Purdue researchers looking into how much heat hair can stand before it’s beyond repair

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The Au natural movement is taking over--wear your natural curls with pride. But when it's time to straighten your mane, it takes a lot of heat to get the job done.

"We are doing research to understand how does heat move through different hair types. We're interested in understanding the point at which heat begins to cause permanent structural changes in the hair," said Tahira Reid, Purdue University assistant professor of mechanical engineering.

Reid and her team want to know at which point do the natural curls begin to suffer and become limp and unable to bounce back after using heat. Beauty consultant, Ebony Stroder says there can be too much of a good thing.

"Over time without using a thermal protectant and without taking breaks in between the thermal styles I do notice the hair can tend to loosen the natural texture of the curl pattern," said Stroder.

In the lab the team takes hair from various ethnicities through cleaning and heat treatment like they would do themselves or get at the hair salon. The hair is then examined the same way they study ropes to make composite materials stronger. Stroder says it is possible to enjoy straight hair while keeping your curls in tact.

"It first starts off with knowing your curl pattern, then the tools you're using in order to achieve the results and then definitely the products. There's a lot of products out there that protect the hair from heat damage."

But in a multi-billion dollar hair care industry this engineer wants to get to the bottom of how far can we go before we're beyond repair.

"I'm advocating for information that`s empirical, that`s solid and it's not motivated by any marketing agenda because I'm not a marketer I'm an engineer that likes truth, facts, data," said Reid.

Some straightening tools go up to 450 degrees, which is hot enough to set a piece of paper on fire. This research is in the beginning stages. We'll be sure to give you an update on the findings.

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