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Role of Internal Lipids in Hair Health

Journal of Cosmetic Science | Vol. 69 No. 5
Authored by Jennifer M. Marsh, Shane Whitaker, Tim Felts, William Shearouse, Mike Vatter, Arto Määttä, Matthew Thompson, and Timothy J. Hawkins


Saturated and unsaturated fatty acids make up 85% of the total hair lipid content and are found in the cuticle and cortical cell membrane complex. Although these lipids only make up 2–6% of the hair’s overall weight, they play a crucial role in keeping hair healthy, influencing shine, feel, manageability, and strength. The objective of this work was to understand the mechanisms of how these lipids are lost on exposure to external stressors, such as chemical treatments, washing, and UV exposure and to understand how their loss impacts hair strength. The experimental approach was to measure these lipids and oxidation products, lipid peroxides (LPOs) and correlate their loss with fatigue strength measurements. The results show lipids are lost over time by washing, exposure to chemical treatments, such as coloring, and environmental insults, such as UV, and it was confirmed that a mechanism of degradation is via oxidation of unsaturated lipids to form LPOs. In addition, it was shown that replenishment of these lipids is possible by incorporating lipids, such as fatty alcohols (FaOHs), into a gel network with anionic surfactants to create a delivery system that can efficiently penetrate FaOHs into hair and increase internal strength as measured by fatigue.  

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