It's a common frustration at the time of year: putting time and effort into straightening or curling your hair only for the humidity to cause your straightened locks to frizz up and laboriously constructed curls to drop limp.
But, why do sweaty temperatures play such havoc with our hair?
Why do sweaty temperatures play such havoc with our hair?Credit:Shutterstock
To understand why humidity makes hair frizzy, it's important to first understand what hair actually is, says University of Melbourne dermatologist researcher Professor Rodney Sinclair.
"[A strand of hair] is made up of lots of longitudinal tubes of keratin, which are bundled together," he explains.
Humidity in the air causes a change in the way these protein bundles in the hair bind together.
These bundles are held together by two types of bonds: very strong disulfide bonds (which are only broken and reformed by permanent curling and straightening treatments) and weaker hydrogen bonds, which are broken by water.
"If you wet the hair it breaks the hydrogen bonds, making the hair more malleable, and when it dries, new bonds will form in the new shape the hair is in and it will stay in that shape," Professor Sinclair says.
"Humidity is moisture in the air: it breaks the hydrogen bonds, causes the hair to swell a little bit, and that means the hair becomes wavy or frizzy when it dries in its new shape."
Do some hair types suffer more than others? Not really in terms of the swelling, says Professor Sinclair, although people with curly hair who straighten it will probably notice the biggest difference.
"The more curly hair is originally, the more curly it will become in the context of humidity … it will revert to its original position."
So, how do products like leave-in conditioner help to tame your frizz?
"One, they're changing the interaction between hairs, reducing the static electricity between neighbouring hairs so that they don't repel each other," Professor Sinclair says.
"And the other thing they're doing is allowing the hair to be combed while still damp, which will then allow them to dry in a new position. [They are] introducing a little bit of moisture and then holding them in that position."
Marie Uva from Melbourne's Uva Salon says humidity affects the decisions she makes when styling hair at this time of year.
"The hair needs to be dried off completely: any moisture left in the hair can be a problem," she says, adding she often has brides wash and dry their hair the day before their hair appointment to make sure there is no residual moisture.
But, when it comes to styling your hair in a humid climate, her honest advice is that "no product" will manage to completely solve the problem, so natural is best.
"Your hair won't hold a curl in that climate," she says. "I did a bride's hair in Bali and we knew that a hair wasn't going to hold so she just had it out and natural for the ceremony and then she came back to me and I put it up in a ponytail so she could party all night."
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