The science of hairdressing

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When it comes to hairdressing, making people look good isn’t only about skill and artistic flair – there’s a lot of science involved too.

Ever heard the stories of people who’ve had their hair done before their holidays then had it turn green in the pool? If you want to make it as a hairdresser, it’s good to understand why this happens – and what you can do to fix it!

Hairdressers want their clients to leave their salon feeling happy. They have to know about the chemicals they use to on their clients’ hair, and the risks associated with them, so they can use them properly.

Listen to Vince, a salon owner from Canada, talking about how he uses science in his job.

Fancy a career as a hairdresser? Here are just few of the ways you might use chemistry and biology:

  • Carrying out tests – Before colouring anyone’s hair, hairdressers and stylists have to do tests to make sure they’ll be able to get the result their client wants. These can be elasticity tests to check the hair won’t be damaged by the colour, or skin tests to check for allergic reactions
  • Biology of the hair and skin – Sometimes people may visit a hairdresser without realising that they have a skin infection, illness or signs of allergic reactions that would make colouring their hair painful, or even dangerous. Hairdressers have to be able to recognise these signs to avoid hurting their client
  • Following instructions – Hairdressers will usually buy dyes and developers from a manufacturer, and mix them for each client. Following the manufacturer’s instruction on the dye will ensure that the colour develops correctly, to achieve the result they want
  • Understanding how dyes work – Hairdressers have to know what the different tones and colours that can be achieved with options available to them, and how long they will last. How long colour lasts depends on how deeply the colour molecules penetrate into the cortex (the middle bit) of the hair. Large molecules won’t enter the hair very deeply, and so will wash out quickly
  • Understanding light and colour – The first colour wheel was developed by Sir Isaac Newton, but hairdressers still use them today to think about the shades and tones they need to achieve the colour they want