The effect of various cosmetic pretreatments on protecting hair from thermal damage by hot flat ironing

J Cosmet Sci. 2011 Mar-Apr;62(2):265-82.


Hot flat irons are used to create straight hair styles. As these devices operate at temperatures over 200 °C they can cause significant damage to hair keratin. In this study, hair thermal damage and the effect of various polymeric pretreatments were investigated using FTIR imaging spectroscopy, DSC, dynamic vapor sorption (DVS), AFM, SEM, and thermal image analysis. FTIR imaging spectroscopy of hair cross sections provides spatially resolved molecular information such as protein distribution and structure. This approach was used to monitor thermally induced modification of hair protein, including the conversion of α-helix to β-sheet and protein degradation. DSC measurements of thermally treated hair also demonstrated degradation of hair keratin. DVS of thermally treated hair shows the reduced water regain and lower water retention, compared to the non-thermally treated hair, which might be attributed to the protein conformation changes due to heat damage. The protection of native protein structure associated with selected polymer pretreatments leads to improved moisture restoration and water retention of hair. This contributes to heat control on repeated hot flat ironing. Thermally stressing hair led to significantly increased hair breakage when subjected to combing. These studies indicate that hair breakage can be reduced significantly when hair is pretreated with selected polymers such as VP/acrylates/lauryl methacrylate copolymer, polyquaternium-55, and a polyelectrolyte complex of PVM/MA copolymer and polyquaternium-28. In addition, polymeric pretreatments provide thermal protection against thermal degradation of keratin in the cortex as well as hair surface damage. The morphological improvement in cuticle integrity and smoothness with the polymer pretreatment plays an important role in their anti-breakage effect. Insights into structure-property relationships necessary to provide thermal protection to hair are presented.

MeSH terms

  • Hair / radiation effects*
  • Hair Preparations / chemistry*
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Humans


  • Hair Preparations