MadSci Network: Biochemistry

Re: why is hair more fragile when it's wet?

Date: Wed Jun 21 22:35:27 2000
Posted By: Chris Larson, Post-doc/Fellow Laboratory of Genetics
Area of science: Biochemistry
ID: 952530705.Bc


Hair is made of a protein called keratin that coils up into very dense 
structures that are bound so tightly together that they are very impermeable 
to water. Actually, your outer layer of skin cells are dead epidermal cells 
that have very high amounts of keratin and lipid in them such that they form 
a waterproof layer around your body. My point is that keratin is not a 
water-loving protein, but rather a protein that tends to exclude water from 
its very high-strength form. So imagine the converse: the strength of hair 
is due to the strength of the structure of keratin, a structure that doesn't 
like water. If you add a huge amount of water to hair, this could weaken the 
keratin structure, which would weaken the hair.

This is the way I would explain this. However, I personally have never 
noticed that my hair is more fragile when it is wet, so I am not sure that 
it really is. 


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