Chemical and physical treatments damage Caucasian and Afro-ethnic hair fibre: analytical and image assays

J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2019 Nov;33(11):2158-2167. doi: 10.1111/jdv.15761. Epub 2019 Jul 30.


Background: Sensory and structural characteristics of hair can be modified by chemical and physical treatments, as dyeing, brushing, but also by external factors, as sunlight radiation. However, quantitative data relating damage to the degree of hair curliness and treatments are missing.

Objective: To evaluate the effect of chemical and physical treatments on different types of hair.

Methods: In this study, we compared the effects of bleaching/dyeing, thioglycolate-based straightening, brushing/flat iron and UVA/Vis radiation on different types of hair: Caucasian (straight dark brown, straight blond, wavy dark brown and curly dark brown) and Afro-ethnic hair.

Results: Bleaching/dyeing and UVA/Vis radiation increased combing work of Afro-ethnic hair tresses, indicating damage to the cuticle scales, which was confirmed by SEM images. Further, bleaching/dyeing caused wear on cuticles with high protein loss and reduction on the tryptophan content, independently of the hair curliness, which characterizes those procedures as very aggressive to hair structure. Straightening using ammonium thioglycolate, due to the oxidative treatment evolved, caused significant colour fading in brown/black tresses, while UVA/Vis radiation affected the colour of only blond hair tresses since they are poor in eumelanin, the photoprotective and photostable melanin molecule.

Conclusion: The combination of analytical and image techniques contributed to understanding how the hair shape is related to the type of damage caused by several chemical and physical treatments. These findings contribute to the development of safety cosmetics that insure the beauty of curly hair, both Caucasian and Afro-ethnic hair.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Black People*
  • Hair / drug effects*
  • Hair / radiation effects*
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Physical Phenomena*
  • Ultraviolet Rays*
  • White People*