The Science Behind Frizz

So, how about that frizz?

Unless you’ve got pin-straight, type 1 hair (see my series on the four types of hair for more info on that) frizz is probably the scourge of your existence. The anti-frizz section of the haircare industry is a multi-million dollar moneymaker on its own, and it’s easy to see why. Style your hair? Frizz will poof up your updo. Iron it? Straight or curly, your options are no-go or an absurd amount of hairspray. Brush and leave it loose? Good luck keeping it tucked behind your ear.

But, what’s the solution? I could go through different anti-frizz treatments (and I probably will another time) but I thought for now we could deep dive into what frizz is, because it’s actually pretty fascinating. This article’s going to be more about science than beauty tips. Those will come another day.

And no, this is not going to be a two-parter. Finally, we’ve got a one-and-done.

So, what is frizz anyway?

We’ve got to get into a little chemistry to find the answer. Everyone knows that the main source of frizz is humidity, and that’s true, but the issue isn’t the water itself, it’s the hydrogen bonds in the water. On the molecular level, water is made up of two hydrogen atoms attached–or bonded–to a larger oxygen atom in the center. In diagrams, water molecules are usually drawn in a similar shape to those Mickey Mouse ears, with the oxygen being the head and hydrogen being the ears.

Now, your hair is made of keratin proteins, which you may or may not have heard of. That’s where the actual structure comes from; it’s why water is liquid and hair is solid. Interactions with those keratin proteins cause hair to do all kinds of wacky things, like burn, become brittle, change color in the sun, change color with bleach or dye, soften, add volume, and more. Pretty much every haircare product on the market (that actually works) will interact with those keratin proteins in some way.

In the case of frizz, this interaction is actually quite simple. There’s hydrogen bonds in H2O, and there’s hydrogen bonds in keratin protein. When there’s too much water lodged in your hair–like on a hot, humid day or as it air dries post-shower–some of those hydrogen bonds will interact with each other. They’ll break off and reform, this time attached to the wrong molecule. It’s like a science lab experiment happening in real time. Add one part water to one part keratin, and, voila! Frizz.

In short, frizz happens because the water in the air interacts with the keratin proteins that make up the hair.

Now, why do those bonds break and reform? You’ll have to do that research on your own, because I tried, and it’s… dense. Needless to say, they do, and that’s all that matters in as short an article as this.

But, what’s so special about humid days?

Sure, your hair can frizz up in, say, the rain if it’s pouring hard enough, or when you step out of the shower and air dry, but why is it so much worse in humidity? Wouldn’t more water in your hair make the reaction worse?

No, actually. Cause, remember, your hair isn’t one solid thing. It’s thousands of little strands that hang together, but they hang loose. No matter how knotted your hair is, there’s going to be a teeny bit of hair between them. Humidity means that the air is saturated with enough water to be noticeable, but not enough to cause rain or dew. It’s reached peak amount of water-per-air; that’s what the scientific definition of saturation is. You reached the maximum, can’t add more, otherwise they’ll separate.

So, yes, your hair has more water in it when it’s soaked, but it’s still a set amount. Once all the bonds break and reform, there’s nowhere else to go! You’re not adding more water. But, in humidity, the natural air currents are blowing new water molecules into the tiny cracks of space between strands of hair. It’s constant, and, as long as you’re outside, pretty much infinite.

And, the result is humid hair.

I do want to be clear: don’t freak out about the whole breaking-chemical-bonds thing. Humidity and frizz isn’t destroying your hair, nor is it permanent. When the water evaporates, the bonds reform properly. It can take a while, cause, especially if you’ve got thick, knotted hair, the water gets trapped and shielded from the sun, but it’ll go away eventually. 

(This is actually why curlier hair is much more prone to frizz and straight hair is practically immune: straight hair is too thin and exposed for water to stay in long enough for the reaction to take place. Curly hair is a haven.)

So, there’s some fun facts for you. Share it at your next dinner party when things get slow. 

Hey, people talk about the weather already.

Come Through, Growth!

Source: Science Times

By: Melody Rose