Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Chemistry of your hair: An overview

Hair is a fascinating subject for me - with good reason, some might say - and it is the reason I started making my own bath & body products. I couldn't find shampoo just for oily hair any more - it was all "greasy roots, dry ends" kind of stuff - and I figured I could make my own. I did, and I haven't used a store bought product in five years! I'm not one of those "it'll grow back" kind of people. I have had more than my share of really bad haircuts - including an accidental mullet and the Dorothy Hamill bob that turned into a hack and slash job. I haven't visited my hairdresser in SIX YEARS, preferring instead to have my mom take of a bit here and there when the ends are raggy! 

So let's take a moment to take a look at the basics of hair chemistry and biology!

This is a basic picture of your hair follicle, the essential growth structures for hair.

We have vellus hair, the light, only occasionally pigmented hair that seldom gets longer than 2 cm (a little less than an inch). This is the hair that grows on your upper lip, your forehead, and all over your body.

And we have terminal hair, the longer, coarser, pigmented hair that grows on our scalp, eye brows, and eyelashes before puberty and pretty much everywhere else after puberty. It is developed in those other areas from vellus hair. Terminal hair has a medulla, which is the hard core in the centre that gives that hair structure; vellus hair does not, which is why it is so short and light.

As you can see from the picture, the sebaceous gland is right beside the hair follicle, which explains how our hair gets oily!

Our main focus when creating hair care products is to remove the sebum and soil while shampooing, and repair and maintain the keratin of our cuticle.

Let's take a look at the structure of our terminal hair (tomorrow) then take a look at the growing cycles! But first - what the heck is adsorption and substantivity? Join me in about 20 minutes for more on this topic! 


Cathy Smith said...

Hi, Susan! I can't wait to have time to start learning from your site. My husband (a wine chemist) and I owned our own herbal products business for eight years, but now I'm back in the publishing world (have been for about 15 years now). Bill still makes his own lavender soap and I still make lip balms and gardener's hand cream, but my day job keeps me too busy to play. Thank you for providing such a valuable service!! (I think I commented sometime last year, but just had to give you kudos again!) Best, Cate

getgoodhead said...

I like your candid writing style. And! I did have a hot drink with me while I read your stuff! haha. Thanks, Susan!

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