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The Fabric Factor: The Role of Your Pillowcase and Hair Accessories in Hair Care






Article By Dr. Xuzi Kang Postdoctoral Fellow at TRI Princeton

With Research Backed by TRI Princeton (Dr. Ernesta Malinauskyte, Dr. Xuzi Kang, and Dr. Marcella Gabarra)

 


When it comes to hair health, the conversation often revolves around the latest treatments and products. However, the fabrics we encounter daily play an equally pivotal role, like pillowcases, hair ties, scarves, etc. TRI Princeton's recent studies by Dr. Ernesta Malinauskyte, Dr. Xuzi Kang, and Dr. Marcella Gabarra illuminate the subtle yet significant ways that common materials interact with our hair, providing concrete data to support claims about the gentleness of various materials on hair.


Smooth as Silk

TRI has developed a new test for measuring the friction between hair and different fabrics. This test has many different potential applications, from the design of headscarves and Islamic veils to the development of pillowcases.


The test involves pulling a hair tress between two fabric surfaces gently pressed together (Figure 1). The force required to do this is a measure of the friction between the hair and the fabric.


Figure 1: Illustration of the friction experimental setup.
Figure 1: Illustration of the friction experimental setup.

Data collected from this test show that luxury silk was the smoothest material; and that velvet, while luxurious to the touch, might not be the best companion for your hair, registering 37.4% more friction than cotton and a notable 76.5% more than satin (Figure 2).


Figure 2: Friction of treated samples, at 40% R.H. Levels not connected by the same letter are statistically different.
Figure 2: Friction of treated samples, at 40% R.H. Levels not connected by the same letter are statistically different.

Hair Tie Removal

Reduced friction between a fabric and the hair can be useful for making sure that fabric hair ties slip easily out of the hair, without snagging and damaging the hair. TRI has developed a new test specifically to measure the ease of hair tie removal.


In this test, several hair tresses are bundled together using an elastic band to create a large ponytail. The force required to pull various hair ties down and out from the ponytail is measured using a load cell (Figure 3.).


Figure 3: Illustration of the hair ties removal experimental setup.
Figure 3: Illustration of the hair ties removal experimental setup.

Example data (Figure 4) show that elastic bands provided the least smooth removal, while fabric-coated ones were the easiest to remove.


Figure 4. Maximum force of treated samples, 40% R.H. Levels not connected by the same letter are statistically different.
Figure 4. Maximum force of treated samples, 40% R.H. Levels not connected by the same letter are statistically different.

Too Much Pressure, Hair Denting by Hair Ties

Whilst hair ties need to slip comfortably out of the hair, they also need to avoid creating dent marks on the hair after they have been removed. Too much pressure from the hair tie on the hair could leave unsightly marks.


TRI has developed a test to investigate denting by hair ties, and other styling aids such as headscarves. In this test several hair tresses are attached to a plastic container (mimicking the shape of the scalp) and a hair tie is used to create a ponytail (Figure 5a.). After a defined exposure period (4 h), under controlled temperature and humidity conditions (22 °C, 40% R.H.), the tie is removed, and the tresses are detached from the plastic container. Image analysis is then used to measure the degree to which the hair has been permanently deformed, or bent, by the hair ties (Figure 5b.).


Figure 5. (a) Artificial ponytail used for denting experiments, (b) image analysis of the bending of the tresses.
Figure 5. (a) Artificial ponytail used for denting experiments, (b) image analysis of the bending of the tresses.

Example results are shown in Figure 6. The data show that hair ties made from different materials and with different designs give different levels of hair denting. Rubber elastic bands give the worst denting, whilst a hair tie made from polymeric material gives the least.


Figure 6. Dent angle of treated samples. Levels not connected by the same letter are statistically different.
Figure 6. Dent angle of treated samples. Levels not connected by the same letter are statistically different.

In conclusion, our studies indicate that luxury silk stands out as the material that is most gentle on hair, followed closely by its affordable silk and satin counterparts; fabric-coated hair ties remove the smoothest on hair; and polymeric hair ties cause less hair denting.


For those seeking to keep their hair smooth and in style: silk and satin products are not just a luxury—they're a smart choice for people who value their hair's health and appearance. Plus, the reduced friction of these smoother materials could be gentle on your skin as well.


 

For more information about these and other test methods contact us



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