Problems of Tangled Hair

The Trials and Tribulations of Tangled Long Hair

 

Ever wonder how your hair ends up with all those tangles at the end, even though you just ran your fingers through it before combing? Turns out that when your comb moves through your hair, it shuffles the strands from side to side, creating a whole new tangle towards the end of your hair. When you encounter this tangle, towards the bottom of your hair, you may jerk or pull the comb or brush very hard, resulting in pulling out a lot more hair than you’d like. This is what causes damage, like split ends, or loss of shine.  Hair researchers call this pulling or jerking an “End Peak force.”  It’s this force that is especially damaging to people with frizzy hair and painful for young children. The finer the teeth and the more closely placed they are on a comb, the more the tangles and the more the damage done.

So also with a brush. Since combs with wider teeth have been shown to cause less damage, the same can be said for brushes. Conventional brushes tend to have the same issues as finer-toothed combs – more snags, more pain, more frizz. But new brushes, which are designed with wider gaps between the prongs, sort of a combination of a pick comb and a traditional comb, removes tangles and snags without the greater “End Peak force” and causing a lot less pain.

More about such a brush in the next post.

 

Science of Hair Combing

Figure 1. below shows a typical situation encountered when combing long hair.

Figure 1 a. shows a similar situation though looser plug with a pick.

As the comb or brush traverses the length of the hair, the hair fibers continually shuffle from side-to-side generating tangles below the comb which move down with the comb relatively easily.  However, when the comb reaches the tip, the cumulative effect of these tangles forms a plug preventing the comb from moving further unless sufficient force is exerted to clear the hair swatch.  This is when the hair gets damaged.  This type of damage occurring on a daily basis leads to fiber loss by breakage, split ends, and loss of shine.  This also applies to brushing.

 

Hair plug formed by a comb

Hair plug formed by a comb

Figure 1.  Hair plug formed at the end of the combing stroke by a comb with narrow teeth.  The plug is dense, and needs high force to pull the comb through.

 

Looser hair plug formed by a pick

Looser hair plug formed by a pick

Figure 1 a. A looser hair plug formed at the end of the combing stroke by a comb with wider teeth.

 

Measurement of Combing (or Brushing) Forces

The damage potential of a grooming device can be quantified by making measurements of combing or brushing forces using a force measuring machine.  The arrangement is shown here (Fig. 2)

Instron Machine for the measurement of combing or brushing force

Instron Machine for the measurement of combing or brushing force

Figure 2. Mechanical arrangement for the measurement of combing or brushing force using an Instron Machine (force measuring device).  The brush had 9 rows of prongs with an inter-prong distance of 7mm.

 

Typical brushing force curve obtained by this method shown here in (Fig. 3)

Figure 3. Brushing force curve of an 6” long frizzy hair swatch (seen in Fig.2) weighing about 6 g.

Figure 3.  Brushing force curve of a 6” long frizzy hair swatch (seen in Fig.2) weighing about 6 g.

The force is low when you introduce the brush into the hair at the top of the swatch and as it moves down towards the tip it remains low, but keeps increasing slowly as you pull the brush through the swatch.  As you come to the end of the hair mass the force increases sharply due to the dense plug formed by the crisscrossing of the tip ends of hair as described earlier.  When you pull the brush through this hair plug with force it will clear the hair, damaging the tip ends of hair in the process.  In the cosmetic industry this force is called the “End Peak (EP)“ force.  The EP force in Fig.3 is 750g (inter-prong distance = 7mm).

High EP forces damage the hair towards the tip end, making it appear coarse and dull with split ends in extreme cases.  If people have frizzy (curly) hair this situation is worse.  In the case of young children’s hair combing or brushing can sometimes be painful because it hurts them when the hair is pulled from the scalp. So what is needed is a proper design for the comb, or brush.

More about such a brush in the next post.

 

 

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