Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Reader Question: How to become a hair scientist?

I actually receive this question quite often and it always makes me smile. I smile because I feel like this blog has done its job when people see the value in science and how important it is to our world. Here is my answer!


***Update: I stand corrected!***

I neglected to mention trichology which is the study of hair. I think the reason why I forgot to mention it is because I am often asked this question in line with University study. Technically anyone can set up shop and call themselves a trichologist. There are certified courses available (UK and US) which are organised by professional institutes keen to have a standard of practice.  However, it is not a degree course. It is a certification course allowing you to register and  be seen legitimately as having undertaken work to understand hair. 

**My original response is below (unedited)**


Strictly speaking, there really isn't a profession such as a 'hair scientist'. Although hair is hugely fascinating it is not generally studied on its own. Career wise there are plenty of avenues that can lead you to studying hair.

1. Material Science - I am biased since this is my training! It involves studying how materials behave when subjected to chemical treatment, physical forces or environment. Hair is one of these materials.

2. Chemistry - A large proportion (if not the largest) of scientists publishing studies on hair are chemists. Formulation is something I talk about quite often. This is the chemists' greatest contribution. It means you need to understand how much of each ingredient to add and in which order. Small variations (as little as 1%) can drastically change how a product behaves.

3. Medicine (specifically dermatology) - One of the most formidable scientists publishing work specifically on African hair is South African Nonhlanhla Khumalo. She is a dermatologist and this specific area leads you to study healthy and non healthy hair (after all the scalp is skin and hair is part of the scalp).

4. Physics - Many instruments used in the study of hair are based on physical principles. An understanding of physics is essential.

These are not the only routes but are the main routes. I would end finally by saying if you want to be able to understand research or be a research scientist, you should consider doing a PhD. A PhD is a true baptism by fire. You will do the most perfect experiment only to be asked to repeat it 10 times. You will be criticised and learn how to self criticise. You will learn how to defend your work and how to think on your feet. You will learn that science is changeable, there are no fixed truths or answers. Anything can be changed with sufficient proof. In other words a PhD teaches you how to see evidence, the importance of sources and how to be impartial when reading research.

Most universities have a career office, take the opportunity to go in there early (like 2-3 years before you want to go to a particular institution) and someone will guide you through the learning programmes available. Always have 2-3 options, don't stick with one.


7 comments:

  1. Yaaay science! (cheerleader kick)

    Your blog has definitely moved the Internet hair community forward. You should be extremely proud of that. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. lol@cheerleader kick Little One. Thanks for the compliments! I do wish I could extend my tentacles further because there is still plenty of hogwash around!

    ReplyDelete
  3. well done Jc, you are inspiring people, and making science seem less scary! doing half my job as a science teacher! :) love your blog!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Natural Haven,
    First off I have to say I love this blog because of the science, I study material science too with a bias toward textiles but i'm inquisitive about how everything works :)
    But I did want to add Trichology is the scientific study of the hair and the scalp, my aunt specialises in this and so it is possible to become a 'hair scientist'.
    hope it helped :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks hybridomatech! I wanted to be a science teacher!! I might still do it in future, I have not written it off!

    Sahanga - thanks, I forgot about trichology because I was thinking about university courses. I have added in a little update in the main post.

    ReplyDelete
  6. um, i do cosmetic science at the london college of fashion - you should add cosmetic science as well!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow, this is interesting!
    I'm a junior in high school, and I was wondering about which work field would include the study of hair and skin (which I now know is trichology) besides cosmetology, since I DON'T want to work with hair but study it. This article has given me a different insight on what to do. Thank you so much.

    ReplyDelete

I love comments! All comments are moderated so they will only appear on the blog once I approve them.