Not too long ago I received an email question from a reader of this blog. In it she mentioned how her hair seems to do better when flat ironed weekly that if she wore braid outs etc. My response to her was that it likely had to do with the "sealing" that occurred when she flat ironed which kept the cuticle layer down and frizz at bay. Little did I know, at that time, how detrimental frizz actually is to the hair.
From my search I learned that the hair strand tends to quickly absorb the water particles from the air in a high humidity environment. Logic would tell you that's a good thing but that's far from the truth. In actuality, a study done in 2007 determined that the more water content inside the hair (from a high humidity environment) the less hydrogen bonding occurs and the hair becomes less elastic. In the study, they also found that bleached hair absorbed more water than virgin hair. For all intents and purposes, let's also classify relaxed hair in the same category as highly porous hair and likely to absorb moisture at greater levels.
So wouldn't the ability to absorb moisture at higher levels be a good thing? Not necessarily. Porous hair can take in so much water that the hair follicle actually becomes swollen. According to the study published in the cosmetic Journal of Cosmetic Science, the absorbed water molecules break and replace hydrogen bonds inside the hair. Since, these hydrogen bonds are responsible for 50% of the hair elasticity, more absorbed water means less elastic hair which could mean more breakage. That's why they say "wet hair is more susceptible to breakage." Oh, by the way, this intense swelling could also raise the cuticle layer which is why the hair feels so rough in high humidity conditions. Rough, brittle and porous hair is the perfect recipe for breakage so now we have to create a plan to combat the effects of humidity before the summer gets here.
When I checked online for possible solutions, over and over again I was told to reach for silicone based products. While I do agree that silicones offer a beneficial barrier against moisture, I wonder if there could be a better way. So my next step in this process is to look at some alternative actions I can do help minimize the the adverse effects of humidity. I'll discuss more in detail on a follow up post. Stay tuned........