When it comes to straightening natural hair, the questions you usually hear are ...
"What temperature should I use to straighten my hair?"
"How can I avoid heat damage?".Well according to a recent article by NPR, engineers at Purdue University are investigating these exact questions! Tahira Reid and Amy Marconnet, both assistant professors of mechanical engineering at Purdue are leading the study that is exploring the question, "How much heat is too much heat before you lose your permanent curl pattern?".
The problem is, when it comes to hair and heat, we don't know that much."There's a lack of data; not that many experiments have been done. There are few values we can compare to in [existing] literature," says Amy Marconnet, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue.When running their tests, they attach a flat iron (ceramic-plated with temperature control) to a robotic arm that passes through sections of various types of Caucuasian and African-American hair swatches to straighten, all while measuring the temperature of the hair. They also created classification system of eight standard types that describes the hair being evaluated based on the degree of curvature of the hair. For example, Type I is straight to slightly wavy hair and Type V describes one texture of natural, African-American hair.
"We're one of the first groups, if not the first, to measure multiple types of hair," says Marconnet. "We can conclusively show how Caucasian hair and African-American hair performs differently."In fact, in their studies so far, they've observed that certain types of Caucasian hair actually conduct heat better than very curly African-American hair textures at both high and low temperatures. When hair can distribute applied heat more evenly, this actually means less damage to the hair, so this implies that curly African-American hair is potentially more prone to heat damage than straighter hair.As an engineer myself, I'm so excited that a group of researchers is actually investigating the relationship between heat and hair! I've heard too many horror stories of ladies losing their beautiful natural curls in the salon or even at home because of heat damage while straightening their hair, so having a better understanding of how heat affects various textures of hair will be so beneficial!