MadSci Network: Chemistry

Re: What is the purpose & how does ionic technology work in hair styling tools?

Date: Tue Jan 17 15:21:29 2006
Posted By: David Akerman, Staff, R&D Scientist, Clear Edge
Area of science: Chemistry
ID: 1136871258.Ch

Hi there Linda,

When I first saw your question I was fairly skeptical about the usefulness of ionic hair drying, but I tried to keep an open mind and see what information was available.

Firstly though, let me answer the ceramic part of your question. Ceramic materials are harder and less flexible than metals, plastics or other possible materials. Therefore, ceramic tools may be more durable, although when the only way they can be damaged is by abrasion from hair then I doubt you will really notice an advantage over metal. Possibly, ceramic tools will retain their heat better than metal, so such tools will have a more even temperature and lose heat more slowly. Therefore, possible benefits, but these would typically be expected in proper engineering situations and probably aren't noticeable to you in light duties such as hair-care.

Second then, ionic hair dryers. I can't find any scientific evidence to support the idea that these hairdryers are superior to traditional hairdryers. The explanation of their effect is only described by websites trying to sell them, or by other hair-care sites. For example:

There are numerous comments on these pages which sound very dubious to me e.g. My specialist explained that positive and negative ions exist in most substances and are small particles that gather around an object. Through restructuring the ion cluster of water, IHR allows water molecules to penetrate into the core of each hair. As a result, the hair is rehydrated and reconditioned in each IHR treatment. This doesn't happen - water is ionic enough that any additional "negative ions" supplied by a hairdryer (if they even exist) will have no effect.

Also, there seems to be running theme through pages such as these, that positive ions are bad and cause hair damage, while negative ions (as generated by the hair-dryers) are good and have alledgedly cured depression and other medical conditions. This is not true. Positive and negative ions are everywhere in nature, they are the key to making biochemical reactions work in every strand of DNA in every cell in every living thing and are neither "good" nor "bad".

Finally, a few words about how all these articles justify the impressive claims. In at least two of the above pages (1 & 4) the ionic treatment is used along with other treatments, "lotions and potions", including a 4 hour session of shampoo, lotions and pre-treatment protein spray before the magical ionic hair-dryer is applied. Is it any wonder, given all the applied products, that the hair is in better condition afterwards? Was it down to the effect of the hair-dryer? No.

There is no science here, nor any scientific evidence, only anecdotes and consumer satisfaction surveys. These are notorious for being unreliable in the extreme. Proper scientific efficacy could only be established with randomized double-blind trials and I can't find any trace of these.

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