Permanent hair styling can lead to hair damage due to the loss of the chemical bonds that maintain the shape of the hair. Permanent styling formulations are alkaline and it is the release of free sulphur from the hair proteins that gives off a foul odour during the process. So whether straight or curly hair is the endpoint, permanent styling solutions weaken the hair strands due to the release of the natural protein bonds and by lowering the amount of protein in the hair. The weakened hair strands attract and absorb more water and therefore will take longer to dry. Hair damage is compounded over time if treatments are repeated.
The “Brazilian blowout” or “keratin straightening treatments” rely on formaldehyde-based /”formaldehyde-free” solutions and a drying temperature of 400-450 Degrees F. The procedure is a temporary straightening method that is most popular for Caucasian hair to reduce frizz from environmental humidity. Products that are marketed as “formaldehyde-free” have in fact ingredients that will ultimately transform into formaldehyde gas. Caution should be exercised due to heat-induced formaldehyde gas exposure which may cause eye irritation, breathing problems and cancer.
Similar to permanent styling, Hair Dyeing and Highlighting also disrupt the disulfide protein or keratin bonds of the hair. The degradation and loss of protein in the hair create irreversible colour changes, as well as brittle and porous hair cuticles. The degree of damage depends on whether the dye is temporary, semi-permanent, demi-permanent or permanent and the frequency of and extent of hair that is dyed. Most men and women need to apply dye to the roots every 4-8 weeks to cover the gray. For bleached hair, the amount of damage depends on the duration of the application and the desired degree of lift from dark to light. In today’s trends of rainbow colours, damage to the hair is compounded by highlighting followed by colouring. The products used in the processes may irritate or burn the scalp and lead to breakage of the hair and split ends.
Heat Manipulation of the hair including blow-drying, curlers, curling rods, or straightening irons disrupt the hairs’ fragile hydrogen bonds. It is significant to note that healthy hair burns at 450 degrees Fahrenheit whereas damaged hair burns at lower temperatures. Heat devices are adjustable up to 300-500 degrees Fahrenheit and will cause significant damage to the hair when used repeatedly and at high temperatures.
Fortunately, there are several ways to prevent hair damage and promote hair health. This will be discussed in a follow-up article.