By Jc of The Natural Haven Bloom
Hair will be strongest when it is undamaged and when formed while on a proper balanced diet with sufficient protein and vitamins. However, no matter how gentle you are, it is necessary to handle hair while maintaining it. This maintenance will damage hair and impact hair strength. Here are four methods that are scientifically known to increase the strength of hair.
1. Humectants — Glycerin/Glycerine
For natural hair which is not bleached/treated with permanent hair colour, humectants such as glycerin will increase the strength of hair (J Cosmet Sci, pp 39–52, 1985). This is related to the ability of the humectant to hold on to water and increase the flexibility of hair allowing it to stretch without snapping easily. Glycerin works best in a detangling product as well as a leave in product. Glycerin is scientifically known to increase strength but other humectants may work in a similar manner including honey and aloe vera.
2. Drink more water — Silicon in your diet
Silicon (without an e) occurs naturally in a form known as orthosilicic acid. It is actually present in almost all tissues of the human body including skin and nails. A recent small study found that dietary intake of orthosilicic acid could increase elasticity and strength of hair ( Arch Dermatol Res, pp 499–505, 2007). This is actually one of the first studies to link mineral supplements with a measurable positive result on hair. This mineral is present in drinking water and water based drinks such as beer. It can also be sold as a supplement known as choline stabilized orthosilicic acid.
3. Cover your hair in the sun
UV radiation from the sun is responsible for damaging the internal protein structure of hair and with sustained exposure can also weaken it. Sunlight also can introduce porosity at the cuticle surface (J Cosmet Sci, pp 271–281, 2003). As with skin, the lighter the colour of your hair, the more affected it will be. White/grey hair is the most affected and black hair the least. Melanin in hair serves as a protective barrier from sun damage, and the darker your hair is, the more protected it will be. If you happen to live in or holiday at a place with strong sunshine and you intend to be outdoors for an extended period, wear a hat or scarf to protect your hair from UV damage and the associated loss in strength. Sunscreen is just as effective on skin as it is on hair too.
4. Proteins in your conditioner
Hair is protein and as you can see from the UV radiation above, the more degraded the protein in hair is, the weaker it will be. Protein treatments or indeed small amounts of hydrolysed proteins/amino acids added into hair conditioners and applied to hair can increase the strength of hair (J Cosmet Sci, pp 339–346, 2007). This is in part because the proteins can temporarily bind to flaws/cracks/pores in the hair and also because proteins do behave as humectants and help hair retain moisture. Hair that is damaged (bleached/colour treated natural hair) benefits the most from protein treatment. The definition of damaged hair should be extended to hair that easily breaks/snaps, requires very gentle handling or easily forms split ends. Regularly using or adding protein to hair will help maintain or increase the strength of hair.
Ladies, have you tried any of these methods? Share your results!