3 of 11

    Your hair is made up of three types of side bonds: hydrogen, salt, and disulfide. In the process of transforming hair from straight to curly or curly to straight, side bonds are broken and re-formed in a new pattern. Heat and water will both break hydrogen bonds, which is why using hot tools or wet setting hair will temporarily create a new shape. The bonds need to fully re-form in order to hold the new pattern, which is why you need to wait for hair to cool in hot rollers and why your hair will revert to its original pattern if you stop blow drying before hair is completely dry.

    For a more detailed explanation of side bonds, visit Parlor.

  • Some Bonds Can’t Be Broken with Water, Which Makes Perms Possible 4 of 11

    Both permanent waves and permanent straightening services work by breaking and rebuilding disulfide bonds. These are the strongest of the three types of bonds. They can't be broken by water or heat, so the change will last indefinitely. However, if perms are over-processed, the bonds will not be able to re-form, leaving hair damaged and limp.

    Photo credit: Jesse Wang/Flickr

  • The "Base Section" of Hair Determines How Much Volume You’ll Get 5 of 11

    Whether you are curling your hair for the day or getting a perm, it's important to understand base positioning to control volume and style. The base section (origin of the strand to be curled) should roughly be the size of your roller or match the width of your iron. Hold the strand 45 degrees beyond the base section to wind the curl down onto the base for the most curl and volume. Hold the section at a 90-degree starting point for half-off-base placement and moderate volume at the root. Finally, hold your strand 45 degrees in front of the base to land your curl off-base for the least amount of volume.

    Make sense? See more images on Parlor.

  • Permanent Haircolor Works by Softening the Cuticle – and Getting Past It 6 of 11

    Permanent haircolor contains three basic components, an alkalizing ingredient (usually ammonia), and oxidizing ingredient (usually peroxide), and tints. The alkalizing ingredient softens the cuticle and lifts the "tiles" allowing tint molecules and oxidizing ingredient to enter. The oxidizing ingredient has two jobs. It lightens haircolor by breaking up pigment in the cortex and it expands tint molecules so they become trapped in the cortex.

    Learn more at Parlor.


  • Water Is More Alkaline Than Hair, Which Is Why Shampooing Fades Color Faster 7 of 11

    pH refers to how acid or alkaline a substance may be. Pure water is at the center of the scale at 7 and is considered neutral. You hair, skin, and nails are about 4.5-5.5 on the scale, making them slightly acidic. As I mentioned in the last slide, alkalizing ingredients open or swell the hair. Because water is more alkaline than your hair, you are slightly opening the cuticle with every shower. This is why frequent shampooing will fade hair color faster, as tint molecules are able to slip out. Apple cider vinegar is more acidic than hair, which is why that helps lay the cuticle down for shinier hair.

    Find more on pH on Parlor.

  • When Your Hair Is Wet, It’s Incredibly Fragile 8 of 11

    Have you ever been told not to rough up your hair with your towel or tie it up wet? Now you know why. In this post you've learned that when hair is wet you've broken all your hydrogen bonds AND that the pH has been altered. Baby your hair when it's wet, especially if it's been otherwise weakened by chemical services, frequent heat styling, or if your hair is prone to frizz.

    Photo credit: Alex (eflon)/Flickr

  • Negative Ions Reduce Drying Time and Create Shinier Hair 9 of 11

    Now that you know that you need to be careful with wet hair, one way to reduce damage is to use a blow dryer with ionic technology. This is also important for all your heat styling tools. Negative ions attract positively charged water particles, breaking them up and dispersing them more quickly to cut drying time. Negative ions also help to seal the cuticle for healthier, shinier hair. Titanium, ceramic, and tourmaline all create negative ions. Tools made with these materials are well worth the investment.

    The T3 Veloce Hair Dryer is available at T3. $99

  • Regular Trims Allow Your Hair to Grow Longer 10 of 11

    A lot of my clients want to know why I push regular trims, even if you are growing your hair out. No, it's not because I want to take your money more often. It's because I want you to get what you want: longer hair. The key to growing hair longer is healthy ends. Once hair starts breaking, it can grow and grow from the root and not get a lot longer. Additionally, the hairs that don't break look thin and split probably not the look you are after and certainly not the one your stylist wants you leaving his or her chair with. I always tell my clients that hair grows about 6 inches a year. If you schedule trims 4 times a year, I can probably take off a mere quarter of an inch for an overall loss if only 1 inch per year. However, if you come once a year, hair is often so damaged that I have to take off 2-3 inches to achieve a nice, clean line. And that's how more trims=less length removed.

    Photo credit: anitapeppers/Morguefile

  • It’s Typical to Lose 100 Hairs Per Day 11 of 11

    Hair grows in cycles involving 3 phases: anagen (growing phase), catagen (transitional phase), and telogen (resting phase). Hair sheds during the telogen phase or at the beginning of anagen when the new hair pushes out the old. At any given point, about 10% of your hair is in resting phase and it's typical to lose up to 100 hairs per day. During pregnancy, there is a prolonged growth phase and hair loss slows. Accelerated postpartum shedding is totally normal but often panic- inducing for new mothers.

    For more about postpartum hair loss, click here.

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Article Posted 2 years Ago
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