Hair is one of the key characteristics that classify us as mammals. It is a natural polymeric composite that is primarily composed of tight macro-bundles of keratin proteins, which are highly responsive to external stimuli, including pH, temperature, and ionic solvent content. The external responsive behavior displayed by hair is similar to the behavior displayed by hydrogels and other natural fibrous gel systems like collagen and fibrin. Hair and its appearance play a significant role in human society. It is a highly complex biocomposite system, which has been traditionally challenging to characterize and thus develop functional personal care products for consumers. Over the last few decades, a significant societal paradigm shift occurred among those with curly hair. They began to accept the natural morphological shape of their curls and style their hair according to its innate, distinct, and unique material properties. These societal and cultural shifts have given rise the development of new hair classification systems, beyond the traditional and highly limited ethnicity-based distinction between Caucasian, Mongolian, and African. L’Oréal developed a hair typing taxonomy based on quantitative geometric parameters displayed among the four key curl patterns – straight, wavy, curly, and coily (kinky). However, the system fails to capture the complex diversity of curly and kinky/coily hair. Acclaimed celebrity hair stylist, Andre Walker, developed a classification system that is the existing gold standard for classifying curly and kinky/coily hair, however the system relies upon qualitative classification measures, making the system vague and ambiguous to the full diversity of phenotypic differences. The goal of this research is to use quantitative methods to identify new geometric parameters, which will be more representative of curly and kinky/coily hair curl patterns. These new parameters will therefore provide more information on the kinds of personal care product ingredients that will resonate best with these curl patterns, and thus maximize desired appearance and overall hair health. The goal is also to correlate these new parameters with its mechanical properties. This was accomplished by identifying new geometric and mechanical parameters from several types of human hair samples. Geometric properties were measured using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), photogrammetry, and optical microscopy. Mechanical properties were measured under tensile extension using a texture analyzer (TA) and a dynamic mechanical analyzer (DMA), which bears similarity to the common act of brushing or combing. Both instruments measure force as a function of applied displacement, thus allowing the relationship between stress and applied stretch ratio to be measured as a hair strand uncurls and stretches to the point of fracture. From the resulting data, correlations were made between fiber geometry and mechanical performance. This data will be used to draw more conclusions on the contribution that fiber morphology has on hair fiber mechanics and will promote cultural inclusion among researchers and consumers possessing curly and kinky/coily hair.
Supplemental Information for "Reimagining Hair Science: A New Approach to Classify Curly Hair Phenotypes via New Quantitative Geometrical & Structural Mechanical Parameters"