As Chief Technical Officer at ghd’s Research and Development Facility in Cambridge, Dr Tim Moore knows rather a lot about the havoc styling tools can inflict on hair.
Dr Moore and his team spend a lot of time figuring out how to overcome the potentially damaging features common among many heat stylers available on the market. Their efforts have culminated in the creation of platinum, ghd’s very swish new straightener. Dr Moore was in Sydney recently for platinum’s launch, and talked The Glow through the many ways heat stylers can damage your hair if not made or used carefully:
1. Getting hot ‘n heavy
Hands up if you’ve ever cranked up the temperature dial because it felt like your straightener wasn’t having any effect? It seems logical that adding more heat will make your hair respond and style better, but it can actually really harm it.
“A lot of irons on the market have temperature dials up to 230 degrees centigrade, which is very bad for hair … it literally melts it,” Dr Moore explains. Ongoing styling at such a high temperature can permanently change the colour of your hair and dramatically reduce its ‘tensile strength’ — this can cause your strands to break halfway down and then fall off when you brush. (Post continues after gallery.)
That’s not to say your hair can’t withstand any heat; it just has a threshold. “What you really want to do is style it below the ‘denaturation temperature’, which is the temperature where it starts getting damaged, but above the glass transition phase temperature so you can style the hair,” Dr Moore says.
So what’s the magic temperature? Research points to 185 degrees. Platinum operates constantly at this heat with no option to go higher. It sounds unbelievable, but in their research ghd found this temperature actually improved the health of hair.
“Platinum had 54 per cent less breakage than 230 degree [irons], and 45 per cent less breakage than virgin [i.e. untreated] hair. It’s actively conditioning the hair because it’s not cooking it,” Dr Moore says.
2. Going hotter for thickness
Any woman with thick or very curly hair will tell you it takes quite a lot of effort (and elbow grease) to style it. But again, adding more heat isn’t going to help — the structure of hair doesn’t change according to its thickness, so even the bushiest mane is susceptible to the perils of too much heat. However, thicker hair does have slightly different requirements to fine hair.
“This is a physics thing – there’s a difference between temperature and heat,” explains Dr Moore. “When you’ve got really thick hair, you need to pump in more energy, but you don’t need any more temperature.” A styler than maintains constant temperature and responds quickly will help you here.