For those who want to tame their curls, straighteners are serious business. And finding the right one can be difficult. It seems straighteners are getting more and more tricked out. Long gone are the days of run a clothes iron over hair (people really did it in the 70s!). Now it’s all about ceramic and tourmaline-coated straightening irons.
But the newest technology is vibration. Salons, stylists, and straightening enthusiasts have been clamoring about the oscillating or vibrating hair straighteners like the Brocato Vibrastrait Oscillating Iron ($174.89, amazon.com) that are said to reduce friction while straightening.
Friction and Damage Frizzes Your Hair
All that styling you’re doing can wreak havoc on your hair.
Hair is made up of three parts: the center section is the medulla, the middle layer is the cortex, and the outer layer is the cuticle. The cuticle is the part resembling scales that run down the shaft of the hair. When harsh chemicals or friction roughs these up, they rise up and cause frizz (Designing a Better Hair Straightener).
There’s also a lipid layer in your hair that helps protect it. However, it can be damaged with styling, and this can cause hair strands to become more porous and more likely to swell in the presence of moisture (Cosmetics and Toiletries). A test of whether the lipid layer is intact is to splash water on your hair; if the water remains in droplets, the lipid layer is intact, but if it absorbs, it’s been damaged.
Damage to hair also causes it to become more negatively charged (Nanotechnology). When hair is negatively charged, it will repel itself more, causing static and frizz. This is also why positively charged conditioners attach better to more damaged hair (Cosmetic and Toiletries, NPR).
How Does Hair Straightening Work?
Hydrogen bonds in the center portion or cortex of hair kink the strands and so, are responsible for curling hair. Heat styling weakens these hydrogen bonds so that the strands are more easily manipulated. When the bonds are broken, the hair loses its curl and becomes straight.
However, if you’ve ever straightened your hair, you know what water will do to it. When the hair strands become wet, the water helps the hydrogen bonds get back together and, thus, causes hair to curl.
Does a Vibrating Straightener Work?
The claim that the company who first introduced the vibrating straightener makes is that it “minimizes the direct friction of the hair as it tightens the cuticles, resulting in smooth, shiny surface,” says Shiro Nobunaga, the Director of Marketing for GMJ (PR Web). The Japanese company’s claim is pretty lofty. Could it be that their straightener is really a wonder tool?
The vibration should, in theory, lessen the friction between the two plates and between the plates and hair. This should mean that the straightening process is smoother and that the cuticle is less roughed up, and the hair less frizzy because of the plate vibration.It’s certainly possible. Researchers at MIT have been working to reduce friction at a nanoscale level. The engineers found that shaking or vibrations helps to keep friction at bay (Knovel). Another study found that vibration helped to reduce the friction between two non-lubricated metal plates (A S L E Transactions).
It’s hard to say exactly how much a regular straightener causes friction in hair and now studies have been done to show that a vibrating straightener is more effective by far, but there are those who swear by them.
What Else Can You Do?
Even if you’re using a vibrating straightener, you should use products that help protect your hair from heat and friction. Lubrication will help to reduce friction on hair, so be sure to use products with silicones that will coat your hair. This will also help to smooth hair and reduce brushing force, because silicones and quaternary ammonium compounds will attach well to damaged hair.
It’s most important at the ends of hair where the most damage has likely been done. Look for products like BioSilk Silk Therapy ($13.28, amazon.com) to ensure that your hair is smooth and lubricated for straightening.
An oscillating straightener like the Brocato Vibrastrait Oscillating Iron might not be a bad investment if you straighten your hair frequently. There aren’t studies to show that this is better for hair, per say, butt here are studies that explain that vibration reduces friction.
Regardless of whether your chose to hop on the vibration bandwagon, it’s important to protect your hair with lubrication that includes silicones, particularly at the ends.
- 36Photo source: Maite Perroni Hair Style, a photo by Jean Nieves on Flickr. About the author: FutureDerm.com is proud to introduce Dr. Hanan Taha, M.D., on our staff as a Contributing Writer. Dr. Taha received her MD from Kuwait University in 2002, and a master’s degree in Dermatology from the University of Alexandria in 2010. …
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