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Louise Gagnon is a medical writer and editor based in Oakville, Ontario, Canada.
Specialized products and ionizing hair dryers battle frizzy hair.
"Frizzy hair has cuticles that are missing," Dr. Draelos says.
"Cuticles on the hair look like overlapping tiles on a cedar shake roof. Selected ones are missing. The more tiles that there are missing on a roof, the more holes that are present on the roof.
Overprocessing of the hair through coloring, permanent waving and straightening can cause cuticle loss.
"The hair has a perfect cuticle when it newly grows," Dr. Draelos says.
When hair is exposed to the elements, such as water or wind or humid weather, it has a tendency to become frizzy. The hair also develops a charge that predisposes it to frizz, she says.
"If you have hair shafts, and they are all similarly charged, they repel one another, and that makes the hair frizzy," Dr. Draelos says.
Moreover, if the cuticle is lifted, the hair has more friction, which prevents the hair shafts from lying close to one another, and that creates frizz, she says.
Rarely, there may be an inherited structural abnormality in hair fiber formation that raises the potential for hair to frizz and develop split ends, as well.
Ionizing hair dryers
Products designed to decrease frizz are targeting one aspect, which is the damaged cuticle, Dr. Draelos says.
New ionizing hair dryers are designed to neutralize the charge on the hair, so that the hair shafts don't repel one another. Non-ionizing hair dryers do not possess the ability to neutralize the charge on the hair.
"They (ionizing hair dryers) are effective to a degree, depending on the damage of the hair," Dr. Draelos says.
"Typically, you need to be using something in conjunction with an ionizing hair dryer. It would depend on the damage to hair, whether it is mildly frizzy or severely frizzy," she says.
It's key that individuals choose haircare products that minimize damage to the hair shaft, Dr. Draelos says.
Some new conditioners, applied after shampooing hair, are aimed at smoothing out the cuticle. Anti-frizz sprays, gels, creams and other styling products that contain the active ingredient dimethicone can be used on hair to temporarily repair the cuticle.
The product should be applied before using a dryer to dry hair to minimize possible frizz.
"They (the products) neutralize the static and electricity and give the hair some shine," Dr. Draelos says. "Frizzy hair is usually dull and feels coarse, and dimethicone makes it shiny and soft."
The texture of the hair can also play a role in the potential for frizziness, Dr. Draelos says.
"Curly hair can be frizzier than straight hair," she says. "The curlier the hair is, the frizzier it is going to appear."
Since the hair cuticle isn't living, the anti-frizz product needs to be re-applied. "They are washed away with every shampooing," Dr. Draelos says. "The cuticle never heals. It has no ability to repair."
Most major haircare lines carry anti-frizz products. Dr. Draelos notes that products carried in salons work via the same mechanism as retail products and are not necessarily more effective in warding off frizz, despite carrying a higher price tag.
Of note, products in ethnic haircare lines have a higher amount of conditioning agents, she says.
"Straightening is the most damaging process done to the hair. When the hair is straightened, it loses all its water. When it loses its water, it becomes brittle," Dr. Draelos says.
"The uniqueness of African-American products is the increased amount of oily conditioning agents designed to minimize the damage from hair straightening," she says.
One study published in 2005 found that for individuals who are challenged by the presence of dandruff in their hair, it's preferable to use 1 percent pyrithione zinc conditioning shampoo to minimize hair frizz and increase hair-combing ease and hair smoothness, Dr. Draelos says. DT
Disclosure: Dr. Draelos reports no relevant financial interests.