Friday, 1 October 2010

How Strong is Your Hair?

So we harp on and on about how curly hair is weak and needs gentle care. Now while it is true that curly hair needs to handled gently, the weak part of the story deserves some scrutiny.  I actually saw this on another site and decided to try it with my own hair. (Please consider your own and your property's safety should you decide to replicate this experiment!)

1. A balance
2. One strand of hair
3. The biggest(heaviest) pair of scissors you can find (or a weight if you have one)

We start off by weighing the scissor, mine comes in at 80grams. My hair did not register on the scale (so we will say it is 1g so that the story can continue) 

Step 2 :Suspend the scissors with the hair. 

Please do this over an appropriate surface (the scissor is very likely to fall). I only managed to get a shaky photo mainly because I could not hold the hair steady and operate the camera at the same time. Therefore we have what looks like the magic free floating scissor along with a shaky close up showing the hair

Step 3: The hair afterwards

Well it didn't really look good, it was quite straight and long (lol not that straight and long is bad but it is bad for my curls)

However after wetting the hair, look what happened!

The moral of the story: Hair is pretty darn strong.

1g of my hair can carry 80g without breaking. It actually has some elasticity left in it too hence the return of the curls on wetting. Think about the human comparison

If you weigh 150lbs that means you should carry 80 times your body weight which is 12,000lbs

 However, when I suspend that scissor on my finger, 80g feels like nothing. I have definitely pulled on my hair with more force. This experiment has taught me that my hair is strong but I need to always bear in mind what 80g feels like and try to be very very gentle to my hair.


  1. Very interesting I love how it curls right back after wetting.

  2. Hell Notes - I was not expecting that either! I was not planning on squirting water on it but it really looked like straightened hair therefore I started to wonder what water would do to it.

    Amina - Asante! This was definitely one of the most interesting things I have done of late!

  3. Great post! very interesting, I will give this a try

  4. Oh and do report back Nicki! The range of strength is supposed to be 50 to 100g. I did not get to breaking point at 80g but I think a few extra grams would have done it.

  5. Great experiment Jc! Wonder how many scissors will be dangling in kitchens tonight! :)(CHM)

  6. Cool, experiment Jc...but I think it's all relative. I agree that hair is strong as a general statement. But we are not as concerned about the midshaft (where you held the scissors), as we are about the ends. The ends are of course weaker than the rest of your hair, and that's where the length retention struggle comes into play.

  7. lol CHM. As long as it is done safely!

    LittleOne - I agree and disagree. I think the reason why the ends break off prematurely is because we have a tendency to stress the ends of natural hair. The hair is pulled taut by many to ensure it does not curl up or knot up. I think the force used to do this is well in excess of the 80g. Doing this actually causes the hair to become plastic rather than elastic.

    I think we can talk about weak ends but this should only be the very oldest of hair where the cuticle is beginning to deplete (which means hair longer than around 12-18inches). For many people getting to 12 inches is hard and I think the reason for this is the continous stress placed on the hair.

    80g feels like nothing at all. I have definitely pulled my hair with more force but I will be better from now!

  8. So what then is the solution to single strand knots, if pulling the hair to avoid knots causes damage as well? Thanks, -A

  9. A - My solution is the one many people resent - protective styling (twists or braids) most of the time (like 80% of the time or more)

    Knots arise from the hair being manipulated which means free hair and the styling related to that is the cause. The curlier the hair, the more likely this is to happen.

    I think that if a goal is to gain hair length then for very curly hair, the formula is protective styling and gentle treatment of hair. Examples include the fotki angels Mwedzi, Sera252, Loolahloo, Kemi21, Maestradiva.

    I have not seen a single person with long very curly hair who did not use twists or braids as the protective style.

    I have seen people with looser curls able to have free hair able to retain length with free hair simply because the hair knots much less.

  10. I'd love to see this little experiment done with straight hair, and then increasing the weight on each strand to breaking strength.
    I've read many times that curly hair breaks easier, but now I'm wondering if manipulation and more frequent tangles are the bigger issues.

    Big fan of protective styles and low manipulation here.

  11. Desta

    The anchoring strength of straight Caucasian hair is 50-100g

    I have also seen another paper taking Caucasian chest hair measurements and they averaged that out at 70-71g.

    1. John Woodruff - Cosmetics & Toiletries, March 2002 issue, pg 33
    2. Clin Exp Derm 1992; 17: 421-423.

  12. This was great!

  13. Oh, I tried this!!

    I used a scissors that weighed 5 oz / 141 grams (roughly). Not bad. One fine strand snapped. I found another (thicker) that didn't snap at all, but it did straighten the hair like yours.

    It was rather fun and interesting!

  14. Thanks Jenelly

    141 grams Golden! Strong hair! The straightening part is quite interesting. Did you try spraying it with water to see if it coiled back?

  15. I should have! Maybe I'll try it again and see. This is really funny, because as a kid I had such weak, fine hair that snapped easily.

  16. I just stumbled upon this and tried it on my hair as well as my daughters hair! it was great! thanx for the experiment !


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