Sunday, May 16, 2010
Chemistry of your hair: Virgin hair
Virgin hair is hair that has not been chemically processed - no permanent waving, bleaching, dying or straightening - and it is considered the base state for our hair. It has a hydrophobic - water hating - surface of those lovely fatty acids covalently bonded to the epicuticle. It can have a pH of as low as 3.67 (acidic), depending upon hair type.
We want to make all our products for a pH of 5.5 to 6.2 as this is the ideal pH for all hair types (even virgin hair)!
The negative charge of virgin hair increases from the root to the tip - meaning cationic or positively charged conditioners will adsorb more to the tip of your hair than the top. The longer your hair, the more damage it has likely sustained over the years through weather and friction damage. The tips are especially susceptible to combing and UV damage (which is one of the reasons the tips of your hair look lighter than the scalp). When you comb your hair, it sustains damage through friction. Over time we destroy the covalently bonded lipids on the cuticle, which gives you that feeling of dryness no matter how much you condition! The removal of these lipids can lead to split ends and the exposure of the cortex (which we know is a bad thing from the post the other day).
Virgin hair doesn't necessarily equal healthy hair. If you have a ton of UV or weather damage or if you use things like a sea salt sprays (or go into the ocean and don't wash your hair afterwards) you will see damage occurring from the friction between the strands. If you don't use proper conditioners that are cationically charged (like Incroquat BTMS) or use products that aren't pH balanced for hair (like CP soap, which is alkaline), you will increase the friction between the strands, which will lead to more damage.
If you have long hair, by definition your hair is damaged. Years of exposure to the sun, brushing, washing, and getting it caught in doors and laptop cases (yes, this happens to me all the time) will help damage the cuticle and the fatty layer on your hair.
Virgin hair doesn't need a lot of work to keep it in good condition. You need to wash it with an appropriate surfactant mix for your hair type and condition it with a good, decent conditioner. Trim the ends regularly, and don't brush it a lot.
Join me tomorrow for the definition of "good condition".