Who hasn’t seen a movie or tv show where a character takes a tropical vacation to some humid climate and her hair explodes into a frizzy, weightless mess? For many of us, this comedic scene is all too real, with many of us suffering the effects of “humidity hair” when encountering a humid climate. While taking in the warm, tropical views of our travel destination, you may be shocked and a bit taken aback to notice your hair no longer looks like, well, your hair! With your normally flat, straight hair becoming more textured and dry or your curly, wavy hair becoming a massive bee hive, it can be totally frustrating to try and deal with hair that no longer looks and behaves as usual.
Thankfully, we’re here to bring clarity to this confusing condition as well as give you an action plan to prevent and treat humidity hair!
Understanding The Hair’s Hydrogen Bonds
In order to understand why humidity has such a profound effect on hair, it’s important to first understand the physical and chemical makeup of the hair strand itself. You see, hair is made up of the protein known as keratin, which also makes up our skin and nails. These keratin protein molecules are bonded together by two types of bonds: disulfide bonds and hydrogen bonds. Disulfide bonds are permanent and extremely difficult to break without intense chemical and/or physical treatments. However, hydrogen bonds are much weaker and more temporary in structure, breaking down every time they make contact with water and then rebuilding once the hair dries. This is why dry hair seems to be stuck in place when it comes to shape and texture, but after wetting it with water it is easier to style and reorganize, as you are resetting the hydrogen bonds of the hair and allowing the bonds to be rebuilt and fixed with the hair in a new shape and position.
Humidity and Hydrogen Bonds
Now that you understand the process by which hydrogen bonds break and rebuild themselves, you have a better understanding of how humid, water-rich air interacts with these same hydrogen bonds. When air is more humid, there are more water molecules floating in the air, and these molecules make contact with the hydrogen bonds in the hair, causing them to break. When these bonds break, the shape and structure that you set your hair when styling becomes reset, so to speak, causing the hair to be loose and unmanageable. Additionally, wet hair absorbs moisture like a sponge, causing it to swell and expand, making your hair look “bigger”.
Treating and Preventing Humidity Hair
With an understanding of how humidity hair works, you are on your way to preventing and treating this annoying occurrence! Here’s some key steps to keeping things under control when encountering a humid environment:
1. Make sure your hair is completely dry when you step out into the open air, as still-damp hair will become unraveled far quicker than dry hair.
2. Before entering the humid environment, make sure to seal the cuticle with an oil-rich serum or hair oil blend that prevents the cuticle from opening and allowing for swelling and hydrogen bond breakage.
3. If all else fails, wear your hair in an updo or ponytail style for complete piece of mind, keeping it tied back and restrained to prevent the constant worry of untamable frizz!
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